WASHINGTON, July 15, 2015 – Former U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter said he thinks chances are “slim” that the U.S. and 11other nations trying to forge the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will reach agreement during the upcoming negotiations in Hawaii in late July.
Earlier this month, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said negotiators had made “considerable progress” in closing gaps on remaining issues. But Yeutter, who served as agriculture secretary under President George H.W. Bush, says some of those gaps – most notably Canada’s reluctance to open its dairy market – may be too difficult to close during the scheduled sessions on the island of Maui.
“Closure is hard,” Yeutter said at a round-table discussion on TPP at the CATO Institute in Washington. The negotiators, many of whom are new in their jobs, “will find out when they hit Hawaii how hard it is,” said Yeutter, now a senior adviser at the Hogan Lovells law firm. His assessment was seconded by Bill Reinsch, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, the other featured speaker at the discussion.
Both men predicted that there will eventually be an agreement, and put the chances at “better than 50-50” that Congress will approve the deal, possibly sometime next year, but approval won’t come easy.
Reinsch said supporters of TPP, which has been under negotiation for five years, are going to have to seek out the businesses and individuals who stand to gain from the free-trade agreement and make sure these “winners” bring their stories to their representatives in Congress. If they don’t, Reinsch said he could guarantee that opponents, including labor leaders concerned about job losses and people in the environmental movement, will be highlighting the “losers.”
USTR says the effort would be more than worthwhile. On its website, it cites an analysis that says TPP could generate an additional $123.5 billion per year in U.S. exports by 2025, with real income benefits estimated at $77 billion annually. With a potential market of nearly 800 million consumers, the combined economic output of the 12 countries involved account for about 40 percent of world GDP.
Beyond its own economic benefits, Yeutter said a successful TPP would lay the groundwork for completion of another ambitious trade agreement, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) currently being negotiated with the European Union. And it would bolster U.S. foreign policy and national security interests by countering China’s efforts to increase its position as a regional power in the Asian-Pacific region, he said.
TPP, Yeutter said, is “the most important trade negotiations in the world today, by far – in the last 20 years and in the next 20 years.”
The chief negotiators for the TPP countries will meet from July 24-27, followed by a meeting of trade ministers scheduled from July 28-31.
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