The biggest complaint people had against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is that it was negotiated in secret among sovereign states and corporate trade groups. No one could know what was in the agreement until it was completed. Only after the agreement was completed could the American public have ninety (90) days to review the TPP agreement.
Well now is your chance, boys and girls. The White House released the full text of the TPP agreement on Thursday. Here is a link to the U.S. Trade Representative web site, TPP Full Text of 30 chapters and hundreds of pages of detailed and complex provisions.
This format is unwieldy. The Washington Post‘s WONKBLOG put together this handy feature. We made President Obama’s big TPP trade deal searchable:
On Thursday morning, after months of questions about the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiated and championed by President Obama, his administration released the agreement in its complex entirety.
We created the tool below to allow you to search the full agreement (except annexes) and to link back to the original to read more. There’s a lot in there, we’ll note, and spellings are internationalized. (Labor becomes “labour,” for example.) So it’s still not a perfect system.
But at least you can see it and search it! Critics of the deal spent months arguing that it was a secret agreement, which it no longer is. And thanks to your friends at The Fix, it’s now easier to see what’s in it than the government might have intended.
Follow the Post link above for the search function, which cannot be embedded here.
After the release of the TPP text the president notified lawmakers of his intent to sign the trade accord. The president must then wait 90 days before he can apply his signature and send the agreement to Capitol Hill, under the terms of “fast-track” trade legislation approved by Congress in the spring.
The TPP review period lands smack dab in the middle of the early caucuses and primaries, and will play a role in the presidential primaries. Ed Kilgore of the Political Animal blog explains, Starting the Clock on TPP:
So the White House has indicated that the President will today release the text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership for a 90-day review process created under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that was narrowly approved by Congress earlier this year. Then begins another 90-day period (though it can be extended) during which Congress will either approve or disapprove the agreement.
According to my calendar, this first 90-day “window” will close on February 3, right between the February 1 Iowa Caucuses and the February 9 New Hampshire primary. Think TPP might come up then?
In theory it shouldn’t be an issue in the Democratic nominating process since all three candidates presently oppose approval of the agreement. But it will almost certainly continue to be a significant part of the media criticism of HRC as an alleged “flip-flopper.”
It’s the possible role of TPP in the Republican contest that’s most interesting. It could supplement immigration policy and Social Security/Medicare as an issue Donald Trump uses to excoriate the economic policies (and allegiances) of other candidates. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal all opposed TPA on grounds that they did not trust Obama to negotiate a good agreement, but it’s less clear they will oppose the underlying agreement against pressure from the business community. If he’s still around after Iowa, Mike Huckabee is positioned much like Trump on economic initiatives like trade agreements said to benefit GOP elites against the interests of regular old rank-and-file Republicans. As usual, Ben Carson is hard to pin down on this issue, though he’s complained about Obama’s handling of the negotiations.
So circle February 3 on your calendars, and we’ll see if this issue bursts onto the scene in the presidential campaign or instead simmers on a back burner until we have our two nominees.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post made this same point about Donald Trump demagoguing his opponents on the TPP last month. Get ready to hear “China” more times than you can count. Morning Plum: Donald Trump is just getting started, Republicans:
I’m telling you, folks, if you think Donald Trump’s demagoguery on immigration has created problems for Republicans, just wait until he unveils his next act. If we get a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trump may well roll out a whole new story about how Republicans and Democrats alike are conspiring with a shadowy cabal of international elites to help China and other foreign countries continue destroying the living standards of American workers.
It turns out Republicans are very worried about this.
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Though it has received surprisingly little attention, Trump has previously attacked the TPP[.]
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The TPP may be debated in Congress precisely when the voting is fully underway in the GOP presidential primaries. And Republican leaders are worried that Trump’s rhetoric against “free trade” will create complications for the party’s Senate incumbents, who would presumably want to vote to pass the deal. But that’s not all: the TPP could also provide Trump with a weapon to wield against his GOP rivals. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio support it. By contrast, Trump has railed against the TPP by warning that China will be given back-door access to the deal, further enabling China’s ongoing ripoff of American workers, and against international “free trade” deals in general by claiming we are being “defrauded” by other countries.
And in another signal, Trump gave an interview to John Harwood in which he claimed we are getting taken to the cleaners by a number of other countries, particularly China’s currency manipulation and tariffs. “Countries are taking advantage of us, big league,” Trump said. Thus, his attacks on the TPP could be seamlessly woven into the broader story that Trump is already telling, in which immigrants are to blame for the suffering of American workers. Trump can simply add international trade-negotiating elites, their enablers among the GOP presidential candidates and among Republicans and Democrats in Congress — and a new version of the Chinese menace, which he has been heartily bashing already — to the cast of villains. (There will be plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize the TPP; Trump will likely opt for a lurid and xenophobic tack.)
If Trump does go this route, it will be interesting to watch, because it will test the assumption that GOP primary voters (many of whom already appear to agree with the tale he’s telling about illegal immigrants) agree with GOP orthodoxy on “free trade.” As Ron Brownstein has explained, Trump has built a particularly firm foundation among blue collar Republican voters. And Ed Kilgore has noted that Rust Belt and southern conservatives tend to be alienated by internationalist free trade talk. Who will these voters listen to on the Trans Pacific Partnership — Jeb Bush, who is trying to talk in reasonable tones about the virtues of lowering international trade barriers, or billionaire Trump, who is warning that foreign elites are looking to rip off American workers even more than they have done already?
The TPP may be just what “The Donald” needs right now for a rebound in his poll numbers. Once he is given his talking points about the TPP agreement, watch out. Things are about to get uglier.
It is going to take experts some time to analyze the TPP agreement. I will try to post the most thoughtful analyses as they become available. If you run across something particularly informative, post a link in the comments.