I guess I still think the Trans-Pacific Partnership will pass between November 8 and January 20. But my confidence in that prediction is a lot lower than a few months ago, despite the Obama administration floating new arguments in favor of it. The reality is that American policymakers have done a terrible job of demonstrating to the American people that these trade deals help them. That’s because they largely don’t. The TPP is certainly no exception to this, a pro-corporate deal that doubles down on corporate courts that regular citizens cannot access and does far more for corporate patent rights than everyday Americans or everyday Vietnamese or forced laborers in Malaysia. And what does it do for American workers? Not much.
Still, the deal faces widespread opposition from both parties and questions about its potential consequences. Analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that minority workers would be disproportionately hurt by the deal and that trade with member countries cost the U.S. economy 2 million jobs last year. An estimate this year by the independent U.S. International Trade Commission found that TPP has limited economic benefits, boosting growth by just 0.15 percent through 2032 and adding 128,000 jobs.
“Given the modesty of net benefits and the large, regressive redistribution of income created by growing trade flows, it is puzzling why TPP is such a priority for the Obama administration — especially when it, like trade agreements before, is quite likely to do disproportionate harm to the people who make up his and his party’s political base,” Robert Scott, a senior economist at EPI, wrote in a blog post recently.
It might be true enough that the U.S. not passing the TPP would hurt its relations with other Asian governments, but then that’s not necessarily in the interests of voters to consider. The turn against trade agreements is not a return to isolationism. It’s a recognition that economists and policymakers have lied to American workers for a half-century about the benefits of globalization. The complete lack of a meaningful employment policy to replace those lost jobs with jobs of equal quality means there’s no good reason for people to believe anything the TPP’s supporters have to say about it. Combine with this Republican fireeaters and you may well have a trade agreement that will not be passed.