President Obama faces a fight in Congress, and opposition from Democrat and Republican presidential candidates, as he revs up his campaign for congressional approval of the deeply-unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal.
The deal was finalized Oct. 5 by trade ministers from the 12 nations of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. If approved by legislatures, the deal will create a free-trade zone that covers 40 per cent of the planet.
But American voters overwhelmingly oppose the deal.
A June 2015 New York Times / CBS News: poll found 63 percent of the U.S. public believes that “trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industries,” while only 30 percent think “free trade must be allowed, even if domestic industries are hurt by foreign competition.” Democrats, Republicans and independents said they fear the TPP will sell out U.S. jobs in a push for “free trade” at any cost.
A June 2015 NBC News poll found that 66 percent of the U.S. public believes that “protecting American industries and jobs by limiting imports from other countries” should be more important than “allowing free trade so you can buy products at low prices no matter what country they come from.”
The May 2015 Ipsos Public Affairs poll of U.S. voters found:
- By 88 percent considers it important “that any international trade agreements negotiated by the United States have specific rules preventing currency manipulation;”
- By 46 percent said that free trade agreements “lead to job losses,” while only 17 percent said they “create jobs;”
- By 46 percent said that free trade agreements “make the wages of American workers” lower, while only 11 percent said they make wages higher; and
- By 36 percent said free trade agreements “make the price of products sold in the U.S.” cheap, while 32 percent say they make products more expensive.
Among those earning less than $30,000 a year, 44 percent said free trade agreements have hurt their financial situation and that of their family, while only 38 percent said the trade deals have made their personal financial situation better.
The final passage of the TPP faces bruising battle in the Senate.
Conservatives, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, oppose provisions in the deal that would allow companies to import foreign workers for jobs in the United States. Business-allied Republicans oppose provisions that strengthen the influence of labor unions, and set up a secretive Investor-State Dispute Settlement that gives foreign companies the right to be paid compensation whenever governments pass laws that negatively impact corporate profits.
Liberal Congressional Democrats and their labor union, consumer advocates and environmental group allies are solidly opposed to TPP over fears of job losses and increased corporate power.
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has signaled his opposition, and so has former Gov. Mike Huckabee. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ front-runner, is equivocal.
The Obama Administration since 2009 has been the biggest advocate for a Trans-Pacific Partnership that they say will set “21st Century trade rules” for trade, investment, data flows and intellectual property.
President Barack Obama on his White House website argues, “My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That’s why we have to make sure the United States — and not countries like China — is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.”
The final round of talks began in Atlanta on September 30, with negotiators faced steep hurdles on final issues such as dairy products, auto parts, rice, pork and beef, and the length of drug patent protections. The accord is at the “center of Washington’s and Beijing’s competing visions for Asia,” according to Stratfor Global Intelligence.