The Biden administration has encountered a setback in its plans to announce significant portions of a new trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region after facing opposition from top Democratic lawmakers, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The White House had intended to announce progress on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a trade agreement aimed at strengthening alliances and economic ties with allies in East and South Asia. However, Senator Sherrod Brown and other lawmakers voiced concerns about the pact’s lack of protections for workers and other inadequacies.
In response to potential criticism, the administration has decided to delay concluding the trade portion of the agreement and has been briefing members of Congress and foreign trading partners on this decision. The trade pact is crucial to the Biden administration’s strategy to counter China’s influence in the region and includes key partners such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
While other sections of the agreement may still be announced this week, the trade pillar has proven to be the most contentious. Congressional Democrats, led by Senator Ron Wyden, have raised concerns about labor and environmental standards and criticized the administration for inadequate consultation during the negotiations. Senator Brown even called for the elimination of the entire trade pillar from the agreement due to weak labor protections.
The Biden administration has pledged to incorporate robust labor standards in the pact but faces challenges in demanding concessions from countries with low standards for protecting workers. The decision to delay final trade measures until next year is a setback for the administration’s strategic plans in Asia and underscores the difficulty of trade politics for Democrats. Trade negotiations will continue to ensure a high-standard agreement that supports American jobs and gains congressional support.