It’s hard to not like Senator Elizabeth Warren’s passion, tenacity and intelligence. But it’s not hard to disagree with her. President Obama does, so do most Republicans, and so do I.
I very much respect Elizabeth Warren, (notice I didn’t call her Elizabeth even though I think she’s cool enough to be OK with it), but I respect our business sector’s chances even more under a plan that allows it to increase trade with countries that would otherwise find ways to snub us.
We can try and beat’em or join them. I think we’re better off joining them. For the sake of better business relations, more manufacturing and more American jobs, the TPP is important to our trade and foreign policy.
So why are so many congressional Democrats so averse to the Pacific Trade partnership? Sen. Warren leads the current division within the Democratic Party. She’s a populist leading a staunch opposition to “big business” and is at odds with the implications of the trade deal.
Her recent editorial in the Washington Post makes the claim that the deal will allow for multinational corporations to “undermine U.S. sovereignty.” It’s a fair point to be sure, but when compared to the alternatives of being left out of these deals altogether, it becomes increasingly less important.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership will, as the Obama administration and most congressional Republicans assert, grow the U.S. economy, expand and enhance American labor, and increase our exports to the other 11 nations in the partnership. And that is no small thing to most Americans because it offers job opportunities we might not otherwise have.
Warren argues that President Obama has allowed pro-business special interests to shape the deal while refusing access to the public. She is also criticizing the president’s effort to fast-track the deal through Congress. However, the fast-track authority is vital to trade deals, and has been afforded to presidents both Democrat and Republican since the 1974. It’s important because it bypasses the political sniping and bickering common to this particular congress while amending, delaying and all good ideas from either side. Fast track still allows congressional involvement by establishing a bipartisan congressional advisory group and that’s fine. But what U.S. trade partner would be willing to wait or rely on this Congress to act on anything? Get the picture.
Warren’s suggestion would be nice if workable, but it’s not. And her other concern about fast track is also wrong. She says the six-year clause will allow a future president, averse to financial domestic policies such as the Dodd-Frank Act, to overturn or alter such policies in the form of international trade deals.
Obama himself countered this claim; why would he provide a loophole for the revocation of Dodd-Frank if it was his administration that worked so hard to pass it? The likelihood of the next president working a new financial domestic policy into an international trade deal, and passing it before the six years are up, is very low. Warren’s opposition to the use of fast track authority seems a distraction.
So let’s move to the content and workings of the TPP. itself. Warren makes a valid point about the formation of special courts that operate outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. That sounds scary. She’s right, these investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) courts feature an arbitrator rather than an independent judge and that could lead to it being controlled by some corporate lawyer. Yes, that cuts right at the heart of our American sense of sovereignty on legal matters; however, it’s tempered by two facts. One, the U.S. government has never lost a case in such a court system and two, the ISDS courts could not shape policy as Warren suggests — it could only impose a financial penalty.
This is the U.S. Trade Office’s stated purpose of the deal: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will grow trade with one of the world’s fastest growing regions, and share American values and commitment to improve labor practices and elevate environmental standards around the world.”
In other words, we can try and beat’em or join them. I think we’re better off joining them. For the sake of better business relations, more manufacturing and more American jobs, the TPP is important to our trade and foreign policy.
However, it’s also a wonderful political wedge issue among certain Democrats and that makes for good political fodder. When Sen. Warren accuses the president of “helping Republicans” by “giving them the tools they need,” she’s really questioning the Mr. Obama’s liberal bone fides, while enhancing her own.
Good politics? Perhaps. Good policy? Hardly!