Republicans Must Not Hold Trade Pact Hostage

Republicans are not only denying America economic gains; they are putting its Pacific strategy at risk.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell speaks with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington DC, December 3, 2014
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell speaks with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington DC, December 3, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the United States Senate, argued on Thursday that a trade pact with eleven other Pacific nations should not be send to Congress for approval until after Barack Obama’s successor is elected next year.

“I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election,” he told The Washington Post. “There’s significant pushback all over the place.”

Even McConnell, a free trader who previously expressed support for the treaty, said he now has “serious problems” with the Trans Pacific Partnership Obama negotiated.

It’s hard to take him seriously.

Economic gains

Trade unions and the far left fear that liberalizing trade across the Pacific Ocean will depress prices and wages in the United States.

Republicans should understand that, on balance, the benefits outweigh the costs.

The pact covers tariff reductions for cars and food, intellectual property rights for drugs and movies, online commerce rules and dispute settlement for multinational corporations.

Supporters believe all this will help boost global economic output by $220 billion over the next ten years.

Pivotal

The treaty is also central to Obama’s efforts to counterbalance China’s rise as part of his “pivot” to Asia.

China is not involved in the partnership. But it should pressure the country, which is expected to soon overtake America as the world’s largest economy, to meet its standards and stop trying to game global trade to impede foreign companies.

Other Pacific states and American allies in the region — Colombia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan — have all expressed an interest in joining.

By withholding approval, Republicans are not only denying America huge economic gains; they are putting its strategy in the Pacific at risk.

This is reckless and it is disingenuous. Republicans are the party of free trade. They should approve the Trans Pacific Partnership as soon as they can.

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