It appears that two major international trade agreements that President Barack Obama wanted to conclude before the end of his second term aren’t going to make it.
They are, first, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the 28 members of the European Union, and, second, the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico, but, notably, not China.
The French and the Germans have just walked away from the T-TIP, at least for the time being. No agreement has been reached on any of the accord’s 27 chapters.
The TPP is dead in the water, both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates having rejected it as it stands. The agreement seeks to broaden cooperation on trade rules and principles, increase mutual market access among the 12 signatories, and make regulation of trade among them more specific.
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Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump oppose it on the grounds that it would kill jobs in the U.S. or speed their export abroad.
Whether or not Trump wins the presidency, he has made trade and the loss of manufacturing jobs a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign and forced Clinton to adapt her own position on trade. Trump has consistently said that he is not a protectionist but that he wants fair trade – for China, for example, to allow in more U.S. products with lower tariffs. Or, for the U.S. to place higher tariffs on Chinese goods coming into this country.
This is not a radical position. Most Americans agree with it.
The trade and manufacturing issue is finally getting the attention it deserves in national politics.
By some estimates, as many as 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost in this country between 2000 and 2014. How many divorces and suicides does that represent? And how much lost economic fuel?
The total U.S. trade deficit in 2015 was $736 billion, which is approximately 4 percent of our GDP.
With the U.S. economy in the state it is in, and with a large portion of the American population victim to continuing economic inequality, it is natural for voters to be skeptical about trade agreements that might result in even more jobs being shipped offshore.
If a subsequent U.S. administration returns to the table on TTIP and TPP, it should insist on agreements that will more equitably balance U.S. trade and put the American worker first.