Reporters’ Memo: President’s Annual March Trade Agenda

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Reporters’ Memo: President’s Annual March Trade Agenda

Administration Continues to Use Debunked Talking Points to Sell TPP

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration released the 2016 Trade Policy Agenda today as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) faces increasing bipartisan opposition in the U.S. House and Senate. However, instead of addressing the growing chorus of concerns in the 2016 trade agenda, the administration continues to push debunked talking points to the American people in hopes of selling the controversial agreement.

Public Citizen has already debunked most of talking points included in the 2016 trade agenda report:

Debunked talking point: More than 18,000 tax cuts on Made-in-America exports.

·         Reality: The Obama administration is trying to shift focus to an impressive-sounding number with its mantra about TPP delivering “18,000 tax cuts for Made in America exports.” But that is just the raw number of tariff lines cut by the five TPP nations with which the United States does not already have free trade agreements (FTAs). The United States only sold goods to those nations in less than 7,500 of the 18,000 categories. Indeed, the United States exports no goods to any nation under some of the touted 18,000 tariff lines.

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Debunked talking point: The President’s trade agenda is focused on supporting U.S. jobs and raising wages.

  ·         Reality: 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.

There's something in the air...

Debunked Talking Point: Putting more money in middle class pockets.

·         Reality: 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 State of the Union 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 that trade has contributed to the major rise in inequality.

Debunked talking point: The TPP is preserving our environment.

·         Reality: The environmental groups that have celebrated Obama’s achievements with the global climate treaty and his decision to the stop the XL Pipeline call the TPP an act of “climate denial.” The pact would roll back the environmental standards that President George W. Bush was pressured into including in his trade deals. Indeed, in a recent Newsweek op-ed, the Cato Institute celebrated the TPP’s watered down environmental terms. Environmental groups listed on the White House website as supporting the deal, including NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife, in fact came out in opposition after seeing the final text.

Debunked talking point: The TPP is promoting our values.

·         Reality: While the Obama administration is celebrated for its defense of gay equality after dust-binning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and joining those announcing that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, it decided to allow Brunei to remain in the TPP even after the country announced that it would begin stoning to death gays and single mothers under new sharia-based laws. This has led to LGBTQ groups joining the TPP opposition.

Debunked talking point: The TPP is promoting the U.S. auto industry.

·         Reality: The TPP would threaten the president’s successful rescue of the U.S. auto industry and thousands of U.S. jobs. It would allow vehicles comprised mainly of Chinese and other non-TPP country parts and labor to gain duty free access. This would gut the rules of origin established in NAFTA that condition duty free access on 62.5 percent of value being from NAFTA countries. Ford has supported all past U.S. trade deals, but opposes the TPP.

Debunked talking point: 98 percent of U.S. exporters are small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

·         Reality: SMEs comprise most U.S. exporting firms simply because they constitute 99.7 percent of U.S. firms overall. However, only 3 percent of U.S. SMEs export any good to any country. In contrast, 38 percent of large U.S. firms are exporters. The relatively few small businesses that do actually export have seen even more disappointing export performance under FTAs than large firms have seen. U.S. small businesses have seen their exports to Korea decline even more sharply than large firms under the Korea FTA (a 14 percent versus 3 percent decrease), while small firms’ exports to Mexico and Canada under NAFTA have grown less than half as much as large firms’ exports. Indeed, small firms’ exports to all non-NAFTA countries have exceeded by more than 50 percent the growth of their exports to NAFTA partners.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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