Congress should hold a vote for TPP

John O'Neill

Obstructionist Republicans and protectionist Democrats are determined to deny President Barack Obama a congressional vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. This agreement, signed by 12 countries this past February, would affect 40 percent of world trade and it would be a terrible disadvantage were the United States left on the outside looking in.

The irony is that a majority of Congress, Republicans combined with Democrats breaking ranks with their party’s protectionist agenda, support TPP. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, are determined not to bring TPP to a vote so as to deny Obama a major victory at the end of his presidency.

And passage of TPP would be a major victory for Obama. So far, the two highlights of his presidency, the Affordable Care Act and the nuclear deal with Iran, are of dubious worth. Regarding the Affordable Care Act, making it the law for citizens to obtain health care coverage smacks of an over-reaching government and is a boon to the insurance companies. As for the Iran nuclear deal, the ayatollahs are still left armed and dangerous.

But TPP is an obvious asset. As stated, the agreement encompasses 40 percent of world trade. And it would be especially beneficial to the agriculture industry here in Michigan.

So TPP would not be just a victory for Obama. It would be a victory for the country, as it would bring down tariff walls in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas. Regarding the argument that TPP would enable U.S. manufacturers to move production to the cheap labor markets of Mexico and Asia, that is already an option for American industry and is in no way enhanced by TPP.

Moreover, there is plenty of incentive for industry to keep production here in the U.S. While much was made about Ford’s recent announcement of a new plant opening in Mexico, these same voices deliberately overlook the billions Ford has invested in the United States (even under the auspices of the much maligned North American Free Trade Agreement).

Indeed, global investment by the auto industry is crucial to local investment. That is why Asian and European auto companies have invested so much in the U.S. Were auto companies not to invest where their products sell, there would be less capital to invest in the home markets. And this is just as true for the U.S. auto industry as it is for Europe and Asia.

As for TPP, it would enhance the flow of trade to the benefit of each of the 12 signatory countries. And it is inexcusable that it has not been brought to a vote in Congress.

The Republicans who otherwise support TPP are playing a dangerous political game. After all, it is pretty much now or never to pass TPP. Obama will be succeeded by either Donald Trump (whose opposition to TPP is rabid) or Hillary Clinton (who let Bernie Sanders bully her during the primaries into going back on her previous support for TPP).

History vindicates open trade as a benefit to the standard of living worldwide. By denying a vote on TPP, Congress will enjoy no such vindication.

John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.