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President Obama hasn’t signed the bill yet, but the Senate’s passage of fast track legislation yesterday ensures that the nation is entering a new phase in trade policymaking. So here are some first thoughts about where we stand economically and politically right now.

>It’s crucial to remember that Congressional approval of fast track doesn’t automatically mean approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) when (and if?) negotiations on this trade deal are completed. The odds of passage have certainly soared, since Congress has never rejected a trade deal that it’s considered under fast track procedures.

But thanks to the almost entirely unbinding, loophole-filled presidential negotiating instructions Congress has included in the legislation, the final TPP is nearly a lock to lack meaningful disciplines on currency manipulation and the discriminatory activities of state-owned enterprises. It will also extend trade benefits to a country that’s a major violator of global human trafficking norms (Malaysia) and one that’s recently instituted Islam’s often brutal Sharia as the law of the land (Brunei). Moreover, it looks likely that even the most obtuse American lawmaker will see that TPP contains a “docking” provision that will permit its ranks to be expanded beyond the current initial group of members – for example, to China.

>As I’ve written previously, organized labor still needs to take the political scalps of lots of the Senate and especially House Democrats who defied its heatedly expressed wishes and supported the fast track bill. I distinguish between the Senate and House because members of the former inevitably have broader political bases in their (almost always) larger jurisdictions, and therefore are much harder for any particular interest group to unseat. But an age-old rule of politics still holds: If you’re going to strike at your enemies, make sure (figuratively!) to kill them.

Making good on its threats will be particularly important for labor, since Democratic politicians have been feeling free for decades to ignore its wishes on a raft of other priority issues, like the so-called “card check” legislation that would have changed the laws governing unionization elections.

>The not-trivial levels of Congressional Democratic support for fast track will create an especially interesting situation for the party’s presidential politics during the rest of this national election cycle. All but one of its main presidential hopefuls – including Hillary Clinton – declared their opposition to the bill. (Former Rhode Island Governor and U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee has been the exception.) So assuming that Chafee or another fast track supporter is not its nominee, the party’s 2016 standard-bearer will find him or herself running alongside (and thus endorsing) a number of House and Senate candidates who have backed a measure detested by many of the party’s major constituencies (not just unions, but environmental organizations as well).

>Finally, for now, I’ll be waiting breathlessly for signs that impending American approval of fast track will shore up the nation’s position in East Asia versus China’s encroachment – in line with TPP supporters’ repeated claims that the agreement is vitally needed to contain or counterbalance China. So I’ll continue to keep a close eye on China’s activities in the region – as well as the actions of U.S. allies, who have shown every sign of hedging their bets regarding Asia’s future kingpin and will undoubtedly maintain such postures whether TPP is created or not.

For as I’ve explained, unchangeable geopolitical realities, a rapidly evolving military balance, and the longtime massive, reckless, ongoing U.S. corporate transfers of defense-related technologies to Beijing (not to mention trillions of dollars’ worth of trade profits) all mean that although the United States is anything but destined to remain a “Pacific power,” an ever stronger China unmistakably is.

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