President Obama is taking on the liberal wing of his party over his decision to push for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade initiative with our allies in Asia. Prominent liberals like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all spoken out against the free trade agreement with Japan and ten other Pacific nations.
So President Obama is in the rare position of actually disagreeing with the liberals in his own party.
I want to acknowledge — because this looks like a very well-read and informed crowd — (laughter) — that there have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And what’s interesting is typically they’re my friends, coming from my party, and they’re my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy. On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me. And then on this one, they’re like whooping on me.
But I tell you what. I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.
I don’t have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it’s the best thing for the American people. And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong. They’re just wrong. And here’s why.
First of all, they say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs. And they’re really basing this on some past experience, looking at what happened in the ‘90s, over the last 20 years, as there was a lot of outsourcing going on. And you know what, past trade agreements, it’s true, didn’t always reflect our values or didn’t always do enough to protect American workers. But that’s why we’re designing a different kind of trade deal
And the truth is that companies that only care about low wages, they’ve already moved. They don’t need new trade deals to move. They’ve already outsourced. They’ve already located in search of low wages.
What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at. It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets. And the fact is, over the past few years, our manufacturers have been steadily creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s — under my administration. After more than a decade away from the top spot, business leaders around the world have declared the United States is the world’s number one place to invest for a third year in a row.
Third year in a row.
So the point is, outsourcing is already giving way to insourcing. Companies are starting to move back here to do more advanced manufacturing, and this is a trend we expect to continue. This trade deal would help that.
Just this morning, as Mark may have mentioned, Nike announced that, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it will make new investments in advanced manufacturing — not overseas, but right here in the United States. And far more Nike products would be made in the U.S.A.
And that means thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and engineering and design at Nike facilities across the country, and potentially tens of thousands of new jobs along Nike’s supply chain here at home. That’s what trade can do.
Look, I’ve spent six and a half years trying to rescue this economy — six and a half years of trying to revitalize American manufacturing, including rescuing an American auto industry that was on its back and is now fully recovered. So I would not risk any of that if I thought the trade deals were going to undermine it. The reason I’m for this is because I think it will enhance it and advance it. So that’s point number one.
Point number two — when you ask folks specifically, what do you oppose about this trade deal, they just say “NAFTA.” NAFTA was passed 20 years ago. That was a different agreement. And in fact, this agreement fixes some of what was wrong with NAFTA by making labor and environmental provisions actually enforceable.
I was just getting out of law school when NAFTA got passed.
Number three — you’ve got some critics saying that any deal would be rushed through; it’s a secret deal, people don’t know what’s in it. This is not true. Any agreement that we finalize with the other 11 countries will have to be posted online for at least 60 days before I even sign it. Then it would go to Congress — and you know they’re not going to do anything fast. So there will be months of review. Every T crossed, every I dotted. Everybody is going to be able to see exactly what’s in it.
There’s nothing fast-track about this. This is a very deliberate track, which will be fully subject to scrutiny. And I’m confident when people read the agreement for themselves, they’ll see that this is the most progressive trade deal in history.
Number four — critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws. This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries.
We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. But our companies don’t always get treated fairly there. So sometimes they need to have some way to settle disputes where it’s not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country. That’s important. We want our businesses to succeed in selling over there because that’s how our workers will get more jobs here in the United States.
And then finally, some critics talk about currency manipulation. Now, this has been a problem in the past. Some countries, they try to lower their currency so that it makes their goods cheaper, makes our more expensive. There was a time when China was pretty egregious about this. When I came into office, I started pounding on them. Every time I meet with them, I’d be talking about currency. And we pushed back hard, and China moved. In real terms, their currency has appreciated about 30 percent since I came into office. And we’re going to keep on going after it. But that’s not an argument against this trade agreement. If we give up the chance to help our businesses sell their stuff in the world’s fastest-growing markets, that doesn’t do anything to stop currency manipulation.
So the fact is, some folks are just opposed to trade deals out of principle, a reflexive principle. And what I tell them is, you know what, if you’re opposed to these smart, progressive trade deals, then that means you must be satisfied with the status quo. And the status quo hasn’t been working for our workers. It hasn’t been working for our businesses.