The TPP Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

The hit parade of failed arguments should convince any fence sitters that this is a bad deal.

By Dean Baker

As Congress gets ready to vote on whether to “fast-track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its proponents are making weaker and more far-fetched arguments for the deal. And they keep getting their facts wrong and their logic twisted.

This hit parade of failed arguments should convince any fence sitters that this is a bad deal. After all, you don’t have to make up nonsense to sell a good product.

Topping the list of failed arguments was a condescending USA Today editorial from early May.

It admonished unions who oppose the TPP because they worry it will cost manufacturing jobs. The newspaper’s editors summarily dismissed this idea, blaming the huge manufacturing job losses in recent years — amid a doubling of manufacturing output — on productivity growth, not imports.

The editorial rested its case on Commerce Department data that doesn’t actually measure manufacturing output. The correct data showed a sharp slowdown in the growth of manufacturing compared with the prior decade, when the trade deficit was not exploding.

USA Today eventually acknowledged the error, but left the text and the criticism in the editorial unchanged. Remarkably, the headline of the editorial referred to the opposition to the TPP as a “fact-free uproar.”

Another big swing and a miss came from Bill Daley, the former Commerce chief and J.P. Morgan executive who also briefly served as chief of staff in the Obama administration.

Daley wrote a New York Times op-ed pushing the TPP by arguing for the virtues of trade. The piece was chock full of errors and misleading comments. The biggest whopper: a claim that the United States ranks near the bottom in its ratio of exports to GDP because of trade barriers in other countries that supposedly restrict our exports.

But the main reason the United States has a low ratio of exports to GDP is that it’s a big country. This means that Illinois and Ohio, for example, provide a large market for items produced in Indiana. On the other hand, if the Netherlands seeks a large market for its products, it must export.

Another issue is that the TPP hasn’t been made available to the public as Congress prepares to vote. TPP supporters say it doesn’t matter, since lawmakers can see the draft text any time they like. That’s nice, but they must review the jargon-filled text without bringing along staff. Nor are they allowed to discuss the text with others.

As Senator Sherrod Brown pointed out, President George W. Bush made the draft text for the Free Trade Area of the Americas — an international accord that Congress didn’t approve — public before asking Congress to vote on fast-track authority. Apparently, President Barack Obama isn’t willing to do this. He’s even attacking TPP critics, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, for suggesting that he should.

Obama also dismissed Warren’s concern that the TPP and other fast-tracked trade deals could jeopardize our ability to regulate Wall Street. Obama dismissed this as the hypothetical musings of a former law professor. He looked rather foolish the next week when the Canadian finance minister argued that new U.S. financial regulations violated NAFTA.

The reality is that the TPP has little to do with trade. It’s a deal crafted by big business for big business.

While all of its specifics are not known, it’s clear that the TPP would put in place a business-friendly regulatory structure in the United States and elsewhere.

No amount of lipstick can make this pig pretty. The folks who keep trying are making themselves look very foolish in the process.


Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research (
Distributed by

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  1. Alice X
    June 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Did we mention SLAVERY?

    There are not enough flowers in the world to cover the moral stench.

  2. bsbafflesbrains
    June 4, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Why should big business have to make public the terms of their corporate conspiracy to the general public? Their servants in Congress don’t even get to see it all. We Don’t matter to the PTB anymore; that is the real INCONVENIENT TRUTH.

  3. June 4, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Wikileaks Just Revealed The Full Text Of Trans-Pacific Partnership

  4. bsbafflesbrains
    June 4, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Now that was funny! LOL

  5. John Smith
    June 4, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I think the biggest take away after looking at what these deals try to achieve is just more Neoliberal deregulation, privatization, etc. It’s not for trade as we all know. It’s the only way Corporations can impose regulations in their favor probably forever, so they can save money by not having to follow our safety, environmental laws, etc. Of course when they shed their costs, the burden will be put on us through taxes, health. It’s so crazy. They are supporting slavery for this stupid deal. The first black president is supporting slavery so his corporate buddies can make more profit and get bigger unearned bonuses.

  6. June 4, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    *heh* I hope that $100K gamble pays off, apres…! 😉

  7. dubinsky
    June 4, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    without taking a position on the treaty, this is just not a strong or particularly well-reasoned essay from Baker.

    making a case that a couple of proponents have written lousy op-eds and saying

    “…failed arguments should convince any fence sitters that this is a bad deal. After all, you don’t have to make up nonsense to sell a good product.”

    is simply weak and without much worth……

    might just as well say that if Baker’s argument against the treaty is this bad…then the treaty must be OK.

  8. dubinsky
    June 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm
  9. dubinsky
    June 4, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    are there enough slaves to pick them?

  10. Hugh
    June 5, 2015 at 12:04 am

    dubinsky, enough with the Pontius Pilate routine. The first editorial Baker referred to showed up in USAToday. It was not an op-ed but reflected the view of Gannet’s flagship newspaper. The second was an op-ed by Bill Daley who is close to the Administration and certainly promoting its viewpoints. And it appeared in the NYT, the most influential newspaper in the MSM. So yes, we should expect better than error-filled talking points from them.
    Baker also correctly notes that the Obama Administration has gone to great lengths to keep the text of the TPP secret. The way Washington works is that if something is likely to be popular with the public, those responsible, deservedly or not, will do everything they can to get it out to the public so they can take credit for it.

  11. dubinsky
    June 5, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Hugh, editorials for or against the treaty do not change whether the treaty is a mess of turds or not.

    when the damn thing is in final form and presented to the Congress we’ll have a reasonable basis for evaluating the thing.

  12. Arbusto
    June 5, 2015 at 3:09 am

    These agreements transcend ego or how foolish the authors of said agreements and leaders of the countries involved seem to outsiders. History may look back on Obama LLC and sum up his administration by the phrase Cui bono. Every one of his multitude of lies, misdirection and misrepresentations are to the benefit of he and his, his backers, banksters, surveillance industry and the military industrial complex. Mr and Mrs Obama and their two children will not have to work one more day more after he leaves office and move to the gated enclave of his choice.

  13. JamesJoyce
    June 5, 2015 at 5:47 am

    There are never enough slaves, for the owners. TTP reeks of corporate sodomy and the undue influence of money, now speech.

    “Logic” need not apply when historical repetitions, more complex than the past, repeat.

    Scott was never inferior. Just Taney SCOTUS’s logic in 1857.

    Robert’s has done same with a “horse” of a different color.


    “Merit” need not apply, like the Irish. 🙂

  14. JamesJoyce
    June 5, 2015 at 6:18 am

    “The first black president is supporting slavery so his corporate buddies can make more profit and get bigger unearned bonuses.”

    Mr. Smith, you are correct. In the seventh year of a two term President, the peacock shows his colors. This quote has in fact crossed my cortex. It is a sad realization that anyone in the modern era could justify a wage at .56 cents per hour.

    I wonder what the price of a gallon of gasoline is in Vietnam?

    Today in America the national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is $2.76. At .56 cents per hour I would work almost five hours to buy a gallon of gas, to then waste 80% of the potential energy and monetary value, when using gas to go to work and back home.

    No wonder there are so many “bicycles,” “mopeds,” and human drawn carriages in Vietnam.

    It is more efficient and less wasteful. Like a “rice paddy,” and the life sustaining rice produced?

    We have learned nothing…

  15. karenjj2
    June 5, 2015 at 9:17 am

    I enjoy your thoughtful comments, James; you’ve also become much better at expressing your points in a practical, visual way. The example of purchasing fuel on a 56-cent/hr wage is perfect ‘cept it should be for fueling an extended-family generator, not a car.

  16. karenjj2
    June 5, 2015 at 10:38 am

    “without taking a position on the treaty”

    just because it looks like a treaty, smells like a treaty and will be enforced against signing nations,
    it is not a treaty between nations as described in the founding Constitution.

    the TPP, TAP and TSA are all “agreements” I.e. Contracts with global corps. the signing nations agree to subordinate their nations laws to the terms outlined in the contracts and agree to submit their disputes to corps’ appointed tribunal.

    for a full understanding of the TPP, simply look at any contract you have; for example, ATT wireless service, and you will find that any dispute you have ultimately reaches ATT’s appointed arbitrator. the only difference between the “arbitrator” and the global corps’ appointed “tribunal” is you still have a potential appeal to the national judiciary. The TPP, etc. Agreement/Contracts between the nations and global corps do not.

    NAFTA made corps equal to nations with disputes settled by the WTO.

    The TPP trio makes corps superior to nations with the corps appointed tribunal substituted for the WTO.

    The most recent ruling from the WTO determined that country of origin labeling on meat in the United States was an illegal restraint of trade — so the corps will be happy to stop the labeling; and I imagine that this is a mild preview of what will happen when corps are given sovereignty over the United States (united states under the TPP trio) with “impeding corps’ potential profit” as a common suit brought to the corps’ tribunal.

    If these “agreements/contracts”.are so damn good for us, why can’t our congressional representatives see them out in the open BEFORE they agree to a 51% up/down approval rather than the 66% Senate approval mandated by the Constitution!

  17. dubinsky
    June 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

    the price in the US is the price in the US, not the price in Vietnam.

    the price for a gallon of gas is $7.83 in Norway.

  18. dubinsky
    June 5, 2015 at 11:16 am
  19. dubinsky
    June 5, 2015 at 11:24 am

    karen, you seem to be a little bit confused and confusing authorization to negotiate with approval of the dea. the Congress didn’t approve any treaty and will not even vote on one without the thing being finalized and published tor everyone to read and evaluate….and vote on with the usual and customary approval requirements.


    ” The bill introduced in Congress on April 16, 2015, was for Trade Promotion Authority, giving Obama the right to strike a deal and laying out the process for voting on the agreement once the administration finalizes it. Since the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the only significant trade deal that’s likely to be sent to Congress anytime soon, these two bills are intertwined. But their distinctions are important — including the degree of transparency before each vote, which is the part that O’Malley was referencing.

    At the time Congress votes on whether to grant Trade Promotion Authority to Obama, the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership won’t be known yet. But if Trade Promotion Authority is passed, and if the Obama administration succeeds in striking a deal, then the provisions of the deal will emerge before lawmakers cast the second vote.”

  20. Edgar
    June 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

    “Remarkably, the headline of the editorial referred to the opposition to the TPP as a “fact-free uproar.””

    Good. They finally get it. That’s exactly what we in the opposition have been complaining about. Release the text so that we can have the facts

  21. marym
    June 5, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Perhaps you have confused secrecy with transparency, 20
    hours of debate and no amendments with approval procedures; and perhaps have a
    limited definition of the “everyone” for whom it will be “published for everyone
    to read.”


    “As for public transparency, the Hatch bill actually fails
    even to reach the openness of the Bush administration. During negotiations for
    the Free Trade Area of the Americas under that administration, USTR released
    the draft composite negotiating text of the agreement on the USTR website for
    anyone to read. The Hatch bill includes no such requirement for the draft texts
    of Fast Tracked trade agreements to be released to the public. A close read of
    a new provision requiring USTR to post a trade agreement text on its website 60
    days before signing reveals that this timing would be 30 days after the
    agreement was initialed and the text locked, meaning the text would only become
    public after it was too late for the public or Congress to demand changes.”

  22. JamesJoyce
    June 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    How many “DONGS” in a Dollar? The graph at the bottom of the link page has gas at a higher price in Vietnam than here in at home or the UK?

    21812.50 Dongs in a $ Buck…. @ .56 cents, that a lot of DONGS

    $3.96 x 21,812.50 = 86159.37
    .50 Cents = 1096.25.

    For one gallon of gas working at 50 cents per hour, a Vietnamese worker would have to work 7.859 hours to buy one gallon of gasoline…

    Check my math please… Almost 8 hours to buy a gallon of gasoline???

  23. karenjj2
    June 5, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    “Trade promotion authority” restrains the Senate and House to a 60-day review of a 2000+ page document written in the corps’ legalese over the past 10 years as initiated by George juniors’ admin in 2005.

    After 60 days, both houses of congress have restrained themselves to an up or down vote on the TPP contracts “as is” with 51% “required” for approval.

    FYI: the word “TRADE” in the global corps’ “Agreements” is better understood as Contracts between Corps and nations. For example, George seniors ‘ North American Free TRADE Agreement — aka NAFTA — is between the corps and the us, Canada and Mexico; and it granted corps standing to sue the nations for resolution of disputes in the WTO.

    “Trade Agreements,” now named “Trade Partnerships,” are a mask used to pretend that the Contracts with and written by the global Corps have Constitutional legitimacy under the presidential authority to negotiate TRADE with individual NATIONS.

    The president is then Constitutionally obligated to submit the “TREATY with another NATION” to the SENATE for advise and consent. This is where the Senate reads the “proposed” TREATY and 66% of the Senate must vote to ratify (approve) the TREATY to submit the United States to the terms in the TREATY.

    if these “Agreements/Contracts” are so damn good, why is it that the global Corps have a copy, but Congress and public are barred from seeing it before the Congress blindly restrains itself to a 51% approval “rule.”

  24. dubinsky
    June 5, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    dear marym……did you really understand what you quoted?

    when did the public ever get to “demand changes” in a treaty negotiated by the government?

    what the public gets to do is to inform their representatives as to whether the treaty suits them and whether or not it should be ratified.

    the Constitution is pretty clear that the executive makes the treaties (not the public) and the Senate votes on ratification.

  25. fredcdobbs
    June 5, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    The question is whether you understand what she quoted.

    This is not a fucking monarchy. It is, or is supposed to be, representative government in which elected officials are responsive to the wishes, and yes, demands, of the people who elected them.

    What we actually have, and what you are apparently defending, is an oligarchic system in which government is only responsive to the wealthiest elites who bribe them fund their campaigns. The TPP is a product of corporate interests who were almost exclusively represented in that process while the public and their congressional representatives have been deliberately frozen out by the neoliberal, corporate whore who currently occupies the White House.

    If this were an actual treaty the terms would not be hidden from the public and their representatives and it would require a 2/3 vote not a simple majority. The flawed process surrounding these “trade” agreements, which are actually about privileging corporations above the interests of citizens and national interests rather than “trade”, was designed to circumvent the congressional and public oversight that would normally take place.

    Your obviously a Dem-bot, Obamapologist troll trying to promote views that are anathema to most participants on this site. And you’re not the first one that has infested this site so we’re used to your ilk.

    You’re welcome to your fucked up opinion of course but why don’t you do all of us a favor and disclose who’s paying you?

  26. June 7, 2015 at 9:03 am

    It should be noted that the TISA is even worse than the TPP.

    And Fast Track authorization would also apply to it.