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Trans Pacific Partnership May Be Delayed by U.S. Fast-Track Trade Debate

by Sarah Day Levesque

A lack of clarity about U.S. Congress’s role in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is delaying completion of the 12-nation pact. Officials from six of the TPP nations, tell Reuters that because it’s unclear what conditions U.S. Congress would impose on negotiations, the talks have been slowed. The trade deal is expected to aid a U.S. “pivot” to Asian markets.

Several nations in the negotiations see the passing of fast-track legislation, also called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and designed to move trade deals more quickly through U.S. Congress, as key to the completion of the TPP. TPA grants authority to the President by Congress to fast track trade deals but the debate over renewal of this authority has been ongoing since 2012. U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican, has been negotiating with democratic colleagues to pass the bill but those talks ended Sunday with no plans to pick up again until after Congress returns from a two-week break in mid-April.

Aside from the fast-track issue that still needs to be resolved, a two-way deal between Japan and the U.S. is also considered crucial to completion of the overall TPP deal. Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said he hopes to hold these talks with his U.S. counterpart in the spring before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's possible visit to the U.S.

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