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Progressive Flank Refuses to Accept Obama's Relentless Pitch on TPP

President Barack Obama is expected to prioritize corporate-friendly trade deals in his final State of the Union address Tuesday night

Environmentalists have noted that the TPP would undermine many recent goals set out during the Paris climate talks. (Photo: Steven Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Environmentalists have noted that the TPP would undermine many recent goals set out during the Paris climate talks. (Photo: Steven Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Inciting preemptive pushback from advocacy groups, organized labor, and some Democratic lawmakers, President Barack Obama is expected to beat the drum for the corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in his State of the Union (SOTU) address on Tuesday night.

His sales pitch for the 12-nation "free-trade" deal comes on the heels of three major business endorsements for the pact, and in advance of three days of testimony at the U.S. International Trade Commission covering the gamut of opinions on the deal, as Politico reports.

But TPP opponents plan to make sure their voices and concerns are heard.

On Monday, a group of House Democrats, labor organizers, and environmentalists held a pre-SOTU press conference previewing the address "not with a show of solidarity with their White House ally" but with a condemnation of the TPP, The Hill reported

"Tomorrow night at the State of the Union, the President will promote this agreement before Congress and the American people," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said during the event. "But we know TPP is too dangerous for us simply to stand aside and let it pass. While the Administration has called it the most progressive agreement in history, the details of the TPP tell a very different story—one that spells danger for our middle class."

Added AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler: "Our trade agreements should advance an economy that creates good jobs in America. Unfortunately, the TPP doesn’t even come close to that goal. It's a corporate giveaway, putting jobs at risk rather than growing opportunity for all. We will not stand by while another trade deal lines the pockets of CEOs at the expense of working people."

Indeed, the contents of the deal, released in full last fall after five years of secret negotiations, confirmed the worst fears of environmentalists, public health advocates, and digital rights activists: the TPP, they said, was "worse than anything we could've imagined."

As a centerpiece of Obama's economic agenda, the undemocratic deal falls flat, watchdog group Public Citizen noted in advance of the speech, citing a recent study (pdf) that found the TPP would exacerbate income inequality and translate into a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of Americans. This, they pointed out, "would contradict Obama’s 2015 SOTU inequality reduction goal."

In Tuesday's address, Obama is likely to focus on "a 'tax cut' narrative to sell the TPP," Public Citizen predicted, or to pitch the deal as foreign policy imperative and "a bulwark against China."

Both claims are spurious, the organization argues.

"While U.S. concerns about the implications of China's rising economic power and influence are legitimate, the notion that the establishment—or not—of any specific U.S. trade agreement would control this process is contradicted by the record," Public Citizen said, citing the outcomes (pdf) of claims that past trade pacts would counter economic gains by Japan, Europe, and China in trade-partner markets.

"And the TPP certainly is not about the U.S. writing the rules versus China doing so," the group stated. "The TPP's rules are those demanded by its 500 official corporate trade advisers and promote more U.S. job offshoring and ban the application of Buy American preferences, further gutting the U.S. manufacturing base, even as a recent U.S. Department of Defense report warned that U.S. de-industrialization poses a threat to national security."

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