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The Conflicts between the Obama Administration and Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

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The United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations (TPP) on a modern free trade agreement between eleven American and Asian Pacific states are the largest and most ambitious trade policy talks ever conducted in the United States, and may be a precedent for future free trade agreements.Besides its economic costs and benefits, the free trade agreement will also have tremendous political implications for the participating states. While Congress is constitutionally in charge to regulate commerce with foreign nations and to make the final vote, it is the executive branch that negotiates trade policy. But the unparalleled secrecy with which the Obama Administration has negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the limited information it discloses, raises strong concerns by Congress members and American civil society organizations and appears as diametrically opposed to the factual relevance of the agreement. After 16 rounds of negotiations, the President did not yet ask the Congress to grant him the Trade Promotion Authority, formerly known as fast-tracking, which is needed to legally conduct the negotiations in the way the Administration already does, its critics say. This paper explores Obama´s strategy regarding the TPP negotiations.It is assumed that Obama follows three major interests with his negotiation tactics. Firstly, strategic reasons: Since China dominates the economic dynamic in East Asia, the USA wants to strengthen its economic and political clout there; trade is an aspect of the ”pivotal” assumption or ”rebalancing” strategy toward Asia. Secondly, for both liberal and neoliberal reasons: The Congress would like to enforce labor and environmental standards and other protective policies abroad and at home and reopen existing agreements, which would not be in the interest of the executive, while the special interests of corporations are better protected without Congress involvement. Thirdly, bureaucratic reasons: Congress involvement complicates the already challenging negotiations and may weaken the USA during negotiations. To speed-up a conclusion and ensure he is holding the reins, Obama waits with a request for the Trade Promotion Authority until TPP is almost concluded.


(Ferguson, Cooper 2012, p.45, p.3, pp.29-30).
Clinton, Hillary(2011).America's Pacific Century.Foreign Policy Magazine.85-86+89.
Manyin, M.E.,Daggett, S.(2012).Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration's "Rebalancing" Toward Asia.Washington, DC:Congressional Research Service.
Inside US Trade, Civil Society Groups Ask For Revamped TPA, Outline Trade Priorities, 31.10, 8 March 2013.
Inside US Trade, Boehner calls on President to pursue new, broad Fast-Track Authority, 30.12, 23 March 2012

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