The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the type of thing that rolls through Congress with overwhelming Republican support.
But for GOP presidential candidates facing a populist conservative base suspicious of the agreement, supporting trade bills is a risky thing, and several of the major candidates oppose it.
The TPP is a big deal. It covers 800 million people and accounts for 40 percent of gross domestic product around the world. Pew Research noted in a June survey that only 43 percent of Republicans called it “a good thing.”
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No doubt the deal is even less popular among the GOP conservative base, which is concerned about the effects of trade deals on U.S. workers and the potential loss of U.S. sovereignty to rules crafted by the negotiators. They question the secrecy surrounding the talks and its broad provisions covering everything from intellectual property to drug prices.
But there could be a political cost, because the base makes its way to the polls on primary day. While many big donors like the deal, candidates who back it can have problems with certain contributors. Labor unions and the manufacturing sector generally are against it. A possible opponent list could include automakers, drug manufacturers, tobacco companies, as well as agriculture concerns.
Here are where the top GOP presidential candidates stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.
Donald Trump: As a businessman, Trump, the current GOP presidential frontrunner, sees the TPP as super unfair and poorly negotiated — “a terrible deal” — noting its handling has been far from artful, so to speak. He has been perhaps the most outspoken against it, and if he hasn’t called it a “loser” yet, we’d be surprised. The TPP, Trump has said, harms American workers and jobs and amounts to “an attack on American business.” Trump is self-financing his campaign and is not beholden to donations from benefactors who stand to gain from TPP.
Rand Paul: He joined four other Republican senators to vote against an early bill fast-tracking the legislation. Paul continues to sag in polling, ranking 10th in a RCP presidential poll with just 2.3 percent support. Paul chided other GOP candidates in June for failing to read what was in the measure and for supporting what some called “Obamatrade.” But Paul, whose third-quarter fundraising was a disappointment, has a quandary — his business allies support TPP, while his grassroots followers hate it.
Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor and top conservative deeply opposes TPP. “Once again, American workers are getting punched in the gut by Washington because this deal is a handout to insiders, interest groups, Obama’s allies and Asia,” he said. “When it comes to negotiating with foreign countries, the Obama administration gets rolled like sushi, and this TPP deal is more of the same.”
Ben Carson: Carson, second in the polls behind Trump as supporters look outside of Washington for leadership, argues that the TPP deal should be renegotiated. He said such a re-do can be accomplished even now. He added that it hurts U.S. sovereignty, sacrificing our power to the other 11 nations that are a part of the partnership. “I love free trade. And I love fairness. But I also love for the American people and their representatives to be able to weigh in on something that will have such a profound effect on economics here.”
Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor has been an outspoken opponent of TPP. He said in May before a vote on fast-tracking the measure that he feared Obama would use it to backdoor environmental and immigration policies. Jindal is struggling to stay afloat posting just .06 support, according to the RCP average.
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Jeb Bush: Bush, with millions in cash from donors who support TPP, has long backed it. “I have no problem supporting TPP,” he wrote in April. “We’ve worked with some of our most important allies in negotiations to help make this possible — and asked them to take political risks of their own to open their markets to American goods, agricultural products, and services.”
Marco Rubio: Rubio, polling at No. 4 among GOP contenders, supported the fast-track bill. On the TPP deal itself, Rubio has said that it “will allow us to further unite our economies, creating commerce and business opportunities for millions throughout North America, South America, and Asia.”
On the Fence
Ted Cruz: Cruz initially voted for legislation allowing President Obama to “fast track” the trade bill through Congress, but then he voted against it, leading to charges of opportunism and flip-flopping. But Cruz said he thinks you can’t trust Obama with such deals.
Carly Fiorina: Rising in the polls to No. 3 after Trump and Carson after her recent strong CNN debate showing, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO seems to oppose the idea.”I believe that free and fair trade advantages the U.S., but I am very uncomfortable with this deal, and I’m uncomfortable with this deal and giving [Obama] trade authority,” she said in a May interview. “I know from personal experience that the Chinese have not lived up to their agreements when they entered the WTO. In other words, partners can cheat on these deals, and we have evidence of partners cheating on these deals.”
John Kasich: It appears the Ohio governor has a favorable view of TPP, at least thus far. But he conceded this week, when asked, that “I don’t know what this thing’s gonna look like.” He added: “While I think that trade is good, we gotta have the way to blow the whistle when we are getting ripped off … but I want to make sure the workers in this country are protected.” Kasich has 3.2 percent of the vote in the most recent RCP presidential poll.