Posted on October 5, 2015
(This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal's Think Tank)
The Obama administration announced Monday that it concluded a trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been controversial in not only the U.S. but also among our would-be trade partners.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both think that this agreement is a bad deal for American workers and that it is good politics to oppose it.
It’s unclear how or when Congress will pass TPP (as if congressional Republicans needed another headache). Passing trade promotion authority this summer was hard enough–and that didn’t include the actual provisions that will make some industries very unhappy.
Many of the lawmakers who agitated most against outgoing House Speaker John Boehner were the fiercest critics of trade promotion authority. Passing TPP will be no bargain for Kevin McCarthy or whoever is next elected speaker of the House.
So how should proponents sell TPP? Here are five suggestions:
1. It’s all about China. China is not a party to the TPP negotiations, and this agreement should be seen as an effort to contain it economically. Mr. Trump’s tactic of making China his boogeyman has worked well for him politically. Those who want TPP to pass should play the same game: Passing this agreement is bad for China, which is good for the U.S.
2. Bush, not Obama. For Republicans, this isn’t a victory for President Barack Obama. Negotiations on a Pacific-rim trade agreement started under the George W. Bush administration. Final completion of this deal would be a continuation of Republican free-trade philosophy.
3. A tax cut for American products. The United States doesn’t have high tariffs, but the rest of the world does. This agreement lowers the costs of our products to global consumers, which is basically a tax cut for U.S. manufacturers.
4. Obama, not Bush. This agreement includes a bunch of things that would make liberals happy–and many of those are points that Republicans would not have cared much about. This includes some environmental provisions, some labor protections, and even a few measures to protect endangered species.
5. It’s all about U.S. leadership. If this agreement goes down in the United States, we will look like fools to the rest of the world. We will look like a country that could elect a Donald Trump or a Bernie Sanders as president. The rest of world has limited patience for unsteady leadership. China will move to fill the vacuum–and who knows what the long-term ramifications of that could be for the future of global commerce. The one certainty? We know it wouldn’t be good for us.