Tick Tock

U.S. dairy fears holding up TPP deal, source says

By Victoria Guida, Politico

09/30/15 10:00 AM EDT

A fear by U.S. dairy producers of competition from New Zealand is proving to be among the final challenges to wrapping up the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer reports from Atlanta.

After four days of negotiations there, trade ministers are scheduled to arrive today to try to resolve the toughest issues. Several snags remain, including the U.S. dairy industry demand that any reductions in U.S. trade barriers be offset with a nearly equal opportunity to sell U.S. cheese, butter, powder and other dairy products to other countries in the proposed 12-nation pact.

“The United States is the blocker at the moment because they’re not making a decent offer,” Robert Pettit, a trade specialist at Dairy Australia, told POLITICO. Because the United States is holding back, so are Canada and Japan, he said.

A government-appointed New Zealand industry representative spread the blame more broadly among all the participants in the dairy talks. “In my view, the level of ambition right across the talks on dairy is not high enough,” said Mike Petersen, New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy. Petersen reports that New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is in New York for United Nation meetings, is mulling whether it’s worth his time to fly to Atlanta.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told POLITICO in Atlanta Tuesday evening that there had been progress in talks on automotive rules-of-origin since the last ministerial two months ago in Maui, where Mexico and Canada were unpleasantly surprised by the terms of a deal worked out by Japan and the United States.

“Yes, there’s been some progress,” Guajardo said, echoing remarks from Japan’s TPP minister Akira Amari to reporters on Tuesday. “Right now, we’re going to find whether’s [there is] enough progress,”” he said just before a meeting with Mexican negotiators.

The difficult slate of issues still left to resolve in areas like autos and intellectual property protections for biologics prompted speculation the TPP talks could be extended until Friday, despite USTR’s current plans to wrap up on Thursday with a closing press conference. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, in a floor statement Tuesday, said the United States shouldn’t be in a hurry to close the negotiations “if it means getting a less-than-optimal result for our country.”

“If the administration and our negotiating partners do conclude an agreement this week, they can be sure that I will examine it very carefully to ensure it meets these standards,” Hatch said, referring to market access, intellectual property and other priorities laid out in the trade promotion authority law passed by Congress this summer. “And, as I have stated many times before, if the agreement falls short, I will not support it. And, I don’t think I’ll be alone on that.”

Who Needs Balanced Trade? Who Needs Balanced Budgets?

By Joe Firestone, Corrente

Posted on September 30, 2015

It is now the end of September … and there are enough difficulties in the way of completion mentioned by Politico today to suggest that completion before the end of October is highly unlikely, and probably also another forlorn hope for those favoring the TPP. That Michael Froman, the STR, is now talking in public as if the Administration cares more about getting the TPP right than getting it done soon suggests that the expectations of our trade negotiators for quick completion of the TPP negotiations are now scaled down considerably.

So, let’s say the Administration did get this done by October 31, 2015. If one then adds the minimum 4.5 months to get the agreement ratified, then, one is looking at the final vote about March 15, 2016, right in the middle of the primary season, both for presidential candidates and for both Houses of Congress. A controversial vote at that time is poison for office holders wanting to win office again. It is poison for Republican candidates for President and for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. No one is going to want to take an unpopular vote in favor of the TPP and take the thunder from the right and the left about the various issues surrounding the treaty.

The votes for the TPA were very difficult for both Houses of Congress, and Democratic Congressmen who voted for it have come under heavy fire. These Congressmen and some Republicans who ignored the TPP sovereignty issues raised by some of the more conservative Republicans will get challenged in the primaries for their TPA vote.

Will they then vote for the TPP in the middle of their campaigns and then, even if they win their primary, face opposition from the other Party in the fall making their vote on trade a political issue aligning them with the multinationals against the American people? I’m afraid I don’t see that happening.

Instead, I see the President being told by the leadership of both Houses that if he submits the TPP to Congress on a schedule to get a vote for it in March or April of next year, then the TPP will be voted down. I see Hillary Clinton telling him not to force that vote then, or she will be forced to publicly oppose it, and to use her influence to defeat it for fear of compromising her own chances to win the Democratic Party nomination. I also see a wholesale rebellion among Democratic Congressmen against their lame duck President who is trying to build his legacy by making them take a poison pill ruining their re-election chances, and I don’t think the President will be able to get near the number of Democratic votes for the TPP, that he was able to get for the TPA, in June. I then see the President trying to make a deal with the leadership in both Houses to get a vote during the lame duck after the election.

But whether that happens or not will depend on the results of the election and the extent to which there is a reaction against the corporate establishment expressed in them. If there is, then I doubt that the trade deals will be back for some time to come. If there is not, then there will be another fight during the lame duck to do everything possible to stop the TPP.

But, regardless, of the exact scenario in the coming months, the TPP is coming up for Congressional consideration, and when it does, it will be the most intense struggle between neoliberal forces in both parties, and anti-corporate forces among both progressives and conservatives, we’ve seen yet. In addition, there will be more new developments such as the ones here and here, about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), perhaps the most dangerous of the three major current trade agreements in negotiation, which will impact perspectives on the TPP in Congress, and the eventual fate of all three agreements.


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