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June 2015 Brief: Volume 22, Number 18

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The Danger of Trans-Pacific Partnership and
Fast-Track Trade Authority


by John Hendrickson



Congress is currently debating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is the largest free-trade agreement under consideration since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since NAFTA other free trade agreements have been negotiated, but the TPP agreement under consideration consists of twelve nations within the Pacific (Asia) region of the globe. In addition to the debate over TPP is the controversial Trade Promotion Authority or fast-track, which President Barack Obama wants in order to negotiate and complete the TPP trade deal. Fast-track authority has been given to past Presidents, but it is controversial because it allows the executive branch full control of trade agreements with minimal Congressional oversight.


The debate over TPP and fast-track centers around the issues of constitutional powers and responsibilities of the legislative and executives branches, the overall economic impact of TPP, and the concern of further loss of American sovereignty. This debate has also created a strange alliance of Republicans who previously were critical of President Obama’s use of executive power and who are now supporting his demand for fast-track authority because of their support for free trade, with other Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the constitutional nature of fast-track authority and whether or not TPP is economically beneficial for the United States. The critics of TPP and fast-track are correct that this agreement is not only harmful for the economy, but also for American sovereignty and constitutional government.


From an economic standpoint, the United States is suffering from the loss of manufacturing jobs, which is detrimental to the economy in terms of high-paying jobs, but it is also harmful to national security. Kevin L. Kearns, who is President of the United States Business and Industry Council, wrote that “since 2000, the U.S. has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments.”[1] Kearns argues that TPP will not be beneficial to the American economy, because the other nations involved do not practice free trade:


The TPP is emphatically not the answer. Instead, it’s simply the latest in a long line of trade deals (like NAFTA, WTO, China, CAFTA, South Korea, etc.) that have opened the door to predatory trade with countries that have only their own interests at heart. For example, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and China continually engage in currency manipulation in order to gain an advantage for their exports. In fact, Beijing has used an undervalued Yuan to boost its trade surplus with the U.S from $83 billion in 2001 to $342 billion in 2014, costing the U.S. more than 3 million jobs. Similarly, Japan has intervened in currency markets 376 times since 1991 to boost its exports.[2]


“This unbalanced trade has led to America no longer producing enough steel to supply its own defense and infrastructure needs,” stated Kearns.[3] The United States, which was once the “Arsenal of Democracy” — a manufacturing giant, which supported a growing and vibrant middle-class — is now suffering from bad policies which resulted in this decline. Failed so-called free-trade agreements are not only to blame, but also high taxes and regulations which hurt American business also contribute to the present crisis.


As Patrick J. Buchanan wrote, “we are a dependent nation now. We rely on imports for the necessities of our national life and the vital components of our weapons systems. [Alexander] Hamilton must be turning over in his grave.”[4] As Kearns argues:


Currently, our steel industry is facing a wave of subsidized steel at nearly unprecedented levels. And the U.S. also faces dependencies in such vital defense industries as propellant chemicals, batteries, and specialty metals. Where will we work, and how will we defend our nation, if these trends continue?[5]


Another harmful lesson that the nation has learned from past trade agreements is the fact that other nations do not practice so called “free trade.” As a recent column in The Washington Times explains:


The oft-repeated claim that free-trade means American goods go abroad and jobs grow at home is belied by the data. Since the U.S. signed NAFTA in 1994, the American trade deficit with the world has grown by almost 500 percent to $722 billion in 2014…The liberalization of trade by the United States is often a one-way street, as the U.S. knocks down trade barriers and tariffs while our supposed partners get special carve-outs or just plain cheat — dumping goods below production cost, manipulating currencies, and flat-out non-compliance with rules they agreed to.[6]


“When we look back to NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, MFN and PNTR for China, the Korean-U.S. free trade deal, CAFTA with Central America — almost all have led to soaring trade deficits and jobs lost to the nations with whom we signed the agreements,” argued Buchanan.[7] Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has been a leader defending American interests and the middle-class in regard to immigration and trade deals, stated that “our job is to raise our own standard of living here in America, not to lower our standard of living to achieve greater parity with the rest of the world. If we want an international trade deal that advances the interests of our own people, then perhaps we don’t need a ‘fast-track’ but a regular track.”[8]



[1] Kevin L. Kearns, “Latest trade deal not good for Pennsylvania manufacturers, workers,”, The United States Business and Industry Council, April 22, 2015, <> accessed on April 24, 2015.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Patrick J. Buchanan, “Obama’s Republican Collaborators,”, April 21, 2015, <> accessed on April 21, 2015.
[5] Kearns.
[6] Claudia Tenney and Brian O’Shaughnessy, “Selling out the Constitution and Main Street on Trade,” The Washington Times, May 1, 2015, <> accessed on May 7, 2015.
[7] Buchanan.
[8] Senator Jeff Sessions, “Critical Alert: Top Five Concerns with Trade Promotion Authority,” Office of United States Senator Jeff Sessions, Alabama, May 4, 2015, <> accessed on May 12, 2015.


John Hendrickson is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact him at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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