Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post -- TransPacific Partnership's impact on President Obama's Legacy

President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address featured an incongruent call for congressional approval of a policy that would undermine many of the landmark achievements of his presidency.

He prioritized passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial “trade” deal that would undermine Obama’s legacy of economic recovery, climate, health care access, LGBT equality, financial reform, and U.S. auto industry rescue achievements.

The final TPP text was released in November after seven years of secretive negotiations during which 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests had special access and Congress, the public and press were shut out.

While President Obama touted the American jobs he has created, the TPP includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore more American jobs to low wage countries. A recent economic modeling study concluded that netting out potential gains and losses, the pact could cost another 450,000 American jobs.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we have endured a net loss of more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities* and already have lost one out of every four American manufacturing jobs.* Those manufacturing plants now in Mexico would have the incentive to move their facilities to low-wage nations such as Malaysia and Vietnam where minimum wage is less than one dollar per hour. Our logistics and transportation industries along the border would crumble without the imports from Mexico and our economy would be in shambles, again.

The TPP also would directly contradict Obama’s efforts to reduce U.S. health care costs by expanding monopoly patent protections for big pharmaceutical firms. This allows them to stop competition and raise medicine prices. The TPP would also empower large drug firms to meddle in U.S. government reimbursement decisions for taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The TPP would even undermine the president’s successful rescue of the U.S. auto industry, which saved thousands of U.S. jobs. It would allow vehicles comprised mainly of Chinese and other non-TPP country parts and labor to gain duty free access here. This would gut the rules of origin established in NAFTA that condition duty free access on 62.5 percent of value being from NAFTA countries. Ford Motor Co. has supported all past U.S. trade deals, but opposes the TPP.

The environmental groups that have celebrated Obama’s achievements with the global climate treaty and his decision to the stop the XL Pipeline call the TPP an act of “climate denial.” The pact would roll back the environmental standards that President George W. Bush was pressured into including in his trade deals.**

So why is President Obama pushing the TPP? He said it provides tax cuts on 18,000 products and thus would boost exports. But we already have free trade deals that cut these taxes with the TPP countries* accounting for 80 percent of the TPP bloc’s economic activity. And we do not even sell a majority of the 18,000 products that get the tax cuts.

The president also said we need TPP to counter China. But the final TPP text rolls back national security language included in all past U.S. trade deals for a decade. And, the TPP rules would undermine our national interests and empower foreign firms to “sue” the U.S. government and raid our Treasury over our health and environmental policies. TransCanada is currently demanding $15 billion from U.S. tax payers in a NAFTA tribunal over the denied XL Keystone Pipeline. Three private sector attorneys will decide if we taxpayers must pay the firm for its future lost profits.

The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules – the opposite of Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to renegotiate the unpopular pact. Obama must choose between his agenda and its legacy or the TPP: he cannot have both.

Phil Lopes is a former Arizona State Representative from Tucson.

Guest post submitted by Global, a project of Public Citizen. This op-ed column was first published in the print edition of the East Valley Tribune on January, 23, 2015

*   For more specific insight on how the data at these linked pages were used to support these items, contact Nick Florco, Press Officer for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

** From the linked document:
Article 20.4 on MEAs – agreements between governments to protect the environment – marks a clear step backwards from the May 10, 2007 bipartisan agreement on trade. It also fails to meet the standard set in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (i.e. “fast track”).
On May 10, 2007, congressional Democrats and the George W. Bush Administration agreed to “incorporate a specific list of multilateral environmental agreements” in U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) and to subject the implementation of those seven MEAs to the FTA dispute settlement process. Since the “May 10” agreement, all U.S. FTAs have required each FTA partner to “adopt, maintain, and implement laws, regulations, and all other measures to fulfill its obligations under” the seven MEAs identified in the “May 10” deal. Each pact has subjected those commitments to the FTA dispute settlement process.

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