Why Is Washington Fighting Over the Pacific Trade Deal ?

Elizabeth-Warren Alex Wong/Getty Images

Alex Wong/Getty Images


Go back to the presidential primary debates in 2008, and it’s interesting to imagine what a debate between President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would have looked liked, given the preference so many have placed on Warren over Hillary Clinton looking ahead at presidential elections to come. As Warren has made it only to clear that she won’t be running in 2016, supporters can take solace in a recent version of this retro-future-debate of days not to come, provided by the president and Warren over the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal currently being considered by both the president and by Congress for fast tracking.

The two Democrats have been going back and forth in less-than-friendly exchanges recently, and this latest argument has brought out some harsh words from both sides.

What’s the argument about?

This latest disagreement has been in regards to a trade deal, which, according to the Washington Post, has the potential to affect 40% of America’s trade. Obama is in favor of the deal and has spoken in defense of its advantages. He argues that the deal would help to establish trade rules from which the United States would benefit, and that it would improve business opportunities rather than cut away at the middle class or jobs as some are concerned could be the case. His discussion of the deal highlights his cognizance of middle class and small business anxiety, but he’s taken a strong position in favor of the agreement.

The Senate is scheduled to consider and vote on whether or not he has the power to work out this agreement between the U.S. and 12 other countries within a fast tracked system, meaning there would be limited Congressional involvement until the final deal was decided on and Congress would give it a vote.

Warren’s problem with the deal is partly to do with the fast-tracking, which she says is to “grease the skids so that 51 votes will get it through,” according to the Washington Post. She also has concerns about the trade deal, specifically the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision, which she believes would cut away at important regulations on how investors from across nationalities are able to legally maneuver in the trade environment.

What has been said?

“If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to tie its hands on fixing it,” said Warren in an interview with the Washington Post, going on to argue that “ISDS gives a special break to giant corporations, a break that nobody else gets,” and that it could destroy the work done by Obama on Dodd Frank.

Obama proved once again that he isn’t truly in need of an anger translator, speaking with Yahoo in an interview in which he was quick to criticize Warren and vehemently disagree with her viewpoint. “Think about the logic of that, right?” he said in the interview. “The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I’d have to be pretty stupid.” 

“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” said Obama. “On most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny,” he said, calling her argument “hypothetical” and “speculative.”

Warren is not only concerned with Obama’s presidency and trade decisions however. She argues that after his time in office is up, a Republican president could take his seat, and Congress would not have as much power to control the trade deals decided by those that followed Obama should the fast tracking authority be granted now.

A Republican president could easily use a future trade deal to override our domestic financial rules,” said Warren, according to the Huffington Post. “And this is hardly a hypothetical possibility.”

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