Trade Disaster for Manufacturers

Trade expert says Pacific deal will hasten destruction of industry

The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership trade pact will accelerate the deindustrialization of the United States and have no benefit for the agricultural sector, a manufacturing association official said Friday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Kevin Kearns, president of U.S. Business & Industry Council, pointed to a pair of agriculture studies suggesting there would be no net gain from the trade pact. Even a study often cited by the U.S. trade representative projected just 0.4 percent economic growth attributable to the deal by the year 2025.

“There’s no appreciable gain,” Kearns said.

The text of the deal, after months of delay, was released Thursday. Kearns sharply questioned the commitment of TPP proponents to transparency.

One of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s prime selling points for the negotiations that led to the massive, 12-nation agreement is that the process would be open and transparent, giving the public plenty of time to evaluate the details.

Good luck with that, Kearns said, noting the 2,000-plus pages of the recently released text are filled with legalistic language.

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“It’s absolutely incomprehensible,” he said. “There should be some plain English requirement, where not only do they release the text, but they release what it means in plain English.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership binds together the United States and 11 other countries in a trade regime that would set rules for international commerce for a large chunk of the world’s economy. Congress still must approve it. Advocates argue that removing trade barriers will benefit all members.

Kearns also criticized the agreement’s 52 “side letters,” which include exceptions to the rules for specific industries. To take one example, Kearns said, a TPP exception would allow Japanese automakers to maintain their global supply chains. Those cars do not have enough North American parts to qualify for lower tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“So apparently, America’s big economic problem is that the Japanese aren’t selling enough cars in our market and displacing American cars sold and American factories and American jobs,” he said.

As Congress prepares to debate the agreement, Kearns said he fears that Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, will use his new powers as speaker to “ram” the deal though.

“Paul Ryan is full of it, as usual,” he said. “This guy is a complete free-trade ideologue.”

Kearns accused Ryan of citing “phony statistics,” like his insistence that the United States needs open trade because it has only 5 percent of the world’s consumers.

Kearns accused Ryan of citing “phony statistics,” like his insistence that the United States needs open trade because it has only 5 percent of the world’s consumers. Kearns said that is only true as far as the U.S. share of the global population. Some 70 percent of the world’s people live on less than $10 a day, and 45 percent eke out a living on $2 a day or less, he said.

“If you think those people are going to be buying anything America makes, you’re dreaming,” he said. “They have no disposable income.”

Because Congress granted President Obama “fast track” authority, it now must vote the entire deal up or down. Kearns said that makes hearings on the pact largely for show.

“They can’t do anything about it,” he said. “They can’t amend it. They can’t change it. They can’t strike a stupid provision.”

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