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Twelve trade representatives, some of whom are pictured above, signed the TPP on February 4th in New Zealand. Now, all 12 Pacific Rim countries will be able to begin their respective domestic ratification processes, which in the U.S. means passage by Congress. (Photo: US Embassy/flickr/cc)

With TPP 'At Heart' of Obama Agenda, Critics Debunk Trade Talking Points

Facing an uphill battle to convince Congress and public, White House says 2016 will be 'historic year for US trade policy'

Deirdre Fulton

The White House is gearing up for a full-court press in support of the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), launching its latest public relations campaign in favor of the deal on Wednesday with a "flashy" annual trade agenda.

The TPP is "at the heart of this agenda," declares the document (pdf) released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

The 2016 blueprint also highlights the administration's efforts to conclude other controversial trade agreements, including the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and Europe and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated by the U.S., EU, and 22 other countries that account for two-thirds of global GDP.

"We expect this to be an historic year for U.S. trade policy," said USTR Michael Froman.

So too do opponents of what WikiLeaks has called "the United States' strategic neoliberal 'trade' treaty triumvirate."

Indeed, watchdog group Public Citizen put out a memo on Wednesday debunking several of the Obama administration's TPP talking points.

For example, while the USTR claims the TPP will "cut over 18,000 taxes on Made-in-America exports, support more high-paying U.S. jobs, and promote both our interests and our values," Public Citizen points out that the TPP "includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore U.S. jobs to low wage nations."

According to the memo:

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.

Public Citizen also on Wednesday put out a video suggesting that with members of Congress across the political spectrum lined up "staunchly against the deal," the TPP is dead-on-arrival.

At the end of last month, President Barack Obama said that he was "cautiously optimistic" that Congress would pass the TPP, while acknowledging that opposition in both parties and election politics could slow down the effort.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is among other leaders who have said that the TPP is unlikely to get a vote until after the November elections. Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump have all expressed opposition to the deal.

In February, at the end of the negotiating process, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged her colleagues "to reject the TPP and stop an agreement that would tilt the playing field even more in favor of big multinational corporations and against working families."

Noting that "most of the TPP's 30 chapters don't even deal with traditional trade issues," she argued, "most of TPP is about letting multinational corporations rig the rules on everything from patent protection to food safety standards—all to benefit themselves."

Just last week, environmentalists pointed to a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on India's rapidly growing solar energy program as evidence of the TPP's potential harms.

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