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Transcript: New Report Shows TPP Would Be Useless In Reining In China! - Lori Wallach 16 December '16
Thom Hartmann: And super pleased to have with me on the line Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, the website citizen.org/trade and you can tweet her @WallachLori, and Lori, there's another URL for you, for Global Trade Watch, isn't there?
Lori Wallach: Tradewatch.org
Thom Hartmann: Tradewatch.org. Bless you. Thank you. We've gotta reprogram Shawn to make sure that gets into the one sheet every day.
So, I found this headline fascinating: as Trump rattles US China policy, new report shows the TPP Would Have Proved Useless in Countering China’s Ambitions. The TPP was being sold to us by the Obama administration among others as a way of basically cornering or blocking out China from the rest of commerce in southeast Asia so that we would control that, you know, commercial region rather than China controlling it - (a) I'm not even sure that's a good idea, but (b), that's apparently not the case?
Lori Wallach: Well, what we did is we have seen this hysteria since it became obvious there wasn't a majority in Congress to implement the TPP about how the TPP's demise is a foreign policy crisis, which seemed kind of funky because originally it was sold as an economic panacea, so why is it now a foreign policy crisis?
Thom Hartmann: Right.
Lori Wallach: So we started looking back and we saw that every time a trade agreement fails on the economics argument and the public sees through it, there is a set of four specific categories of foreign policy apocalyptic predictions that are made if an agreement isn't passed, and crazy promises of things that will happen if the agreement is passed.
And so we just started to realize these zombie foreign policy arguments, always used to try and scare up an agreement that's on its way out, was now being recycled for TPP. And so yes, the answer is we now can empirically prove because we went back two decades from NAFTA, CAFTA, the China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) hype, we looked at the exact same arguments often made by the same people - Senator Kerry, Secretary Kerry, Senator Biden, Vice President Biden over the course of 20 years. And in the past these arguments always worked to pass the agreement. We can go back and see what really happens. So, for instance, during China PNTR that the report's actually very fun to read that right on the front page of Tradewatch.org www.tradewatch.org, it's full of tables where you have side-by-side quotes.
So, you know, right during the China WTO, China entering the World Trade Organization fight in 2000 you have a lot of the same voices saying the same thing now, but saying, it's "either we write the rules or China writes the rules". Or "either we do this and China helps us with a whole set of foreign policy challenges or we don't do it and we, the American leadership is diminished in the world".
Add then you look at the same people saying the exact same things except you go back well, China PNTR, China, Congress passed that 15 years ago. Usually China doesn't follow any of the rules that were supposed to be our rules. That just didn't happen. Says who? The US negotiator, the lead for negotiating that agreement.
Thom Hartmann: Right.
Lori Wallach: Or China hasn't suddenly gotten incredibly cooperative with the US and in fact it's escalated its hostility towards its neighbors over territorial fights in the South China Sea. It has basically chosen avoiding North Korean immigrant slide over helping stop the North Korean nuclear program. Basically everything that was claimed, the opposite. And certainly we didn't see the big panacea of Human Rights improvements in China. So the notion that the same agreements and you can track back the same claims that didn't work out for NAFTA, CAFTA etc. are just, it's silliness to raise it again. And that's the point of this very sadly funny report.
Thom Hartmann: Right. Now, other than PNTR, correct me if I'm wrong on this, but my understanding is that other than Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, that every, which arguably isn't even a trade deal, it's just it's a - you know it better than I do, you can tell me what it is - but it's not like TPP or NAFTA or CAFTA or the Korea free trade deal or any of these things in some ways, that all of the, that was the only deal that was supported by the majority of Democrats in the House and Senate as well as Republicans. Every other deal, every single one of these other trade deals was passed by a majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate and opposed by a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate, even though they might have been signed by Bill Clinton, ultimately, even though it was negotiated under George Herbert Walker Bush - NAFTA for example, and GATT. Or that President Obama was in favor of TPP even though the majority of his party wasn't.
So there's kind of a partisan element to this. You're mentioning Democrats who are making these sales pitches. Aren't Republicans making them too?
Lori Wallach: Absolutely and the carrot?, basic charts in the study, show for instance Bush making the same exact arguments on CAFTA that we now have in this particular instance secretary Kerry making on TPP which has to do with stability in the region, human rights, so, you know, President Bush, the second one, in selling CAFTA - the Central American Free Trade Agreement - in 2005, basically laid out a whole claim about how doing that would guarantee that there would be more democracy, more peace, more stability in Central America.
So he specifically said, "Our first trade priority is to pass the Central American ...
Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA. ... Today, a part of the world that was once characterized by unrest and dictatorship now sees its future in free elections and free trade,
we must not take these gains for granted. ... By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful free trade area, we will promote democratic governance and human rights and the economic liberty for everyone
That's President George W Bush in 2005, very similar to what actually Kerry said about the TPP, but the difference is we can now look back to what happened and so, you know, within four years of the CAFTA being implemented, because people bought that sales job, there was a coup, a military coup, in Honduras and a democratically elected president, Zelaya, was thrown out. First coup in Latin American in 25 years. So that CAFTA democracy thing worked really well.
And then, since then, we've seen the other countries in the CAFTA - the Dominican Republic for instance - having its ranking as far as the Freedom House rankings of political freedoms and room for independent media drop. We've seen Guatemala go to the worst ranking in that the International Trade Union Confederation - the labor Confederation ranking - it's down there with Colombia as one of the most violent countries for workers in many years, has gotten a lot worse since CAFTA. We've seen Nicaragua having the worst violations in human rights, freedom of association, free expression of basically its entire served history of being tracked by the human rights movement. And El Salvador and Honduras now have higher murder rates than before 2005. There goes that peaceful progress. And right now El Salvador has the highest murder rate of any country that's not at war.
So if you look at the precise promises, you can empirically prove the opposite happened. And its systematic with 20-plus years of trade agreements, which may help to explain why the foreign policy distraction didn't work this time. I mean, you know, Thom, what happens is the corporations cook up a trade agreement, they try to sell it with all kinds of baloney economic arguments, increasingly Americans see through it because they live with the real results, the agreement's starting to go down,and to try and pass this Trojan horse's corporate empowerment branded as a trade agreement we start to hear the usual suspects scream about the "imminent peril of our national security, American leadership in the toilet if we don't pass this trade agreement".
Thom Hartmann: Yes.
Lori Wallach: And the thing is, it didn't work this time with TPP. There was an attempt to sell it that way and I wonder if part of the reason why is the American people already knew what we checked out with research right now which is, it turns out those arguments are just a hundred percent baloney.
Thom Hartmann: To the best of my knowledge every member of Trump's proposed cabinet who has ever gone on the record with regard to trade has gone on the record in favor of TPP, correct me if I'm wrong on that, but I've seen it in two different places. Can we expect TPP to be resurrected like, you know, under probably under some new name because Trump, you know, ran on a campaign of killing TPP under his administration?
Lori Wallach: Well, if folks would like to actually look at that rogue's gallery of cabinet members who supported TPP and be able to attach the names of the people, I recommend you go to a website www.TrumpedUpTrade.org and it has, I've seen that whole list of cabinet folks' TPP position.
I think that the scenario that we need to wonder about is, there are two ways you can look at that, so either despite it being his top issue and the issue on which he basically flipped Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan right into being the president, Trump was being a con man on the trade issues. That's one scenario and these TPP supporters are, represent his real thinking, I actually kinda doubt that. He's been consistently against these kinds of agreements since NAFTA. He was speaking out against NAFTA.
Thom Hartmann: So they're just echoing conventional wisdom and they'd, and now... I mean, I'm also, you know, as I'm sure you know and I am sure you share, I'm no fan of Donald Trump. In fact I think he may represent an existential threat to our republic. I think he's a Mussolini in waiting at the very least. But that said, you know, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Lori Wallach: Right, and that's why I was going to get to option number two.
Thom Hartmann: OK.
Lori Wallach: I agree with you about Trump which is either the whole thing was a sham, but on this issue actually I don't think it was, that's pretty consistently where he's been. So I think the second scenario is he has such a notion of his word being the word of god, that picking a cabinet is not like picking staff in some hierarchical corporate structure, so he's picking all these people who totally disagree with him on the issue that got him elected - the trade issue - and I'm suspecting he believes he will just be able to announce this is what we will be doing, now implement my command!
Thom Hartmann: Well, in fact, we have a clue to this already. This is the, you know, the headline at Salon is "Buy American — or else: GOP plan to kill import cost tax write-offs has retail industries alarmed" and the headline over at the Wall Street Journal: "Trump’s Punitive Power Over Companies Appears Hedged". And basically what they're saying is that the tax break that companies get when they move factories overseas is going to be done away with but, you know, by the Trump administration.
Now, Nancy Pelosi actually passed a bill through Congress, through the House of Representatives, in the first months or the first year of the Obama administration that did that and it got to the Senate and it got more than 50 votes, if my recollection is correct, although it failed because, it failed to pass a Republican filibuster and so it never made its way to the president. That would have done away with the incentives to move a factory overseas - tax incentives - and would have replaced them with tax incentives to move people back here.
But it looks like Trump is now going to take that Nancy Pelosi legislation, call it his own and push it through. What do you know about that?
Lori Wallach: There are now a variety of different tax proposals. Everyone who's pushing a tax proposal is trying to frame it as helping stop offshoring.
Thom Hartmann: Ah, yes, of course.
Lori Wallach: And I think it's going to bear scrutiny. So, for instance, the Republicans in the House - Ryan - have a tax proposal that they're claiming would stop the incentives to offshore, but the way the thing is actually structured, it's not clear we do that, and it would be super regressive for consumers as far as how it's set up.
Thom Hartmann: Oh, geez.
Lori Wallach: On the other hand, the thing Pelosi had in mind actually would have closed that loophole and we have to see what Trump actually puts out in the smorgasbord of options to see if what he's proposing will do the job or not. But this gets back to his cabinet. Even if it would do the job, if you're going to have a war within his cabinet where these agency heads are going to have more discretion and more power than perhaps Trump is used to, the government context being different from the corporate context.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Yeah. We're just about to hit a hard break here but, and I wonder to what extent this is going to play into the idea that Mike Pence is actually going to be the president and Trump is going to be the chairman of the board. So the person is going to have to deal with the cabinet and is going to have to deal with Congress is Pence, and Pence is pro free, so-called free, trade, the TPP etc. It's a mess.
Lori Wallach: Correct.
Lori Wallach: Thank You. To be continued.
Thom Hartmann: Great. Thank you indeed.
Announcer: This is the Thom Hartmann Program.
Thom Hartmann: Lori Wallach is one of the very best. She is spectacular.
We'll be back in just a moment. It's 21 minutes past the hour.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.