WASHINGTON, Nov 8: President Obama proclaimed that the 12-nation Pacific Rim free-trade pact made public on Thursday is the "highest-standard trade agreement in history," but opponents seized on specific provisions to argue that the final deal does not live up to promises.
The administration hoped that the full release of the thousands of pages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), after years of negotiations behind closed doors, would help persuade wavering lawmakers to support the president's effort to rewrite the rules of trade and investment in a sprawling region to benefit the US economy.
But a wide range of critics - from Ford Motor Co to environmental groups - said on Thursday that seeing the entire text of the deal for the first time only confirmed many of their worst suspicions. The continued opposition of these groups underscores the steep challenge Obama faces in order to win the pact's ratification in Congress before his term expires.
"I know that past trade agreements haven't always lived up to the hype. That's what makes this trade agreement so different, and so important," Obama wrote in a blog post. "If you take a look at what's actually in the TPP, you will see that this is, in fact, a new type of trade deal that puts American workers first."
The next step is for congressional leaders to schedule a vote, but even Republicans who have been supportive of Obama's trade push reacted cautiously Thursday and gave few clues as to when the deal might be considered.
"Enactment of TPP is going to require the administration to fully explain the benefits of this agreement and what it will mean for American families," House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in a statement.
"I continue to reserve judgement on the path ahead. But I remain hopeful that our negotiators reached an agreement that the House can support because a successful TPP would mean more good jobs for American workers and greater US influence in the world."
Shortly after the text was released, Obama formally notified Congress of his intent to sign the agreement, but he must wait 90 days before doing so under the terms of the "fast-track" trade powers that lawmakers granted him in the spring. This authority allows the deal to be considered without threat of amendments or filibuster.
White House aides said they were fearful that any delays could jeopardise the carefully negotiated agreement with countries, including Canada, Mexico and Australia, that account for about 36 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.
The political climate around the 2016 presidential campaign - with several leading candidates on both sides publicly opposing the deal - could persuade lawmakers to delay a vote until after the general election or even until a new president takes office.
"We don't believe that Congress should wait a year before acting," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, "but we are respectful of the need to give time to Congress and to the American public to consider the details." ?The Washington Post