Why does the Donald Hate the TPP?
Kasey Shores, Fiscal Policy Contributor
Everyone has a theory about the TPP. Everyone.
And before you go and say “I don’t need to rely on other peoples’ opinions; I’ll just read the thing myself and make up my mind the old fashioned way!” Don’t. Don’t even try it. It’s about 20 billion pages long, you need to have read two separate General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs and have a full-working knowledge of the World Trade Organization agreement to know half of what is being written about, and you’d need to be well-versed in every aspect of American imports and exports (and their effects on both foreign relations and domestic jobs for the entire history of the US) to understand – or have any opinion—on the other half.
So as I said, don’t even try it.
Here’s what you probably know—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, is a trade agreement made among twelve of the Pacific Rim countries (but NOT China)*. The goal of the TPP is to make trade among these countries, which happen to make up 40 percent of the world economy, more free. This means eliminating tariffs and setting up universal production and environmental standards, so everyone is on the same playing field.
Basically, no more special deals, no more sweatshops, no more overcharging on imports because you’re mad, just an agreement to have free and friendly trade with high production standards.
This all sounds great, so why does Donald Trump hate it so much? Why would the President-elect of a country whose identity is rooted in freedom be against anything made to spread freedom?
Well, his website really doesn’t give much insight—it’s just a bunch of links to articles that say the TPP is a bad idea, without actually divulging anything on why. The closest I could get was a few key articles on how our trade-deficits with the 11 other TPP countries (which, by the way, are massive), are causing workers here in the US to lose their jobs, and how the TPP won’t do anything to stop the currency manipulation of said countries, which would mean the US would be taking a loss in the ballpark of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Jobs held by low-skilled workers who are unlikely to try, or even be qualified, to work in other industries. Their jobs would simply vanish.
The right seems to echo Trump’s concern over the imminent loss of American jobs. If it becomes easier for countries to buy where the labor is cheap, there’s less incentive to buy American, further diminishing this class of people.
Normally, a free-market argument would be that, well, it’s too bad. But if your labor can’t compete on a global scale, you shouldn’t expect a company to slow its progress to accommodate you. You have to compete, or get out.
But in the case of the TPP, you can’t make the claim. We can’t really compete on the labor front because our standards, things we consider basic human rights, don’t exist across the pond. Malaysia can make a shirt at 5 percent the cost America can, because their labor laws are not the same. They can pay their workers less, they can obtain cheaper materials. We can’t, and won’t, do that.
The TPP addresses this by implementing a new standard for labor and sustainability practices, essentially raising the bar for developing countries. No more labor camps, no more sweatshops or illegal logging— everyone will be operating to the standard America has held for decades. The TPP countries will be held accountable; if they break the rules they are out of the TPP.
Or are they?
According to an article by the Huffington Post, Malaysia straight up failed to meet the basic standards set by the US Senate regarding human trafficking. Just straight up failed. And these standards were not unreasonably high.
But, despite reports of mass graves, human trafficking camps and corruption from the Malaysian president, the Senate voted to up Malaysia’s ranking regarding human-trafficking. With no explanation, Malaysia was once again qualified to participate in the TPP.
It would be great to participate in free and open trade with developing countries if we can expect the trade to actually be free and open; but if we can’t hold the other participants to the same standard the US holds itself to, we will be taking a huge loss. We’ll get cheaper imports, sure, but we’ll be increasing our trade deficit with countries that violate human rights and environmental standards at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
Until the members of the TPP can be held accountable to the standards set, it wouldn’t make sense for America to take that loss. Countries that want to trade with us—the country with the second highest GDP in the world—should do so to our standards. And while the TPP promises to do this, it’s not entirely clear it will.
And therein lays Trump’s problem, and the reason he’s so willing to drop out on day 1.
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