The 12 countries involved in talks for a Pacific Rim free trade deal will not hold a ministerial meeting later this month as once suggested, amid unclear prospects for a U.S. bill crucial to realizing the initiative, negotiation sources said Wednesday.
The move clouds the outlook for reaching a broad agreement by this summer, and thus before full-fledged campaigning begins in the United States for the 2016 presidential election.
According to the sources, other countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have shown a reluctance to convene a ministerial meeting this month as proposed by the United States, as they see enactment by the U.S. Congress of a Trade Promotion Authority bill as necessary for cutting a deal.
The legislation would give U.S. President Barack Obama strong power to seal a TPP trade deal by allowing Congress to only vote to accept or reject the trade pact in its entirety, and without amendment.
Without it, other TPP negotiating countries are seen as unwilling to offer concessions on the remaining issues of dispute — typically the most sensitive matters — for fear the U.S. Congress could reject them.
The U.S. Senate has just begun deliberating TPA legislation for possible passage later this week.
But the House of Representatives has yet to even decide when to begin deliberations, although a bipartisan group of influential U.S. lawmakers said on Monday they will work on enacting the law by the end of June.