TPP fast-tracking stalls in House

Text Alex Kekauoha

President Obama’s efforts to move the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations forward hit a wall today when the House of Representatives voted against giving him fast-tracking authority on the deal. The vote comes after weeks of protests from the public and complaints from lawmakers who say the historic trade agreement is too secretive.

For years now, the Obama administration has been negotiating entrance into the TPP, a massive trade agreement involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The deal would be the largest trade agreement in U.S. history and encompass roughly 40 percent of global GDP.

In an unusual alliance, the president and many republicans argue the trade agreement would open access for American business in today’s fastest-growing economies. Speaking on the House floor just before the vote, Speaker John Boehner urged his colleagues to vote yes, saying the fast-tracking bill, or Trans-Pacific Promotion Authority (TPA), would ensure “less authority for the president and more authority for the American people. That’s what this bill does.”

But opponents of the TPP and TPA say the evidence suggests otherwise. Promotion authority actually lets President Obama present trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to congress without amendment. Furthermore, negotiations on the TPP deal have been conducted in private and included advisors from some of the world’s largest corporations, including WalMart and Monsanto. Another major sticking point for critics is that the text of the agreement is not available to the general public, and even members of Congress know very little about the deal. There are only two copies of the text in the U.S. Capitol, located in secured rooms that are only accessible to members of Congress and some staffers.

Brokering a historic trade agreement of this size is important to the president’s political legacy. But the economic effects on the U.S. are unclear. Supporters say the deal would create jobs and stimulate the economy, but not everyone agrees. “What it does is make us more open to outsourcing and that’s what we’ve experienced [with previous trade agreements,]” said Robert E. Scott, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington D.C. “I think job loss is likely.”

In a last-ditch attempt to muster support, the president visited the Capitol this morning to personally solicit backing from House democrats, but his efforts went unheeded. The deal failed in a 302-126 vote. Critics say that today’s vote failed, in part, because Mr. Obama has isolated himself from ordinary Americans on economic issues. “This president has become disconnected from Congress and the House where members are connected to Main street businesses and ordinary working Americans,” said Scott.

Despite today’s vote, efforts to negotiate a trade bill are not dead. House republicans are considering a possible re-vote.


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