The 10 biggest lies you’ve been told about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Today, the Senate makes a critical test vote on the Obama Administration’s trade agenda, kicking off a process that the White House hopes to end with the signing of an agreement between 12 nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In preparation for this vote, President Obama has been deliberately antagonizing his critics, mostly liberal Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren is “a politician, like everybody else,” Obama said Friday to Yahoo News, who has “got a voice that she wants to get out there,” framing her concerns as insincere self-aggrandizement. Those concerns, Obama added, are “absolutely wrong.”

This is not the first time that Obama and his aides have depicted opposition on trade as deliberate misinformation designed to stir up a left-leaning political base, or generate campaign contributions; my favorite is the claim that Warren is merely trying to energize a non-existent Presidential campaign.

It’s beneath the dignity of the Presidency to so aggressively paint opponents as not just wrong on the facts, but hiding the truth on purpose. Warren has responded without using the same indecorous tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same self-control. So by way of response, here are ten moments where the President or his subordinates have lied – call it “misled” or “offered half-truths” or whatever; but I’m in an ornery mood so let’s just say lied – about his trade agenda:

1. 40 PERCENT: The President and his team have repeatedly described TPP as a deal involving nearly 40 percent of global GDP. This tells only part of the story. First of all, the U.S. by itself represents 22 percent of global GDP; a bill naming a post office would involve that much. Second, we already have free trade agreements with six TPP partners – Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Chile and Peru – and between them and us, that’s 80 percent of the total GDP in this deal. The vast majority of the rest is represented by Japan, where the average applied tariff is a skinny 1.2 percent, per the World Bank.

You can see this paragraph in graphic form here. The point is that saying TPP is about “40 percent of GDP” intimates that it would massively change the ability to export without tariffs. In reality it would have virtually no significance in opening new markets. To the extent that there’s a barrier in global trade today, it comes from currency manipulation by countries wanting to keep their exports cheap. The TPP has no currency provisions...


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