Fiore Grassetti: TPP undermines Obama's legacy


SPRINGFIELD >> President Barack Obama's last State of the Union address was a call for a policy that contradicts the achievements of his presidency.

He asked Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial "trade" deal that would undermine Obama's legacy of economic recovery, climate, health care access, LGBT equality, financial reform, and the rescue of the U.S. auto industry.

The final TPP text was finally released in November after seven years of secret negotiations during which 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests had special access and Congress, the public and press were shut out.

Promotes off-shoring

While President Obama boasted about the American jobs he has created, the TPP makes it cheaper and less risky to offshore more American jobs to low wage countries like Vietnam and Malaysia where the minimum wage is less than one dollar per hour.

Massachusetts has lost more than 173,000 manufacturing jobs — more than 40 percent — since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization agreements took effect. Nearly five million manufacturing jobs have been lost nationwide. A recent economic study concluded that after potential gains and losses, the TPP could cost another 450,000 American jobs.

U.S. manufacturing workers that lose jobs to trade and find reemployment are typically forced to take pay cuts. Three of every five who were rehired in 2014 took home smaller paychecks, and one in three lost greater than 20 percent, according to Department of Labor data.

The richest 10 percent in Massachusetts are now capturing nearly half of all income in the state — a degree of inequality not seen in 100 years. Study after study has produced an academic consensus that status quo trade has contributed to today's unprecedented rise in income inequality. NAFTA-style pacts have promoted the offshoring of well-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs, causing broad middle-class wage stagnation as trade-displaced workers compete for lower-paying, non-offshoreable service sector jobs.

While President Obama deserves credit for reviving our economy after the financial crisis, the only official U.S. government study modeling TPP's outcomes, published by the Department of Agriculture, finds that the TPP would deliver zero percent economic growth. The TPP would even undermine the president's rescue of the U.S. auto industry, which saved thousands of U.S. jobs.

So why is President Obama pushing the TPP? He said it provides tax cuts on 18,000 products and thus would boost exports. But we already have free trade deals that cut these taxes with the TPP countries accounting for 80 percent of the TPP bloc's economic activity. And we do not even sell a majority of the 18,000 products that get the tax cuts.

Good for Wall Street

President Obama also said we need TPP to counter China. But the final TPP text rolls back national security language included in all past U.S. trade deals for a decade. And, the TPP rules would undermine our national interests and weaken us by providing benefits for firms that offshore American jobs, give banks new tools to roll back Wall Street regulations, and empower foreign firms to "sue" the U.S. government and raid our Treasury over our health and environmental policies.

The TPP is the opposite of Obama's 2008 campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA. Obama must choose between his agenda and its legacy, or the TPP: he cannot have both.

Fiore Grassetti is the president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO in Springfield.


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