Pacific Rim trade pact gets skeptical greeting in U.S. Congress

Mon Oct 5, 2015 11:53am EDT
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By Richard Cowan and David Lawder

WASHINGTON Oct 5 (Reuters) - A 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact hammered out over the weekend in Atlanta got a rocky response in Washington on Monday from U.S. lawmakers, indicating it has a long, difficult road ahead as Congress considers whether or not to approve it.

Even influential Republicans, who had championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), initially criticized the result but didn't pinpoint specific concerns.

"I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short," said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee that oversees trade.

Earlier this year after a bruising battle, Congress gave Democratic President Barack Obama the green light to wrap up talks on the TPP, which would liberalize trade among countries ranging from Japan to Chile and covering 40 percent of the world's economy.

Obama had hoped to quickly conclude talks on the agreement so Congress could review and vote on it before the U.S. presidential campaigns shifted into full swing. That hope was dashed by delays around the negotiating table, however.

Now the pact is unlikely to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote until well into the presidential primaries, exposing it to the full rhetoric of the campaign season.

Many of Obama's fellow Democrats in Congress and organized labor fear the trade pact will hurt American jobs.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic nomination for president, blasted the agreement saying, "Wall Street and other big corporations have won again."   Continued...