by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Those of you who’ve watched Scott Lincicome‘s recent speech to the John Locke Foundation on the challenges free-trade advocates face today might be interested in James Capretta‘s latest article at National Review Online.
President Obama is pressing to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) approved by the Republican-controlled Congress — after the election. He’s right that it should be approved. But if it isn’t, and it might not be, there will be plenty of blame to go around in both parties.
The problems for the TPP — an agreement among twelve countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S. — start with Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton. Trump has based much of his campaign on his view that the TPP and every other previous trade deal has been negotiated by incompetent U.S. officials. Sanders argued during his run for the Democratic nomination that basically all international trading arrangements are giveaways to the rich and corporate interests at the expense of working people. And Clinton, after supporting TPP as secretary of state, switched to opposition without ever offering any kind of detailed or clear reason for her flip-flop. The anti-trade push by these three candidates has dominated the national discussion on the issue for well over a year now.
But TPP’s problems don’t end there. As the anti-trade rhetoric has heated up, there has been almost no one on the national stage willing to push back on the misleading arguments that have been made.
The GOP candidates competing with Trump were especially feeble in this regard. They largely went silent when Trump went on his repeated anti-trade rants during the primary debates. Not one of them stepped forward in any kind of sustained and meaningful way to challenge Trump’s false claim that trade deals in general, and the North American Free Trade Agreement in particular, were damaging for the U.S. economy, despite the abundant evidence that, on balance, trade has led to stronger economic growth, more employment, and higher living standards for those in the U.S. and throughout the world.