President Barack Obama has ditched his renowned cool to go on the warpath against Democratic senators, small business leaders, American unions, and faith, environmental and health organizations that oppose the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement he wants to enact.
Improbably, Obama is united with the Wall Street titans, big business interests and Republican congressional leaders who tried to keep him out of office to revive a Nixon-era procedure called “fast track” that could railroad the TPP through Congress.
In the face of this confusing political lineup, Americans might want to examine the TPP and form their own opinions. But the White House is keeping the text secret even though the deal is almost complete after six years of closed-door negotiations.
And, if Congress enacted fast track, Obama could sign the thousand-page TPP before Congress approves it contents. Then Congress would be limited to a yes or no vote within 90 days with all amendments forbidden. Not surprisingly, Congress has banned fast track but for five of the past 21 years.
Many in Congress who support free trade oppose the TPP because it functions like a Trojan horse for a slew of policies that would fail in Congress in the light of day. Just six of the TPP’s 30 chapters focus on traditional trade issues.
Thanks to leaks, we know it includes provisions from past agreements that make it easier for corporation to offshore American jobs. That includes the investor protections from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that eliminate most risks associated with relocating to low-wage countries.
We also know the administration chose to recycle the same failed labor and environmental standards that President George W. Bush included in his last trade deals. A 2014 Government Accountability Office investigation found that those terms had not improved conditions.
This spotlights how the TPP could lower our wages by putting Americans in direct competition with Vietnamese workers stuck making 60 cents an hour.
The administration used its 2012 Korea agreement as the TPP’s template. That deal was sold with the “more exports, more jobs” slogan being repeated for the TPP. But U.S. goods exports to Korea have dropped, imports surged and our job-killing trade deficit with Korea has nearly doubled.
Plus, the administration dismissed demands by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate to include rules against currency cheating, a job-killing practice for which several TPP nations are infamous. For instance, on average Japanese-made cars gained an $8,000 advantage over American-made cars simply because of the Japanese yen’s devaluation in recent years.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the administration’s only major report on TPP’s economic impact and found it would result in 0.00% increased U.S. economic growth.
Not surprisingly, many leading economists who supported NAFTA oppose the TPP.AARP and Doctors Without Borders warn the deal would raise medicines prices here and in developing countries by giving big pharmaceutical firms new rights. Consumers Union warns it would require us to import food that does not meet U.S. safety standards.
Human rights groups oppose TPP’s inclusion of countries like Brunei, which enacted sharia-based laws punishing single mothers and homosexuals with stoning.
The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, the libertarian Cato Institute and numerous law professors oppose the TPP terms that would empower multinational corporations to use tribunals staffed by corporate lawyers to demand taxpayer compensation for profits lost because of domestic environmental, health and other policies corporations claim violate their TPP privileges.
And, unlike legislation you might not like, none of these TPP rules could be changed – unless all 12 TPP-signatory nations agreed.
Given what’s at stake, Congress must retain its constitutional authority over trade and domestic policy-setting and oppose fast track. What we need is a new, more inclusive, transparent process to deliver trade agreements that harvest the benefits of expanded trade without repeating the trade-pact mistakes of the past.
Lori Wallach is the Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.