Obama administration suspends vote effort for TPP deal

 Donald Trump, the president-elect, shakes hands with President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on Nov 10, 2016.
Donald Trump, the president-elect, shakes hands with President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on Nov 10, 2016. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • United States President Barack Obama's administration has suspended its efforts to win congressional approval for his Asian free-trade deal before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, saying the deal's fate is up to Mr Trump and Republican lawmakers.

Officials also said Mr Obama would try to explain the situation to leaders of the 11 other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact this week at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru. He will tell the member countries that the US remains engaged in Asia and it recognises that such deals still make sense, said White House Deputy National Security Adviser Wally Adeyemo.

Mr Obama's Cabinet secretaries and the US Trade Representative's (USTR) office had been lobbying lawmakers for months to pass the 12-nation deal in the post-election, lame-duck session of Congress.

But Mr Trump's stunning election victory and the Republican majorities in Congress have stymied those plans.

"We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it's up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward," USTR spokesman Matt McAlvanah said on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan said they would not take up the TPP before Mr Trump's inauguration. The President-elect made his opposition to the TPP a centrepiece of his campaign, saying it would send more jobs overseas.

His anti-free-trade message won him massive support among blue-collar workers in the industrial heartland states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The TPP, negotiated for more than five years and signed in October last year, was aimed at reducing trade barriers by some of the fastest-growing economies in Asia and boosting ties with US allies in the region in the face of China's rising influence.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'Obama administration suspends vote effort for TPP deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe