With Republicans Backing Away From TPP, Does It Still Have Any Chance?

from the what-a-weird-year dept

We’ve pointed out before how topsy turvy things have become with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement lately, and it seems to be getting even more weird, but not for any good reason. As we’ve pointed out dozens of times now, actual free trade is a good thing for the world — but the TPP agreement has very, very little to do with free trade. There are certainly some good things in the TPP when it comes to trade, including some stuff on helping protect the free flow of information on the internet, but it is significantly outweighed by numerous problems with the agreement that seem to have little to do with actual free trade and plenty to do with certain industries putting in place protectionist/mercantilist programs that are, in many ways, the opposite of free trade. The two areas that we’ve discussed at great length are the intellectual property section, which will force countries to ratchet up their laws (which runs against free trade) and the problematic corporate sovereignty provisions, that allow foreign companies to effectively block regulations that may make perfect sense for certain countries.

Historically, the way political support for trade deals in the US works breaks down as follows: Republicans support the deals strongly, with a simplistic mantra of “free trade is good, any free trade agreement must be good.” They don’t care much about the details (other than if a big company in their region wants some protectionist nugget in the agreement). Meanwhile, the majority of Democrats oppose the agreements, but again, often for simplistic and protectionist reasons. But, there are always a few “moderate” Democrats (i.e., Democrats who recognize free trade is actually a good thing overall) who support free trade and that’s enough to get the deals passed. That’s mostly how the TPP situation played out for the past few years.

Then the insanity of the 2016 Presidential election hit and everything went sideways.

On the Republican side, you’ve got Donald Trump, who is opposed to the TPP, but mainly because he doesn’t understand international trade at all, and ridiculously seems to believe that everything is a zero sum game, and any trade agreement that helps other countries means we’re “losing.” The TPP is bad, but not for the reasons Trump thinks. And then you have Hillary Clinton, who had always been in the Democratic clump that supported free trade agreements, and who has always supported the TPP, despite now pretending not to. That’s because Bernie Sanders was very much against it (also for mostly the wrong reasons!) and feeling pressure from the success of his campaign, she felt the need to come out against the TPP to avoid losing to Bernie.

So, you have both candidates claiming to be against TPP, but for weird reasons, and no one believing the Dem candidate, while no one quite understanding the GOP candidate. Meanwhile, the sitting President continues to push for the TPP even as the only two people likely to have his job in a few months insist they won’t support it.

Now, throw into this mix the fact that Trump’s railing against the TPP (again, for dumb reasons) is suddenly getting Republican voters to hate the TPP, and down ticket Republicans who have long supported the TPP are suddenly changing their tune. Senator Pat Toomey, a long time supporter of the TPP has now announced it’s a bad deal and he’s opposed to it. Of course, he actually spends most of his opinion piece (correctly!) lauding the benefits of free trade, but then says he’s opposing it for a few reasons. His reasons are silly, though. It’s mainly because the pharma industry has convinced him that the IP provisions in the TPP are too lax. Pharma pushed heavily for more ability to basically lock up their data and discoveries for a very long time, and thanks to Australia pushing back, there was a compromise here. So Toomey insists that’s why he’s now opposing:

About 46,000 Pennsylvanians have jobs in the life science and pharmaceutical sector, making it one of our state?s largest industries. TPP will make it too easy for other countries to steal innovations that we create in Pennsylvania and take the jobs tied to those innovations.

That’s not true at all. What the TPP will do is actually mean that pharma will have an exclusive monopoly on certain things for not quite as long as they’d like. It won’t make “stealing innovations” any easier.

Of course, the real reason for Toomey’s about-face may have more to do with his re-election campaign:

Toomey’s remarks arrive as public polls show him falling behind Democratic challenger Katie McGinty in one of the country’s most crucial Senate races. They also come after months of rage against international trade fueled support for Trump and Bernie Sanders, and forced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to reverse course on the pending deal. McGinty has opposed the TPP and blasted Toomey over his stand on it.

“Pat Toomey has spent his entire career pushing bad trade deals and policies that ship Americans jobs overseas, so nobody is buying this ridiculous flip flop,” McGinty said in a statement.

So, this topsy turvy election year, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the TPP might not actually have the support it needs to get ratified in the US. If Republicans are bailing on it (and the top of the ticket screaming about how horrible it is), it’s difficult to see how it can gain enough support. There is the popular theory that no matter what happens, in the lame duck session after the election, everyone will revert to their earlier positions and push the damn thing through, but if trade continues to be an issue in the election, doing so will create a huge amount of public anger.

So, in the end, there are a lot of reasons why the TPP may die on the vine… even if all of the reasons for it doing so will be pretty bad.

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Comments on “With Republicans Backing Away From TPP, Does It Still Have Any Chance?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Seriously?

Yep, they have been at it for longer than anyone here has been alive.

Most of the supporters of globalism are far to ignorant to understand that each step we take towards globalism is really a step towards shadow rule over the world.

Yes, it is going to happen, when? Don’t know, does anyone care? Far too few. Is it a conspiracy… yes and no. All the players know what they are after, but only enough to get their slice of the pie.

People the say global community are beyond lost. Wages are not uniform across the globe, nations still control resources on sovereign lands, special interests still control what is a mix of oligarchy, corruption, and tyrannical policies.

Global Community my ass! Things like the TPP, TTIP, free trade agreements, or name your favorite acronym for poison are nothing more than efforts to create a global Oligopoly where even entire nations cannot withstand the Oligopoly’s economic might.

An Oligopoly is a menace greater than any standing Army that could ever be amassed!

NeghVar (profile) says:

I think what is happening is that the supporters of the TPP were always hoping to keep it under the radar. MSNBC tried to silence Burnie Sanders when spoke against it by ceasing the broadcast. Now with Trump being against it, even if he does not seem to really understand it, people are hearing the name and Googling TPP to find out how devastating it is. With voters aware of the dangers of the TPP, former supporters are now saying they oppose it.
No wonder they kept it top secret for so long. If the public got wind of the details, they would be outraged. Sure enough, the public is learning about it. Now politicians are switching sides because it they openly support the TPP, then their constituent may choose someone who does not support it.

Darkhog says:

Reasons? Who needs them

Who the fuck cares what are the reasons for dissolving TPP? If a bar that is known meeting place of the violent drunks and is health hazard due to less than clean glasses and so on finally closes down because the IRS shown that owner didn’t pay his taxes, do you think I try to correct them “No, this is stupid reason, they should be closed because of health code violations”? No, I’m fucking glad the place is gone.

Similarly, with TPP as long as it dissolves no one will give a damn about reason, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s it, end of story.

If that won’t get me into funny/insightful list at the end of the week, I don’t know what will.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Without TPP, Obama's "legacy" (future earnings) is in doubt

Former politicians are attractive to have on company boards, as speakers, as lobbyists, as public perception management and as consultants.

The rest of his life Obama can pick and choose between such job-offers. It is a public secret that many politicians gets enough contacts when running for an important position that they never have to search for work again…

Skeeter says:

Gun Control by Treaty

All it took for me to see that we do not want, nor need the TPP Agreement is the partially-released wording (in an otherwise highly classified document that only a few have even read in its entirety) is the part about ‘Treaty mandated gun control’. You can hide all the ink you want to, on your classified-yet-redacted Treaty that you want to, but when one of the few leaks that come out about what it contains is ‘gun control of non-government citizens’, you completely sold me on TPP MUST END!

Otherwise, you have a new Pelosi-ism, namely, ‘you can read it after we shaft you with it’. No thanks – can’t find affordable insurance or decent coverage as a result of that old bureaucratic witch now. Last thing I need is govern-nazis coming to my house with a printed copy of the TPP explaining how ‘they have the right…’

Thanks, but no thanks. I saw this played out in enough WWII movies. I know how that story ends.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Gun Control by Treaty

Could you provide a source on the gun control language? Because my searches online only turn up someone saying “I don’t know that it’s there. I’m just assuming that a guy that’s done everything he can heretofore with his pen, as he said he would do, will do it again when he’s given a blank check”, which while provocative, does not cite TPP text leaks, and, despite a lot of rhetoric the only thing I can remember that Obama did ‘with his pen’, is the AFT clarifying that all gun sales are subject to background checks.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Gun Control by Treaty

Oh dear. The trouble with getting all your information from old articles is that you continue to live in the dark, with conspiracy theories making your thinking muddled. I assume you’re basing your wild but incorrect assumptions on articles such as this: https://www.gunowners.org/alert5072015.htm

1) The TPP is not a “… highly classified document that only a few have even read in its entirety”. It is a public document, and has been so since the agreement was signed. You can read it here: https://www.tpp.mfat.govt.nz/text

2) The TPP makes no mention of gun control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Gun Control by Treaty

” The TPP is not a “… highly classified document that only a few have even read in its entirety”. It is a public document, and has been so since the agreement was signed.”

You seem to be ignoring a significant portion of the story, perhaps the several years prior to its signing are of interest to others.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Gun Control by Treaty

What was misleading? Everything Craig Welch said was accurate and relevant.

Yes, the treaty was secret while being hammered out, and that’s bad. But that’s also the past and is only of academic interest.

Now, we can all read the thing — and I can’t find anything in it that is even remotely like “backdoor gun control”. Can you?

Anon Cowardly Pennsylvania Swing Voter says:

PA Senator Toomy's official response

A bit partisan, but at this point, I’ll take the right vote even for the wrong reasons. Thanks TechDirt for reporting on trade deals!

August 18, 2016

Dear (Constituent First Name),

In light of your previous correspondence about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, I wanted to update you about this issue. After reviewing this agreement, I decided that I cannot support the TPP since it is not good enough for Pennsylvania workers.

As you know, every trade agreement must be studied on its own merits, and not every proposal is necessarily a good one. Although the TPP would open new markets for some of our state’s farmers and other industries, the deal falls short in a number of areas.

For example, let’s take a look at a couple of the TPP’s shortcomings, both of which I have stressed to the Obama Administration.

First, about 46,000 Pennsylvanians have jobs in the life science and pharmaceutical sector, making it one of our state’s largest industries. The TPP will make it too easy for other countries to steal intellectual property that we create in Pennsylvania and take the jobs tied to those innovations.

Second, Pennsylvania’s dairy sector depends heavily on exports, which means it is critically important that trade agreements open foreign markets to our goods. Unfortunately, the TPP has failed to do this meaningfully, particularly with respect to the lack of access to the protectionist Canadian market.

I have brought these concerns and other problems to the attention of the Obama trade negotiators, but regrettably they have failed to address them. As it now stands, the TPP is not a good deal for Pennsylvania, and I cannot support it. We must not abandon trade, but we should not pass a flawed deal just to get a deal done. The Obama Administration should dump the TPP and return to the negotiating table to get an agreement that would create jobs and spur economic growth here at home.

Again, I appreciate knowing your thoughts about the TPP and free trade agreements. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

(graphic of signature)
Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t that the definition of the good half of politics? “the art of using bad reasons to get what you want from people who might know better but don’t care enough.”

The under half being “the art of quietly doing bad things in exchange for bad people doing what you want.”

This senator is using bad reasons to convince bad people that they’ll have to do more of the bad thing he wants, before he supports the bad things they want.

He’s probably mean to cute furry animals, too.

Unanimous Cow Herd says:


suddenly getting Republican voters to hate the TPP

There really isn’t anything sudden about voters being being on board. Maybe the legislators getting on board is a “sudden” thing, but most people I know almost automatically assume that anything the politicians say is the opposite of the truth at least half the time. “Free Trade” is “Fixed Deals For Our Buddies” and “I was authorized to have a private email server” means “Hell no! Didn’t ask. Didn’t care until they started asking questions. Where’s my Blackberry?”

toyotabedzrock (profile) says:

Funny how people whos job can’t be outsourced, because language barriers, to a country with lax labor standards and low standards of living are always supporting it. Because the

But the advertising on this blog is dependent on readers who have decent salaries.

You need to look closer Mike. Knowing how to write won’t save you.

Whatever says:

Election Year Politics

In an election year, politicians always seem to slink away from anything that might be a problem. Support for the TTP in pretty big in the Republican world (big business) but not as popular with the individual voters. So during the election cycle, they back away, and come January, they are back with their full support knowing full well that the public will have likely forgotten the whole thing by the next time the critter are up for re-election.

It’s how the critters keep their jobs.

But... says:

But is the perceived problem with the TPP about free trade, or about the extra goodies and flaws in the agreement?

Nothing can mitigate the fact that it costs a lot less to put together a Trump silk tie or Trump dress shirt in Bangladesh or Vietnam than in the USA. It’s a simple standard of living issue. Since their wages are basically zero compared to US wages, we would need a 100% tariff wall to block that. Jobs that need menial human dexterity and limited education will be exported until robots/automation can do them better; handling textiles isn’t yet a robot job.

One problem is in reciprocity. China exports a shit-ton of stuff to us, but appears to use government obfuscation, non-tariff protectionism, legal tangles and currency manipulation to block returning trade. Canada has a long history with this – google “Canadian softwood lumber” to see how, despite NAFTA, the USA has unilaterally used its 500-pound-gorilla status to ignore the concept of free trade when it suits them.

The other problem is the crap buried in the fine print. It’s not free trade, it’s pork trade. We’ll protect our farmers if you want to protect your steelworks… etc. Corporate sovereignty and all that crap.

Real free trade would probably be nice. TPP ain’t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, I don’t care how good the rest is, any agreement that includes the toxic pill of corporate sovereignty needs to be shut down, hard. Companies do not deserve the right to be treated as though they had equal if not more power and importance than governments.

Corporate sovereignty is ‘solving’ a problem that is self-fixing by replacing it with a very real, and much worse problem.

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