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December 2015 Brief: Volume 22, Number 36

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Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Our National Interest?


by John Hendrickson



The United States Congress, after granting President Barack Obama fast-track trade authority, will be debating the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a large free-trade agreement with several countries in the Pacific (Asia) region. The text of the agreement is very complicated, and it is “5,554 pages long, twice that of Obamacare, and nearly three feet high.”[1] The debate over TPP has created internal divisions within both the Republican and Democrat parties. Supporters of TPP argue that it will provide opportunities for new markets for American products resulting in economic growth and at the same time allow the United States to be a regional player in Asia. Opponents of TPP argue that the agreement will only result in further loss of manufacturing jobs, continuing loss of sovereignty, and further harm to the already suffering middle-class.


Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who is a leading critic of TPP and granting fast-track authority to President Obama described the TPP agreement:


This is, by definition, anti-democratic. No individual American has the resources to ensure his or her economic and political interests are safeguarded within this vast global regulatory structure. The predictable and surely desired result of the TPP is to put greater distance between the governed and those who govern. It puts those who make the rules out of reach of those who live under them, empowering unelected regulators who cannot be recalled or voted out of office. In turn, it diminishes the power of the people’s bulwark: their constitutionally-formed Congress.[2]


Kevin L. Kearns, who serves as President of the United States Business and Industry Council, argues that “the TPP is anything but the free trade agreement it purports to be.”[3] As Kearns further explains:


A real free-trade deal could be written on a single sheet of paper, with commitments to remove all tariffs and non-tariff barriers of any kind — including the removal of Value Added Taxes (VATS) applied to American exports at the port of entry — and pledges to refrain from the currency manipulation that cheapens and subsidizes the cost of foreign exports. But is the TPP one page — or even two? No, it contains thousands of pages and 30 chapters, only a few of which deal with tariff reduction. The other chapters deal with rules and regulations for all manner of things not directly related to trade.[4]


Another concern raised by Senator Sessions is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission, which will serve as a governing body over the agreement:


Among the TPP’s endless pages are rules for labor, environment, immigration, and every aspect of global commerce — and a new international regulatory structure to promulgate, implement, and enforce these rules. This new structure is known as the Trans-Pacific Commission — a Pacific Union — which meets, appoints unelected bureaucrats, adopts rules, and changes the agreement after adoption.[5]


The Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission would undermine American sovereignty and constitutional government, because if TPP is approved, Congress will be surrendering part of their enumerated powers to regulate foreign commerce by providing that power to this un-elected commission, which most likely will not benefit our national interests. “These 5,554 pages are like the Lilliputians binding down Gulliver. They will enmesh our great country, and economy, in a global commission where bureaucrats from Brunei have the same vote as the United States,” stated Senator Sessions.[6]


Advocates for the TPP also argue that unless this trade agreement is approved, the United States will lose influence in the Pacific region to China, and that China will be writing the trade rules. A serious question exists about whether or not the rules of TPP will allow China to eventually become a member or enter through a “back door.” In addition the TPP agreement does little to address the issue of currency manipulation. As Kearns states:


As for currency manipulation, the dollar is the world’s reserve currency and is freely traded in markets throughout the world. However, a significant number of TPP countries manipulate their currencies to give their goods a competitive advantage over American products.[7]


“Because this deal lacks currency protections, it will further the bleeding of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas, allowing our mercantilist trading partners to take advantage of our continued refusal to protect our own workers,” stated Senator Sessions.[8]


Since the year 2000 the United States “has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 factories.”[9] These losses, along with the continual trade deficits, have translated into a hollowing out of manufacturing. This is dangerous not only for the economic health of the nation, but also for national security.


It is far too clear that the TPP agreement raises some fundamental questions whether this agreement is in our best national interest and whether or not it is wise to cede more sovereignty to another global governing authority.


[1] Paul Bedard, “Behold: Sessions tweets photo of 5,554 page TPP bill,” Washington Examiner, November 9, 2015, <> accessed on November 10, 2015.
[2] Senator Jeff Session, “Sessions on TPP: ‘My fears confirmed’; Shut off fast-track now,” News Release, Office of United States Senator Jeff Sessions, November 5, 2015, <> accessed on November 9, 2015.
[3] Kevin L. Kearns, “Full TPP text reveals a very bad deal for America,”, November 5, 2015, <> accessed on November 9, 2015.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Senator Sessions.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Kearns.
[8] Senator Sessions.
[9] Kevin L. Kearns, “GOP shipwreck in the Pacific,”, October 13, 2015, <> accessed on November 12, 2015.


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


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