TPP In Trouble

Boy, I hope the negotiators from the other countries end up showing more spine than Democratic senators did on fast track authority. Politico reports the encouraging developments here.

Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and 10 Pacific rim nations appeared unable to reach a deal on what was billed as the biggest trade pact in history because of differences over agricultural and auto markets and protections for drug makers.

“We are not going to have TPP closed during this round,” a senior official from one of the nations predicted about the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

A number of issues are proving problematic, including extended patent protections for Big Pharma.

U.S. drug manufacturers say they need 12 years of data protection for new biologic medicines to recoup research and development costs. A group of countries led by Australia insist drug makers should get no more than five years of protection to hasten development of cheaper generic or “biosimilar” drugs, which are more affordable for consumers. Many expected the negotiations to settle around seven or eight years, but an agreement had not been reached.

Politics will increasingly play a role if an agreement is not reached soon.

“It would be a very significant setback if they don’t reach a deal in Maui,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “I don’t think it’s fatal, but what I think they would need to do is reach an agreement by mid-August.”

That would still allow Obama to push the agreement through Congress before Iowa and New Hampshire hold their early presidential primaries. If it happened much later than that, Clinton might be forced by opponents such as Sen. Bernie Sanders into a position of opposing the agreement or promising to renegotiate if elected president.

“That would put enormous pressure on the 28 Democrats who voted for trade promotion authority” to withhold their support for the TPP deal, Hufbauer said.

Here’s hoping the whole thing falls apart right now,

Edwards and Van Hollen On Trade

Lost in all the Matthews minutiae this week - until now - was yet another effort by Donna Edwards to draw policy distinctions between herself and Chris Van Hollen. This week’s issue - trade policy and Medicare. John Fritze of the Sun has the story:

Rep. Donna F. Edwards’ campaign for Senate criticized Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday for not signing a letter opposed to Medicare cuts included in a trade bill pending in Congress, her latest effort to draw a distinction with him in the state’s high-profile contest.

At issue is a letter crafted by House liberals that calls on congressional leaders to reconsider how the trade bill pays for an expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The program is used to help workers displaced by trade agreements such as the one the Obama administration is negotiating with Pacific Rim nations.

Progressive groups and lawmakers support the TAA program, but they’re not pleased about the idea of offsetting its expansion with cuts to Medicare. Edwards, who has questioned Van Hollen’s progressive bona fides, noted that she had signed a letter opposing the funding mechanism but that Van Hollen has not.

Van Hollen, after quickly signing the letter, fired right back:

It’s official: the Edwards campaign has entered the silly season,” Van Hollen campaign spokesman Erik Dorey said in a statement. “Chris opposes this cut or any cuts to seniors’ retirement security. He’s led the fight for years against GOP efforts to end Medicare as we know it, and Congresswoman Edwards knows it. He’s engaged in the more serious work of finding a solution instead of trying to score cheap political points.”

Whichever Democrat came up with the hare-brained notion of paying for displaced worker assistance with cuts to Medicare needs to be excommunicated from the party. What a stupid idea.