President Obama and his Senate GOP critics are locked in a long-simmering feud, but there’s one topic that has them clasping hands and singing kumbaya: global free-trade deals. The erstwhile foes are joining forces to push two massive ones: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would knock down trade barriers for a group of nations including the US, Canada, Chile, Peru, Mexico Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam; and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would do the same between the US and the European Union.
Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators rolled outlegislation, vigorously promoted by the White House, that would give the President broad authority to negotiate and push such trade deals through Congress, a process known as “fast track.” Since it facilitatescorporate-friendly trade rules, the fast-track bill is expected to enjoy strong support from Republican lawmakers. But progressive Democratic senators are lining up to oppose it, setting up a battle royale pitting President Obama and his own Congressional caucus—one The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman calls“sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office.”
In a post last year, I laid out why the US meat industry loves the TPP: namely, that it would open the floodgates to lucrative markets in Japan, Vietnam, and Malaysia, all of which limit imports of US meat to protect domestic farmers
Another massive agribusiness sector, the GMO seed pesticide industry, potentially stands to gain from the TTIP, because the European Union has much more restrictive regulations on rolling out novel crops than the US; and some member states, including France, maintain moratoriums on planting certain GM crops. Attempting to drum up support for the fast-track bill on Capitol Hill, USDA secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Michael Froman have been been promising to use the proposed treaty has a hammer to force broader acceptance in the EU.