Donald Trump is reaching out to voters in New Mexico, where all but one recent poll shows Hillary Clinton leading outside the margin of error.
Trump argues that trade policies supported by the candidate, and implemented by her husband, have “decimated New Mexico jobs.”
The Trump campaign points out that New Mexico has “lost more than 12,000 manufacturing jobs since Clinton’s NAFTA and China trade deals went into effect.”
In this case, of course, the Clinton in question is Bill, and the assertion is based on data from the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Even that number is described as a “significant overcount,” because the TAA doesn’t count every lost manufacturing job.
“New Mexico ranchers lost out too. U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico of cattle – New Mexico’s top ag product – fell 59 percent in the first 22 years of NAFTA,” the Trump campaign argues.
In a related criticism, the U.S. Free Trade Agreement with South Korea is said to have reduced American exports of dairy products to that country by 88 percent, while the increased trade deficit with Korea was large enough to account for the loss of 102,500 U.S. jobs in just four years.
(It should be noted that the relationship between trade deficits and U.S. jobs lost is a matter of enormous contention – perhaps the single most hotly disputed issue between supporters and critics of free trade. An example of the argument that trade deficits kill American jobs in a relentless, predictable manner can be found here, while an argument against that proposition is here.)
Having made the argument that trade deficits like the one with South Korea wipe out domestic jobs, the Trump campaign warns New Mexico voters that “the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Hillary supports will kill many more New Mexico jobs, and expose New Mexico to costly litigation.”
“The TPP grants special rights to 81 foreign corporations to sue New Mexico before secret international tribunals,” the Trump statement explains. “These panels can require New Mexico’s taxpayers to pay unlimited sums for the corporations’ loss of expected future profits. These foreign corporations need only convince the lawyers that a U.S. or New Mexico law violates their TPP rights. Their decisions are not subject to appeal and the amount they can award has no limit.”
Clinton is, at the moment, supposedly critical of TPP, after previously hailing it as the “gold standard” for trade deals. The WikiLeaks revelations leave little doubt that Clinton is still secretly in favor of TPP, but felt obliged to pretend otherwise (and force her “uncomfortable” staff to play along) until after the election.
Clinton’s pretense was necessary because a substantial portion of Democrat voters dislikes TPP… and the provision for international tribunals mentioned by Trump is one of the specific provisions they dislike the most.
As one prominent elected Democrat wrote, in a February 2015 op-ed for the Washington Post:
One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
The Democrat who wrote that fiery critique was Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).