How poor must a piece of legislation be that I found myself on the side of Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Obama finds himself aligned with the “extreme far right?” Clearly this must be one of the signs of the apocalypse.
However, this is the type of political anarchy the Trans- Pacific Partnership Treaty is creating. I am in favor of fair, ethical, free-trade that benefits the United States. The TPP will join a long line of trade agreements that were negotiated in good faith, but did far more harm than good.
Many of you have not heard of the TTP, which includes 12 Pacific Rim nations, because trade treaties lack the pizazz that draws the attention of the modern-day media and the general public. We slap together acronyms like NAFTA, CAFTA, MEFTA and SAUC, and blanket them with phrases such as free trade, level playing field and the global economy, and make the treaties sound routine. Trade treaties are far from routine, which is why according to the Constitution, the president has the power to negotiate treaties with foreign nations, and the Senate must approve with a two-thirds vote.
The consequences of a poorly crafted trade agreement could have devastating effects for all involved. However, over the past few decades the illusion of routine has pushed aside caution and thoroughness, for expediency and the fast track. The fact the Obama administration has refused to release the full text of the TPP, which is a break from the Bush administration, which published the text of the proposed CAFTA agreement in 2001, means that very few (if any) of our senators have read the TPP. Once again, another omnibus piece of legislation that will pass without a proper vetting.
Neither NAFTA, nor any modern trade treaty, is solely responsible for the U.S.’s economic woes. But NAFTA in particular, and soon its baby brother TPP, have played a major role that has negatively affected the U.S. worker and our economic stability as a country. There are numerous other reasons for the failures of a trade treaty, but the biggest reason is the simple little phrase “in good faith.” A phrase that means very little without ethics and integrity.
There are several factors that any trade agreement tries to address, such as access to goods and services without taxes or tariffs, and a level regulatory playing field. Tariffs are often held up as the biggest concern when trying to achieve free trade, but tariffs are in fact the least of our trade worries. Regulatory indifference, labor costs, unstable/unethical governments and copyright protections are all factors that are either not established prior to the trade treaty going into effect, are quickly abandoned, or go unenforced once the treaty is in place, except of course for the “good-old U.S.A.” There is also one very import factor that would have a negative effect on the integrity of the TPP; currency manipulation.
Both China and Japan practice currency manipulation, creating an unfair advantage for their goods and adversely affecting the price of U.S. goods. One only need to look at the U.S. share of the Japanese auto market, which currently sits at around 6 percent, while Japanese automakers sell around half of their cars in the United States. China and Japan’s currency manipulation helps to increase their domestic exports and greatly hinders our ability to compete. This factor is not addressed in the TPP, which on its own should kill TPP, but it hasn’t. However, when we look at the historical failures of other similar trade treaties, it is clear we have a lot more work to do before agreeing to another potentially devastating trade agreement such as TPP.
Almost every modern trade treaty has come with the promise of a benefit to America. Most of those trade agreements have failed that promise. Trying to put politics aside, many experts agree NAFTA was one of the major factors for the loss of upwards of 1 million good paying American jobs, and helped create a fluctuating trade deficit that has exceeded $181 billion with Mexico and Canada. U.S. corporations such as GE, Chrysler and Caterpillar all promised that if NAFTA passed it would help create specific numbers of American jobs, however, government data shows these same companies fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico (as reported by the Department of Labor – Trade Adjustment Assistance program).
What has NAFTA taught us and why should we be concerned about TPP? Displaced U.S. manufacturing workers were rehired at a 20 percent pay reduction (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Foreign trade “tribunals” run by our trade partners challenged agreed upon regulatory laws, which resulted in the U.S. paying over $360 million in compensation for merely trying to enforce a level-playing field. The average annual U.S. agricultural trade deficit with Mexico and Canada under NAFTA stands at $800 million, more than twice the pre-NAFTA level, resulting in 188 percent rise in food imports and a 65 percent jump in food prices.
We should all be in favor of fair, ethical, free trade with trustworthy governments. Fair, ethical, free trade promotes diplomatic harmony and should serve to unify countries around the globe to help improve economic stability for all involved. But when a trade agreement has the adverse effect, even to just one country, economic stability is weakened and tension between countries is increased. The TPP is a bad deal for the American worker and our economy, which makes it a bad deal, period.