President Barack Obama is at odds with conservative lawmakers on nearly every major policy issue, but trade deals continue to unify the two distant camps. Liberal voters, on the other hand, don’t share the same enthusiasm, and in Germany, demonstrators came out en masse to protest free trade deals. But Obama gave an impassioned defense of his record, saying his policies have had “indisputable” benefits for the economy.
Barack Obama was in Germany as part of a farewell tour around the world, but his trip was interrupted by German protests. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, police estimated the crowd to be around 30,000 people in Hannover. Their main goal was to stop the TTIP – a proposed free-trade agreement that would join the world’s two largest economies – the E.U. and the U.S.
President Obama didn’t shy away from the issue according to the Chicago Tribune, saying “the majority of people still favor trade.”
“They still recognize, on balance, that it’s a good idea… If you look at the benefits to the United States or to Germany of free trade around the world, it is indisputable that it has made our economies stronger.”
Barack Obama is leaving behind an important legacy in American trade policy. The President signed a number of free trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal that eliminates almost all trade barriers between the U.S. and 11 major Asian economies. That treaty still needs Congressional approval and Obama’s final signature.
The TTIP would be another huge step in regional free trade deals, and according to Barack Obama, Angela Merkel agrees they need to move forward.
“Angela and I agree that the United States and the European Union need to keep moving forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. I don’t anticipate that we will be able to have completed ratification of a deal by the end of the year, but I do anticipate that we can have completed the agreement.”
Obama says that once the contentious election season is over, work can begin again on the deal, but that seems unlikely considering the candidates positions.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. is losing when it comes to trade and called the TPP a “horrible deal” according to OnTheIssues.org.
“This is one of the worst trade deals. And I would, yes, rather not have it. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan.”
Ted Cruz said Trump is “right about international trade,” but wrong about his solutions.
Likewise, Bernie Sanders has been fighting against free trade deals most of his political career, objecting to NAFTA and Preferential Nation Status with China. The Democratic underdog currently has a petition to stop the TPP before it’s implemented.
Even Hillary Clinton objects to the TPP. During her term as Secretary of State in President Barack Obama’s administration, she touted the TPP as a “gold standard” in trade deals. But after the text of the final agreement came out, she said it was not the high-quality treaty she had initially supported.
Still, current campaign positions don’t necessarily indicate the candidate’s policies once in the White House. President Obama rallied against free trade agreements when he ran for his first term in 2008 too. To be fair, in that campaign season, trade was so vilified according to PolitiFact that Hillary Clinton even attacked NAFTA – a treaty hailed by some as a major achievement in her husband’s administration.
In any case, a free trade agreement with the E.U. is considerably different from the NAFTA or the TPP. The E.U. is a set of developed economies, with wages, safety and environmental regulations, and production costs similar to the U.S., which eliminates the fear of outsourcing or a “race to the bottom” in worker protections. The potential FTA could be a big boost for Delaware though, and arguably, not in a good way.
The U.S. is the third best place in the world to hide money according to the Financial Secrecy Index, and states like Delaware have laws that obscure finances even further. As the Panama Papers revealed, the world’s wealthy are in need of good places to stash cash, especially considering Panama’s failings.
Barack Obama legacy on trade deals, especially the TPP, is at enormous risk after November, but the TTIP will likely be judged on its own merits, even with fears of money laundering and tax evasion playing a role in the debate.
[Photo by Michael Ukas – Pool/Getty Images]