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Ricochet began as a podcast and a subscription-based website, but quickly became a community that extends well beyond. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it began with the unlikely friendships of its founders — @peterrobinson and @roblong — so the ensuing meet ups and social media interactions of members should not be surprising. Via Facebook, Twitter, or face-to-face, the debates and conversations don’t end here.*
Nor do they always begin here. And sometimes, that’s regrettable because I learned a thing or two that others could certainly appreciate. Case in point, @jamielockett proposed elsewhere that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a mistake. That led to the following exchange including myself, Jamie, and @jamesofengland, reprinted here (somewhat abridged) with their permission.
In this week’s episode of The Libertarian podcast from the Hoover Institution, I lead our own Richard Epstein through a discussion of the many controversies birthed by the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Do trade deals put the screws to American workers? Is the quest for fast-track authority another example of presidential overreach? Should the public be worried about the secrecy around the TPP? Does this deal present threats to American sovereignty? All those topics and more will be addressed when you listen to the show below or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes.
Conversation on this topic is difficult. Primarily this is because we don’t know what’s currently in it. An outdated Wikileaks version is available (you can google it if you really want to), and there’s an active bounty on the updated full text. So who knows, we might actually get to read it before it’s law. Some […]
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While public debate rages over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the real issue before Congress right now is merely whether or not President Obama should be granted fast-track authority, which allows him to negotiate a treaty on behalf of the United States and then present it to the Congress for a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed. As I note in my new piece for Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution, there’s a very strong game theory rationale for giving the president this ability:
… [F]ast-track is a good solution to a complex two-stage bargaining game. At stage one, the President and his trading partners are well aware of the prospect that the Congress could turn down a trade treaty if it is perceived, no questions asked, to put the United States in a worse position. So Congress will agree to a treaty that is better than the status quo ante for the U.S., but not so one-sided that it will drive our potential trading partners away. Hence, a stage one agreement will leave everyone better off.
Here’s some bad news for a Friday: you’re going to spend most of the weekend hearing about Nancy Pelosi. The House Minority Leader, her body temperature slowly elevated to allow full mobility and partial sentience, took to the floor of the lower chamber earlier today to come out against trade adjustment assistance (TAA) in the run-up to the vote to give President Obama fast-track authorization to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Now, TAA, which provides government resources for workers dislocated by international trade, is normally popular with Democrats. But Pelosi didn’t take this position on the merits. Knowing that the passage of TAA would be essential for getting Democrats behind the Trans-Pacific deal, she was trying to smother the effort in the crib. As she said on the House floor,“If TAA slows down the fast-track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA.” And she got her way: it went down handily in the House, losing the vote 126-302.
There are a couple of easy journalistic frames coming here: progressives are abandoning the president in much the same way that conservatives took their leave of George W. Bush towards the end of his administration; The Obama Administration is officially sliding into lame duck territory; With Obama in the home stretch and Harry Reid preparing to retire, Pelosi is now the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. Choose your own adventure.
Yesterday was a bad day for the big Pacific trade deal as “Senate Democrats blocked consideration of giving President Obama power to accelerate a broad trade accord with Asia, a rebuke that the president helped bring on himself,” the New York Times writes. No, the deal is not dead, but the timing is getting funky with summer almost here — not to mention the political difficulties of the approaching election year. Beyond that, there is a fascinating Democrat vs. Democrat dynamic developing, which the trade troubles reflect. This Politico piece on the party’s internal struggles is amazing:
In the fourth quarter of his presidency, without another race to run, Barack Obama has gone to war with what he sees as an out-of-touch, stuck-in-old-thinking Washington liberal elite — Elizabeth Warren’s the most famous member, but AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and a coterie of Hill Democrats are up there with her. Obama advisers say the president sees Democratic opponents of his trade agenda as just as detached from reality as Republicans in Congress who held four dozen Obamacare repeal votes or turned raising debt ceilings and fiscal cliffs into government crisis carnivals. … For Obama, there’s a direct connection between bringing the Democratic Party into the 21st century on trade and his sense of himself as ushering in a generationally transformative foreign policy. Aides say Obama views both ideas as pragmatic, dealing with the reality in front of him. Both are about engagement. Both are about what he says is an orientation toward the future instead of sticking with the ways of the past. You can’t be a progressive on trade, he believes, unless you’re willing to talk about a new way to make trade actually work.
Well, there goes the GOP theory that the trade push is just some elaborate charade since someone as far left as Obama couldn’t possible want a free trade deal. This piece makes Obama out to be more technocratic, third-way guy than hard lefty ideologue. More Tony Blair than Ed Miliband, you might say. At least on this issue. And certainly not Bill de Blasio.
The Senate Finance Committee is taking up the topic of “fast track” trade authority today, which would empower President Obama to negotiate trade deals, namely the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious free-trade area that would cover most of our Asian trading partners (except China) and rival the European Union in size. Some conservatives, however, are resisting the proposal, claiming that it only further consolidates power in an already out-of-control executive. While I’ve been a staunch critic of President Obama’s executive overreach, I don’t think that argument holds up here. As I write at National Review:
…Critics are missing the mark by confusing fast track with Obama’s executive power grabs. Fast track does not delegate any power to the executive branch. Under fast track, the president does not exercise any new authority that he lacked before. Under normal constitutional practice, the president negotiates an international agreement and then submits it to Congress for approval. Fast-track doesn’t change that fundamental order. President Obama can negotiate any agreement he likes, and Congress is free to vote it up or down.
Instead, fast track lives up to its name: It gives expedited congressional consideration to any trade agreement. It promises that any trade agreement will be considered within a short period of time and without amendments — promises necessary in order for our trade partners to take negotiations seriously. Fast track only changes the internal procedures of Congress, which are only within Congress’s power to change, on the timing and speed of the vote on the agreement. In fact, there are some innovations in the bill that might allow even a negative vote in the House and Senate committees to effectively derail a bill. If the executive branch does not closely consult and engage Congress, the bill could also lose the promise of an expedited vote. In that event, any Obama trade pact would undergo the rules that apply to any ordinary bill, which could never come up for a vote or be so encumbered with amendments that our foreign partners will pull out.