Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact gets frosty greeting in US Congress

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, sets up a free-trade zone for forty per cent of the world's economy, and is considered the most ambitious trade pact in a generation.
US Democratic presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, speaks at a campaign event in Chicago on Sept 28 PHOTO: REUTERS

Moments after the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement was announced, US lawmakers made their stand against the 12-nation trade pact, with some vowing to defeat the deal in Congress.

Prominent among detractors was Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders who called the agreement "disastrous".

"Wall Street and other big corporations have won again," he said in a statement. "It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense."

Although President Barack Obama is a stalwart supporter of the deal -which would cement his economic legacy - his Democratic colleagues in Congress have been largely against it, warning that the deal would cost millions of American jobs.

Mr Obama had hoped to conclude the talks earlier, thus allowing the 90-day review period and the vote to come before the US presidential campaigns were in full swing.

But due to delays in negotiations, the vote is likely to come during the presidential primary season, where the deal will undoubtedly be politicised.

While Congress will not be able to change any part of the agreement, they can still cast a yes or no vote for the final deal. But with populism ruling the day, and American workers feeling insecure about their jobs, there is still a chance that the deal could unravel in the months to come.

Ahead of the Atlanta TPP negotiations, Democratic Congresswomen Debbie Dingbell, from Michigan lead a coalition of 16 Congressmen in sending a letter to Mr Obama calling for strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation in the final agreement.

On Monday, she expressed disappointment with the deal saying "it appears that currency manipulation has not been adequately addressed within the TPP agreement".

"Currency manipulation - the mother of all trade barriers - has cost 5 million hardworking Americans the opportunity to earn a decent living over the last decades, and nothing that we have heard indicates negotiators sufficiently addressed these issues," she said.

"We will work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do everything possible between now and the time Congress votes on this agreement to fight the devastating impact of this deal."

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said the deal "appears to fall woefully short" of the objectives laid out by Congress.

"Closing a deal is an achievement for our nation only if it works for the American people and can pass Congress by meeting the high-standard objectives laid out in bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority," said Mr Hatch in a statement.

Pledging to do his best to defeat the deal in the Senate Mr Sanders said: "We need trade policies that benefit American workers and consumers, not just the CEOs of large multi-national corporations."

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