After Removing US From Negotiating Process, Now Trump Suddenly Wants US Back In TPP

from the say-what-now? dept

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is deeply unpopular with Americans for a variety of reasons (some of which we’ll discuss below). Because of its unpopularity, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton denounced the agreement during their campaign for the Presidency. Trump’s denunciation seemed a lot more genuine — he’s argued against free trade and in favor of protectionism for quite a long time. Clinton’s denunciation was highly suspect, as she had long been a supporter of the TPP, and many people expected that, if elected, she’d flip flop back to support the agreement. Of course, she didn’t get elected… but now it’s apparently, Trump who has flip flopped to now supporting TPP.

President Trump, in a sharp reversal, told a gathering of farm-state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that the United States was looking into rejoining a multicountry trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal he pulled out of days after assuming the presidency.

Mr. Trump?s reconsideration of an agreement he once denounced as a ?rape of our country? caught even his closest advisers by surprise and came as his administration faces stiff pushback from Republican lawmakers, farmers and other businesses concerned that the president?s threat of tariffs and other trade barriers will hurt them economically.

We spent years explaining the many, many problems associated with TPP. While we tend to be supporters of free trade, the problem with the TPP was that it wasn’t actually a free trade agreement. Yes, a few parts of it included lowering tariffs and opening borders to trade (and those parts were, for the most part, pretty good), but the bigger part of the agreement was that it was an “investment” agreement, rather than a trade agreement. And thus it included two parts that were really problematic.

First, was an intellectual property section which was the exact opposite of “free trade.” Rather it required higher barriers to trade, creating mercantilist barriers to information and ideas, in locking up “intellectual property” under ever more draconian terms. The second part was what we’ve referred to as the “corporate sovereignty” section, which is officially referred to as “Investor State Dispute Settlement” provisions or (ISDS). This is a system by which companies can effectively take governments to a private tribunal, who will determine if their regulations cut into the expected profits of the company. The original idea behind such corporate sovereignty provisions was to deal with the situations in which, say, a big company invested in an economically developing country, and that country’s leadership suddenly decided to seize the factory or whatever. But, as we’ve seen, over the years, is that ISDS/corporate sovereignty has mainly been used as a tool for corruption.

Given all of that, we were happy that one of President Trump’s first moves in office was to drop out of the TPP, even as we noted that he was clearly doing so for the wrong reasons (his stated reasons being wishing for more protectionism, when it was the lowering of trade barriers that we found to be the only good parts of the TPP).

With the US out of the TPP, the remaining countries picked up the ball and ran with it — under the leadership of Canada who agreed to remove the intellectual property section. An agreement was reached earlier this year without the awful copyright and patent provisions, but with corporate sovereignty still in there. It’s ironic that Canada took over the leadership role, since it was actually a late entrant into the TPP after the US bent over backwards to keep Canada out of the agreement, partly in the belief that it would push back on things like the draconian intellectual property section.

So… given all of that it seems doubly ironic that Trump now apparently says he wants back in. His tweet on the subject is, as per usual, somewhat nonsensical.

Claiming he’d only rejoin the TPP if the deal is better than what Obama negotiated is a reasonable enough claim to make, but if that was the case… why did Trump completely drop out of the negotiations and let the other countries conclude all of the negotiations without any US influence at all? Reopening such negotiations at this point seems like a total non-starter, and even if it happened, the US would be at a distinct disadvantage, given that everyone else has already agreed to nearly everything.

And, of course, there’s little to suggest that the attempt to rejoin now is to get rid of things like corporate sovereignty, or to do the actual good stuff around lowering trade barriers (this is coming just weeks after Trump announced plans to put in place tariffs on certain Chinese products) and soon after the dubious claim that winning trade wars is “easy.”

As far as I can tell, this appears to be Trump trying to make a group of people he was talking to happy, and not really understanding the details:

As he often does, the president started to change gears after hearing complaints from important constituents ? in this case, Republican lawmakers who said farmers and other businesses in their states would suffer from his trade approach since they send many of their products abroad.

That, of course, seems like an odd way to lead. Or to negotiate.

Chances are nothing significant comes of this — certainly not a wholescale renegotiation of the TPP. Instead, we’ve just got yet another political mess.

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Comments on “After Removing US From Negotiating Process, Now Trump Suddenly Wants US Back In TPP”

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33 Comments
Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just so. Trump is explaining his flip-flop by claiming that he can get a better deal.

But the TPP is already a done deal, finalized and signed. Which was made easier once the US pulled out by dropping 22 provisions that the US insisted on but the other countries opposed.

Trump won’t get a better deal, or even one equal to what the US already had.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

During negotiations, perhaps. But now that the agreement has is signed and in effect (at least via provisional application pending ratification), that’s seems highly unlikely.

Trump could sign on to the current deal as it is. Any changes he wants would have to be negotiated as part of a new deal. In the mean time the current deal would still go ahead.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: 22 Provisions

Which was made easier once the US pulled out by dropping 22 provisions that the US insisted on but the other countries opposed.

They weren’t actually ‘dropped’, they were ‘suspended’. They’re still there, and could be resurrected to entice the US back in. So the CPTPP would look much like the old TPP.

However, negotiating from that position to get more loot for the US would be difficult indeed. Even though some nations have cowards at their head (Malcolm Turnbull comes to mind) who would grovel at the chance of the US being back in, the states do not have the appetite either for giving anything else away, or delaying for the period of time that further negotiations would take.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 22 Provisions

They weren’t actually ‘dropped’, they were ‘suspended’. They’re still there, and could be resurrected to entice the US back in.

That requires ALL countries in the agreement to agree to resurrect them. It could happen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Not without some significant concessions from the US.

Granted, Trump would make significant concessions while declaring that he got a better deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 22 Provisions

Why do I get the impression of Bugs Bunny and Yosemitie Sam arguing and Bugs pulling the old yes/no switch-a-roo?

US: Yes
TPP: No
US: Yes
TPP: NO
US: Yes
TPP: NO
US: No
Tpp: Yes …

it seems too stupid to work, but then look at who’s in charge now and so apparently all things are relative (and there really isn’t anything ‘too stupid to work’ in politics)…

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 22 Provisions--- Is Robert Murray Involved?

I detect the fell hand of Robert Murray. Mining has safety, health, and environmental issues, the likes of which no other industry has, and coal mining has them much worse than hard-rock mining. Within coal-mining, Eastern and underground mines have worse issues than western surface mines (Powder River Basin). Murray is almost a natural-born poster child for the Investor-State Dispute Resolution Process.

Trump has a childish desire to be liked by rich people, and he is therefore open to manipulation. He does not ask himself, in a hard-headed way, what Robert Murray can actually do for him. Mining simply does not employ very many people any more. Very few miners want their sons to be miners– it’s simply too dangerous– and that further limits the scope of the mining vote.

Joe Manchin (Democrat), the senior senator from West Virginia, and former governor, is corrupt, but he is intelligently corrupt. In exchange for services rendered, he arranged to place his daughter as CEO of Mylan, a growing locally-headquartered pharmaceutical company. Manchin could tell a growth industry when he saw one.

The kinds of provisions in the Trans Pacific Pact attractive to Mylan will mostly have been the ones which have gotten dropped. As it stands, the TPP is of little use to a technologically progressive industry.

The late Senator Robert Byrd (D.) was revered for his ability to bring various kinds of federal installations to West Virginia, and provide people with safe, well-paying jobs.

DONT MAKE ME LAUGH says:

HI from canada

go fuck yourself trump we got those parts you want better then obama he had removed ….

NOT GONNA HAPPEN

and now you want nafta to get done perhaps you might just have mexico and canada do free trade with china and see how this trade war you got going works

m not sorry im laughng too hard

iif trudy bends over here er trudeau hes done next election

ECA (profile) says:

Anyone seen the corp laws in other countries??

So..
This would take away all the rights of any country from protecting themselves from the Corp ideals of Pollution and warranty.

This is a great idea if you wanted to Incorporate EVERY CORP on the planet.. 1-2-3 Conglomerates.
Dont we have laws against that?? FOR ALLOT OF REASONS??

Even if they Dont incorporate, they would BACK each other to the HILT.

Iv said that the internet is Another country.. THIS would create another world..

Anonymous Coward says:

If I recall, before Trump pulled the U.S. Out of the TPP, the member countries had decided on a super final draft of it, and we’re just waiting for the legislatures to ratify it. There was a big kerfuffle over whether the Lame Duck Congress of 2016 would sign off on it or not (with a straight up-or-down vote, no amendments, as per what the office of President got with the Trade Promotion Authority that Congress gave it). Going back to the negotiating table wasn’t viable at that juncture, and the deal had become politically toxic on pretty much every front. It was also an easy campaign promise for Trump to keep.

If the U.S. actually does come back to the TPP, I’m excited to hear and read the revisionism about it where people will lie and claim that everything in it was a masterpiece, and Trump was the only one who didn’t like it despite the fact that there was a huge bipartisan force pushing back against it for years.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

That’s not quite right. What was signed was not a ‘super final draft’, it was the final Agreement. That was it.

The next step was for ratification, by legislation, as you indicate. But it was always a fantasy of those against TPA that without it the Congress would have the ability to ‘fine tune’ the Agreement. Yes, TPA instituted a straight up-or-down vote. But without TPA, if Congress approved it subject to even one change that would have the same result as voting ‘no’. The Agreement could not, at that stage, be changed. Well not without going back to the negotiating table, scrapping the Agreement and starting again.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

TPP: Maybe Trump will get us a better version

The principal defect in the original TPP was Obama’s IP giveaways to his Hollywood campaign donors (people to whom Trump owes little). Without the malign US influence, these IP provisions were dropped. If current TPP signatories hold firm about not re-opening the IP issue, and Trump gets us to join anyways, it will be a better deal for America than Obama’s version.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

why did Trump completely drop out of the negotiations?

I’m pretty sure Trump believed the rest of the signatories wouldn’t sign without the US. It turns out they did, and got rid of all the stuff the US wanted.

It may not have all of Hollywood’s copyright-infringement-is-a-crime laws but doesn’t it still have corporate sovereignty that allows tobacco companies to sell cigarettes to children?

Craig Welch (profile) says:

There have been exactly two ISDS tribunals related to tobacco products. One (Philip Morris v. Australia) was thrown out as an ‘abuse of process’ as PM artificially contrived to move their operations to take advantage of an investment agreement providing ISDS.

The other (Philip Morris v. Uruguay) was won by Uruguay with the tribunal ruling that the country did have the right to legislate for public health.

Further, tobacco disputes have been specifically disallowed under the TPP.

ISDS tribunals do not have the ability to over-ride laws. They do have the ability to impose penalties if the state breaches the agreement.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Splitting hairs, much?

Ahh… not quite right, Craig.

First of all, the threat of being sued can and does chill legislation in the public interest due to the cost of defending the case. Therefore it’s not the possibility of losing the case that’s the problem, it’s the threat of being sued.

Meanwhile, our own laws end up being changed “…to meet our international obligations.”

I’m glad tobacco disputes have been disallowed under TPP but I’d be interested to learn about mining and other pollution claims: would they be allowed if countries ordered them to clean up their mess? Would we see a repeat of Veolia V Egypt over raising the minimum wage?

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Splitting hairs, much?

Ah, Veolia eh?

I’m fully on Veolia’s side here. They had an agreement with the Alexandria government which allowed for increased payments if certain expenses, of which wages was one, increased.

The Government, quite correctly, raised the minimum wage. Veolia asked for increased payment as per the contract. The Government reneged, in breach of the contract. Veolia had not luck in the local courts, so they raised an ISDS dispute.

What, if anything, did Veolia do wrong?

Anonymous Coward says:

The deadlline to ratify the original 12 nations passed over a year ago, so the negotiating process has to start all over again.

It took 7 years to reach the last agreement. Does Trump want to waste another 7 years or more negotiating a new agreement? Assuming Trump in re-elected in 2020, the new agreement probably will not be ready before he leaves office.

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