US President Obama’s fellow Democrats last week shot down legislation crucial to finalizing the trade agreement on the grounds that it would hurt rather than help America. Unless he can convince scores of Democrats to change their votes in the coming days, the centerpiece of his much-touted re-engagement with Asia will slip away along with one of the last chances he has to leave his imprint on the world before leaving office.
“If the president cannot get” trade promotion authority “through Congress, it is a disaster for his Asia policy,” said Michael J. Green, a former Asia adviser to President George W. Bush and now at Georgetown University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The administration will be dismissed as lame duck at a time when China is flexing its muscles.”
Moreover, Mr. Green and other analysts said, a failure to follow through on the trade deal would lead to Japan, Vietnam and other putative partners reversing course on economic reforms or tariff concessions required to join the multilateral trade zone with the United States, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or T.P.P. And momentum may shift to economic institutions and agreements that do not include the United States, including the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that China is creating over American resistance.