For Immediate Release: October 28, 2016
Contact: Bob Weiner/Ben Lasky 202-329-1700
Dean of the House Conyers to Obama: “Lighten up on TPP”
The truth about trade deals is that they can destroy American jobs, strain the environment or lead to foreign products flooding the American market, say Robert Weiner, a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and the House Government Operations Committee, and Thekla Truebenbach, policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
In an op-ed just published on OpEd News, Weiner and Truebenbach assert, “TPP is a rare instance of Trump, Clinton, and Sanders all opposing something—they all are against the deal – and an even more rare instance of Obama flying solo.” They then quote Obama’s strong first Congressional supporter, Dean of the House and Congressional Black Caucus co-founder John Conyers (D-Detroit), telling the authors of this piece when he was on his way to a White House meeting, “I’m going to tell the President to lighten up on TPP.”
In the op-ed, Weiner and Truebenbach assert there is a relevance of trade deals. They say that to America and all countries, export and import markets count, especially with the Unites States having trade relations with more than 75 countries. The writers quote Governor John Kasich of Ohio at the White House press briefing on September 16, 2016 on America’s potential support of the most recent trade deal, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP): “Frankly, if you don’t trade, you hurt consumers. If you don’t trade, you hurt innovation. If you don’t trade, you withdraw from the world.” They say that because many policy makers think that way, there have been a variety of other trade deals the U.S. helped engineer, the most significant one being The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In the op-ed, entitled, “TPP is failing because we are learning what makes bad – or good – trade”, they state: “Trade deals are a major issue in the presidential campaign. Trump, Clinton, and Sanders reached a rare agreement by now opposing TPP. Clinton and Trump reiterated opposition in the last Presidential Debate October 19.”
They ask, “What actually makes a good or bad trade deal for the United States? Few talk about the specific criteria. What effect do the deals have on wages and jobs? Will there be impact to the environment — will these deals strain it even more? What per cent of product has to be from the USA for the branding of something sold overseas to be legitimately ‘made in the USA?’ While the deals are kept secret until the end by the usual ‘Fast Track’ process in Congress, these are all questions which cannot be a secret when citizens are supposed to be able to tell their representatives and the President how to proceed in the country’s best interest.”
The authors go on with writing about the general outlines of TTP and NAFTA, also quoting Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s opinion on the deals and asking whether their criticism is justified: “TPP aims at strengthening the economic relationship between the U.S. and 11 other countries. It will lead to slashed tariffs and a very strong union of world trade. The 12 countries involved have double the population of the European Union, which shows just how powerful this alliance is. The contract was signed in February 2016 by negotiators but is yet to be ratified by legislatures before it can come into force. “
They continue, “NAFTA came into force in 1994 and is a deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It regulates trade and investment for these three nations. Trump, a strong opponent of trade deals in general, called NAFTA ’one of the worst deals ever made of any kind of signed by anybody’ in the third presidential debate on October 20. Also Hillary Clinton stated her opinion clearly on TPP in this debate: “It didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test — does it create jobs, raise incomes and further our national security? I’m against it now, I’ll be against it after the election, I’ll be against it when I’m president.” But do they have a point?
Weiner and Truebenbach further evaluate: “Why are the candidates opposed to President Obama on this usually bipartisan issue that Bill Clinton triangulated and got passed? It is factual results we have learned over time. There definitely are legitimate aspects that do not make these trade deals good deals. Especially TTP has been criticized for not being very transparent. Most negotiations on the deal happened behind closed doors. Because of that, voters do not only not know how to argue what to cast their votes for and why, but this secretiveness makes it hard for people not involved in governmental practices to fully understand the details of these deals.”
The writers explain what “effects trade deals might or might not have on the three key aspects – American jobs, the environment and what it needs for a product to be called ‘Made in America’ “: They point out, “Critics state that Americans are losing their jobs as companies decide to relocate their production to countries with lower wages and employ foreign workers for less money. We cannot compete against countries with a $2 hourly rate when ours is at $7.50, maybe going up to $15.”
They explain, “Also, many environmentalists claim that the trade deals are a big strain while producing more and more goods. There are agreements in the TTP contract on how to protect the environment, but it is uncertain whether they will be implemented. Conyers remembers leading a congressional delegation to Mexico before NAFTA was approved and seeing raw sewage flowing. It was not corrected.”
They go on, “For a product to be considered made in the U.S., all or virtually all the product has to be made in America according to the Federal Trade Commission’s standard. The Commission’s website says: ‘All or virtually all means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That is, the product should contain no — or negligible — foreign content.’ The number of American made products could further decrease with foreign products flooding the U.S. market due to trade deals. ‘Today, we import nearly $800 billion more in goods than we export,’ said Donald Trump June 28. “
The authors state: “Trading off these legitimate negative arguments against positive ones makes voters understand that the real deal on trade deals lies somewhere in between.”
They address the positive sides of trade deals: “Proponents point out the positive aspects of the deals eliminating many taxes. They say that this will make it easier for American entrepreneurs, small business owners and farmers to sell their goods abroad, making their business a lot more lucrative.
Also, when tariffs are cut down to a minimum, prices for many goods will decrease, taking the load off many Americans struggling with everyday expenses.” The authors counter, “But this will not help those who lost their jobs or get paid less due to the economic changes caused by the trade deals.”
Weiner and Truebenbach quote General Roberto Azevêdo, World Trade Organization Director, wo said at the National Press Club October 7: “I believe that trade is imperfect and it can have negative effects in some parts of the economy, and those effects can have a big impact on some people’s lives. My argument today is that we must correct those problems and we must work harder to spread the benefits of trade further and wider.”
The authors reacted to Azevêdo’s statement: “He stated the obvious but at the same time glossed over the elephant in the room by not stating how we should respond to these imperfections. He downplayed Hillary Clinton’s, Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sander’s arguments against trade deals and totally missed the point that the U.S. loses low and middle paying jobs to $2 hourly rate jobs in other countries by how the trade deals have been negotiated to this point.”
The authors also quote Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta who said at the White House press briefing on September 16, 2016, referring to TPP: “If we want to make sure that the United States continues to lead and continues to set the rules of the road with 40 percent of the global GDP, we need to get this deal done.”
However, Weiner and Truebenbach concluded, “But for what price do we need to get this deal done? Truth is, we do not really know. Even experts are not at one with each other. But what we do know for sure is that with the secretiveness of the issue, voters cannot decide who is right or wrong and why. IF America has “lost millions of jobs” as Trump contends because of them, perhaps that explains why we are no longer at full employment, meaning no longer with 3% unemployment as past decades but now consider 5% as a good “bar”. Or perhaps Obama is right that the deals have raised our profits and incomes. It’s time for the criteria to be clear.”
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and the House Government Operations Committee. Thekla Truebenbach is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
Source: Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change