Broken promises on trade

In his State of the Union address and in recent statements, President Obama’s comments on trade policy included both hard truths and misplaced optimism.

While urging Congress to grant him “fast track” authority for the massive and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, Obama accurately noted, “Look, I'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype.”

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However, the president also engaged in more of the same “hype” about the TPP, stating, “give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers” and noting, “More than half of manufacturing executives have said they're actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let's give them one more reason to get it done.”

Unfortunately, the TPP would neither “protect American workers” nor bring jobs “back from China.” Assessing what we know of the massive TPP only affirms what we’ve learned the hard way through past broken promises on trade pacts – it’s a bad deal for American workers.

In fact, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker wrote that the very study the administration uses to support the claim of job creation shows “the correct number is zero... Administration officials earn Four Pinocchios for their fishy math.”

The TPP is a massive trade pact negotiated between the United States and eleven other countries, together totaling 40 percent of the world’s economy. Our experience with the last two decades of broken promises made on behalf of earlier trade deals, reminds us we must have a rigorous and open debate about the TPP and reject attempts to “fast track” the TPP in Congress.

Past trade agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA, have failed to deliver on stated promises to create good U.S. jobs, increase trade surpluses, improve workers’ and human rights, and establish a cleaner and more sustainable environment. There is nothing in the TPP to show it will be different than the previous record of broken promises.

Let’s look at the record. Before NAFTA’s passage, the White House said the agreement would create over 200,000 jobs in the U.S. by 1995. Yet a report by Public Citizen to mark NAFTA’s 20th anniversary found that the U.S. experienced a net loss of over 1 million jobs due to the trade deal.

The story is much the same regarding trade deficits – while trade pact supporters have told us that we will boost exports and lower trade deficits, our overall trade deficits have increased. For example, in 1993, the year before NAFTA went into effect, the United States had a $1.6 billion trade surplus in goods with Mexico. By 1995, just one year after NAFTA went into effect, we had a deficit of $16.8 billion.

The litany of broken promises extends beyond jobs and trade deficits. False promises regarding human rights and labor standards helped pass trade agreements involving

Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Bahrain – and many studies and organizations, including by the U.S. government itself continue to document child and forced labor, non-existent labor standards and more.

Congress is granted the constitutional authority to provide important oversight and approval to trade legislation. Yet the TPP has been negotiated largely in secret – what we do know about many of its troubling provisions come through leaks rather than a seat at the negotiating table. According to the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), he and committee chair Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDem: Ex-lawmaker tried to pin me to elevator door and kiss me Two months later: Puerto Rico doesn’t have power, education or economy running again On Capitol Hill, few name names on sexual harassment MORE (R-Wis.) share concern that the TPP and its negotiations lack critical transparency.

Yet at the same time these transparency concerns are being raised, the Obama administration is simultaneously asking Congress to provide “fast track” authority and cede their role and input on key policy provisions.

Congress should not take, or cede, their responsibility lightly. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is too secretive and potentially too damaging to be rushed through Congress via “fast track” authority. Based on the past two decades of broken trade promises and “trust me” assurances from past presidents, our country can no longer take that chance.

Sanchez represents California’s 46th Congressional District and has served in the House since 1997. She is ranking member on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and also sits on the Homeland security Committee. She is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam and a member of the Human Rights Caucus.