Congressional Vote of Trans-Pacific Partnership Moves Farther Down the Road

Congress may not vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal until sometime after the November presidential election.

After meeting recently with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he has some problems with the free-trade agreement and a vote to approve the deal might not take place until after the November elections.

“We’re going to keep on talking about it and seeing if there’s a way forward,” he told reporters at a press conference after his Feb. 2 meeting with Obama at the White House.

After seven years of negotiations, the trade pact, which involves the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, was hammered out in a final text released last year.

The next step is for Congress to approve the accord and for the president to sign it. The legislative bodies of all the other signatory members must also ratify the TPP.

The pact that would lower tariffs on many imported items has been roundly supported by the American Apparel & Footwear Association. On Feb. 1, the apparel and footwear trade group released a statement saying that the deal provided many opportunities for the clothing, shoe and accessories industries.

“With the TPP covering 40 percent of the world’s GDP [gross domestic product] and reaching approximately 800 million consumers, the trade pact represents significant opportunities,” the letter said. “We urge the administration to work with Congress to build support for timely congressional consideration and approval of TPP and to ensure that the agreement is implemented in a clear and seamless manner.”

The countries in the trade pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

For the apparel and textile industry, the free-trade accord has certain limitations, which are similar to those written in other agreements between the United States and dozens of other countries.

It has a yarn-forward provision, which means that everything from the yarn going forward must be produced in the trade-pact countries to receive duty-free status. So Chinese fabric, or fabric from outside the free-trade region, would not be allowed to be used for duty-free qualification unless it is on a short-supply list.

Already, U.S. apparel manufacturers are anticipating being able to use Vietnamese-made textiles as that country ramps up its textile production with heavy investment from Chinese and Korean businesses. And many U.S. clothing manufacturers would like to export to the growing Vietnamese and Japanese market.