President Barack Obama’s trade office is largely suspending its effort to pass his signature Asian free-trade deal before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, saying on Friday that it was up to Republican leaders in Congress to decide on a vote.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office had been lobbying lawmakers for months to pass the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership deal in the post-election, lame-duck session of Congress. However, a stunning election that gave Trump the White House and retained Republican majorities in Congress has stymied those plans.
“We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it’s up to Congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward,” USTR spokesman Matt McAlvanah said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not take up TPP in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration and said its fate was now up to Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan had earlier said he would not proceed with a lame-duck vote.
Trump made his opposition to the TPP a centerpiece of his campaign, calling it a “disaster” and “a rape of our country” that would send more jobs overseas. His anti-trade message and pledges to stem the tide of imported goods from China and Mexico won him massive support among blue-collar workers in the industrial heartland states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, helping to swing the election his way.
The USTR statement follows a Twitter message on Friday from Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden that the administration was giving up on a lame-duck TPP vote.
“Various credible sources tell me that Obama will NOT try to pass the TPP in lame duck. Not unexpected, but there it is...” Bernstein tweeted.