President Obama sold ObamaCare by telling us "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan."
Now he is selling "ObamaTrade," the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), by telling us that "If we don't write the rules for the global economy, China will."
Once again, the White House spin doesn't line up with the facts. And once again, people who should know better are buying the spin.
The fact is, TPP will do nothing to curb China and will actually help China "write the rules."
We already see how the TPP has had the unintended consequence of tightening China's embrace of its neighbors.
China has invested billions in Vietnam to take advantage of the preferential access to the American market Vietnam will enjoy under the TPP, reports VietnamNet. China will be profiting from Vietnam's export sales — and using those profits to build its military and economic clout in the region.
China's investments in Vietnam have tied the neighbors together politically as well as economically. Ralph Jennings writes in Forbes that Hanoi is taking steps to prevent a repeat of the anti-China riots of 2011. The free-trade apologists who naively assert that nations that trade with each other don't go to war with each other can point to the burgeoning China-Vietnam partnership as Exhibit A.
China plans to use Vietnam to export to the U.S. not only goods it will make in Vietnam, but also to trans-ship goods that are made in China. The automobile industry is the prime example. China already makes the auto parts that go into the Japanese cars that will receive favorable treatment under the TPP. It is poised to build an automotive industry in Vietnam that will assemble parts made in China — and export them from Vietnam to the U.S. as a "most favored" TPP nation.
The administration wants us to believe that TPP will provide a counterweight to China's influence in the region. But that glosses over the inconvenient fact that China is widely expected to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama told Marketplace radio that China is already seeking entry into the ObamaTrade club, and Chinese officials have confirmed their interest.
Once China requests admission, it would be virtually impossible to stop it from joining the TPP. Congressional approval is not required under the rules set forth in the pact. (An amendment to fast-track legislation that would have required a Senate vote for China's admission was opposed by the administration and defeated.)
If you believe the U.S. would oppose other members on the TPP governing commission and object to China's accession, consider this: Taiwan has already made it clear that it wants in. When Taiwan formally requests admission, Beijing will invoke "One China," which has been official U.S. policy for five decades, to bargain for its own seat at the table.
Once inside the tent, China will have a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission, the governing body, as does every other member. But China will have an outsize influence, being the 500-pound gorilla next door to, not across the ocean from, the other members. They will be loath to defy their powerful neighbor and risk losing business and investment. In no short order, China will come to dominate the alliance that Obama has worked to build and push through Congress. This is the same strategy China has used to develop its technological and industrial prowess: Let the U.S. build it, then take it over.
The Obama administration has been touting ObamaTrade as a geopolitical and military curb on China. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has not so subtly compared the TPP to having "another aircraft carrier." China is building military bases astride sea lanes in the South China Sea, and the ObamaTrade "aircraft carrier" is needed to counter them, proponents say.
This reasoning may sound appealing on the surface, but on closer examination, it is patently absurd.
More than $5.3 trillion in trade passed through the South China Sea in 2011. "This trade route is crucial in manufacturers' supply chains and for energy supplies to Asia," the Nikkei Asian Review reports. In plain English, these are the trade routes China is using to build its economic muscle. It is through these routes that China imports energy and raw materials and exports finished goods for sale — often to us. China uses the money to build its military.
Is there nothing more absurd than sending our aircraft carriers to defend the trade routes China depends on to earn the money it uses to build its aircraft carrier-killing missiles?
As absurd as this sounds, this is exactly what the Obama administration is proposing.
But coming from an administration that told us we could keep our insurance if we liked it, and fighting climate change will defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it's not surprising.
Don't get fooled again.
Ellis is executive director of the American Jobs Alliance, an independent, nonpartisan not-for-profit organization. Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine and author of "Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World" (Prometheus Books).