While he’s not making an official endorsement for the presidency in 2016’s GOP primary, at least not yet, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is calling on the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to very carefully pick a candidate they think can “negotiate better” when it comes to trade deals.
Sessions made the comments in a 45-minute-long, exclusive phone interview with Breitbart News.
He laid out the case for why Republicans must nominate a candidate who opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the accompanying two global trade deals that would come with it: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). All three deals, along with the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that greases the skids for the eventual easy passage through Congress of each of the deals since TPA lowers the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to just 51 votes and kills the ability for amendments, have become collectively known as “Obamatrade.”
Since the passage of TPA—during which time the text of TPP was kept in a hidden basement classified reading room in the U.S. Capitol where only members of Congress could go to see it in person, without taking notes or copies of the text with them—in 2015, TPP has been on hold.
T-TIP and TiSA text, save for a leak of draft TiSA materials to WikiLeaks, have been unavailable even to members of Congress never mind the public. President Barack Obama’s administration has since released the full text of TPP—which is 5,544 pages long—but the administration is holding the deal back for now, presumably waiting to formally introduce ratification legislation to Congress until a timeframe that would allow them to time it so that a vote in Congress would come up during a lame duck session after the November 2016 elections.
“There’s no doubt that the pro-TPP people understood that there was a strong and growing opposition to this agreement,” Sessions told Breitbart News.
It is an historic agreement. It is an incredibly colossal trade agreement. I’ve got it on my desk here, it’s about four feet tall—5,000 plus pages. It covers a host of issues, beyond what anyone would imagine and it creates an international commission that has extraordinary powers in which the United States—like all the other nations—has only one vote. So this is huge. There’s been a deliberate decision, in my opinion, to quit talking about it, to try to get it off the agenda probably I think even the supporters don’t want to bring it up before the election because voters will then be able to evaluate their elected representatives on how they vote. So, most likely, they’ll do their best to not talk about it. The establishment media will assist in not talking about it during the campaign, not asking about it during debates to keep this off the table, and then there will be an attempt to bring this up during the lame duck—or if a president wins that’s for it, it could be carried over to next year. So, in a fundamental sense, the presidential election will have extraordinary influence on this. If a Republican candidate wins that opposes it, it’s unlikely it would get through Congress. Hillary Clinton has been for it and against it, so if she gets elected they might yet try to get it through. So their best hope is to elect a pro-trade, pro-TPP president and try to move it through in the lame duck session in my opinion. That’s my best political judgment. So there is an awareness that the people do not support it, and there is an attempt to keep the discussion out of the election debate.
Sessions said he expects Obama to engage in manipulation of the congressional calendar to introduce the text so he can purposely have the vote in the lame duck session—when members of Congress can’t be held accountable by their constituents.
“We’re now told it’s going to be filed, or signed, by the president on Feb. 4,” Sessions said.
Then the time limit on the president does not start until he files implementing legislation, which is not directly part of the treaty but implements the treaty. So he could hold that off, we would assume, and would file it in August or September to have it ripen after the election and before the lame duck Congress departs. So nothing can move until the president submits the implementing legislation and he has the power therefore to decide when the vote would occur. It can occur within a 90-day window.
Sessions told Breitbart News that when it comes to this matter, the stakes could not be higher.
“I can’t tell you how important the vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership is. It is representing monumental erosion of American sovereignty and further commits us to international institutions over which we have virtually no control,” Sessions said.
It is the beginning of a European Union—the European Union began with a trade agreement like this, with a commission. This is historic and monumental. If this is done, we may really have passed the point of no return. After the Pacific agreement is done, they will bring a Transatlantic [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)] agreement in the same fashion and a third agreement—the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). All of these are monumental, worldwide trade agreements in which the United States has one vote. We are the greatest military power in the history of the world, the greatest economic power in the history of the world. We do not need to constrain our ability to defend our American manufacturing and our workers. So, it’s just that important. We deal with small countries and they’ll probably start cheating—and we don’t have the time or the will to hold them to task. We don’t fight very hard. But if we do anything that irritates people, then they scream—we’re a good lawful country, we try to comply with what we agreed to. We just should not be doing this.
Sessions said that the trade deal will increase America’s trade deficits.
“We’re trading now. We have huge deficits now. And yet nobody is saying that our trade deficits will be reduced [if TPP is approved],” Sessions.
The Obama administration and none of the supporters are saying if we sign this agreement our trade deficit will reduce. It’s going to get bigger, there’s no doubt about that. When we have an increasing trade deficit that means we’re having less American manufacturing and exports and less people with jobs. Our plants will close and their plants will expand. We had exactly that result with Korea, the last trade agreement. We should deal with countries one-on-one, bilateral trade agreements like we did with the Korean one—it just needs to be better.
It’s because of all that, Sessions told Breitbart News, that the people of Iowa must select a candidate for president on the GOP side who opposes TPP to prevent America from passing that point of no return.
“We need to negotiate better,” Sessions said.
So, what I’d say to the people in Iowa: This is a matter of supreme importance that neither party should nominate a candidate who does not oppose this agreement. You can be for trade, you can be for negotiating agreements with countries around the world but not this way and not creating these kinds of transnational commissions that only hamper the United States as we go forward in the decades.
It’s worth noting that 2016 GOP frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump has made this type of trade policy Sessions is talking about a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. While Sessions isn’t endorsing anyone at this time officially, he has appeared with Trump at a Trump campaign rally in Alabama earlier this election and also held a meeting with him at the U.S. Capitol during the campaign. Sessions also helped Trump with his immigration reform plan.
More from Sessions’ exclusive interview with Breitbart News is forthcoming.