MIAMI, Florida — At Thursday night’s Republican debate, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all parroted talking points about trade that do not seem to match their prior legislative records and statements on the critical issue.
While Donald Trump has articulated his vociferous opposition to President Barack Obama’s trade agenda in practically every GOP debate, tonight marked the first debate in which all of the other candidates were asked about their previous support for trade globalism. Breitbart News reported extensively on debate moderators’ prior failure to cover the issue in previous debates.
According to Pew polling data, by a nearly five-to-one margin Republican voters believe these so-called free trade deals lower wages rather than raise them.
At tonight’s debate CNN Moderator Jake Tapper asked Rubio: “If elected, will you support free trade deals even if it means the inevitable loss of U.S. jobs?”
In response, Rubio said:
I support free trade deals that are good for America… The problem is we’re a low-tariff country. To import something into the United States is not very expensive, but many of these countries we can’t export to because their tariffs are too high. And so I am in favor of deals that allow us to bring down those tariffs so that America can sell things to all these people around the world.
However, Rubio endorsed President Obama’s trade agenda. Rubio cast the critical 60th and deciding vote for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to fast-track President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement — a deal which Sen. Rubio said would be a “pillar” of his hoped-for presidency.
Jake Tapper then asked Cruz: “You were a supporter of the Pacific trade deal [TPP], but after taking some heat from conservatives, you changed your position. Why should these voters who don’t like these trade deals trust that you will fight for them all the time and not just in election years?”
In response, Cruz said:
Actually that’s incorrect. There are two different agreements. There’s TPA and TPP. I opposed TPP and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about. And when it comes to trade, look, free trade, when we open up foreign markets, helps Americans. But we’re getting killed in international trade right now. And we’re getting killed because we have an administration that’s doesn’t look out for American workers and jobs are going overseas. We’re driving jobs overseas.
However, Cruz voted to fast-track the TPP by voting for TPA on the first go-around. When TPA came up again in the Senate, Cruz changed his position to oppose it while under intense scrutiny from conservatives.
At the time, Sen. Jeff Sessions—who has since endorsed Trump for president—implied that voting to give President Obama fast-track authority was essentially a proxy vote for TPP: “A vote for fast-track is a vote to authorize the President to ink the secret deal contained in these pages—to affix his name on the Union and to therefore enter the United States into it,” Sessions said.
That’s because fast-track eliminates the ability for senators and congressmen to offer any amendments to the deal, eliminates the Senate filibuster, kills the ability for a treaty vote, and authorizes the President to finalize and sign the agreement– as a result, no deal placed on a fast-track has ever been blocked.
Moreover, prior to casting his vote to fast-track TPP, Cruz penned an op-ed with now House Speaker Paul Ryan in the Wall Street Journal endorsing Obama’s trade agenda –helping give needed momentum for Obama’s new trade powers to be successfully enacted. In that op-ed, Cruz described the TPP as an “historic” agreement that “would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers.”
This written statement seems to contradict Cruz’s declaration in tonight’s debate that, “I opposed TPP and have always opposed TPP.”
During that time, Cruz also dismissed Sen. Sessions’ concerns about the deal’s erosion of U.S. sovereignty. Cruz said that Sessions’ assertions were “not accurate… It is simply false to say this would create some trans-national body that could change U.S. law.” However, it has since been revealed that Sessions was indeed correct, and Article 27.1 of the deal will ensnare the U.S. in a global governing commission similar to a nascent European Union.
As Tapper pointed out, after vocally campaigning for Obamatrade, Cruz eventually reversed his vote. Cruz’s campaign now says he will not support TPP “in its current form” — leaving the door open to supporting a slightly altered version of it in the future.
Moreover, both Cruz and Rubio have voted to continue to allow the illicit trading practice of currency manipulation. Last year, both Cruz and Rubio voted down an amendment spearheaded by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to address currency manipulation.
In the past, Cruz has said that he opposes cracking down on currency manipulation because it is a “protectionist” argument. In a 2011 interview, Cruz was pressed about expressed unwillingness to support a modest measure that would crack down on currency manipulation. Cruz said in response, “Look, protectionist arguments, particularly when you have unemployment, they resonate because people are out of a job and they are ticked off.”
In tonight’s debate, Kasich similarly adopted talking points that seem to contradict his support for Obama’s trade agenda. Kasich told Tapper:
I grew up in a blue collar family. And the simple fact of the matter is that of course we’re sensitive about trade… my position has always been we want to have free trade, but fair trade. And I’ve been arguing all along that it is absolutely critical that when other countries break those agreements, we don’t turn the process over to some international bureaucrat who comes back a couple years later and says, “Oh, America was right,” and people are out of work. The fact of the matter is we have to have an expedited process. When people cheat, when countries cheat and they take advantage of us, we need to blow the whistle. And as president of the United States, I absolutely will blow the whistle and begin to stand up for the American worker. But we don’t want to lock the doors and pull down the blinds and leave the world. Because frankly, if we do that, prices will go up. People will buy less. Other people will be out of work. And we don’t want to see that happen. Trade, though, has to be balanced and we have to make sure that when we see a violation, like some country dumping their products into this country, believe me as president, I will stand up and I will shut down those imports because they’re a violation of the agreement we have and the American worker expects us to stand up.
However, Kasich has similarly been a supporter of Obama’s trade agenda, which economists say could have a significant impact on the nation’s manufacturing core. According to analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, in 2015 Kasich’s home state of Ohio lost 112,500 jobs due to the nation’s trade deficit with TPP countries.
In particular, the Wall Street Journal writes that TPP would harm the U.S. automobile industry. Citing a study by Peter Petri, a professor of international finance at Brandeis University, the WSJ writes that, “the TPP could boost imports by an extra $30.8 billion by 2025, compared with an exports gain of $7.8 billion.” While the Japanese auto industry has “hailed” the TPP agreement, American automakers including Ford —recognizing the unfair advantage it will give their foreign competitors — have come out against it.
This could have a detrimental impact on Ohio in particular, as “Ohio is at the center of the motor vehicle industry with 72.2 percent of [North] American light vehicle production either in Ohio or within 500 miles (805 kilometers) of its borders,” according to a Ohio government report. “Seventy-five of Ohio’s 88 counties have at least one motor vehicle industry establishment,” the report states.
Yet despite the impact the TPP could have on Ohio auto industry and its workers, in November, Kasich said that “The trade agreement – the TPP – it’s critical to us not only for economic reasons and for jobs because there’s so many people who are connected to getting jobs because of trade, but it allows us to create not only economic alliances, but also potentially strategic alliances against the Chinese.”
“I’m a free-trader. I supported NAFTA, I believe in the PTT [sic] because it’s important those countries in Asia are an interface against China,” Kasich said in January.
By contrast, Donald Trump’s campaign has previously argued that his Presidency is the only way to stop Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, writing in an exclusive statement to Breitbart News: “A Trump Presidency is the only guaranteed way to keep America out of this disastrous trade deal.”