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Obama abandons efforts to pass signature Pacific trade deal

The Obama administration is largely suspending efforts to pass a sweeping Pacific trade deal meant to bind the US and Asia after congressional Republicans said they would not advance it in the election’s aftermath.

The US Trade Representative’s office had been lobbying lawmakers for months to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal in the lame-duck session of Congress after the November 8 presidential election.

However, the plans have been stymied following the surprise victory of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a vote that also retained Republican majorities in Congress.

The collapse of the 12-country trade pact is a bitter defeat for President Obama, whose support for the controversial deal divided the Democratic Party and complicated the campaign of its nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Obama’s team reached the historic accord with Japan and 10 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean over a year ago to lower trade barriers in a region that accounts for two-fifths of the global economy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he would not take up the TPP before Trump was inaugurated. House Speaker Paul Ryan had earlier said he would not bring the legislation to a lame-duck vote.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the committee that oversees trade, said in a statement Wednesday that the Pacific trade deal “is not ready to be considered during the lame duck and will remain on hold until President Trump decides the path forward.”

Obama’s trade office said it was now up to lawmakers to advance the process.

“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.

Trump made his opposition to free trade a centerpiece of his campaign, describing the TPP as a “disaster” that would send more American jobs overseas.

Trump’s election will also cast doubt on a big trade deal the Obama administration has been negotiating with the European Union, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

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