I Don’t Trust Obama’s Word on TPP

Barack ObamaThe Devil went down to Beaverton. Or to put more clearly, President Obama went over to Nike to snipe at those of us who don’t agree with him about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I was especially interested in this quote that seemed to appear everywhere that his speech was covered, “There have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends coming from my party. And they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy and on every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this, they’re like whupping on me.” Let me take a moment to say something personal to Obama.

Mr President, based upon my experience of watching you from a distance these last eleven years, you seem to be an okay guy. But I don’t just follow along with everything you are in favor of. In terms of the TPP, I think you are just another neoliberal idiot who is so blinded by the ways that it is going to help out all of your rich friends, that you can’t see clearly that this is not a progressive deal. I’m not going to be for this trade deal just because we both agree that the minimum wage ought to be increased.

Sherrod Brown is one of those pesky non-authoritarians who doesn’t just get in line because he happens to be in the same political party as the president. He has actual facts that counter Obama’s argument that consists entirely of, “Trust me! I wouldn’t do anything to hurt the American worker!” Brown noted that we’ve been conned before. And we don’t have to go all the way back to NAFTA:

The Obama Administration predicted that the South Korea Free Trade Agreement would create 70,000 jobs and deliver up to $11 billion in exports. Instead, it only increased US exports to Korea by $1 billion, while Korean imports have skyrocketed to more than $12 billion. The growing good trade deficit with Korea has eliminated over 75,000 jobs in the last three years.

But that’s not all, “Mr Obama insisted that ‘this is the most progressive trade deal in history’ and he scorned critics who say it would undermine American laws and regulations on food safety, worker rights, and even financial regulations…” Well, Dean Baker had a problem with that claim, President Obama Is Badly Confused About the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He noted:

President Obama apparently doesn’t realize that the TPP will create an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism which will allow tribunals to impose huge penalties on the federal government, as well as state and local governments, whose laws are found to be in violation of the TPP. These fines could effectively bankrupt a government unless they change the law.

It is also worth noting that rulings by these tribunals are not subject to appeal, nor are they bound by precedent. Given the structure of the tribunal (the investor appoints one member of the panel, the government appoints a second, and the third is appointed jointly), a future Bush or Walker administration could appoint panelists who would side with foreign investors to overturn environmental, safety, and labor regulations at all levels of government.

So Obama is not just asking us to trust him (because he thinks a modest increase in the minimum wage is in order), he’s asking us to trust every president who comes after us. Let me just end with another personal note to Obama.

Mr President, I am a liberal. As a result, I’m not an authoritarian. I know that conservatives are mostly a bunch of authoritarians who fall in line whenever the command is given. But I don’t accept arguments based upon someone telling me that they know best. That’s especially true when they’ve shown that they do not know best. So make your case and if I think it’s a good idea, I’ll go along with it. A good start would be to make the text of the TPP publicly available. But I don’t see that happening. Because I don’t think it’s a good deal. And the more scrutiny it gets the less I’m going to like it. And the more you try to ram it through, the less I like you.

See also: The Bad Side of Obama’s SOTU Address.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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