WASHINGTON—Reactions ranging from praise to condemnation greeted the announcement that the U.S. and 11 other nations had reached a final deal on the long-anticipated—and long-dreaded—Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation greeted the Oct. 5 news of the final agreement with cautious approval, saying it had the potential to boost international trade and aid both manufacturers and retail businesses.
However, groups including the United Steelworkers union, the United States Business and Industry Council and the Alliance for American Manufacturing blasted the agreement as a bad deal for U.S. workers and manufacturers.
The exact details of the trade agreement weren't immediately made public.
However, David French, NRF senior vice president for government relations, said the TPP had the potential to benefit his association's members.
“Trade agreements are vital for American retailers large and small,” French said. “They help merchants provide high-quality, low-cost goods to U.S. consumers and provide new overseas market opportunities for American companies and workers.
“International trade supports millions of jobs in the retail industry, and that number will only grow with passage of TPP,” he said.
Jay Timmons, NAM president and CEO, praised the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal in similar terms to French.
“The latest weak jobs report and the disappointing growth in the United States and globally underscore the urgent need to open new markets for manufacturers and all Americans,” Timmons said.
“Today's conclusion of the TPP agreement has the potential to reverse these trends if the deal achieves the priorities that the NAM has fought hard for years to accomplish,” he said.
But USW International President Leo W. Gerard was scathing in his assessment of the TPP, which his union has opposed from the beginning of negotiations.
“Although the deal has not been made available and will contain some new bells and whistles, from what we have seen and know, at its core the hastily concluded TPP deal will simply continue today's outdated, disastrous approach to trade,” Gerard said.
The dismal job creation numbers for U.S. manufacturing demonstrate that the U.S. has consistently been on the losing end of trade agreements, and all indications are that the TPP is just more of the same, according to Gerard.
He particularly criticized its provisions for rules of origin for the auto industry, which cover the sourcing of autos and auto parts from countries which are party to the agreement.
Although China is not a party to the TPP, the agreement's rules would allow it to join after ratification, according to Gerard.
“The language on rules of origin will put a smile on the faces of China's leaders,” he said. “China didn't get to write the rules in their favor because our American negotiators did it for them.”
USBIC President Kevin L. Kearns and AAM President Scott Paul also called the TPP a disaster for U.S. manufacturers and workers.
They condemned not only the rules of origin, but also the agreement's failure to address currency manipulation by other countries.
“The TPP is not free trade, and it is not fair trade,” Kearns said. “It is government-managed trade.”
According to Paul, the mild improvements to trade offered by the TPP are obliterated by its glaring omissions.
“The deal lowers tariffs and some other non-tariff barriers to trade, but the agreement apparently does nothing to prevent TPP members from manipulating their currencies to gain a trade advantage,” he said.
Furthermore, there are reports that the TPP considerably weakens the rules of origin requirements included in the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993, he said.
The TPP is expected to go to Congress early next year.
Congressional approval earlier this year of “fast-track” authority for President Barack Obama means that Congress cannot amend the agreement, but merely vote on it as is.
However, both liberal and conservative members of Congress are expressing grave doubts about the value of the TPP, for all of the reasons listed above and more.
“If there really is a deal, its fate in Congress is at best uncertain,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.