President Obama’s push for a TPP trade deal won’t help Ohio manufacturers


President Obama has spent the past six years negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal behind closed doors. The agreement, repeatedly touted as a boost for America’s manufacturers and workers, would open the U.S. market to a slew of imports from 11 nations, including Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.

In order to craft the TPP package, which now runs to thousands of pages, the president has relied on the advice of 600 non-governmental organizations, including many multinational corporations. Unfortunately, he has refused input from the one voice that should matter – the U.S. Congress. And that’s a real problem.

Since 2000, the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments. In Ohio alone, this has meant a $98 billion cumulative trade deficit over the past five years, with 350,000 good-paying factory jobs shed since 2000. This lost manufacturing has come at a real cost for Ohio’s middle class, and what should be paramount on the minds of our elected officials is how to rebuild this lost industrial capacity.

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 exports. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan reached $78 billon in 2013, costing an estimated 896,000 U.S. jobs.

President Obama, however, is insistent on “fast tracking” a completed TPP agreement past a submissive Congress. Worse, the president’s plan overlooks the bipartisan concerns of Members in both the House and Senate who have explicitly requested strong provisions on currency manipulation in the final agreement. Unfortunately, the president has ignored Congress, and one result of a signed TPP will be the surrender of much of what’s left of America’s manufacturing sector to foreign industries strongly aided by currency manipulation.

Thus the TPP represents not gains for American manufacturing but rather another giant step in the industry-by-industry giveaway of American manufacturing. Thankfully, the president’s request for fast track authority has met with stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, mainly from Democrats, but also from a sizable group of Republicans. All are justifiably troubled because the president has negotiated the TPP without incorporating a congressionally vetted set of instructions, and is simply seeking fast-track authority to slam-dunk the finished package.

If the past 20 years of “free trade” deals offer any preview, TPP won’t increase America’s sales to third world consumers, most of whom exist on a few dollars a day and can’t afford U.S. wares. However, they can flood our already import-saturated market with more goods produced at slave-labor wages. And so Ohio’s congressional representatives should say “no” to President Obama’s request for “fast track” authority and the poorly conceived TPP agreement. Otherwise, Ohio’s manufacturers and their workers could be among the biggest losers.