Obama’s Big Trade Deals May Never Get Done
Policy + Politics

Obama’s Big Trade Deals May Never Get Done

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on hold, President Obama today is facing the prospect that another of his massive trade agreements will not be concluded before he leaves office next January.

The signing of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — and indeed its very future — became less likely when the French trade minister said he would call for a halt in talks scheduled for next month. That came hard on the heels of Germany’s economic minster pronouncing the talks dead.

Related: US Trade Spokesman Says TTIP Talks Making Progress

TTIP negotiations began in 2013 but have not progressed very far in two years, with both sides refusing to compromise on a range of issues, according to Reuters. One area of disagreement is food and agriculture: For example, the U.S. wants to open more markets for its farm products, while the EU wants to protect specialty foods such as Parma ham, Reuters said.

Backers of the TTIP say it could boost the economies of the EU and the U.S. by $100 billion each, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has remained a staunch ally of Obama’s in trying to move the agreement forward.

But public support in Europe has been shrinking as the tide of anti-globalism washes across the Continent and as elections near in both France and Germany. A poll in April by the Bertelsmann Foundation found the German public “increasingly antagonistic” toward the pact, with only 17 percent seeing it as a good thing, vs. 55 percent two years earlier. Moreover, the upcoming exit of Britain from the European Union has complicated the forging of an agreement.

Related: Trump and Sanders Are Right: Obama’s Trade Deal Is a Dud

French President Francois Hollande, whose backing of TTIP has been tepid compared with that of Merkel, on Tuesday said it was “an Illusion” to think the deal could be wrapped up before Obama leaves office.

The backlash against global trade deals has been front and center in the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called for the Trans-Pacific agreement to be scrapped or renegotiated. His rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, who supported TPP when she was Obama’s secretary of state, has now turned against the 12-nation deal.

Any hope that TPP could be pushed through before the end of Obama’s term ended last Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a farm group in Kentucky that “serious flaws” in the agreement would prevent it from being considered by the Senate before the November elections.

Related: Trump and Sanders Lash Out at a Common Enemy: Free Trade

McConnell noted that the politics of trade had become “rather toxic.”