Democrats Better Know What They’re Doing on TPP

Hillary Clinton Barack Obama
American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama attend a summit of Pacific nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 20, 2012 (State Department/William Ng)

Democrats are gambling if they’re proposing to get the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement through the Senate after the election in November.

Hillary Clinton, the party’s presidential nominee, has raised doubts about the treaty, saying it doesn’t do enough to create jobs and raise wages.

Her vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, also says he can’t support the treaty in its current form, despite being one of just thirteen Democratic senators who voted last year to give President Barack Obama so-called fast-track authority to negotiate the pact.

Their newfound skepticism of the agreement, which proposes to liberalize 40 percent of the world’s trade, is a gesture to supporters of Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist from Vermont who challenged Clinton during the Democratic primaries.

Although polls show a majority of Democratic Party voters support free trade, left-wing activists have made common cause with trade unions to resist TPP.

Clinton and Kaine could hardly change their minds again after the election. Their hope is getting the treaty ratified before the next president is sworn in in January. Read more “Democrats Better Know What They’re Doing on TPP”

Democrats and Non-Trump Republicans Share Views

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Traffic is reflected in the glass of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, New York, October 23, 2011 (Dave Powell)

On immigration and trade, Republicans who opposed Donald Trump have more in common with Democrats than they do with fellow party members who backed the businessman from the start.

A SurveyMonkey poll conducted for the website FiveThirtyEight found that whereas 76 percent of Trump’s supporters want immigration to fall, only 21 percent of anti-Trump Republicans agree it must come down. That’s close to the 26 percent of Democrats who say immigration is too high.

61 percent of non-Trump Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, by contrast, agree that immigration should stay more or less the same. The remaining 17 and 22 percent, respectively, would welcome higher immigration.

There is similar cross-party agreement on trade. Half of Trump’s supporters think trade deals are bad for the American economy; only 20 percent of anti-Trump Republicans agree against 28 percent of all Democrats.

By contrast, 55 percent of Republicans who don’t support Trump think free trade is generally good for the economy, as do 43 percent of Democrats. Read more “Democrats and Non-Trump Republicans Share Views”

Britain to the Back of the Queue? Maybe Not

Before Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union last month, American president Barack Obama warned it would have to join at the “back of the queue” to get a bilateral trade deal.

Now that Britain has defied the president’s advice to stay in the EU, it seems the Americans are rethinking their approach. The Financial Times reports that representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States have already met to test the waters for a trade accord.

Wolfgang Münchau makes a tantalizing suggestion in the same newspaper: If the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership isn’t going anywhere — and with Germany’s Social Democrats joining the opposition to the pact, it’s starting to look like a lost cause — why not use it as a template for an Anglo-American treaty? Read more “Britain to the Back of the Queue? Maybe Not”

EU Commission: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t

The American Interest, usually an intelligent publication, has a rather simplistic take on the European Commission bowing to pressure to give national legislatures a say in ratifying a proposed trade deal with Canada.

Back in April, I reported here that lawmakers in tiny Wallonia, the French-speaking south of Belgium, threatened to derail the pact, which eliminates tariffs on almost all goods and services and is projected to raise transatlantic trade by more than €25 billion per year.

Now it looks like they might succeed. Read more “EU Commission: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t”

Germany’s Gabriel Pours Cold Water on Trade Deal

Sigmar Gabriel Angela Merkel
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel poured cold water on hopes of reaching a transatlantic free trade agreement before the end of the year when he told local newspapers his Social Democrats will not be “part of a bad deal.”

Gabriel, who leads the junior party in Angela Merkel’s coalition government, said the chancellor “was wrong to say, in the euphoria of Obama’s visit to Germany, that we will be able under all scenarios to conclude negotiations this year.”

The American president, Barack Obama, urged all parties to make haste when he visited Hanover last month. “If we don’t complete negotiations this year,” he warned, “then upcoming political transitions in the United States and Europe would mean this agreement won’t be finished for quite some time.”

The next round of talks are due to take place next month. Read more “Germany’s Gabriel Pours Cold Water on Trade Deal”

France Leads Opposition to South America Trade Deal

France is leading a coalition of European Union member states against a trade pact with countries in South America that has stalled for nearly two decades.

“Tactically, it is not in the EU’s interest to make at this stage proposals corresponding to the main offensive interests of our partners,” France, along with countries like Ireland and Poland, has argued.

The European Commission is planning to exchange proposals for a trade agreement with Mercosur later this month, the customs union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The two blocs have been pining for a deal since 1999.

France, governed by its Socialist Party, is critical of European trade negotiations with the United States as well. President François Hollande warned this week that “at this stage, France says ‘no'” to a proposed transatlantic trade pact. Read more “France Leads Opposition to South America Trade Deal”

Walloons Could Block Canada Trade Pact

44 legislators in the French-speaking south of Belgium may have just derailed an entire EU trade agreement with Canada.

A majority voted in the Walloon parliament on Thursday to call on the government not to sign the proposed trade pact.

That need not immediately scuttle the treaty. Other European Union nations can still join.

But if everybody else signs the agreement at the EU level, it would still need to be ratified by national legislatures. If the Walloons persist in their resistance at that point, there is no template for what happens next. No regional parliament has ever held up a European treaty. Read more “Walloons Could Block Canada Trade Pact”

Time “Not On Our Side” in Trade Talks: Obama

Barack Obama Angela Merkel François Hollande Matteo Renzi
American president Barack Obama speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

President Barack Obama called for progress in a transatlantic trade negotiations on Sunday, saying that time is “not on our side.”

“If we don’t complete negotiations this year, then upcoming political transitions in the United States and Europe would mean this agreement won’t be finished for quite some time,” the American leader warned during a visit to Hanover.

German chancellor Angela Merkel agreed.

“I want to very strongly express my support for using this window of time,” she said, speaking alongside Obama. “It won’t come back anytime soon.” Read more “Time “Not On Our Side” in Trade Talks: Obama”

The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies

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Flag of the United States in Washington DC (Unsplash/Chris Hardy)

They go by different names: Britain First, Party for Freedom, America First. They range from right-wing nationalists to left-wing communists. And as far as it is possible to nail down proper policy from him, America’s leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, seems to be one of them.

Years ago I wrote a two-part series positing what might happen if the United States suddenly withdrew its power from the world. The results were hardly pretty: regional powers that were used to either being protected or checked by American power rearmed and went to war to establish new geopolitical balances. Poverty skyrocketed as resources were dumped into vast new militaries while the threat of nuclear war grew as countries that once lived under the American nuclear umbrella felt the need to arm themselves with atomic bombs.

Now the idea of refortifying borders is gaining traction in virtually every developed democracy. Now, as then, it’s still a terrible idea.

Here’s why. Read more “The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies”

Why Schengen Is So Important to Europe

Brenner Pass Austria
Trucks drive through the Brenner Pass in Austria (Unsplash/Iwona Castiello d’Antonio)

At a time when Euroskepticism is on the rise, and borders are going up across Europe again, the Schengen free-travel area is one of the most potent symbols of European integration and one that many ordinary Europeans experience every time they go on summer or skying holiday.

Indeed, some 3.5 million people cross the borders between the 26 countries that are in Schengen every day. Almost 1.7 million Europeans live in one Schengen country and work in another.

Beyond the convenience of travel, the pact, named after the town in Luxembourg where it was signed in 1985, has had an enormous economic impact. Read more “Why Schengen Is So Important to Europe”