Opinion: Proposed trade deal a ‘political football’

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Big Ag Watch

Harvest gets underway at the Anderson Farm near Mansfield, Ill., on Oct. 2, 2013.

Dave Dickey 352In trade circles, it is simply known as the TPP — that’s Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And it is the largest free trade deal in terms of gross domestic product that the United States has negotiated since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

For U.S. agricultural producers, it is hoped the deal will result in lowered tariffs that currently make many exports non-competitive.

While details were just released  Nov. 5, whether it will be a net gain for U.S. trade is anybody’s guess —after all, two decades after NAFTA, people are still arguing whether that deal actually resulted in lost American jobs to Mexico.

What we do know about the TPP is a dozen nations are involved.

In addition to the United States, there’s Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

So you can guarantee the trade deal is complex and, depending on who you are talking to, controversial.

And you can also guarantee the TPP is a political football.

Even before the TPP went public, we heard from President Barack Obama: The TPP will help “our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.”

But not so fast, says 2016 presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders: “Wall Street and other big corporations have won again. It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multinational corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense.”

So who is right? Who to believe?

The deal is now up for public examination and public comment. The devil is in the details — all those lofty words could melt like a custard cone on a summer day in light of the legal language.

Expect the partnership to be minutely scrutinized and the fight will be fierce. Corporate America has already spent least $253 million to sway opinion, according to one Reuters report.

Congress’s Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee could suggest changes to the pact before it goes up for final passage.

One thing that will not happen is endless posturing and offering of amendments.

The deal is on fast track authority, meaning lawmakers must vote thumbs up or thumbs down on the proposal law as submitted. There are no changes allowed.

One other point is the pact does not include China. The TPP likely will erode some of China’s export trade advantages, and, if its economy continues to slow, China could face pressure to join the TPP on terms favorable to the United States..


About Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For the past 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch. 


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