Anti-trade rhetoric not denting U.S. trade chief's hopes for TPP vote

Tue May 17, 2016 6:56pm EDT
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By Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) - The top U.S. trade official is not losing hope for congressional approval of a sweeping pan-Pacific free trade agreement this year despite strong anti-trade rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign that may be influencing reluctant lawmakers.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told Reuters in an interview in Lima, Peru, that he continues to have "good meetings" with members of Congress about the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

As more industry groups voice support for the deal, U.S. lawmakers are likely to come out in favor of it, he said.

"The more they learn about the agreement, the more comfortable and positive they are about the substance," Froman said. "I think at the end of the day we’ll have produced the necessary support."

While he would like to see a vote as early as possible, he said he is discussing with congressional leadership and key committee chairs "about what the appropriate window is for bringing it forward."

Some key Republicans, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have voiced opposition to a vote before the November presidential election, while others, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, have said that a vote this year would be “difficult,” especially for a “lame-duck” Congress.

The Obama administration is gearing up for another major TPP sales pitch as a new analysis of the deal by the U.S. International Trade Commission is released on Wednesday.

Froman said he did not know the results of the independent body's cost-benefit analysis of the TPP. But he noted that another study of TPP, by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which uses a similar long-term estimating model, found that the trade deal would boost U.S. national income by $131 billion annually by 2030.   Continued...

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman arrives for a meeting with Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari in Tokyo April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino