Tonight’s vice presidential debate will almost certainly fixate on the differences between Indiana Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Trump lawyer offered six-point plan for Pence to overturn election: book Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE (R) and Virginia Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (D). But they have one thing in common — both have backpedaled their support for the historic and vital Trans-Pacific Partnership, otherwise known as TPP.
Before they became their respective party’s vice-presidential nominees and were thrust into the national spotlight, both leaders openly touted the benefits this deal and others created for their home states.
“I encourage your support for Trade Promotion Authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any other trade-related measures when they are brought before the Congress for consideration.”
Just days before he was tapped to be Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s running mate, Kaine gave the TPP a shining endorsement:
“I think it's (TPP) an upgrade of labor standards. I think it's an upgrade of environmental standards, I think it's an upgrade of intellectual property protections."
The Virginian also voted to give President Obama “fast-track” authority to get the deal done saying, "Why would I not give to this president the same tools to negotiate a trade deal that other presidents had?”
Flash forward to today, and Pence and Kaine now oppose the trade deal. Almost immediately following his elevation to the Republican presidential ticket, Pence backpedaled from his position saying:
“I think when we elect one of the best negotiators in the world as president of the United States, I’m open to renegotiating these trade agreements.”
Kaine says his reversed support stems from a “serious concern” he has regarding the enforcement of labor and environmental provisions. “We can’t have a deal that cannot be enforced. And so, for that reason, yeah, I’m going to oppose (TPP) in the lame duck if it comes up after election day,” Kaine said.
Despite Kaine’s newfound concerns, the TPP addresses more than just tariff barriers. Member states have environmental and labor obligations under the agreement and participants have recourse to legal action if another member breaks its commitments in those areas – something we currently cannot do.
So which version of Pence and Kaine is the American voter to believe?
It seems obvious that the politics of the moment — not the substance of the deal — are driving their evolving rhetoric.
But when we’re talking about our economy, creating jobs and fostering a climate where businesses can succeed and innovate, the American people deserve a much more substantive conversation about trade rather than a bombardment of misguided soundbites.
As the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, which I lead, and other tech groups recently wrote to congressional leaders in the House and Senate, passage of TPP has the potential to provide significant benefits to the tech sector and the entire U.S. economy.
The 12 nations that are part of the agreement are among the fastest growing economies in the world and account for 40 percent of global gross domestic product. U.S. technology companies alone exported $10 billion in goods and services to TPP markets in 2014.
The TPP will open or expand access to these key markets for the products, services and applications made by the companies CTA represents, and facilitate market access for the wide array of industries that rely on these technologies to conduct their own business.
Perhaps almost as important, the TPP would help the U.S. counterbalance China’s designs on boosting its influence in these countries and within the region.
This is a historic opportunity to expand U.S. economic leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. Failure to pass this agreement will not only disadvantage American companies and the Americans who work for them, but hamper the ability to negotiate new agreements or even improve existing ones.
Tonight’s debate will mark the only time between now and Election Day that Pence and Kaine will share the same stage and be subjected to answer direct questions about their positions.
The more the campaigns attack free trade, the more likely it is that companies will avoid doing business in America.
Pence and Kaine must return to their more welcoming attitude to free trade — and correct the opinions of the presidential candidates they serve — if the U.S. is to survive and thrive in this global economy
Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the Worlds Most Successful Businesses. Follow him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.
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