McConnell says White House will need GOP to pass Trans-Pacific Partnership, wary of potential carve-outs

08/19/2015 06:45 PM

GEORGETOWN — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his wariness of potential carve-outs to a major multinational trade deal being negotiated in the Pacific Rim.

Speaking to Pure Politics and other reporters in Georgetown on Monday, McConnell said that he is “concerned about what the final deal may look like,” referring to the potential exclusion of tobacco from the agreement. McConnell said he is also wary of a climate-change carve-out in the trade deal.

As Pure Politics has previously reported, McConnell sent a letter in late July to Ambassador Michael Froman, the top trade representative in President Barack Obama’s administration, calling on tobacco to be protected in the 12-nation trade deal.

When reporting on the issue in July, Kentucky Farm Bureau Commodities Director Joe Cain told Pure Politics that no single legal commodity should be kept from a free-trade agreement. Cain said KFB worries of the possible slippery slope created by singling out one industry.

If tobacco was cut from the trade deal, it would have a major impact on Kentucky farmers. Eighty percent of Kentucky tobacco is exported. In 2013, the commodity was worth $300 million in exports.

McConnell, R-Ky., has previously written Froman twice on the subject of protecting tobacco in the negotiated deal, once in 2012 and again in 2013.

On Monday, McConnell told reporters that he “made it clear to the ambassador they’re going to need a lot of Republicans, even with a simple majority, to pass this TPP.”

With the passage of Trade Promotion Authority legislation earlier this year, once a negotiated deal is offered to Congress it can only receive an up-or-down vote.

While McConnell said he has concerns over the details, he said he would wait to see “what the deal looks like” when asked by Pure Politics if a carve-out meant he would block the trade deal.

“What I would point out — not many Democrats are going to vote for it, so they really need the Republicans on-board to pass it,” McConnell said.

McConnell explained to the Scott County Chamber of Commerce on Monday that he worked with Obama to pass Trade Promotion Authority because it will be in place after Obama leaves office.

Kentucky Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles has also been keeping a close eye on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, warning of a potential tobacco carve-out and the effect that could have on the state.

Quarles’ Democratic opponent, Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, told Pure Politics at Fancy Farm that the TPP deal and the EPA were Republican scare tactics used to raise campaign cash.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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