WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials and lawmakers urged business leaders on Thursday to get behind a Pacific trade pact as they vowed an all-out effort next year to get the deal through the U.S. Congress.
Negotiators from 12 countries sealed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, a key plank of U.S. President Barack Obama’s outreach to Asia, in October, but it has so far won a mixed reception in Congress.
Senior White House officials told a gathering of top CEOs who advise Obama on trade that they planned an all-out push next year for the TPP, mirroring a campaign for key trade legislation this year. That took six weeks to clear Congress and passed the House of Representatives on a 218-208 vote.
“Trade votes are always hard, this is going to be a tough battle,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a meeting of the President’s Export Council, adding that lawmakers needed to see the concrete benefits for workers and firms at home.
“We look forward to working with you in that regard.”
Although the deal has won backing from some industry groups and companies including Metlife (MET.N) and Cargill [CARG.UL], major business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, have yet to declare a final verdict on the TPP.
Pharmaceutical firms are unhappy with monopoly periods for some drugs, carmaker Ford (F.N) laments a lack of sanctions for currency manipulation and financial services firms are unhappy that they are excluded from a ban on countries forcing firms to store data locally.
Republican lawmaker Dave Reichert said an exemption allowing TPP members to shield anti-smoking measures from lawsuits by foreign investors would lose around 15 Republican votes, and trade advocates would have to woo new supporters.
“Your input, your visitations with a variety of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will be absolutely critical,” he said.
Still, executives at the meeting, including UPS (UPS.N) CEO David Abney, backed the deal and export council chair Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox Corp (XRX.N), said the business community was generally supportive.
“I think that you will find that members with more representation in the service economy, high-tech innovation economy, services and goods as well do support it,” she told reporters later.
“Every agreement will have challenges and places that not everyone agrees. But I think broadly the TPP has the full weight of a broad set of the business communities behind it.”
Reporting by Krista Hughes and Julia Edwards; Editing by Sandra Maler