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New Report Attacks TPP’s Central Goals

Adding to a maelstrom of criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, Public Citizen, a non-governmental organization, issued a report charging the U.S. with false claims regarding the agreement’s intended effects.

The report, entitled “The Rising Use of the Trade Pact Sales Pitch of Last Resort: TPP Foreign Policy Arguments Mimic False Claims Made for Past Deals,” argues that the principal arguments espoused in favor of the TPP rehash older arguments formerly used to falsely advocate for other free trade agreements. It says that “nearly identical ‘foreign policy’ arguments have been trotted out over the past 20 years.” Public Citizen analyzes the TPP’s claims to economically isolate a rising China, to bolster U.S. manufacturing, to stimulate job creation, among other signature promises.

First, the report claims that the U.S.’s strategy deceptively deemphasizes free trade as the ultimate objective in favor of more politically benign goals. “However, Congress and the U.S. public have become increasingly aware that today’s “free trade” agreements are no longer mainly about trade. Rather, the appealing brand of “free trade” has been affixed to pacts negotiated behind closed doors that implement a vast array of domestic policy changes favored by large corporate interests, many of which have been rejected in open venues such as Congress.”

Instead, the report alleges, the TPP’s advocates duplicate discredited claims also used to justify NAFTA and KORUS, claiming that the purpose of the agreement is to stimulate both American exports and job creation.

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“Such is now the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping pact under negotiation with 11 other Pacific Rim nations that was initially promoted with such export-growth claims. This pitch has been undermined by government data showing that under two decades of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the United States has lost hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs, income inequality has grown, the U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners has ballooned, and export growth to those partners has slowed.3 NAFTA was sold with the same export growth and job gains claims initially made for the TPP. Those claims were also used to push for a 2012 U.S.-Korea FTA. Yet after two years of the Korea FTA, used as the U.S. template for many chapters of the TPP, U.S. average monthly exports to Korea have fallen 11 percent and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has swelled 47 percent, spelling the additional loss of tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. Such results have turned a majority of the U.S. public against NAFTA-style deals,5 and have made it harder for the deals’ proponents to advocate for the latest FTA on economic grounds.”

Also, Public Citizen’s report mocks the claim, often forwarded by TPP supporters, that the agreement will create a trading bloc that effectively isolates an aggressively growing China. “Proponents are increasingly pushing the TPP as a way to unite a bloc of U.S. Pacific Rim allies against Chinese domination and to counter economic competition from China. But these arguments directly conflict with Obama administration statements that China would be free to join the TPP, which would grant China the same market access to TPP partners that the United States is seeking.”

At issue, as well, are those claims about the way in which the TPP will usher in a new regime of social responsibility, extolling American democratic values over China’s autocratic dictates. “Another newly prominent TPP foreign policy spin is that the pact presents a choice between the United States imposing “our rules” (assumed to be enshrined in the TPP) or China imposing theirs. The problem with this argument is that many of the rules now included in the TPP represent narrow special interests, and indeed could undermine the broader U.S. national interest. This includes terms that could weaken the United States by increasing income inequality, threatening our financial stability, raising energy and healthcare costs, and further gutting the U.S. manufacturing base that is essential for both our national security and domestic infrastructure. TPP proponents seek to bury these inconvenient facts about the actual terms of the pact by employing a crass “us or them” narrative.”

Finally, arguments by TPP cheerleaders that the agreement will reverse the decline of American power and influence in the world are, as far Pubic Citizen is concerned, easily debunked on the basis of historical investigation. “In many cases, their dire predictions of diminished U.S. power, loss of allies or foreign instability all came true, despite passage of the FTA that was supposed to forestall such dangers. In some cases, these same dangers materialized in part because of the FTA. Below is a sampling of national security and foreign policy arguments used by pro-FTA members of Congress to urge passage of NAFTA, CAFTA, the Colombia FTA and the Korea FTA.”

The full text of the report can be found here.