Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Facts and Figures for SOTU Prep

TPP protest

President Barack Obama is expected to prioritize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in his State of the Union address. The TPP text was finally released in November after seven years of secretive talks during which this Washington Post infographic shows 500 U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests had special access. Congress, the public and press were shut out. Now everyone can read the controversial deal that could undermine many landmark achievements of Obama’s presidency and thus his legacy on jobs and economic recovery, climate, healthcare access, gay equality, financial reform, the U.S. auto industry rescue and more. Only six of the TPP’s 30 chapters deal with traditional trade matters. As this recent New Yorker piece describes, the rest require limits on food, financial and other regulations, provide drug firms new monopolies and expand the contentious investor-state dispute settlement system.

Zero U.S. Economic Growth from TPP:

The Department of Agriculture issued the administration’s only major study on TPP’s economic impact and found it would result in 0.00% increased U.S. growth if all tariffs on all products were eliminated, which did not occur. The United States already has free trade deals in place with Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Chile, and Singapore, which collectively represent over 80 percent of the trade counted in the oft-touted line about the TPP covering 40 percent of world trade. Even the major pro-TPP study found that in 2025 U.S. growth rates only would be .4 percent higher with TPP in effect – even using a model that assumed full employment and no increased income inequality. Yet, since the 1940s, standard economic theory has held that trade liberalization is likely to increase inequality in developed countries like the United States.

Increased Income Inequality:

A recent study finds the TPP would spell a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of Americans by exacerbating income inequality, as past trade deals have done. That would contradict Obama’s 2015 SOTU inequality reduction goal. Macroeconomic theory predicts if Americans face more competition from workers in Vietnam who make less than 65 cents/hour, wages will be pushed down. Sixty percent of manufacturing workers losing jobs to trade who find reemployment face pay cuts, with one in three losing more than 20 percent, per U.S. DoL data. There is academic consensus trade has contributed to the major rise in inequality.

American Jobs at Risk:

The TPP includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore U.S. jobs to low wage nations. The pro-free trade Cato Institute calls these investor protections a subsidy on offshoring. The administration stopped claiming the TPP would create jobs after a four Pinocchio rating by the Washington Post fact checker. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities have closed and five million U.S. manufacturing jobs–one in four–were lost with more than 875,000 U.S. workers certified under just one narrow U.S. Department of Labor program.

Export Claims:

Obama’s most recent free trade agreement (FTA) served as the TPP’s template and also was sold as a way to create “more exports, more jobs.” Three years into the U.S.-Korea Free FTA, the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea was up more than 90 percent as exports fell 7 percent and imports surged. The United States ran a $177.5 billion goods trade deficit, with its 20 FTA partners in 2014, the last year data is available. The growth rate of exports FTA partners has been 20 percent lower than U.S. exports to the rest of the world the last decade. In his 2010 SOTU, Obama said he would double exports in five years. But given our paltry annual export growth rate, the export-doubling goal would not be reached until 2057 – 43 years behind schedule. The TPP=18,000

Tax Cuts Red Herring:

In the face of the Korea FTA’s flop, the administration has tried to shift focus to a “tax cut” narrative to sell the TPP with a mantra about 18,000 tax cuts for U.S. exported goods. But last year, the U.S. only exported goods in less than half of the 18,000 tariff categories. By using the raw number of tariff lines cut with respect to the five nations with which we do not already have FTAs (Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei), the administration distracts from the real question: does 18,000 tariff cuts equate to more U.S. exports or jobs? For the nearly 7,500 categories of goods out of the claimed 18,000 for which we did sell anything, almost 50 percent had sales under $500,000. Many items we simply do not sell, including those that the administration claims the TPP’s weak environmental chapter will help conserve. Among the 18,000 tax cuts are Malaysia’s shark fin tariffs, Vietnam’s whale meat tariffs, and Japan’s ivory tariffs. The administration’s “TPP Guide to 18,000 Tax Cuts” document also bizarrely highlights goods TPP nations simply do not buy in volume from anyone. Consider the 34 percent “tax” cut by Vietnam on Alaskan caviar. In 2014, Vietnam’s per capita GDP was about $2,000 and about $150,000 worth of caviar was imported by Vietnam from anywhere. Or Vietnam’s 5 percent tariff on skis from Colorado. Vietnam only imported about $50,000 in skis in total. Other highlights: Vietnam and Japan will eliminate their tariffs on silkworm cocoons, Brunei will cut its tariff on ski boots, and Vietnam will eliminate its tariff on camels. Almost 2,000 of the tariff reductions in the products we do sell won’t be realized for over a decade or more, including beef and pork to Japan.

Read the full document on Public Citizen.

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