U.S.-Australian Business Community Starts Final Push For TPP Vote With Capitol Hill Outreach
This article was written by Jenny Leonard, Associate Editor at Inside U.S. Trade. It originally appeared here.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Australia is beginning a final push for a lame-duck vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with global CEOs attempting to convince U.S. lawmakers of the agreement’s overall benefits despite individual provisions that might have left some members “disappointed” — and warning that the window for passage of the deal is closing rapidly.
In an Aug. 30 position paper summarizing the business community’s take on the prospects for TPP, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia advocates for the deal to be ratified by the U.S. Congress this fall, calling it “realistically the only time when passage will be possible.”
“The window for passage of TPP legislation is about to close,” the paper states. “Walking away from a deal which the U.S. has championed will be viewed for what it is. Passing the TPP in this year’s Lame Duck session of Congress is therefore an essential requirement for maintaining American economic and strategic leadership across the Pacific.”
AmCham Australia CEO Niels Marquardt, in an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, said the outreach campaign’s main focus is to ask global CEOs to “stand up for TPP in the coming months.”
“We have to win the debate in Congress and the public debate,” Marquardt said on Sept. 1. “Every big CEO in the U.S. should go on the record – if they haven’t already – in support of this. Now is the time for business to speak up.”
Marquardt added that the campaign is an effort to counter the drumbeat of opposition to the deal in the presidential election as well as in congressional races.
He said the focus should be on the overall benefits of the deal, with CEOs being urged to “weigh in with Sen. Hatch and others” and make the case to lawmakers that even if they are “disappointed” by any individual provision or outcome, “the total agreement brings so many benefits.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has demanded that TPP provide for 12 years of market exclusivity for biologic drugs, instead of the deal’s options of eight years or five years plus additional measures, is viewed as one of the key players who must be satisfied before the deal can be voted on.
According to the position paper, a delegation of Asia-Pacific businesses, during an annual “door-knock” on Capitol Hill in June, sensed a “significant lack of appreciation” for the importance of the deal.
“In June, AmCham Australia sent a sizeable delegation with other regional AmChams to meet with key decision makers in Washington DC,” the paper says. “Our meetings strongly convinced us that there continues to be significant lack of appreciation on Capitol Hill of the broad economic and strategic importance of the TPP and of the imperative to adopt it at the first available opportunity.”
“Waiting for the next President and Congress to review or renegotiate the TPP will only mean that the moment passes without its adoption, as the region is poised to move on instead to other trade policy priorities,” AmCham writes.
Marquardt reiterated the now-or-never attitude often expressed by the heads of government of other TPP countries when talking about the deal’s chances in a post-Obama administration.
“We don’t have the sense that the folks in Washington necessarily understand that this moment is passing,”Marquardt told Inside U.S. Trade. “If we don’t pass TPP this year, there won’t be TPP.”
But while noting that negative voices today outweigh TPP supporters on Capitol Hill, Marquardt said the rhetoric around trade will be different after the elections in November.
“All the nay-sayers are being heard very loudly,” he said. “I’m concerned we’re not hearing anything good, we only hear bad things [from the U.S. Congress]. But after the election there’ll be more clarity, and we’re just preparing for that moment.”
Marquardt said a delegation of regional AmChams is planning to come back to Washington during the lame-duck session to target those members of Congress the groups consider “swing votes” for the deal.
The weeks beginning on Nov. 14 or Dec. 5 – right after Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break – will be “the most effective periods,” according to Marquardt.
While ratification of the deal would be the preferred outcome, the business community also wants to make clear that TPP signatories are preparing for a world without TPP by exploring other options, including the “far less ambitious” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
“As a member of the China-led alternative to the TPP – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP – Australia is hedging its bets in case the U.S. Congress fails to ratify the TPP this year,” AmCham Australia says in its position paper. “The RCEP would be a far less ambitious and comprehensive trade deal and is likely to include few of the landmark provisions negotiated by the TPP parties.”
In that case, the business community warns, standards for future trade agreements will be modeled after RCEP, resulting in negative implications for the U.S. economy and workforce.
“In the absence of a TPP, RCEP-like agreements will become the standard for regional trade deals in Asia Pacific,” the paper states. “The U.S. will be left out and will see the great opportunity afforded by TPP slip away. U.S.-based companies, the U.S. economy and U.S. workers will be the real losers. The rest of the world will move on.” – Jenny Leonard (email@example.com)