President Obama gave a speech at Nike headquarters Friday touting the job gains he expects to result from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but not everyone is convinced.
“What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future—jobs that we excel at,” Obama said. Predictions that the TPP will cost American jobs, he explained, are based on flaws in previous free trade agreements, which he assured the audience would not be present in the TPP.
“I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy,” Obama asserted.
The TPP is a draft agreement among 12 Pacific countries—including the U.S., Japan, and Australia—that calls for eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as cooperating to create legal and regulatory coherence that would make trade more efficient.
In an effort to ease passage of the TPP, supporters in Congress introduced Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, also known as “fast-tracking,” which would enable the president to submit the TPP and other trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no opportunity for amendments. Fast-tracking would also reduce the threshold for Senate ratification from 67 votes to 60. (RELATED: TPP Fast-Tracking is Designed to Hide a Bad Deal From Americans)
Obama’s consistent support for the deal has put him at odds with most Democrats, and even some Republicans, who object to secrecy provisions that prevent them from engaging in public debate on the matter. Some critics, frustrated at the lack of transparency, have resorted to comparing the TPP, unfavorably, to past deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, for instance, sent an open letter to the president on Wednesday urging him to make the agreement public, and pressing for specific explanations of how the TPP would create jobs and boost exports.
Contrary to White House promises that a recent free trade agreement with South Korea would boost American exports by at least $10 billion, Sessions points out, “American domestic exports to Korea increased by only $0.8 billion … while imports from Korea increased $12.6 billion.” The best way to avoid repeating that experience, he indicates, is to have an open discussion on the merits of the TPP.
Sessions also expressed concerns about “living agreement” provision in the TPP that would allow the agreement to be altered after adoption, asking, “Can TPP member countries add new countries, including China, to the agreement without future Congressional approval?” (RELATED: Sessions: If TPP Is Good Deal, Let Congress See Details)
In the same vein, he asks Obama to “state unconditionally that no agreement or executive action throughout the lifetime of TPA will alter the number, duration, availability, expiration enforcement, rules, or processing time of guest worker, business, visitor, nonimmigrant [sic], or immigrant visas to the United States.”
Delivering his speech in friendly territory, Obama shot back at such criticisms, denying that there is anything secret about the deal. He also touted Nike’s claim that the TPP would allow it to create up to 10,000 new jobs at facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands more jobs throughout its supply chain. (RELATED: Obama Hammers Dems for Opposing Free Trade)
“Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it,” he noted, pointing out that Congress would then have the opportunity to debate it at length.
Borrowing his host’s famous slogan, Obama said, “This deal would be a good thing. So let’s ‘just do it’.”
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