The Trans Pacific Debate
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Politics and Activism

The Trans Pacific Debate

A brief overview of what both sides are saying about the controversial bill

The Trans Pacific Debate

Few bills have been as widely debated upon throughout this presidential election as much as the infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP, as many prefer to call it, is a proposal that has become hotly contested in a way that transcends even party affiliations, with notable politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton openly speaking against it, and others such as Barrack Obama and Paul Ryan in support of it. America too, it seems, is greatly divided in regards of how to judge this bill. That being said, TPP is a bill that could undoubtedly change our future. For U.S citizens, the question must be: “What does TPP do for the United States, and how will this affect me?”

Before seeing what politicians are saying about the bill, however, one must first understand what all TPP encompasses. Though most call it a trade deal, trade is only a part of what the proposal truthfully covers. Along with trade provisions, TPP includes laws that cover topics ranging from protecting open Internet availability and net neutrality, to environmental regulations and bans on overfishing with provisions to enforce the banning of the poaching of endangered animals, to even the banning of child labor and establishment of collective bargaining rights and establishment of minimum wages for workers The bill is undoubtedly notable for trade, given it cuts exports for so many goods across so many industries that it almost takes an entirely different paper to discuss, so it is often times simplified into a trade bill, but this agreement between the nations of Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, The United States, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, and New Zealand is one that changes more than trade, but labor systems and environmental regulations within those who ratify the bill.

The opponents of the bill do seem to have some reasonable concerns, citing any number of issues. The largest of these issues, however, has to do with manufacturing jobs in the United States. The amount of jobs in the manufacturing sector has been in an almost constant downward trend since the peak in late 1979, which has been a serious concern for politicians who have constituents working the jobs that are being shipped overseas to areas where the labor is cheap, most notably the Asian region. This sentiment is seen most easily in the rhetoric of Donald Trump, an anti-TPP Republican presidential nominee who, in a speech delivered on June 28, 2016, declared, “The TPP would be the death blow for American manufacturing”. In another quote taken from an op-ed on March 14,2016, Mr. Trump went a step further and said “One of the first casualties of the TPP will be America’s auto industry…The TPP will send America’s remaining auto jobs to Japan”. This is not a mentality even remotely close to being shared only by him, however, and is similar to that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was quoted saying “In my view, the trade deal would result in job losses in the United States…”, and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who called the bill “…a Trojan horse for a global corporate coup.”

Jobs losses, according to these critics, could be severe, a stance that is not without merit, given the findings of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. The study done at the university backed the claims of the aforementioned politicians, with an estimated 448,000 jobs in the United States potentially being lost from 2015-2025. The fear of job losses has made it a bill that is difficult to back it would seem, and this difficulty is the single biggest hindrance to the bill.

Job loss, however, is not the only concern amongst some opponents of the bill. During the Paris climate summit in the tail end of 2015, there were lobbying efforts by environmental organizations that wanted the bill vetoed. The main concerns for the organizations that were involved in the lobbying and protests since then revolved mainly around the benefits TPP gave to the fossil fuel industry. Sierra Club higher up Ilana Soloman, in an interview with The Washington Post, was quoted in saying “These agreements are really locking us into dependence on fossil fuels”, a view her organization shares. A Sierra Club study has found that TPP could very well allow the United States to increase fracking in order to compensate for an increased demand for fossil fuels, something that they claim could “…put sensitive ecological areas at risk…” and “…[impact] consumers, manufacturers, workers, and [increase] the use of dirty coal power…”.

Another notable complaint is that of the power it gives to corporations who reside in the nations the bill affects. Jill Stein, an open critic of the trade bill, has been quoted saying "If you think corporate personhood is a bad idea, just wait for corporate nationhood." Her sentiment is shared by many of her supporters as well, citing that the bill would effectively allow for multinational companies to challenge U.S. laws without ever setting foot on U.S. soil. To some, this is a scenario that spells out the end of the sovereignty of states and the extreme growth in the power of corporations, and as a result, they are very wary of the bill.

Supporters of the bill contest these claims, however, with their own reasoning as to why TPP should be passed in the fastest possible manner. The bill’s most notable supporter, President Barrack Obama, wrote an article in Newsweek that outlined why he supported the bill, saying: “It supports American businesses… It stands up for American workers… It reflects our values.”. By his account, and those of many supporters of TPP, the bill does, in fact, create jobs. Peter Petri, a professor at the Brandeis International Business School, wrote that he estimated a small job growth of a little more than 150,000 positions in the nation. The official website for TPP made the case that with an increase in exports as a result of the bill’s ratification, jobs can be created to the tune of 5,800 jobs per billion dollars of exports on average, jobs that the American economy is always in need of. That information notwithstanding, the real benefits of TPP are seen, in the view of supporters, in how it benefits U.S. industries, specifically manufacturing and agriculture.

In regards to manufacturing, the bill eliminates, according to TPP’s official website “…all foreign taxes in the form of tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods exported to TPP countries." This elimination of tariffs, to supporters, levels the playing field for American manufacturing and allows us to finally compete with Asian manufacturing giants. Manufacturing exports, being a $1.4 trillion asset, are a vital part of the U.S. economy. The bill seeks to reduce tariffs and therefore make goods produced in the nation cheaper so that we can compete overseas with our goods. The hope is that with the passing of TPP, U.S. products will have the upper hand. The auto industry in particular benefits in that TPP includes rules that allow for significant growth. On top of eliminating many tariffs on Made-in-America vehicles, the bill specifically addresses the Japanese market by simplifying the process for American vehicles to enter it. TPP also mandates that we retain tariffs we have on Japanese vehicles for the first 25 years of the agreement’s implementation.

The largest benefactor of the bill, however, from the eyes of those who support the bill in its entirety is the American agriculture industry. From eliminating most tariffs of goods in almost every sector of the industry to eliminating export subsidies, many believe the bill is largely beneficial to U.S. agriculture. A notable organization within those many is the American Farm Bureau Federation. Their claim earlier in this year was simple: TPP will boost farm exports and incomes. The President of AFBF, Zippy Duvall, was quoted in saying “Clearly, America’s farmers and ranchers have much to gain from approval of TPP…”, citing information gathered by the organization that showed an increase in the price of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, beef, pork, and a myriad of other goods. The increases in demand, and the price increases of agricultural goods, as a result, culminate into $4.4 billion increase in annual net farm income according to the organization's research. The main TPP website says, as a result, that economic growth is estimated in the U.S., given that “Every dollar of agricultural exports stimulated another $1.22 in business activity in 2013”. In fact, some estimates have shown that TPP could potentially lead to a 0.5% increase in U.S. GDP growth by 2030, the year of the bill's full implementation.

Economic benefits aside, proponents of the bill also cite the bill's provisions outlawing unfair labor practices such as child labor and other unfair labor practices in other nations. This expansion of workers rights is not necessarily seen in the United States, but in some ways gives power to overseas workers and helps make U.S. workers more competitive by leveling the playing fields overseas. Vietnam, in particular, is required to allow workers to create labor unions and have collective bargaining rights, which very well could raise their wages and make their contributions less profitable to companies thinking of shipping their jobs overseas.

The bill also has any provisions for environmental safety, which, though argued by critics as being unenforcible, tries to cut down on illegal poaching of endangered animals as well as the rampant environmental damages that result from practices such as overfishing and deforestation. As a result, some environmentalists are championing the bill as one that transcends trade and actually makes a tangible effort to protect the environment in the nations that ratify the bill.

In the end, would seem that America is largely divided on how to respond to TPP. Three of the four presidential nominees this year rejected it, yet the supporters of the bill make up a diverse group of farmers, business owners, and free trade advocates. The newly elected president is one of the three against it and has openly discussed rejecting the bill in its entirety, yet members of his own party in Congress have discussed the fact that TPP is far from dead. Regardless, the bill affects our nation’s economy, our world’s well-being, and the state of the global economy overall. Depending on whom you ask, this bill is either a blessing and the best trade deal of our time, or simply a second NAFTA waiting to happen that does not benefit the United States adequately enough to ratify it. Our action or inaction, however, will determine the shape of our nation's future, as well as our world as a whole.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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