Former USTR Comes Out Against TPP -- Though Not Necessarily For The Best Reasons

from the the-tpp-fight-continues dept

People who have worked for the USTR tend to pretty religiously support any and all new trade agreements, so it seems somewhat noteworthy that the former USTR, and now Senator, Rob Portman, has come out against the TPP agreement, saying that he doesn't think that it's a good deal. There are, of course, a number of caveats here that potentially make this at least slightly less of a big deal than it might otherwise be. Specifically:
  1. There's a pretty good chance he's doing this purely for political reasons. He's in a tight re-election campaign for the Senate, and his opponent has been quite opposed to basically any trade deal including the TPP -- and many Ohio residents (i.e. voters) believe (rightly or wrongly) that trade deals mean fewer manufacturing jobs. Portman was also a big proponent of pushing through "Trade Promotion Authority" or fast track, which was seen as a sort of proxy vote on TPP, because it would bind Congress's hands to just an up/down vote on the TPP, without any ability to push back on particular aspects of the agreement. And, Portman also made it clear he could change his mind if the TPP was "improved."
  2. Some of the reasons he's given seem to track with those of Senator Orrin Hatch, in complaining that the TPP doesn't go far enough in expanding intellectual property rights, mainly for big pharmaceutical companies (specifically data exclusivity rules around "biologics.")
So, it could certainly be argued that his speaking out against the TPP are for suspect reasons (and of suspect authenticity). Still, it is rather incredible that a former USTR would proactively say that they don't support such a major trade agreement, and highlights (at the very least) just how toxic the TPP has become with the voting public. And of course, that should raise some pretty serious questions. If the voting public doesn't support the TPP at all, why are we continuing to pursue it?

Filed Under: rob portman, tpp, ustr


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  1. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 8 Feb 2016 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: If the voting public doesn't support the TPP at all, why are we continuing to pursue it?

    In practice, that's not what happens. What actually happens is that companies get compensation for being made to clean up pollution, or for being made to put plain packs on cigarettes, etc. I can dig up some links if you like.

    If it was simply a matter of compensating companies should a country nationalise it, fair enough, but it's not. It chills legislation in the public interest by making governments afraid of passing laws that might fall foul of the broadly-defined unjust expropriation clauses.

    That's how raising the minimum wage got Egypt's government sued by Veolia. That's how getting rid of nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima got Germany into trouble with Vattenfall. I could go on...

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