Political Focus: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Melissa Deatsch, Political Columnist

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Last Wednesday marked the end of the debates for the 2016 election season. Looking back on the issues repeatedly discussed throughout the primaries and presidential debates, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has repeatedly come up in conversation.

On multiple occasions, Trump has slammed Clinton for calling the TPP “the gold standard” of trade deals when it was still in negation. Clinton said that after the deal was finalized, her position changed.

This week’s Political Focus examines the TPP and why both major-party candidates oppose it.

Why is it such a big deal?

Because it’s literally a big deal. The trade deal involves 12 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Cumulatively, these 12 nations have a population of about 800 million and are already responsible for 40 percent of world trade, as reported by the BBC.

What are the goals of the TPP?

The TPP aims to create deeper economic ties between its nations. It will essentially reduce tariffs (taxes on imports), encourage trade and address multiple 21st-century problems.

U.S. supporters say that the TPP would increase American exports and support well-paying American jobs. Additionally, the 30-chapter trade deal would set the standard on many American values like protecting workers, the environment and human rights.

Effect on tariffs?

The BBC reports that the TPP would affect about 18,000 tariffs. Some would be reduced immediately, and others would be implemented over time. For example, countries that sign the deal will reduce or eliminate taxes on agricultural goods.

The pro-TPP argument is that eliminating these taxes would make trade easier overseas, therefore allowing major growth to American businesses, which would then drive job growth.

Tariffs were originally put in place to protect domestic businesses from cheaper products imported from other countries. In the past, tariffs have been a huge revenue booster for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

By addressing 18,000 tariffs, the TPP would affect most markets.

What 21st-century problems?

Negotiators of the TPP say one major goal of the deal is to create labor and environmental standards for each country involved.

The deal would require nations to enforce the same standards that the U.S. has implemented for years.

For example, participating countries would be required to allow unions, eliminate unfair child labor and implement a minimum wage.

These worker standards, along with many more laid out in the deal, would effectively “level the playing field” for American businesses.

The deal also requires signatories to allow free access to the internet to ensure the “free flow of global information,” according to the TPP’s website.

So why do people oppose it?

An independent study released in January said the deal would indeed lift U.S. incomes, exports and growth, but would not add to overall employment.

Trump has promised to demolish the deal. Clinton said upon finalization that it no longer passed her “test.”

On both sides of the aisle, opponents are pointing to the report’s claim that the deal will create a loss of jobs in certain industries, specifically manufacturing. Some say that the deal will cause more companies to take their production overseas, and majorly damage certain industries, namely the auto industry.

Trump has opposed the deal, saying it’s weak and gives away much of the U.S.’s power. He has also said it will further push businesses overseas and make it easier for foreign competitors to ship cheap goods into the U.S., while “allowing foreign countries to continue putting barriers in front of our exports.”

Clinton has explained her flip on the deal by saying that the finalized version does not crack down on currency manipulation. She said that after examining the final deal, “it didn’t meet [her] standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans.”

Because Clinton supported the TPP during its negotiation stages, there is some skepticism that even though she says she opposes it now, she will support it once elected.

What’s next?

To be implemented, the deal must be ratified by at least six countries that account for 85 percent of the group’s total economic output. This means that if Japan and the U.S. are not on board, years of negotiations will effectively be erased.

The TPP has been finalized and now awaits ratification in Congress. It has been fast-tracked, meaning lawmakers can only reject it or ratify it in its current form.

Supporters pushed for a lame-duck vote, so Congress will vote on the issue after the election and their successors have been elected.