Transatlantic trade deal faces an uphill battle in the US

(By Deutsche Welle) There has been staunch opposition in the EU to a transatlantic trade deal. But concern is also growing in the US, where opponents are trying to deny the president authority to finalize a deal.

As the US Senate moves to vote on so called fast-track authority, the fate of President Obama’s world-encompassing trade agenda hangs in the balance. Fast track would empower the White House to negotiate final deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim nations, which Congress would then approve or reject in up or down votes without amendments.

The House of Representatives would also have to give its approval to fast-track. If this authority is approved and Congress ultimately ratifies both trade deals, roughly 80 percent of the world’s economic output would be covered. But opposition has been fierce and it’s unclear how Congress will vote.

In a twist of political irony, President Obama has won the support of many conservative Republicans, but faces fierce opposition from Democrats and liberal constituencies such as labor unions and environmentalists. Opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership has focused on concerns that a deal with lower wage countries could lead to a further outsourcing of jobs to Asia.

But tensions are also simmering below the surface over the potential deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Critics, such as Jean Halloran with the Consumers Union advocacy group, have slammed the secrecy shrouding the negotiations.

“The US has this system of advisors,” Halloran told DW. “Because of the secrecy you must have a top secret clearance to see any of these negotiating documents.”

President Obama has 600 industry representatives advising him and just one from the consumer advocacy world, according to Halloran. That single non-industry advisor is the former president of the Consumers Union, Rhoda Karpatkin.

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