by Crista Huff
Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement really dead?
Yes, the TPP is dead. On January 23, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential memorandum, addressed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), instructing the acting USTR to begin the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. Due to requirements spelled out within the 5,544-page document, the ratification process cannot proceed without U.S. participation.
Are opponents to the TPP “xenophobic”, “protectionist” and “misinformed”?
As you can imagine, any 5,544-page government document is going to have some alarming features. Most TPP activists will be able to quickly name 5-10 of those problems, and some can list 20 or more. We can rule out “misinformed” with this quick — but incomplete — list of TPP problems:
The TPP gives away a certain degree of U.S. sovereignty to a new global commission and global court system, both of which would have powers that override decisions that would normally be made in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. justice system.
The TPP is a “living document”, which means that members of the new TPP Commission would have the right to amend and add to the TPP forever.
The TPP has no provision to penalize countries that use currency manipulation as a method to change the monetary balance of power in international transactions.
The TPP would lower food and health safety standards to the lowest levels of the 12 partner countries. That means that the U.S. would not be allowed to turn away inferior food products at our borders.
The TPP does away with country-of-origin labeling. That means that when you reach for a package of shrimp in the supermarket, it may have come from heavily polluted waters in Malaysia, and may have been brought to the U.S. on a ship served by captured human slaves.
Several TPP partner countries are reknowned human rights abusers.
One of the TPP partner countries — the Nation of Brunei — employs Sharia Law, which sanctions the killing of homosexual people and unwed mothers. Within the new TPP Commission, Brunei would receive an equal vote with the U.S. on all matters of consideration.
Great, so we’ve eliminated “misinformed”. How about “xenophobic”? Xenophobia is a fear of people from foreign lands. Within my two years of activism against the TPP, I have never once heard a single person express an inherent dislike of people from Japan, Peru, or any other TPP country. I would think it would be obvious to anybody listening to the pros and cons of the TPP, that when TPP supporters stoop to irrational name-calling, they’ve run out of rational arguments to promote the TPP, and have fallen into a desperate state.
As for “protectionist”, what does that even mean? Protectionist essentially means “looking out for your own people”, whether it’s your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, or your country. People are supposed to be protectionist. It’s never right to favor other groups of people over the groups of people who you have responsibility for. But being protectionist doesn’t mean being hostile to outsiders. In the context of international trade, being protectionist means that you’re making sure that the U.S. makes good agreements that favor the U.S. economy and the citizenry, while dealing fairly with our trading partners.
Can we assume that Democrats opposed the TPP, while Republicans supported the TPP?
It is true that political activists on the Left banded together against the TPP, earlier than did political activists on the Right. To be fair, activists on the Right had their hands full in recent years, trying to stop the Stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and a host of other new legislation. Activists on the Left did not have similar legislation to oppose, because the President supported their agenda, so they had the freedom to turn their attention to the TPP. Eventually, the TPP landed on the Right’s radar, and they became as vocally opposed to the TPP as the Left was.
There will always be people who believe that Donald Trump was the key player in stopping the TPP. While I appreciate President Trump’s participation in the process, I need to point out the critical players that changed the game.
Activists on the Left had convinced many Democratic Congresspeople to oppose the TPP. But they were not able to deliver a defeat of the trade agreement without Republican cooperation. Activists and lobbyists on the Right — including me — convinced Republican Congresspeople that it would be unwise to ratify the TPP. Thus, when the fall of 2016 rolled around, Republican leadership in Congress did not have the requisite number of votes needed to pass the TPP. That’s why there was no TPP ratification vote during the 2016 lame duck session of Congress.
I am relatively certain that if Republican Congresspeople had favored the TPP, House Speaker Paul Ryan would have acted promptly to bring the vote to pass. He didn’t have the votes. And that means that Republican Congresspeople did not favor the TPP.
I keep hearing that President Trump has a lot of opposition to his trade agenda in Washington D.C.
I keep hearing that too. It’s just that, when you analyze what various legislators actually say, almost all of them say the following things, which coincidentally support President Trump’s statements:
Let’s do bilateral (one-on-one) trade agreements with Japan and other countries.
Let’s renegotiate (fix) NAFTA.
Let’s seek a national goal of balanced trade (thus eliminating economically harmful trade deficits).
Let’s resolve destructive trade practices (currency manipulation, illegal dumping, etc.).
Go read their statements. What really shines through is that union leaders and Democratic politicians are thrilled that the TPP is dead, but they’re trying to save face, so they make cautious or abrupt statements about President Trump’s next steps. They need to look tough during media interviews. They can’t just say, “I’m so happy that President Trump is withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP! This is a great day for America!” That makes them look weak. So of course they bluster on about scary things that he might do in the future.
How are other countries handling President Trump’s stance on trade?
Next week, President Trump will be meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss NAFTA renegotiation; with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a bilateral trade deal with Japan, and with UK Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss a bilateral trade deal with the United Kingdom.
President Trump is putting the economy and international trade on his front burner, and some of our key trading partners are apparently eager to jump in and find common ground. Whether you voted for him or not, one thing is crystal clear: President Trump has hit the ground running on his promise to Make America Great Again.
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Crista Huff is a stock market expert and a conservative political activist. She works with End Global Governance to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. She is also Chief Analyst at Cabot Undervalued Stocks Advisor. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.