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Take a Real Look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA

On March 1, President Obama released his 2012 Trade Policy Agenda and reiterated his commitment to move "full-speed ahead" in finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP).  You may never have heard of the TPP—millions of your fellow Americans certainly haven’t. 

That is why the American Prospect’s special report on the TPP, Pacific Illusions, is so important.  Pacific Illusions shows how, so far, it doesn’t look like the TPP fixes the problems with U.S. trade policy that have been hurting workers for the past 20 years, which means the TPP could be a big mistake. 

Just what is the TPP anyway?  It’s a trade agreement between the United States and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.  The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has called it “an ambitious, 21st-century” agreement. 

If passed, it would be the biggest free trade agreement since NAFTA, and that’s before including Japan, Mexico and Canada, which are waiting in the wings to join.  With an unemployment rate of more than 8 percent, and 2.8 million jobs lost to trade with China over the past decade, America’s workers have every right to be wary—is the TPP the right answer to create good jobs in America?

Before we raise our glasses to celebrate the success of this “economic stimulus at no cost to the taxpayers,” as the USTR has described it, America’s workers should take a closer look. We’ve heard hollow promises about the widespread benefits of trade in the past. Is this agreement finally one that is going to create jobs and increase exports as promised?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much publically available information about the TPP, given the secrecy not only of the text, but also of the negotiating goals and the way the press is largely ignoring the negotiating process.  However, what little information is available should be cause for concern. At the very least it indicates that the USTR’s definition of a “high-standard, 21st century agreement” is very different than working Americans’ definition. 

Pacific Illusions should be required reading for everyone interested in why the global economy isn’t working for them.  After you’ve read it, tell your member of Congress that you’re paying attention to the TPP and he or she should be, too.

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