I feel the TPP represents an opportunity for us, because today we have an opportunity to rewrite the rules of international trade in a way that protects workers rights, environmental standards and workplace safety with enforceable standards.
Many liberals and Democrats fear the Asia (Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP) and Europe (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP) trade deals Obama is negotiating, arguing that, just like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they would undercut the interests of American workers and put them at a competitive disadvantage.
NAFTA was flawed in not adequately addressing concerns about labor rights or environmental protection. However, the Europe and Asia deals present new opportunities and challenges, and we should not judge them based on the history of NAFTA and its perhaps unintended consequences.
And we should not second-guess the motivations of the most pro-worker President in generations based on a 20-year old agreement crafted during the Bush and Reagan administrations and only finalized under President Clinton.
The fact that Republican support for TPP dwindled after the final text was released last month -- Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch both campaigned in favor of fast-track authority this summer, but criticized the final draft -- should be a reassuring sign that Obama's negotiating team did not cave to corporate outsourcers. Also, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who criticized early TPP drafts, has been silent since the final text was released, which is reassuring.
In addition, China is hoping to craft a rival Common Market-style trade deal within Asia, and if we do not forge greater trade and economic ties with Europe and Asia, China will step in and do so, and they most likely would not support the kinds of environmental or labor protections that we (sometimes) do, which would likely accelerate a “race to the bottom” with regard to worker interests everywhere.