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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership gains limited national backing

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the triumph of President Obama’s economic agenda. In discussion since 2005, this negotiation incorporates Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

“I feel that one of the reasons this deal is being so heavily pursued in other nations, especially Asia, is because the U.S. wants to remove some of the barriers involved with trade and make trade around the world easier,” said Chinese national and Early College student Jeffery Li.

With the signing of the treaty, not only would U.S. products be increasingly sold abroad but also more jobs would be created in order to supply the demand of products, according to the organization Trade Benefits America.

In addition, the treaty could provide a counterbalance to China’s growing economy and aid in making the United States less dependent on the Chinese market by allowing increased trade between the 12 nations.

Although the details of this treaty have not been shared, drafts provided by WikiLeaks and speculations about the contents of the deal have given rise to concerns regarding lawsuits and workers’ rights.

“If it goes through, which I’m not sure it will, it will allow for-profit companies to sue if they think that any kinds of laws are infringing on their ability to freely trade, and that could potentially include environmental regulations,” said Maria Rosales, chair and associate professor of political science.

It is possible that environmental and working condition legislation would be considered a barrier to free trade. Therefore, the U.S., which has set high standards in areas such as the environment, food, safety and worker rights, could be forced to revise such standards or face legal action.

“(The Trans-Pacific Partnership) will allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment ‘expectations’ and hurt their business,” said Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

The trade deal may or may not help the economy, but the damage to environmental and labor laws may not be worth it no matter the result.

“I feel this is another way to market free market capitalism and to give breaks to Southeast Asian countries,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “I don’t think it is going to help the U.S. worker at all, and I don’t think it is going to help U.S. industry at all.

“This is probably going to be another way to encourage development in Asian countries; the payoff will be the loss of environmental protections with nothing in return for the United States.”

Considered as one of Obama’s last chances at shaping the economy and building a legacy as president, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is also alienating other Democratic leaders.

“The opposition to the trade agreement comprises unions, environmental and consumer groups — in other words, the entire Democratic base,” said Lori Wallach, director and founder of Global Trade Watch, in The Guardian.

In stark contrast, Republicans are the main supporters of the negotiation. They argue that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is similar to other free trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, implemented before.

However, despite the Republican backing, it is unclear if President Obama will be able to pass the treaty. This is mainly because, without full support of Democrats and limited backing of the Republicans, the negotiation of the treaty would take a long time.

That is why President Obama has requested fast-track authority from Congress. If approved, President Obama would then have the ability to fully negotiate the deal and present it to Congress for a yes or no vote. Congress would have a maximum of 90 days to decide if the treaty would be approved or rejected without any changes or filibusters.

This power, however, does not come without a price.

“The fast-track procedure is designed to limit public scrutiny,” said Republican Rosa DeLauro. “It gives up congressional constitutional authority to review the Trans-Pacific partnership.”

Despite the controversy and the split regarding the treaty, President Obama believes that the trade agreement would inherently be the best choice for Americans and he remains intent on having the negotiations pass.

Until the deal is made public, its eventual content and fate will remain unknown.

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