No matter who prevails in Tuesday’s presidential election, the U.S. ambassador to Canada says President Barack Obama is determined to win an uphill fight to get congressional approval of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership deal during the lame-duck session.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican challenger Donald Trump are opposed to the 12-country global trade deal, which includes Canada but excludes countries such as China and India. Both candidates have criticized the TPP for not being strong enough to provide more jobs to the U.S. economy.
The intensely debated trade pact goes to a congressional vote at the end of the 2016 session. Congress has granted Mr. Obama “fast-track” authority over the deal, which allows lawmakers only to either reject or ratify it.
U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman told The Globe and Mail that the U.S. administration is working hard with various congressional committees to bring the deal to a final up-or-down vote, including hearings, a public drafting of legislation and a full debate and vote in both chambers before the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the new president.
“That gives me a great deal of confidence that many members of Congress understand the importance of trade agreements in general,” Mr. Heyman said in an interview. “I have a lot of confidence in the President, and I believe during this time period we will have the opportunity to take TPP very seriously and I think once signed and put into force, I am hopeful all the other countries will as well.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hedged his bets on the TPP, which was negotiated by the former Conservative government. He has declined to say whether Canada would sign on to the deal and has launched cross-country parliamentary consultations.
But Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, one of Mr. Trudeau’s strongest allies, is firmly on board with the TPP and wants the federal government to sign on if Mr. Obama gets congressional approval.
“We have been very supportive of TPP. In any trade deal, there are challenges, but we know we need those markets if we are going to be globally competitive,” Ms. Wynne told The Globe. “It would be great if we could see that happen.”
David Casper, president and chief executive officer of BMO Harris Bank, said he also believes that Mr. Obama has the congressional votes to carry the TPP, particularly with the U.S. business community pushing hard for its passage after Tuesday’s presidential election.
“There are adults in the room in Washington who will find a way to get this done. I do believe they have the votes. It will be a grand bargain,” Mr. Casper told the Ontario Economic Summit on Friday in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ont.
Canada’s most recent ambassador to Washington, Gary Doer, said Mr. Obama plans a public push for the TPP’s passage to explain the improvements made during the trade negotiations in five key areas: labour rights, the environment, human trafficking, intellectual property rights and state enterprises.
Still, Mr. Doer is less confident than Mr. Heyman that the trade deal will sail through Congress, which sits on Nov. 14. “This is the same Senate and Congress that passed fast-track. So I think the odds of it passing are less than 50-50, but people predicted there would be no fast track passed either,” he told The Globe.
Mr. Heyman said he would not venture to guess what Ms. Clinton or Mr. Trump would do if elected and the TPP is passed by Congress. Once the pact is signed into law, the new president would have to seek congressional approval for any changes.
The Pacific Rim pact aims to deepen economic ties between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile and Peru by slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth.
The 12 countries have a collective population of 800 million people and would be responsible for 40 per cent of world trade.
To take effect, the deal has to be ratified by February, 2018, by at least six countries that account for 65 per cent of the pact’s economic output – which means that the United States and Japan will need to have signed on.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has been pressing the TPP case with individual members of Congress, including members of the powerful Senate finance committee, working with Republican chairman Orrin Hatch to ease concerns about patent protection for biologic drugs. He was recently quoted as saying his efforts have been met with a “lot of receptivity.”Report Typo/Error