New Data Add Fuel to Arguments Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

In December I showed that growing trans-Pacific trade deficits would set the stage for growing trade-related job displacement. New data released this month show that the U.S. trade deficit with the countries in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) increased to an unexpectedly large $265.1 billion in 2014, as shown in the updated graph, below. This increase is further proof that U.S. workers don’t need another job-killing trade deal, which would undoubtedly grow the trade deficit even more.

In addition, new developments are likely to increase opposition to the deal being crafted behind closed doors by negotiators from the United States and 11 other countries. In a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post, Senator Elizabeth Warren identifies a key way in which the proposed TPP is a dangerous and unnecessary corporate giveaway. The TPP would create special tribunals, or dispute resolution panels, that would allow corporations and foreign investors (but not public interest groups or unions) to challenge U.S. laws “without ever setting foot in a U.S. court.” These deals give corporations special rights to force countries to roll back critical regulations. Right now, for example, Philip Morris is using the process to try force Uruguay to halt new anti-smoking regulations that are designed to improve public health. As Warren concludes, if these dispute panels are included in the final TPP, the only winners will be giant, multinational corporations.

The TPP would also do nothing to combat currency manipulation, which is a major driver of U.S. trade deficits with TPP countries including Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. Ending currency manipulation could reduce U.S. trade deficits and increase GDP—creating between 2.3 to 5.8 million jobs—but U.S. Trade Representative Froman has said that it has not been discussed in TPP negotiations.

It’s increasingly clear that the TPP, like past trade and investment deals, would be a bad deal for U.S. workers. The president should not try to push this deal through, and Congress should not approve it.

Figure A

Growing U.S. trade deficit with TPP countries,* 1997–2014 (billions of dollars)

Year Exports Imports
1997 $311.3 $421.7
1998 $310.2 $438.0
1999 $322.9 $490.3
2000 $361.7 $568.8
2001 $330.1 $525.6
2002 $319.5 $520.8
2003 $325.3 $539.4
2004 $356.2 $607.7
2005 $389.6 $672.6
2006 $431.0 $738.1
2007 $458.3 $756.2
2008 $495.7 $777.1
2009 $389.7 $569.0
2010 $475.3 $707.6
2011 $550.8 $796.6
2012 $583.7 $839.8
2013 $588.2 $849.7
2014 $613.0 $878.1
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* The data exclude re-exports (or transshipments) of goods not produced or substantially transformed in teh United States.


Source: EPI analysis of U.S. International Trade Commission Trade Dataweb (2014)

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