President Obama has already signaled that he is willing to work with the Republican Congress to get fast-track authority (an up-or-down vote in Congress) on the trade agreement.
The administration has argued that the trade deals will boost U.S. exports and lower tariffs for American goods in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, where the United States has faced increasing economic competition from China.For a brief rundown of what the TPP is all about, I found this article by Lydia DePillis to be extremely helpful. The main point of contention for progressives seems to be summed up pretty well by Nadia Prupis.
“Those who oppose these trade deals ironically are accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers,” Obama said at the Business Roundtable. “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”
Democrats are rallying a coalition of labor, environmental, and religious groups, backed by a core group of lawmakers, to fight the implementation of the promotion authority they say would give the president free rein to arrange trade deals without input from Congress and with no regard for job loss, food safety, and financial regulation.Both DePillis and Prupis point out that the specifics of what is included in TPP are mostly secret as the negotiations are still underway. And so the battle lines are not so much about what is in the agreement as much as it is about giving the President fast-track authority for approval.
I would simply say that I find it puzzling that these progressives seem to be suggesting that they trust a process controlled by a Republican Congress over their own party's leader - President Obama. Many of the people Prupis quotes are the same ones who earlier in his presidency were complaining that he didn't act more independently from Congress and have been applauding his recent executive actions.
It seems that a lot of this stems from the way progressives felt burned by the outcomes from NAFTA. As a result - there is a knee-jerk reaction against international trade deals.
For the record, the one trade deal negotiated previously by the Obama administration was with South Korea. That one had previously been in the works by the Bush administration. But President Obama pretty much renegotiated the whole thing and wound up getting the support of AUW because it opened up South Korea to American-made cars.
I understand the concerns progressives have articulated - especially about the secrecy. But no country is going to engage in negotiations like this without that protection. And the idea that we can trust this Congress more than President Obama to protect jobs, food safety and financial regulation is simply ludicrous.