Why the Obama Trade Bill Should Matter to You


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or “trade deal,” has been a hot topic in Congress over the last couple of weeks. But it received even more media attention on Tuesday when Senate Democrats blocked a bill called the trade promotion authority (TPA), which would give President Obama special authority to fast-track international trade deals by preventing any amendments from Congress after the president and other countries come to a deal agreement.

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What Is the TPP or “Trade Deal?”

Obama proposed the TPP as a free trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries in Asia and on the Pacific with the aim of opening up trade and getting rid of trade barriers, such as tariffs, reports Vox. Many Republicans have shown their support of the deal.

But not many people know the specifics of the deal, making it more controversial and turning Democrats like Elizabeth Warren against it. One administration official told CNN, “The President reiterated his view … that passing TPA is an important step toward finalizing the TPP — the most progressive trade agreement in our history, which levels the playing field for American workers and puts in place new, high-standards environmental, labor and human rights protections.”

How the TPP Affects U.S. Businesses and Workers

The trade agreement deals with exported manufactured goods to the 11 TPP nations. In 2013, these goods amounted to $622.5 billion. In addition to lowering tariffs on manufactured goods, the agreement protects intellectual property — which affects things like drugs, movies, music, software and the larger internet space, reports Rolling Stone.

Obama Administration Supports Free Trade

The biggest reason the Obama administration is championing the TPP is because it’s the closest thing to one of Obama’s campaign promises: renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to Vox. The agreement also bolsters American trade relationships in the Pacific and challenges China’s authority as the sole power in the region.

In addition to the administration, big businesses like Nike also support the deal, reports The Guardian. The agreement reportedly allows companies like Nike to ship goods produced overseas without heavy tariffs. According to First Look Media, AT&T, General Electric, Apple, Dow Chemical, Walmart and the American Petroleum Institute are part of the Industry Trade Advisory Committees, which means they are privy to the negotiations happening in Congress.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative website, the TPP is expected to help small businesses in the U.S, thanks to the increased trade in the Asia Pacific. The administration also boasts that the deal would lead to stronger labor standards, which will “level the playing field for American workers and businesses.”

Why Elizabeth Warren and Democrats Oppose the Trade Deal

But some liberal critics, like Sanders, suggest that corporations will outsource more jobs as a result of this agreement, causing the U.S. to lose approximately 130,000 jobs to the Vietnam and Japan, only two of the TPP countries. And according to the Economic Policy Institute, most American workers in the service and manufacturing sectors will see lower wages.

Those who suggest that the TPP opens the door to the reversal of Wall Street reforms claim that the TPP could lead to less consumer protection in the personal finance space. Others argue that the deal would leave taxpayers on the hook if corporations decide to sue the U.S. or other countries in the deal, reports The Huffington Post.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been very vocal about her opposition of the bill, as well as other Democrats, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has mostly remained quiet about the TPP, except for pointing out her concerns with the deal.

One of the biggest criticisms of the trade deal is that no one is allowed to read it, “The president won’t actually let people read the agreement for themselves. It’s classified,” said Warren in an interview with The Washington Post.

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