USTR keeping tabs on TPP preparedness

By Bill Tomson

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WASHINGTON, April 13, 2016 - The U.S. isn't waiting until Congress votes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to start making sure that the other 11 countries in the free trade deal are ready to begin implementing it if and when it takes effect, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Wednesday.

“Looking ahead, we are already working with our TPP partners on implementation and monitoring and enforcement mechanisms,” Froman said in a conference call with reporters. “So we've had teams go out to our TPP partners over the course of the last several weeks to talk through what it is they can do to bring their systems into compliance with TPP obligations.”

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But making sure other countries are ready to follow through with TPP obligations such as cutting tariffs will take a lot of work, and the USTR can't do it alone, Froman said.

“We are developing whole-of-government monitoring and enforcement efforts to make sure we are using our embassies, the USDA, the Department of Labor or whoever the relevant agency is to monitor how countries do in [implementing] these obligations,” he said on the call, which was hosted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Those actions mesh with the agency's efforts domestically. Last week Froman told a gathering hosted by the U.S. Export-Import Bank that USTR officials are working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to produce legislation that would put into place promises the U.S. made in the trade pact.

Congressional ratification isn't a certainty, especially this year with the upcoming election and presidential candidates from both parties railing against the deal. But both Froman and NCBA Vice President Kevin Kester said on the call they are optimistic that lawmakers are coming around to support TPP, even if they are not publicly showing that support.

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“It's going to be a tough road, but I think it's doable, and from what I hear from members on the Hill, I think they're probably going to keep their powder dry until later in the year, but we're going to push hard… and I think we're going to be able to cross the goal line sometime this year,” Kester said.

The most obvious window the Obama administration might have to get Congress to pass the TPP would be after the elections in November, but Froman said that pro-TPP forces have to be ready whenever a window opens.

“We're working very closely with the leadership of the House and Senate, with the leadership of the relevant committees, to make sure that the agreement is ready to go -- that we've resolved outstanding issues and legislation is drafted appropriately, that we've got Congress' input for whenever the window during this period of time opens up, and that we're ready to move forward,” Froman said.

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