Many people are puzzled why President Obama is behind another Free-Trade agreement, this one called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would eliminate our import taxes to countries like Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, and Canada. The reason this endorsement is so puzzling is that these Free Trade Agreements such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization have been a proven disaster in causing off-shoring of American jobs, increasing in child labor and increasing pollution in other countries with the loss of many manufacturing and high tech jobs, while at the same time nearly eliminating the middle class. It might be perfectly normal for a Republican to be for any Free Trade agreement (after all, they are the party of Big Businesses), but for a Democratic President it seems incongruous. And many Democrats in Congress have voiced objections towards the TPP.
So, to whip up support for the President, one of his strongest support groups, OFA, Organizing For America, set up a teleconference about the TPP on Monday, March 16, 2015. Prior to the conference, OFA had solicited questions from progressives about the TPP, for which they received over 5,000 responses. Then, they had David Simas, adviser to the President and policy maker answer pre-selected questions.
People from 44 states were participating in the teleconference. The problem, the teleconference was not interactive, there was no way to rebut anything Mr Simas said. This teleconference was a one-way propaganda lecture.
The Start of the Conference
At the beginning, Mr. Simas had named off many of the important contributions that President Obama has made since he took office in the midst of world’s greatest recession in 80 years. Then, Mr. Simas mentioned that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said that if he were President of the United States, he would re-negotiate NAFTA. Mr. Simas further suggests that this exactly what Obama is doing with the TPP by making sure that in this agreement that there was enforceable labor and environmental laws within it (which wasn’t in NAFTA) and that by Fast-Tracking it, Congress wouldn’t have a chance to pull out those provisions.
If that is the best deal President Obama could get in re-negotiating NAFTA, then he is getting a raw deal. The whole TPP deal attitude is like: well, if we have to put another gaping hole in our boat, we will, at least, have enough life jackets for everybody.
With 5,000 responses, you know the U.S. population is very concerned about the TPP. However, the actual questions they chose were overly simplistic and moved away from the true controversies that the TPP creates. When the question mentioned the previous Free Trade Agreements – the questions only mention NAFTA, the small potatoes treaty, but not a single solitary word about the gigantic Free Trade agreement that the U.S. has with most of the world – the World Trade Organization. Because of all these Free Trade agreements, the import duties into America is a shockingly low 1.5%. M. Simas acknowledges this, but argues that in some instances (spouting off a couple different instances from a couple of countries) like in China, there was an export tax of 30% on some U.S.autos (which the US government fought) and a 40% tax on U.S. poultry into the Philippines. I find it so heartening that the U.S. will fight for the little guys like the automakers and Big Ag.
Mr. Simas said that the U.S. has fought back and charged China 18 different times for Free Trade violations. Let us see 18 in 6 years. The U.S. could easily have sued China 18 times every month for violations. And then Mr. Simas sounded extra proud that the U.S. made Guatemala improve their labor standards. But, the agreement with Guatemala was through a different Free Trade agreement called CAFTA, which is run by the USA and its lackeys. (The US already had a trade surplus with Guatemala). Improving working conditions in Guatemala? It is not like they did anything about the conditions in the major countries like China or Bangladesh, which come under the auspices of the WTO. Guatemala is such small potatoes, its like liberating medical students from Grenada. The TPP will not influence the WTO to improve labor and environmental conditions.
Rebuttal to Mr. Simas
Due to the Free Trade Treaties, the United States has the lowest import tax of any country. Our forefathers knew that to protect American businesses from the British dumping all their products on us and therefore sinking all the American businesses, it would impose an import tax. Why after 200 years, did we all of a sudden abandon this sound practice? (It was due to greed). We always talk about securing our borders, but with the loss of import taxes, we are being infiltrated from all sides, foreign nations stealing our jobs and spreading them all over the world – it’s like we have been plundered by pirates. And here we are again, looking at eliminating our import taxes again? That is supposed to create more jobs? Mr. Simas argument that the TPP would create more U.S. jobs was far from convincing. The only possibly beneficiary of another Free Trade act (as far as the elimination of import-export taxes) is Big Ag – who are chopping at the bit to put foreign farmers and ranchers out of business. And we know Big Ag doesn’t create new jobs, they put small farmers and ranchers out of work.
The second problem is with Mr. Simas case is that there is no reason to believe that the U.S. will be able to bring labor and environmental conditions upwards in other countries. In fact, all of the Free Trade agreements have had the opposite effect. The race to the bottom has caused a drastic downward pressure to worsen labor conditions and environmental conditions. And all previous judgements from the World Trade Organization have consistently lowered standards, case in point the recent repeal of Country of Original meat labeling laws: US Appeals WTO Decision on Meat Labeling. The U.S. has no weight to change these laws especially when you think who they are up against – multi-national corporations who actually make up the World Trade Organization. There is no way the U.S. can bring up these labor and environmental laws with this treaty. Sorry, you are dreaming. My solution, if you want to improve labor and environmental conditions, first, the U.S. has to drop out of the WTO, and then they can make lots of smaller treaties like CAFTA where the U.S. can run things. But you will have to cut the wings a little on the multi-national corporations, so small businesses can compete as well.
In short, the TPP is very bad for the U.S. economy except for Big Ag and, possibly, for the other multi-national corporations that wrote up the rest of the TPP.
Stop the TPP. NAFTA on steroids.