Obama trade deal may die in House

The TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the Iran Nuclear Deal represent the two President Obama legacy defining initiatives currently winding through Congress. GOP Senators have become the biggest hurdle for the Iran Nuclear Review Act, but a wide swath of opposition for the TPP and associated “Fast-Track Authority” comes from both parties:

At this point, upward of 75 House Republicans could vote against trade promotion authority if it comes up for a vote in the coming weeks, according to aides and lawmakers involved in the process. Some of the lawmakers fear job losses in their districts from free trade; others distrust Obama and oppose giving him more power.

House Democrats, meanwhile, say just 12 to 20 of their lawmakers support Obama’s request. That figure, if it holds, would amount to a stinging rebuke of a president by his own party.

Some see the unusual alliance between the GOP and the Obama Administration on trade as an attempt to place a wedge between the Democrats and their various alliances and create a “civil war” within the party. Fracturing could have ramifications on 2016 in the near term, with new 2016 hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders–an outspoken opponent to TPP–doing his best to put Hillary Clinton on the record either supporting or opposing.

Many Democrats are suspicious of free-trade agreements in general and blame the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, for the outsourcing of millions of jobs. Some criticize the Trans-Pacific Partnership for inadequately addressing and, in some cases, ignoring their key priorities; others point out that details of the deal have not been made public, sparking concerns about potential loopholes.

On Monday, the Citizens Trade Campaign sent a letter signed by more than 2,000 groups opposed to fast-track to members of Congress, urging opposition to the deal, “Fast-track is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people,” the letter reads.

One of the main sticking points for many remains the classified nature of the 12-nation negotiations. The only details which have been made public have come from WikiLeaks. Matt Yglesias, executive editor of Vox.com, had this to say in considering the strength vs. weakness of Free Trade:

18th Century economists showed that the efficiency of an economy can be improved by opening itself up to imports from abroad.

This is very true, but it also tells us very little about the merits of a 21st century trade agreement.

One huge flaw is that while classical economics has a fair amount to tell us about the wealth of nations, it doesn’t say much at all about the wealth of the individual people inside the nations. A trade deal that enriches Americans who own lots of shares of stock and Central Americans who own lots of plantation land could easily pass the (low) economic bar of efficiency while still making most people worse off.

[Politico][US News and World Reports][WikiLeaks][Mother Jones]