Last year wasn’t exactly a banner one for US President Barack Obama’s relationship with the US Congress. He and his GOP foes could agree on very little and now the Republican hydra has two heads – and is ready to strike - after taking over the US Senate earlier this week. Expect plenty of disagreements between Republicans and Obama on immigration, the budget, foreign policy and the environment.
But one issue may actually bring them together: trade. This week, the president is on what some refer to as a “victory lap” over the improving US economy visiting Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee.
Behind the scenes, the White House is fighting a battle over two massive free trade deals with the Asia-Pacific region and Europe that are key to his economic strategy. They’re called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Mister Obama backs them both. He’s going to need Congressional approval to get them signed, something he’s tried to get for years but has failed largely because of opposition from within his own party.
Old wounds from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – when thousands of US jobs went south to Mexico – clearly haven’t healed and many Congressional Democrats have fought him at every turn. Luckily for Obama, the Republicans are now in charge.
The new Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said this week trade is at the top of their to-do list indicating they’re in favour of pushing the deals through. "I’m happy the president has now become a born-again free trader. It’s high time," McConnell said. "We think this is an area where we can make progress and you can look for us to act.”