Ankit Panda sees an opportunity for the administration after the midterms in promoting new trade deals:
Of course, knowing the nature of U.S. politics, it is imaginable that pro-trade Republicans could see blocking Obama’s foreign policy initiatives as a more worthwhile pursuit than actually granting the executive branch the authority needed to push ahead with TPP negotiations. Still, should the Senate turn red tomorrow, Republicans will come to control important congressional committees and will push out Democrats who would otherwise prefer insular trade protectionism.
It’s likely that a Republican-controlled Senate will be more willing to give the administration the fast-track authority that it would need to negotiate the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) deals successfully, but as Dan Drezner has pointed out that is hardly a guarantee that these deals will get done. For one thing, the other major parties to these deals also face their own political obstacles. Drezner writes:
On TPP, it’s now Japan that is proving to be the laggard, and it’s far from obvious that Shinzo Abe has the political wherewithal to get an agreement ratified. On T-TIP, new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has split negotiating authority between his Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to placate Europeans worried about the proposed investor-state dispute settlement in T-TIP. The point is, Japanese and EU trade negotiators are facing their own domestic constraints.
As Clint Richards reported for The Diplomat last week, Japanese Prime Minister Abe would be hard-pressed to make the TPP a priority anytime soon:
While the TPP was a large part of his political agenda when he took office in December 2012, quite a bit has changed since then. In the interim the TPP has fallen out of public statements, especially as the economy took a large quarterly downturn following April’s initial consumption tax increase from three to five percent. As Abe is expected to decide on the follow-up increase sometime this December, he is unlikely to make an equally unpopular economic decision at the same time. Having Japan come to a broad agreement on the TPP, even by early next year, is looking ever more remote.
So Obama could choose to make the TPP a priority in the new year, and he might have Congressional support for this part of his agenda, and yet it still might go nowhere because of Abe’s reluctance to push through an unpopular trade deal. Considering the obstacles in Japan, it’s not clear what incentive Obama has to make this one of the main priorities of his last two years in office.