Trans-Pacific Partnership Causes Tension in Democratic Party

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is becoming a major partisan issue within congress, though the battle lines being drawn are slightly different than that America is accustomed to. The TPP, a partnership deal aimed at expand trade and economic integration between twelve Pacific facing countries, has been at some point of negotiation for nearly a decade. The deal has the potential to create one of the largest free trade areas in modern history, with its twelve signatories amounting to nearly half of the entire world's GDP.

The deal has received both praise and criticism from critics on both sides of the political spectrum.
Trade and economic liberalization oriented supporters have supported the agreement on two essential merits: the overall increase in global GDP and wealth expected from the deal as well the deeper political cooperation that may be gleaned from deeper economic ties. Considering that this deal would further intertwine the economies of the United States, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan, the TPP is seen as a means of countering the growing strength of China in both the arenas of global and regional trade.

Critics have lined up against the Trans-Pacific Partnership along traditional labor based arguments, as well as worries over the far reaching rules and regulations placed upon signatories in the realm of intellectual property rights. Concerns are swelling over the inability of more advanced manufacturing industries, such as the United States, Japan, and Australia, to compete with lesser developed signatories such as Vietnam and Brunei. Some left leaning thinkers, including Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders and economist Joseph Stiglitz, see the deal as empowering larger, entrenched, and already established international corporations at the expense of both labor movements as well as smaller, less competitive domestic businesses. The deal would also place a high premium on intellectual property rights, installing mechanisms that allow businesses to take legal action abroad for copyright violations.

The TPP negotiations have been stop and go for much of the past decade, with various signatories remaining lukewarm to the restrictions and abdications of sovereignty given up by parts of the agreement. Japan only more recently made a firm commitment to the deal, but only came to the table after making it known it would not liberalize trades in certain sectors of its economy, namely in agriculture.

In the United States, where free trade is almost always a winner for the political right, Republicans have been seeking out opportunities to push the TPP forward - the second major trade deal of the decade, after the US/South Korean free trade agreement went into effect in 2012. The Republicans have gained an unlikely ally in the Obama administration, with the President pushing to have the agreement fast tracked through congress. Trade deals are typically heavily scrutinized while they move through congress, with each and every part of the deal evaluated, debated, and amended before a final agreement is presented for signing. Obama has hoped to put the agreement on a fast track, where the deal's contents will continue to be negotiated in secret then voted upon once all accords have been reached. He has faced serious pushback from within his own party, in particular from the progressive, labor oriented wing currently lead by Senator Elizabeth Warren and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Published on May 8, 2015
By Travis Lindsay

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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