In a remarkable interview with Business Insider, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake argued that Congress should pass President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement despite the American people’s overwhelming objection to it.
Business Insider writes:
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake told Business Insider during a Wednesday interview that Congress is going to have to “suck up” and ratify the agreement because it simply must be done, even in the face of hostile opposition to trade along the campaign trail…
‘I do still think there are enough people that realize we’ve got to do it,’ the Arizona Republican said. ‘Some of those things you just suck up and do it because you know it has to be done. And this is one of them.’”
Flake acknowledged that globalist trade policies are currently unpopular because many American workers have been devastated by the negative impact of these trade deals. Flake says that it’s been challenging for politicians to get voters to ignore these losses and instead focus on how these trade deals have benefited companies, which have reaped the rewards of cheaper goods. As Business Insider notes:
The senator said trade has always been something that’s harder to sell to the public during an election year because it’s ‘easier to identify those who have lost because of trade,’ pointing to factories that have closed or relocated. ‘But it’s more difficult to identify on the net, companies that have benefited from exports, cheaper goods,’ he said. ‘Not just cheaper goods, but cheaper inputs.’
Indeed, since 2001—the year China entered the WTO—Arizona lost nearly a quarter of all its manufacturing jobs.
Arizona suffered a net loss 21,000 jobs in 2015 due to the U.S. trade deficit with TPP countries, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Yet Sen. Flake — echoing the sentiments of professional Republicans such as the writers at National Review, Mark Levin, and Hank Paulson — insisted that the Republican Party should continue to be the party that champions Bill Clinton’s globalist policies on trade. As Business Insider reports:
Pointing specifically to Trump, Flake called his anti-trade rhetoric ‘code’ language for ‘Fortress America.’
‘Anybody who believes that we’re going to grow economically and deal with the huge fiscal problems that we have from shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world is just certainly not what I’d call a Republican,’ he said. ‘I mean, we believe in free trade. We still do. NAFTA is not a dirty word.’
In 1994, the year Clinton’s NAFTA went into effect, the U.S. trade deficit in goods with Mexico was $1.35 billion. By 2015, that figure had ballooned to $60.6 billion.
Recent statements from Republicans like Flake, Paulson, and Levin suggest that, on the issue of trade, they would perhaps be happier with the policies enacted by a President Hillary Clinton than they would be with those enacted by President Trump.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA, the WTO, and China’s entrance into the WTO. As Bloomberg reported in 2013, Hillary Clinton took on a “leading part in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” CNN has reported that Hillary Clinton is on the record as having praised or promoted the TPP at least 45 times.
The Business Insider piece also reveals that plans are in the works to vote on President Obama’s unpopular free-trade deal during the “lame-duck” session of Congress—i.e. after voters cast their ballots in November 2016.
“The agreement is expected to be put before Congress during the lame-duck session after the election,” the report states.
The Business Insider piece underscores a fact that Trump has repeatedly highlighted himself—namely, that a Trump presidency is the only way to stop the TPP from being enacted.
Trump has repeatedly warned American voters that if Hillary Clinton is elected President, she will “immediately approve” the TPP. Trump says that is why Clinton has yet to pledge to withdraw from the TPP on her first day in office and has not unconditionally ruled out its passage in any form.
While professional GOP lawmakers and commentariat support the Clinton trade agenda, polling data and the results of this year’s election suggest that the Republican electorate does not.
Indeed, while many candidates in the Republican primary had been champions of the TPP, the voters rejected all of them—and instead voted for Donald Trump, who campaigned aggressively against the deal. According to Pew, by a nearly five-to-one margin, Republican voters believe so-called “free trade” slashes wages rather than raises wages. Only a miniscule 11% of GOP voters believe that these deals increase wages.
Yet this is not the first time Sen. Flake has pushed policies that are opposed by the American electorate. For instance, despite the fact that 92% of the GOP electorate — and 83% of the American electorate overall — would like to see immigration levels frozen or reduced, in 2013 Flake worked with Marco Rubio to pass the Gang of Eight bill, which would have exploded immigration levels.
Similarly, in 2015, despite the fact that polls show the Republican electorate overwhelmingly supports temporarily pausing Muslim migration into the United States, Sen. Flake voted for a Democratic amendment declaring that Muslims living in foreign nations have a global right to immigrate into the United States. Flake was joined in supporting the radical Democratic proposal by Sen. Mike Lee. The proposal was opposed by Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, David Vitter, and Thom Tillis.
Both Lee and Flake have been vocal about their refusal to endorse Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.