Campaign for America's Future: Can Biden Run For President With TPP Around His Neck?


Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run for president. But Biden is currently working behind the scenes to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which most (if not all) core Democratic-aligned groups will likely oppose. Can Biden run for president as a Democrat after pushing TPP on us?

[Reposted from Campaign for America's Future  |  October 1, 2015  |  Dave Johnson]

While TPP is being negotiated in secret, some parts of it have leaked. This limited information indicates that TPP is another “NAFTA-style” corporate-dominated agreement, designed to elevate corporations above government, limit the ability of citizens to make laws and regulations that protect them from corporate harms and scams, and to force wages down so a few executives and “investors” can pocket the wage differential.

Autos And Parts, For Example

One (only one) example of the “NAFTA-style” damage that TPP might do is a provision that actually weakens the limited protections NAFTA granted to auto and parts manufacturers.

Under NAFTA, auto companies and parts suppliers in countries in the agreement were given a level of tariff-free status through “content requirements.” But, according to leaks, in TPP the U.S. is actually pushing for lowered content requirements for cars and auto parts. (I explained the details in “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For U.S. Than NAFTA?“) This means China can get that business through Japan, which will force layoffs of workers and closures of factories. This is just one example of how TPP is actually even worse for American (and Canadian and Mexican) workers than NAFTA was.

Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO explains further, in “Do U.S. Workers Really Have to Rely on Canadian and Mexican Negotiators to Look Out for Our Jobs?“:

Last month, Canadian and Mexican officials did the math and said no deal! They objected to these low standards, with Mexico’s Minister of the Economy explaining, “What you can accuse me of” is advocating for “the interests of my country.”

Why aren’t the United States’ own negotiators doing the same? If the reported deal is accurate, it would wipe out jobs throughout the U.S. supply chain. Even with a far higher regional value content rule, U.S. jobs are still at risk to other TPP countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam. But the lower the regional value content required by the TPP, the more auto sector jobs U.S. workers stand to lose.

Another example (one of many) of TPP’s probable damage is Nike vs New Balance. Nike pioneered outsourcing, now making its shoes in ultra-low-wage countries like Vietnam. Meanwhile New Balance is still trying to make some of its shoes in the U.S. TPP will lower the tariff on shoes brought in from Vietnam, rewarding Nike for outsourcing, and killing off New Balance’s ability to make shoes in the U.S., forcing layoffs and factory closures.

Biden Active In Pushing TPP

Biden does not just happen to be in an administration that is pushing TPP; he is working hard to push TPP himself.

For example, Biden met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York Tuesday to encourage him to help wrap up TPP this week. Japan Times has the story, in “Abe, Biden agree to work together to conclude TPP talks possibly this week“:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday that the two countries will cooperate to conclude talks on a Pacific free trade initiative this week, both governments said.

Biden and Abe agreed that their negotiating teams for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would work closely together “with the goal of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues at the upcoming ministers meeting in Atlanta,” according to the White House.

… A Japanese official who attended the meeting quoted Biden as saying that the 12 countries engaged in TPP talks should strike a deal on this opportunity.

Biden Lining Up With Republicans, Wall Street And Corporate America Against Democrats, Labor And Progressives

TPP is still secret, and until the agreement is public the opposition is unable to organize — which is the point of the secrecy. But we know from leaks that TPP is likely to draw at least the same opposition as Fast Track did. This is a summary of which groups were on which side of Fast Track:

Some of the groups that lined up in favor of Fast Track and are almost certain to support TPP: (This is the side Joe Biden is standing on.)

● Republicans in the House and Senate.
● Wall Street.
● Giant multinational corporations.
● Billionaires and CEOs.
● The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate lobbying organizations representing giant corporations against the rest of us.
● Right-wing “free market” outfits like Cato Institute (formerly named the Koch Foundation).

There was a large coalition organized against Fast Track and likely to oppose TPP (and Biden):
● Most Democrats in the House and Senate.
● All of organized labor — every labor union in the US opposed Fast Track and are likely to oppose TPP – and Biden.
● Almost every identifiable progressive-aligned organization, including:

  • Human rights groups, and anti-slavery/trafficking activists,
  • Environmental groups,
  • LGBT groups,
  • Faith groups,
  • Consumer groups,
  • Food-safety groups, and many, many others aligned with causes progressives, labor and public-interest groups feel are important.

All of these groups will actively oppose Biden if he runs for President with TPP around his neck.

Can Biden Run As A Democrat After Pushing TPP?

There are some things that a candidate in the Democratic primaries just can’t do. A Democrat can’t be for cutting Social Security or Medicare when “the base” wants candidates who are in favor of expanding it. A Democrat can’t be in favor of cutting taxes for the billionaires and corporations.

A Democrat can’t be in favor of doing things that hurt the environment and increase the threat of climate change, such as building the Keystone Pipeline.

Those are some of the third rails for the kind of Democrats who are active, informed and vote in primaries. But in the next year – assuming TPP is even half as bad for 99 percent of us that leaks have indicated it is – TPP will be the third rail of all third rails. The one thing certain to kill the chances of being nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate is not being out there on the front lines fighting tooth and nail to stop TPP. Because of this, Joe Biden is not a Democrat who can run for president in 2016 and win the nomination.


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  • commented 2015-10-03 17:58:07 -0400
    Biden’s TPP support makes him unelectable. I think we need to get behind Bernie Sanders, the only candidate unequivocally against Fast Track and the Free Trade treaties, and help him formulate a new trade policy that is genuinely in the American national interest. Such as a Balanced Trade policy that limits our imports to the same value as our exports. That would divert our annual $720+ billion merchandise trade deficits into that much more demand for US-made goods, rebuilding our industrial capacity and creating over 8 million new US jobs. No treaty will reverse our ongoing de-industrialization and growing trade deficits, and there is no export market realistically obtainable to match our lost domestic market now flooded with cheap imports. Chasing export markets through Free Trade treaties in almost every case and absolutely on the aggregate results in higher trade deficits and more domestic industry wiped out by imports. The problem is fundamentally not “cheating” through dumping or currency manipulation, though absolutely those tactics make our problems worse, but even if ALL that ended there will always be the the huge wage differential and the vast array of superior industrial policies that make laissez-faire trade a myth and a delusion.