Obama Gets Called Out For Trade Deal Secrecy – By A Right-Wing Republican
President Obama is in Oregon today at the headquarters of Nike to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging agreement between 11 countries and the United States that would expand investor and corporate rights at the expense of workers and the environment.
In order to get Congressional approval for the TPP, Obama is seeking what is called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or Fast Track. This would allow him to submit the agreement in full to Congress and require them to approve it or reject it without amendments. But first Obama must get Congress to pass a TPA bill to be granted that authority.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a notoriously right-wing pol who is most known for his anti-immigrant views, threw a wrench into the plans for TPA by sending an open letter to Obama that echoes many of the same concerns that progressives have: that TPP negotiations are totally secret and that the agreement may have a negative impact on jobs.
Here's an excerpt from his letter:
You have asked Congress to approve fast-track legislation (Trade Promotion Authority) that would allow international trade and regulatory agreements to be expedited through Congress for the next six years without amendment. Fast-track, which proponents hope to adopt within days, would also ensure that these agreements—none of which have yet been made public—could pass with a simple majority vote, rather than the 67 votes applied to treaties or the 60 votes applied to important legislative matters. […]
The U.S. ran a record $51.4 billion trade deficit in March, the highest-level recorded in six years. This is especially concerning since assurances were made from the Administration that the recent South Korea free trade deal would “increase exports of American goods by $10 billion to $11 billion.” But, in fact, American domestic exports to Korea increased by only $0.8 billion, an increase of 1.8 percent, while imports from Korea increased $12.6 billion, an increase of 22.5 percent. Our trade deficit with Korea increased $11.8 billion between 2011 and 2014, an increase of 80.4 percent, nearly doubling in the three years since the deal was ratified.
Sessions' move comes a few days after former governor Mike Huckabee, another right-wing Republican, launched his presidential campaign with criticism of the TPP. Huckabee denounced the TPP, saying its “not fair trade, it's not free trade”; he warned that the deal would “drive wages lower than the Dead Sea.”
Criticism from Sessions and Huckabee does not necessarily mean that they sincerely oppose the agreement Obama is negotiating. But it does at least mean that they recognize that a significant number of Republicans in their base oppose corporate-written trade agreements just as much as the left does, which could be enough to defeat them.