Op-Ed: Obama goes ballistic over TPP free trade deal critics

Posted Apr 26, 2015 by Ken Hanly
There is bipartisan support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) free trade involving 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region but many US liberals, environmentalists, and unions are against the deal.
US President Barack Obama gives a press conference during the VII Americas Summit in Panama City on ...
US President Barack Obama gives a press conference during the VII Americas Summit in Panama City on April 11, 2015
Raul Arboleda, AFP
In a recent speech, Obama went as far as to compare his left critics' arguments to conspiracy theories about the "death panels" raised by some on the right about Obamacare. He claimed that his critics did not know what they were talking about. Obama is hoping to get "fast track" authority which would prevent Congress from amending the treaty with only the ability to pass or vote down the final result. Critics argue that the TPP would benefit corporations and also foreign countries at the expense of US workers. Certainly, capital would be the main beneficiary of the deal. As with earlier deals that are part of globalization they result in capital moving to areas where conditions are most favorable to it. This deal is also meant to give US multinationals an advantage over China since China is not part of the deal.
The TTP has been in the process of negotiation for a decade now. In spite of Obama's claim that the text of the deal has been available for some time, critics have long complained about the secrecy surrounding negotiations. It has been leakage of the documents including leaks through Wikileaks that critics have discovered details of what is being negotiated. Obama may be referring to general summaries that have been released: General outlines and summaries of the agreement have been provided by those conducting negotiations, but the full text of the agreement has been kept secret. However, some portions of the full agreement have been leaked to the public.
In spite of the opposition of many in the Democratic base of environmentalists, unions, and liberals, Obama presented a narrative about helping the working class: “When people say that this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about. So I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families. Some of these folks are friends of mine. I love them to death. But in the same way that when I was arguing for health care reform I asked people to look at the facts – somebody comes up with a slogan like ‘death panel,’ doesn’t mean it’s true. Look at the facts. The same thing is true on this. Look at the facts. Don’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there and see if it sticks,” Obama even said there was nothing secret about the deal in spite of the fact that much of what is known about it comes from illegally leaked documents.
Becky Bond, of CREDO Action, claimed with others that Obama's remarks were beneath the presidency noting . “It’s ironic that he claims critics of the TPP ‘don’t know what they’re talking about’ when it’s his administration that is refusing to release the text of his secret trade agreement to the public or even to members of Congress,” Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future said: “The president is frustrated. He’s losing the argument and he’s crosswise with his supporters and it’s unfortunate that he’s basically calling people names.It’s not smart politics to insult the people who have been your supporters, and especially with something like death panels. Most of the people who are fighting Obama’s trade policy are the people who were fighting back against the right-wingers who called his health plan ‘death panels."
The White House just keeps to its own line that the TPP is the most progressive trade deal in history and includes strict labor and environmental protects. It does not mention the laws in particular countries which went beyond those strict regulations would face challenges as being illegitimate barriers to trade. The White House spokesperson went on to praise Obama's impeccable progressive credentials. After all, he promised to close Guantanamo and has a marvelous health care plan including an individual mandate first thought up by the Heritage Institute a right-wing think tank. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson crowed: “The president has rightly built up significant credibility with progressives all across the country. And he feels confident in making the case to them and to the rest of the American people that the kind of agreement that he seeks is clearly in the best interest of American businesses, American workers and American middle class families,The president isn’t doing this because he enjoys the support of the Chamber of Commerce, he’s doing this because he has earned the support of middle class families across the country. And he’s earned that support by using the power of the presidency to go and fight for them." Notice the emphasis upon middle class families a theme that will no doubt continue throughout the Democratic election campaign.
Hillary Clinton has said little on the issue, but earlier she had high praise for Obama's proposed trade agreements including the TPP. and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Spokesperson for the White House Eric Schultz said that he had seen no distance between Clinton's position and that of the Obama administration. Even if Clinton does decide that the political winds in the Democratic Party demand criticism of the bill, this will be for purely political purposes. As a candidate for the presidency in 2008 Barack Obama criticized NAFTA and insisted he would renegotiate it if elected. At the same time, his aides met with Canadian authorities to assure them that his rhetoric was "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy." Elizabeth Warren responded to Obama's criticism with a letter pointing out how wrong Obama was in description of the deal and his critics. She noted that the details of the deal were classified and called upon him to declassify them noting that the Obama administration was more secretive on this trade deal than the Bush administration had been on his deals. But then who does Warren support for president but Hillary Clinton. No matter what happens within the two parties both supported, lobbied, and to a considerable extent funded by giant corporations, government of the people, for the corporations, by the corporations is likely to continue for the foreseeable future in the US. Elizabeth Warren's interview illustrates some of the facts that guarantee this.