Adding to the challenge of passing the most comprehensive trade agreement in U.S. history is the coincidence with the 2016 presidential election. With negotiations concluded, the next steps are the mechanics of approval of a U.S. treaty by Congress. The United States Trade Representative has made the required request of the non-partisan U.S. International Trade Commission (US ITC) to report to Congress on the winners and losers in the U.S. economy if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ratified. The US ITC has indicated it will take several months to complete this work and both the timing and substance of the report will be important to passage of the TPP.
The ITC has set the following timeline for the development of its report on the costs and benefits to the U.S. economy of the TPP:
• December 22, 2015: Deadline for filing requests to appear at the public hearing.
• December 29, 2015: Deadline for filing pre-hearing briefs and statements.
• January 13, 2016: Public hearing.
• January 22, 2016: Deadline for filing post-hearing briefs and statements.
• February 15, 2016: Deadline for filing all other written submissions.
• May 18, 2016: Anticipated date for transmitting Commission report to the President and Congress.
Congress is unlikely to vote on such a controversial measure until it sees the US ITC report in mid-May. That means the earliest timing for a vote would occur just prior to the conventions when presidential campaigning will be in full swing. That will be difficult enough so it is likely that there will be pressure not to allow for any slippage or delays in these milestone dates.
Also crucial will be public perception of the winners and losers if the trade pact is approved. A favorable report could give Congress the backing of constituents it needs to vote for the pact before the election. A tepid or negative report may mean the pact would have to be ratified in a lame-duck session, if it is to be ratified at all.