A few months ago I wrote about the impact that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have on the global apparel industry if it were to pass.
Proponents of the TPP argue it will create more open markets by lowering trade barriers for all countries involved -- the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- thus reducing costs for manufacturers, which should ultimately trickle down to consumers.
Opponents argue it gives companies that outsource manufacturing to foreign countries a competitive advantage, while moving more manufacturing jobs out of the U.S.
Regardless of how one might personally feel about the TPP, the impact it could have on the global apparel industry will be substantial. As such, it's important to keep an eye on how the outcome of the 2016 presidential election could affect the fate of this trade agreement.
Let's start by looking at Democratic Party nominee Hilary Clinton's position on the issue.
Although Clinton famously declared her hope that the TPP would become the "gold standard" of trade agreements in her 2012 memoir Hard Choices, she has since made it clear that she does not support the TPP as it is currently written. Clinton's primary concerns are that the deal would kill jobs in the U.S. and benefit big pharmaceutical companies, while failing to address currency manipulation and protect American national security.
Clinton's anti-TPP stance has won the support of two critical segment of voters: those who supported Bernie Sanders and were reluctant to back Clinton from the outset, and labor unions, who have always been against free trade.
On the flip-side, Clinton's opposition to the TPP puts her at odds with President Obama, one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party at the moment and someone whose support Clinton is counting on in order to help her win in November. Until recently, Clinton has largely been able to avoid any major conflict, as Obama has done everything he can to make their different stances on the TPP seem like a non-issue. But with Democrat Howard Dean's Super PAC Democracy for America calling on Clinton to directly challenge Obama on the deal, Clinton is in a tough spot.
So what does that mean for the TPP if Clinton is elected? We have to assume Obama will submit the trade agreement to the lame duck Congress after the election, so Congress will be able to vote on the current deal, as is -- per the terms of fast track authority. If Congress votes yes, Clinton could veto the deal and renegotiate the terms to satisfy the liberal wing of the Democratic Party before sending it back to Congress.
Now let's consider Republican Party nominee Donald Trump's stance on the TPP. Trump has been clear that he is firmly against the TPP, describing it as a terrible deal that would reward outsourcing and benefit other countries at the expense of the U.S.
At first glance it might seem odd for Trump to oppose an agreement that many Republicans support from both an ideological and business standpoint, not to mention the fact that Senate Republicans have been pushing for the TPP for years. However, Trump's voter base is heavily populated with blue collar workers who could be negatively impacted by the deal. Once elected, he may move more toward the more traditional Republican position.
As such, one would assume that if Trump wins the election and Congress votes to pass the TPP, he would likely veto the deal. Whether or not he would renegotiate the terms and send it back to Congress would depend on the amount of pressure he'd get from groups that support the agreement, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable.
Now, one might wonder, if the TPP is one of Obama's top priorities, and passing it would be one of the biggest accomplishments of his presidency, why doesn't he submit the deal to Congress now while it's still controlled by pro-TPP Republicans? According to Brown University political scientist Wendy Schiller, the answer is two-fold. First, Obama doesn't want to put Hilary Clinton in an even more uncomfortable position as she's working to win over anti-TPP voters. Second, the Republican senators that would vote to pass the TPP as is are fighting to win their own elections in November, and voting for the TPP to pass means they risk losing the support of Trump voters, which is a risk that Congressional leadership is unwilling to take.
Regardless of how Clinton and Trump feel about the TPP, it really boils down to Congress. If it doesn't pass in the lame duck session and signed into law, despite the incoming administration's opposition, don't look for it to pass until after the 2018 mid-term elections, when Republicans will have better leverage to influence the White House, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.