2/19/2014, "Specter of NAFTA haunts Obama," Politico, Eric Bradner
"President Barack Obama just can’t shake NAFTA’s ghost. As Obama met neighboring heads of state for their annual summit in Mexico on Wednesday, the three leaders underscored their efforts to leave the 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement in the history books by fixing its failings in a broader Pacific Rim deal [TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership].
But every time the president tells a home audience he’s working on a bigger and better approach to international trade, Democrats and public interest groups only seem to hear “NAFTA on steroids.”
Obama is pushing to complete the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP], which would link North America with Asian countries like Japan. But to get his way, the president will have to sell the American public and the congressional leaders of his own party on the notion that the deal is an escape from NAFTA’s mistakes, rather than just an expansion of its reach.
What’s his fellow Democrats’ take on the likelihood of that happening?
“Nonsense,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York.
“In all the time I’ve been in Congress, I have never seen a trade bill that benefited the American producer or the American worker. It’s all been give-away, and we really can’t afford that anymore,” she said. “People are sick and tired of the one-way trade deal.”
The pressure is building as the administration’s top trade negotiators head to Singapore for meetings this week, where they’ll try to break the remaining impasses and finish the deal, and the White House lobbies Congress for the authority to “fast-track” the agreement to a vote without amendments.
A big piece of Obama’s legacy depends on his administration’s success on those items: Will he be the president who remade the free trade mold, for better or worse, or will political opposition leave his efforts to drift, unresolved?
Before meeting with Mexican President Pena Nieto on Wednesday, Obama touted the pan-Pacific deal as an “opportunity to open up new markets in the fastest, most populous region of the world – the Asia Pacific region.”
What’s more, it’s a chance to carry out Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, adding labor rights and environmental protections to its mix of provisions. In fact, the Pacific deal’s higher standards would effectively replace NAFTA."...
[Ed. note: No link to substantiate this. In any case, how could Politico know this? Virtually no one has been allowed to read the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership: "Obama has pledged to make the TPP public but only after the legislation has passed." Some general TTP features are known, such as it "lacks an absolutely key component to keep it from doing potential damage to the US economy...a set of restrictions and/or enforceable penalties against member countries that engage in currency manipulation. Currency manipulation is one of the key driving forces behind the high and rapidly rising U.S. trade deficit with the 11 other members of the TPP. In 2015, the U.S. deficit with TPP countries translated into 2 million U.S. jobs lost, more than half (1.1 million) of which were in manufacturing." Later in this article Politico even says important TPP issues still haven't been worked out.]
(continuing): "At the joint press conference Wednesday, Obama touted the three countries’ commitments to completing the pan-Pacific deal [TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership], “including strong protections for our workers and the environment, so that we can compete in the fast-growing markets in the Asia Pacific.”
Obama’s senior aides are renewing efforts this week to push the message that the Pacific Rim deal made up for past omissions.
On Air Force One, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, pitched the pan-Pacific deal as one that would “elevate the standards that were absent from the NAFTA agreement so that we are dealing with issues like labor and environmental standards that are important to 21st century trade.”
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman sounded a similar theme during a speech at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday....
(p. 2) So far, though, liberal-leaning groups like the AFL-CIO and Sierra Club, as well as the Democratic lawmakers who support their agendas, aren’t buying it.
“Twenty years after NAFTA, we are now getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership forced on us, with the same kinds of incentives to outsource jobs that will leave American workers at the mercy of a race to the bottom,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.), a leading liberal critic of Obama’s trade agenda.
Part of Obama’s public relations problem is that the Pacific trade talks have run up against an obstacle in Japan. Tokyo is balking at North American calls to drop its agricultural tariffs, and trade experts say that’s causing a chain reaction among other countries, which are holding back on making their own concessions while they wait to see what happens.
As a result, chapters on issues important to the Obama administration, such as labor, environmental and intellectual property protections covering everything from pharmaceutical patents to movie and music copyrighting, must still be sorted out.
So the discussion has focused on the more tangible questions of market access: Will U.S. sugar growers have to give up quotas that block Australian imports? Will Nike win a victory over New England-based New Balance and be allowed to make more shoes in Vietnam? Those debates sound the same now as they did when NAFTA was negotiated.
Administration officials defended Obama’s credibility, saying the president has already scored some successes in his quest for a new high-standard take on trade....
The president’s position, Froman said, was influential as world leaders decided to refocus their long-foundering efforts to ink a “Doha round” deal at the World Trade Organization. Members instead worked on a trade facilitation agreement, which they completed in December, that is expected to boost developing countries’ exports.
“The entire membership of the WTO struck its first multilateral agreement in the organization’s history, and President Obama’s early vision for a break with old ways of approaching trade had a lot to do with that,” Froman said.
Meanwhile, outside the WTO’s walls in Geneva, the United States is involved in global talks to expand trade in services, information technology and “green” energy products. Those deals involve dozens of countries and could eventually be adopted by the full WTO.
Adding to Obama’s ambitions, the administration is also working on a trans-Atlantic pact [TTIP] that is even larger than the Pacific deal and would reduce regulatory differences and tariffs between the United States and the European Union.
However, trade skeptics such as Slaughter and DeLauro say there are reasons to doubt the president.
Slaughter pointed to the deal Obama inked with South Korea. The U.S. trade deficit with South Korea has increased 56 percent to $20.6 billion since 2011, the year before that pact took effect, her office said.
And there’s the “NAFTA on steroids” label, applied persistently by critics. Although free trade advocates say trade among the three nations has soared under the deal, Global Citizen’s Lori Wallach, a critic of NAFTA and the Pacific deal, said a study her group released this month found a 556 percent increase in the United States’ trade deficit with Canada and Mexico since NAFTA took effect.
“If you are a president battling to overcome bipartisan congressional skepticism about giving you special trade authority to fast-track a massive 12-nation NAFTA expansion,” she said, “it is really not helpful to be visiting Mexico for a summit of NAFTA-nation leaders.”"
Added: Rep. Louise Slaughter, Democrat, Upstate NY, has served in US Congress since 1987 (29 years):
"Her concern for the people of Rochester, especially those in manufacturing jobs, has led her to battle against every free trade agreement, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
These agreements have caused Rochester businesses serious harm and led to widespread hardship in local communities."...