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Obama Hasn’t Given Up On The TPP

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Halloween may be over, but there’s still a zombie among us: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is the trade deal many thought was already killed off, but it just won’t go away. During the primaries, it served as a policy pinata — with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, in particular, taking turns excoriating it as a raw deal for American workers. Hillary Clinton, once a supporter, came out against it, too. (She now says the final version of the treaty doesn’t meet her standards.)

But the Obama administration, which negotiated the treaty, isn’t giving up on it. The White House is pressuring Congress to approve the 12-nation trade deal during the lame-duck session after the election. And on Thursday, Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers published a report warning that if the TPP isn’t passed, a China-backed trade agreement will take its place. That could put U.S. manufacturers at a disadvantage when they try to sell to customers in Japan and other Asian nations. The report argues that if China’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership goes into effect, at least 35 U.S. industries as diverse as plastics, fishing and footwear will be at risk of increased competition from China in the Japanese market.


Next week’s election will affect the chances of Obama’s TPP Hail Mary. If Trump wins, all bets are off: Republicans, usually more keen to support trade deals than Democrats, aren’t likely to back a deal strongly opposed by the president their party just elected. But if Clinton wins, Obama might be able to put together a coalition of Republicans and trade-friendly Democrats to support the treaty. In other words, the TPP isn’t dead yet.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.