There are More Reasons to Oppose TPP than Just Jobs

It’s all done but for the crying on TPP–at least for now. Dave Dayen draws up a good analysis of why it failed and where we go from here. David Frum notes that as long as trade deals are seen as enriching the few at the expense of the many, it’s going to be difficult to keep public support for them.

But this isn’t the end of the road for TPP. There are other deals that may be in play to put the deal back on track, so it’s not quite dead yet. Most of the arguments against TPP have centered around the potential loss of manufacturing jobs, and around the secrecy shrouding the agreement. The secrecy is somewhat understandable given that it’s a multilateral international negotiation. Still, it should be much more transparent given the dramatic potential domestic consequences. The loss of manufacturing jobs, while a potent political argument, loses some of its sheen in the face of evidence that trade has already been so liberalized that TPP can’t do much further damage.

That said, there are other reasons besides jobs to oppose TPP. Rather than reforming and curtailing America’s onerous intellectual property laws, TPP seeks to expand and internationalize them.

Also, rather than creating more real protections for workers abroad, the TPP has limited enforcements capabilities in those areas–even as it allows for a system of international corporate courts to dissuade and even retroactively overrule domestic regulations concern jobs, health and the environment.

Opposing TPP is actually a fairly easy call. My colleague Martin Longman thinks that may be because President Obama never had his heart in it to begin with, but felt he needed to make a show for foreign policy reasons. I don’t think I necessarily buy into that, but this much is true: either the victory on TPP marks a high point for progressive power in Washington DC in successfully opposing a Democratic president on a bad trade bill, or President Obama is particularly bad at twisting arms within his own caucus.

Either way, Democrats should stand firm against it when it inevitably comes back around, and not be lulled into blind support merely by a few gestures of basic decency by Republicans on issues like infrastructure funding.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.