The TPP was being sold to the American People as an international trade deal. It was not, in fact we already trade with at least half of the countries in the agreement. It would be unfair however to say that it would not open up trade. Vietnam for instance where laborers make 60 cents per hour, is a mouthwatering prospect for American companies eager to send more American jobs overseas. Of the 29 chapters of the TPP, only six have anything to do with trade. The vast majority of the document consists of carefully written investor protections from regulation that could hurt their bottom line. These include protections from labor rights laws, financial regulation, and food safety laws.
Those who are pushing for the Trans Pacific Partnership are certainly correct about one thing: the TPP will increase trade. The problem is the term “Trade” makes no distinction between imports and exports. The US is already an open market when it comes to imports, as tariffs are about 1.3% for most goods. This accounts for the massive influx of foreign products from countries where labor is much cheaper and human rights are less protected. Since NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), America has seen a massive loss of manufacturing jobs and factories at home. Although a percentage of this job loss most certainly due to technological improvements in factories, it’s undeniable that NAFTA had a big role to play. Exports are what the TPP promises to increase and based on the statistics from NAFTA, it would deliver. American agriculture is one of the industries pushing hard for the new deal, as exports of crops such as corn will be able to penetrate markets previously restricted.
Last December, American cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris initiated the first investor-state dispute against Australia. The claim was that the government was hurting their profits by requiring cigarettes to be sold in packages containing graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking. Based on current international trade law the suit was thrown out of court, but Australian lawmakers can read the writing on the wall. The TPP would open the floodgates for lawsuits like this.
The TPP does enjoy support from some outside the realm of corporate interest. John Kaisich has recently said of the trade deal that “not only will the TPP promote peace and stability in the Asia pacific region, it will also help maintain the United States’ essential strength in the hemisphere at a time of increased Chinese and Russian assertiveness.” This view is speculative but Kaisich seems to be touching on an important revelation, that the motives of the Obama administration have much more to do with global Hegemony than global trade. As China becomes more and more relevant on the global stage, its role as the goto country for low cost goods and wages is fading. Much like the US, they are beginning to look outwards for that addictive drug: cheap labor. Negotiations are already shifting to a trade deal of their own, the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). China already has a trade deal with many of its neighbors, but the list of new prospective members has striking a resemblance to the those of the TPP. This is useful as it illuminates the true prizes in these trade deals, countries who’s abyssal labor rights and wages can be exploited. Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
During the election, Hillary Clinton made an intelligent political move and distanced her public self from the TPP, vowing not to pass it in its current state. Unfortunately for her, it was too little too late, as voters seemed more concerned about her private self. Endorsing the TPP in the early stages of the election may have sealed her fate in what is being called, to the chagrin of it’s population, the rust belt. Since President elect Donald Trump vehemently opposes it, the path for the TPP to pass seems to be narrowing fast.