Almost overlooked in the flurry of post-election analyses is the Obama administration’s recognition that the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty will not pass Congress. Last June we wrote that restoration of a bipartisan consensus supporting global trade is vital to Washington’s economy.
It still is. But in the coming months, trade advocates have a steep hill to climb. The Wall Street Journal reports,
A sweeping Pacific trade pact meant to bind the U.S.and Asia effectively died Friday, as Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress told the White House they won’t advance it in the election’s aftermath, and Obama administration officials acknowledged it has no way forward now.
To the extent there’s a bipartisan consensus, it may be tilting against trade agreements.
Just over a year ago, Republicans were willing to vote overwhelmingly in support of Mr. Obama’s trade policy. But as the political season approached and voters registered their concerns by supporting Donald J. Trump, the GOP reacted coolly to the deal Mr. Obama’s team reached with Japan and 10 others countries just over a year ago in Atlanta.
Winning a majority of votes for the TPP in the House and Senate would have required both a last-minute deal to address Republican priorities and an election result that didn’t show such broad discontent.
Since the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) have said no to bringing the TPP to a vote in the lame duck session, despite the strong support of many senators in both parties for freer trade.
The TPP meant $8.7 billion in new exports and thousands of new jobs to our state. Those are losses that will not be easily absorbed. More important, the case for trade may be more difficult to make at a time of deep suspicion and division.
White House officials finally gave up on the Pacific free-trade deal on Friday, after weeks of insisting they had the votes to pass it. This failure was inevitable given the left-right protectionism of the 2016 campaign, but let’s hope it’s not the first thunder crash of a new era of trade war that a shaky world economy can ill afford.
The rest of the editorial explains why we should be concerned that fears of a trade war may be valid. Restoration of the bipartisan consensus grows more urgent daily.