Presidential Candidates on the Fence about Trade, Will TPP Survive?

Published on March 16th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
March 16, 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been one of the focal points in the presidential primary races. At issue is whether TPP will create jobs, as the administration and its supporters’ promise or, as detractors insist, kills jobs and further depresses an already weak U.S. economy. Included in the 12-nation TPP agreement are Malaysia, Japan and Singapore that manipulate their currencies, the practice of artificially depressing currency to create a trade advantage. Currency manipulation increases U.S. imports, curtails exports, and increases trade deficits that reduce U.S. gross domestic product, and off-shores millions of U.S. jobs.

The non-partisan Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute has just published an exhaustive study that analyzed the 2015 effect on jobs and wages in light of the existing U.S. trade deficit last year with participating countries. EPI’s conclusions are troubling especially for Americans struggling with unemployment, under-employment and the overall bleak outlook for jobs that pay well and provide a middle-class lifestyle.

EPI’s findings: in 2015, the aggregate $177.9 billion trade deficit with TPP countries reduced the GDP by $284.6 billion or 1.6 percent and eliminated two million jobs. Included among the lost jobs were health care and social assistance (204,200 jobs); retail trade (142,800 jobs); accommodation and food services (101,800 jobs); finance and insurance (42,700 jobs); agricultural industries (41,600 jobs), and education services (37,300 jobs). Americans suffered trade deficit-related job loss across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in all but two congressional districts. Hardest hit was California which lost 227,000 jobs, or 1.4 percent of the state’s total employment.

Excluded from the EPI study was the President’s ability to inject, either formally or informally, language that would allow significant immigration increases in TPP or any future trade deal agreed to within the next six years. The administration would not have to introduce the proposed free movement of people, as proponents call it, to Congress. Virtually every U.S. worker category as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be vulnerable to overseas labor’s facilitated entry. In its conclusion, EPI wrote that President Obama did a poor job on TPP, a deal which will exacerbate the already depressed conditions for working American families and struggling manufacturing communities.
Exit polls from the various primaries make one thing abundantly clear: Americans feel that the federal government has betrayed and abandoned them. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 74 percent are dissatisfied or angry with Washington. No wonder. Accelerated globalization and immigration have lowered wages and displaced American workers. For decades, real earnings have been flat or declining. The public is skeptical of trade deals negotiated in secret and rushed through without Congress’ input, non-existent labor shortages that result in millions of employment-based visas issued annually, and questionable, if not unconstitutional, executive actions that reward unlawful immigrants with work permits.

The government’s job is to act on behalf of Americans and to insure their prosperity, not cater to the whims of foreign nations and special interests. House leadership has indicated that TPP is most likely to come up for a vote in the lame duck session. Others insist that outgoing congressmen should have no say, and that the TPP vote should be held when legislators will remain accountable during the next congressional session.

With such high stakes, whenever the vote occurs, Americans interests must come first.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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