Above: President Obama’s trade policy.
This despite the opposition of American unions, as once again the Democratic Party ignores the needs of the organizations that provide a huge amount of money and GOTV efforts every election.
Obama keeps claiming that this will have real protections for labor and the environment.
President Obama embraced the legislation immediately, proclaiming “it would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet.”
“Today,” he added, “we have the opportunity to open even more new markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America.”
To say the least, I do not believe this. This was the same stuff we heard in 1993 around NAFTA. At least today, the fluff around environmental and labor regulations is being put in before the final passage rather than as a last-second add-on. But none of this is actually in the deal as it now stands. This is the U.S. unilaterally saying that these restrictions will exist. As I argue in Out of Sight, we need real international law protecting labor and nature from the exploitation of multinational corporations. But that only happens if workers and green advocates are at the table crafting the agreement and have real legal options. I will be watching this very carefully to see how any of this develops once Obama’s negotiators take it to the rest of the nations as they finish crafting an agreement. But an agreement written by multinational corporations and their representatives in governments that is intended to promote the global race to the bottom while creating international law to protect corporations from government regulation? Well, color me really skeptical.
I am curious to see how Hillary Clinton responds, although I have absolutely zero doubt in my mind that she would also support these trade deals as president and I have seen no evidence in her long career in public service to think otherwise, however she is hedging now that she is running for president. I suppose this theoretically could create a wedge issue for some candidate like Martin O’Malley to take her on from the left, but I just don’t think enough average Americans care or understand trade policy to make this a meaningful primary topic. And if labor couldn’t stop NAFTA in 1993, a far weakened labor movement is unlikely to defeat Hillary in 2016, assuming that a) she made a strong statement in favor of it and b) labor actually united to get rid of her over it. Both are unlikely.
Like on health care, Ron Wyden decided to get his bipartisan hat on here and make a deal with Orrin Hatch and other Senate Republicans. I guess if the bill was going to pass anyway, Wyden’s additions are at least a bone to throw at displaced workers, but that’s a pretty mild improvement on something terrible for the American working class.
And as for who this benefits, I think Timothy Lee sums up the very real problems with Obama saying “Americans” will all benefit.
And this system for setting global rules has some serious defects. We expect the laws that govern our economic lives will be made in a transparent, representative, and accountable fashion. The TPP negotiation process is none of these — it’s secretive, it’s dominated by powerful insiders, and it provides little opportunity for public input.
The Obama administration argues that it’s important for TPP to succeed so that the United States — not China — gets to shape the rules that govern trade across the Pacific. But this argument only makes sense if you believe US negotiators are taking positions that are in the broad interests of the American public. If, as critics contend, USTR’s agenda is heavily tilted toward the interests of a few well-connected interest groups, then the deal may not be good for America at all.
This is an agreement by the corporations, for the corporations. If you believe in intellectual freedom, in low drug prices around the world because of relatively short monopolies for the pharmaceutical companies, in countries have the sovereignty to pass new labor and environmental regulations without being hauled before the World Trade Organization or other new trade body like is happening to Australia over tobacco regulations, in people having stable jobs, and in global environmental justice, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an absolute must.
Once again, the only real hope here is progressive Democrats aligning with anti-Obama fireeaters to defeat the thing. And that probably only temporarily unless this becomes a really divisive political issue that makes a vote for it toxic. I’m pessimistic.