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TPP ratification in US heading for 'lame duck' session in late 2016: Key

PM admits trade deal hangs in the balance, but says he is optimistic. 

Pattrick Smellie and NBR staff
Mon, 04 Apr 2016

US lawmakers and senior officials are leaning towards the likelihood of the Trans-Pacific Partnership achieving ratification in Washington DC during the so-called "lame-duck" session of Congress expected later this year, Prime Minister John Key says.

Speaking at his weekly press conference after returning from a swing to the American capital last week, Key said: "The on balance, considered view of the variety of agencies and people that we spoke to was that they gave it a good chance of passing, but if it was going to pass, it would pass in the lame duck period."

However, it remained unknown whether the numbers to pass TPP legislation would be achieved, he said.

The lame duck sitting, which does not necessarily have to occur and which TPP opponents speculate may be stymied, would occur between the US presidential election in November and the swearing-in of a new US president early next year.

The session has often in the past been a channel for passing legislation that is politically contentious with the general public but which US lawmakers are willing to see go forward.

Key said it was clear that most of the support for TPP was among Republican members of Congress and that they would be weighing up not only the economic but also the geopolitical implications of failing to ratify the 12 nation trade and investment deal.

"For the US, the TPP is not only about economic benefits, but also its continued leadership and relationships in the Asia-Pacific region," said Key. "It's clear that the political environment in the United States is complex right now, but the administration is committed to ratification and I remain optimistic that the TPP will be passed by the US."

The TPP requires ratification by countries representing 85% of the GDP of original signatories to come into force. That means no US ratification, no TPP. Although a majority in the Republican-controlled Congress voted for trade authority legislation that smoothed the path to the trade deal, the success of the anti-TPP Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential race has seen the mood change. Many pundits say the trade deal no longer enjoys majority support

An extended, multi-step process to get the TPP in front of Congress also means there is no guarantee it will get voted on before President Obama leaves office on January 20.

A two-thirds majority would be needed to over-ride a potential veto should Trump or Cruz win the presidency. The two leading Democrat contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, also oppose the TPP.


Pattrick Smellie and NBR staff
Mon, 04 Apr 2016
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TPP ratification in US heading for 'lame duck' session in late 2016: Key