Australia, US face uphill climb to pass TPP

World Today

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House Jan. 19, 2016. Photo: Jessica Stone / CCTV America

The leaders of Australia and the U.S. face the same quandary. They support, and even led, the negotiations of the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement reached last year. But neither possess the support of their legislative bodies in order to pass the trade pact. All 12 nations must ratify the agreement.

Ahead of an Oval Office meeting Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. to lobby American lawmakers on the deal’s behalf.

TPP “is much more than a trade deal,” he later told U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in front of gathered reporters. The “critical thing is the way it promotes the continued integration of those economies because that is as important an element in our security in the maintenance of the values that both our countries share as all of our efforts.”

Obama said the TPP “is going to be good for our economy. It’s going to be good for our workers and our businesses and it reaffirms that in order for us to thrive in the 21st century, particularly economies that are respectful of rule of law and concerned about labor rights and environmental rights, it’s important for us to be making the rules in this region and that’s exactly what TPP does.”

But the World Bank recently assessed that the agreement has little economic benefit for Australia and the United States. And House Republicans told CCTV America after Obama’s State of the Union address that there was no plan by Republican leadership to put TPP to a vote. Even members of Obama’s own party expressed concerns about whether the deal goes far enough to address labor rights.

Turnbull faces a lobbying effort of his own at home. Over the summer the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade References committees of the parliament released “The Blind Agreement,” a report which according to the EU Times, said “This does not provide an adequate level of oversight and scrutiny….Parliament should play a constructive role during negotiations and not merely rubber-stamp agreements that have been negotiated behind closed doors.”