WASHINGTON — The Senate's soon-to-be-top Democrat told labor leaders Thursday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal at the center of President Barack Obama's "pivot" to strengthen ties with key Asian allies, will not be ratified by Congress.
That remark from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is expected to be the incoming Senate minority leader, came as good news to the AFL-CIO executive council, which met in Washington. An aide to Schumer confirmed the remarks.
Obama's signature global trade deal had been on life support for months as both Democrats and Republicans campaigned against unfair trade policies ahead of the Nov. 8 election. And Donald Trump's triumph in the presidential race cemented its fate.
"There is no way to fix the TPP," Trump said in a June economic address. "We need bilateral trade deals. We do not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down."
The deal never had much of a following among congressional Democrats to begin with. Only 28 of 188 House Democrats and 13 of 44 Senate Democrats supported granting Obama the authority to negotiate and finalize a deal last year. And Trump's rise has decimated support for free trade among Republicans. A former U.S. trade representative, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said he would oppose the TPP as he campaigned for re-election this year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that there was no chance that the deal would pass during Obama's final months in office. And he said it is up to Trump whether any trade deal would move forward after that.
"I think the president-elect made it pretty clear he was not in favor of the current agreement," McConnell said. "But he has the latitude because (congressional negotiating authority) is in place through the next administration to negotiate better deals, as I think he would put it, if he chooses to."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has supported past trade deals, has said repeatedly that "the votes aren't there" in the House to pass the TPP in its current version and has said he had no plans to bring it to a vote in the House.