The Post reports on completion of an historic trade deal:
The TPP, which has been negotiated for eight years, is sprawling, multiple-chapter pact that addresses tariff reductions for agriculture and automobiles, as well as intellectual-property rights for pharmaceutical drugs and movies, the free flow of information on the Internet, wildlife conservation, online commerce and dispute settlements for multinational corporations.
The 12 TPP nations — the others are Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — account for a combined 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
Congress will hold hearings and we will see whether the administration’s trade negotiating skills are any better than its Iran negotiating prowess. We certainly hope so, for an effective U.S.-Asia trade deal would be a rare victory in foreign policy for the United States. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “The 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, which doesn’t include China, highlights the price that Beijing is paying for delaying overhauls as other countries write a new rule book for trade across 40% of the global economy, experts say. Japan’s leadership views the agreement as key to its economic and security goals as China expands its influence in the region, especially in Southeast Asia, where Japan has long been a major investor and aid donor.”
That said, the devil will be in the details of the deal. (“The odds of passage in Congress will hinge in large part on the final language in a number of provisions, ranging from the strengthening of rights for labor unions to whether U.S. cigarette companies will face special limitations within TPP countries.”) The fight over fast-track trade authority was tough enough, with proponents arguing that lawmakers would still get the chance to go through a final deal with a fine tooth comb. That’s now about to commence, with every interest group weighing in. For many lawmakers the safe vote will be “no,” despite the considerable economic and national security benefits.
Whatever the merits of the deal, the politics will be nasty. The left, egged on by Big Labor and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), opposes these deals in concept, certain that we are shipping jobs overseas or somehow letting big business get the better of the American worker. Unfortunately, the far right sounds much like Sanders. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump tell voters the problem with employment is too many “cheap goods” from China and elsewhere. Even pols on both sides of the aisle who know better will feel pressure to go along with the hyper-ventilating anti-trade voices.
Now, the president in part has made this more difficult than this would otherwise have been. He has whipped voters into a frenzy about income inequality. He’s contributed more than any president in recent memory to the anti-Wall Street sentiment. He can hardly blame voters and politicians who now believe America’s economic problems are attributed to dark, unseen forces manipulated by those out to do in the little guy. Rather than use the bully pulpit to explain to Americans that globalization is here to stay and our trade, tax, energy and education policies should adapt accordingly, President Obama has indulged in environmental scare-mongering and painted a picture of nefarious corporate deals to avoid taxes and export jobs. Rather than explain the real danger China poses to us, he has done his best to soft-pedal concerns about cyberwarfare and its military buildup. That makes it all the more difficult to now argue we need to hop onto the globalization expressway and work furiously to box in China.
If one wants to consider the Democratic presidential politics, Hillary Clinton and Sanders opposed fast track and are unlikely to go along with TPP. But what about Vice President Joe Biden? As a loyal VP he will be critical in selling the deal; as a potential rival to Clinton and Sanders, however, that stance won’t help him. As he reportedly gets closer to making a decision on whether to run this is one of many issues he will have to consider. Does he want to end his term as vice president fighting for a major Obama accomplishment or does he want to lay the groundwork for his own run?