President Obama Calls for Support of TPP; Sanders Calls TPP a ‘Disaster’
Amid all the hubbub about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), it’s easy to lose sight of that other international trade deal that’s caused a worldwide backlash in recent months.
Quick refresher: that would be the TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact struck in February between 12 Pacific Rim countries. President Obama is now pushing to clear the domestic legislative hurdle of ushering the agreement through Congress. To that end, he wrote a piece that ran in Monday’s Washington Post, claiming that the TPP would mean good things for the U.S. economy and Americans’ employment prospects in the near future. To add extra oomph to his op-ed, Obama warned of the specter of China as formidable economic competitor:
Over the past six years, America’s businesses have created more than 14 million new jobs. To keep this progress going, we need to pursue every avenue of economic growth. Today, some of our greatest economic opportunities abroad are in the Asia-Pacific region, which is on its way to becoming the most populous and lucrative market on the planet. Increasing trade in this area of the world would be a boon to American businesses and American workers, and it would give us a leg up on our economic competitors, including one we hear a lot about on the campaign trail these days: China.
Of course, China’s greatest economic opportunities also lie in its own neighborhood, which is why China is not wasting any time. As we speak, China is negotiating a trade deal that would carve up some of the fastest-growing markets in the world at our expense, putting American jobs, businesses and goods at risk.
… This agreement strengthens America’s economy. The TPP brings together 12 countries representing nearly 40 percent of the global economy to make sure that private firms have a fair shot at competing against state-owned enterprises. It keeps the Internet open and free. It strengthens the intellectual property protections our innovators need to take risks and create. And it levels the playing field by setting the highest enforceable standards and by removing barriers to selling our goods overseas — including the elimination of more than 18,000 taxes that other countries put on products made in America. Simply put, once the TPP is in place, American businesses will export more of what they make. And that means supporting more higher-paying jobs.
The president also argued that making the TPP official would fortify the U.S. in terms of national security, then devoted a sentence to opposition to the deal before declaring that “building walls to isolate ourselves from the global economy would only isolate us from the incredible opportunities it provides.” He concluded his article on another familiar note: American exceptionalism. “America should call the shots,” he said. “Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around.”
What could possibly go wrong, right? Here are a few ideas, from the same publication that Obama chose to make his case. Here’s part of The Washington Post’s piece from just over two years ago, with the wholly unambiguous headline “Why almost everyone hates the trade deal Obama’s negotiating in Japan”:
A belief that most Americans will not benefit from this trade agreement is one of the biggest arguments against the TPP. A recent study from the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research predicts that 90 percent of workers in the United States would see a decrease in real wages under the TPP. CEPR also asserts that cumulative GDP gains in the United States won’t be much more than 0.13 percent by 2025 — not much more than a rounding error.
Democratic Reps. George Miller (Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this week lambasting the effect the TPP could have on middle class Americans, saying “this agreement would force Americans to compete against workers from nations such as Vietnam, where the minimum wage is $2.75 a day. It threatens to roll back financial regulation, environmental standards and U.S. laws that protect the safety of drugs we take, food we eat and toys we give our children. It would create binding policies on countless subjects, so that Congress and state legislatures would be thwarted from mitigating the pact’s damage.”
Twenty four senators sent the White House a letter in 2012 requesting the Obama administration prioritize workers’ rights during treaty negotiations.
The complaints go on from there. Many are worried that intellectual property provisions could mean more expensive drugs in many of these countries — especially HIV drugs. In February, Malaysian protesters dressed up like zombies to protest the TPP, which they believe would give more power to big pharmaceutical companies with exclusive patents in Western countries.
… Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has expressed worries that the agreement could weaken the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulations. Environmentalists are worried that the United States will backtrack from pollution and logging regulations — among many others — if that would endanger final passage of the agreement. The United States has been demanding that the other parties in the TPP agree to existing global environmental regulations, as well as other tough environmental provisions, which few of the Asian countries are willing to sign on to. Countries with stiff tobacco regulations are worried that the final free trade agreement would allow big tobacco to sue them over domestic regulations.
Not surprisingly, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ website features a petition to “Stop Another Trade Deal ‘Disaster’ ” — Sanders’ characteristically blunt way of describing the TPP, for these reasons:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.
The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process.
Sanders also disapproved of Obama’s attempt to fast-track the legislation, giving the American government and public even less of a chance to weigh in about the top-secret international proposal.
Making the movement against the TPP even more transparent is this December 2015 article from “In These Times,” which helpfully offers “some of the deal’s most alarming implications,” broken down by experts:
#1 IT GIVES 9,200 FOREIGN FIRMS THE RIGHT TO CIRCUMVENT OUR COURTS AND ATTACK THE LAWS WE RELY ON FOR A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, SAFE FOOD AND DECENT JOBS. Foreign corporations would be empowered to drag the U.S. government in front of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals composed of three private arbitrators. Many ISDS arbitrators are lawyers who rotate between suing governments for corporations and acting as the “judges.”
There is no limit on the amount of our tax dollars the government can be ordered to pay when foreign corporations successfully argue that their TPP rights have been undermined. Compensation orders could include a corporation’s estimate of the future profits it would have earned in the absence of the public policy it is attacking. Even when governments win, under TPP rules they can be ordered to pay for the tribunals’ costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case.
The article also pointed to the TPP’s support for fracking, the potential loss of “millions of manufacturing jobs” and other issues involved as reasons to reject the deal outright.
But don’t take it from these sources — look to the text of the agreement itself, which Politico provided from material leaked last July.
–Posted by Kasia AndersonWAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.