Friday, January 9, 2015

The Looming Clash Between President Obama and Progressive Democrats Over TPP

As Sahil Kapur notes, progressive Democrats in Congress want to flex their muscles in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The one place this is likely to explode the loudest is with the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP).

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.

“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.”
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.
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.

8 comments:

  1. Didn't you once write that Democrats don't realize Obama is the best friend progressives could ever have?

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    1. http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2012/05/youre-right-dfhs-obamas-just-not-that.html

      http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2012/01/where-obama-is-to-left-of-his.html

      :-)

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  2. It's being touted by those on the left as "NAFTA on steroids." OK, why would they say this if they don't even know what's in it? It harkens back to the days when these same lefties just knew that President Obama was going to gut Social Security.

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  3. Because four plus years ago it may have been a NAFTA type proposal. But years of negotiation and changes have made it different. You can read it in a now-dead bill, S.1900. I've not waded through it all, but one thing stands out in the hype about corporate control over everything - it AFFIRMS national sovereignty. This is key to knowing that global corporations cannot kill farmers markets, localism, coops, and all the things the Left are screeching will happen. It also affirms EXPORT access - into Japan for our autos for the first time EVER. It upholds environmental standards (I liked the original language better but it's still affirmative). So yeah - READ the bill. Maybe there is bad stuff I've not seen, but it's nothing like the Left has asserted. The biggest problem is we keep reading each other and repeating each other's assertions. Real justice requires we read the SOURCE - the TPP language itself. Now with this new Congress a new bill has to be introduced, but since it's a treaty - and all treaties are done behind closed doors. ALL of them - there cannot be much diversion. So S.1900 should give us all insight into what TPP really says.

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    1. Update - apparently the new version will be introduced, perhaps by Wyden, about March or so. We should all try to read it so we have a real understanding of what it says. When S.1900 was introduced, not one emoprog critic had looked at it. I have no idea what is in the new version - limited of course by agreements in the negotiation - but we CAN assess whether or not it will be good or bad or somewhere in between.

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  4. Emogprogs are like a fine whine... they get whinnier with age.

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    1. They've hung around long enough to become 'vintage whine'.

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  5. Yeah, I just tune out the panic about TPP. I pay attention to my Representative. He pays close attention to what is actually in these proposals. This time last year he'd only read a few chapters. I'm guessing by now he's up-to-speed on it. He's way smarter than the reactionaries in my local party. I trust his assessment and that of other solid progressives in the Caucus over theirs any day.

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