Thanking Trump for Killing TPP?

Progressives have long called for the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but many are holding their applause now that President Trump was the one who killed it, observes anti-war activist John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

President Trump wasted little time living up to his promise to drive a stake through the heart of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the economic piece of the “Pivot to Asia,” a provocative challenge to China that was vigorously promoted by neocons and liberal interventionists, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (until she turned against the deal during the campaign).

President Barack Obama speaking in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. [Photo credit: White House]

TPP was a trade agreement that linked 12 Pacific Rim nations but pointedly excluded China in an effort to isolate and weaken it. Thus in his first week in office Trump has made a substantive move away from confrontation with China – and the overall goal of U.S. global domination.

While you might expect that such a move would elicit support and congratulations from foes of war and empire, so far there has not been much of that.

While it’s true that Trump had attacked TPP during the campaign – so his move was expected – he might well have revived it if he wanted to please corporate America and the neocons. After all, Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate – and there are many Democrats pining to please their corporate donors who have sought to resuscitate TPP. But Trump did not do this.

Trump’s first week in office also advanced his promised détente with Russia as Sen. Marco Rubio grudgingly announced he would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State, giving Tillerson the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a party-line 11-10 vote.

Exxon-Mobil CEO Tillerson has had friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has a clear understanding of Russia. Because he has not joined in the recent Russia-bashing, Tillerson has been the target of the neocons who hoped to stop him.

Rubio tried to pressure him into declaring Putin a “war criminal” during the confirmation hearings, something that Tillerson refused to do. Like Trump, Tillerson does not seem like the kind of person who is easily pushed around.

The Hated TPP

Regarding TPP, it was opposed by many progressives and labor leaders for reasons other than a desire for peace. For many labor leaders, it was seen as one more trade deal that would encourage the export of American manufacturing jobs and thus depress domestic wages even more. Progressive activists saw it as an attack on democracy and sovereignty, written in secret and designed to give corporations and banks control over the terms of trade and laws of the land.

Anti-Trump protesters at the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20. 2017. (Photo credit: Robert Parry)

Democratic Party progressives opposed TPP vehemently, and so it would make sense for them to hail Trump’s action. But look at the comments at that bastion of conformist progressivism, the HuffPost, and you will find that many progressives have abruptly switched and are opposing Trump and even praising TPP.

Still, there are a few commenters at least honest enough to admit the hypocrisy behind the switch.

One HuffPost commenter wrote: “OK, when Bernie [Sanders] was talking about how bad the TPP was almost every comment here [on Huffington Post] was how they didn’t trust Hillary to get us out of the TPP. Now that Trump pulled us out, people are taking the opposite view. … At least admit that this is a good thing. Does it matter who stops TPP? 9 months ago we all agreed it was a bad thing.”

This stance is all too reminiscent of Democratic “progressives” who were out in force opposing the war on Iraq under George W. Bush but were nowhere to be seen when Barack Obama came into office and continued the war.

To his credit, Sen. Sanders announced his pleasure with Trump’s deep-sixing TPP, according to the Guardian, which reported: “Sanders praised Trump’s decision, saying TPP is ‘dead and gone’… ‘If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.’”

Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, also praised the termination of TPP, but unlike Sanders he did not mention Trump by name, which is not surprising since most labor leaders did not back Sanders and instead threw their financial and political support behind Clinton, who only broke with TPP when she realized that it might cost her the Democratic nomination.

Sanders’s and Trumka’s objections to TPP are primarily economic, the concerns usually reported in the mainstream media. But the neocons and liberal hawks understood TPP’s imperial aspects, as explained by neocon Sen. John McCain.

As reported by the Guardian, “Senator John McCain criticized the move. ‘President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for the American economy and our strategic position in the Asia Pacific region,’ he said.” (Emphasis added)

In East Asia, TPP has been running into troubles as well, with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and possibly even South Korea moving toward closer ties with China and away from U.S.-promoted strife between China and its neighbors.

Trump’s position – and the recent actions of East Asian countries – may be manifestations of a less confrontational approach toward the world and a new balance of power taking shape. From that point of view, President Trump, by rejecting TPP, is simply moving to negotiate the best deal possible for the U.S. in this new developing global arrangement.

The question for liberals/progressives is will they reflexively oppose Trump on everything he does or will they support what is desirable and criticize what is not. That question will come to the fore soon if Trump and Tillerson manage to fashion Détente 2.0 with Russia.

The War Party, both its neocon and liberal interventionist wings, will fiercely oppose any reduction of tensions with Russia. When that happens, will liberals/progressives support Détente 2.0 – even though it comes from Donald Trump – or will they rally behind the neocons and liberal hawks in their desire for Cold War 2.0?

John V. Walsh can be reached at [email protected] .

23 comments for “Thanking Trump for Killing TPP?

  1. backwardsevolution
    January 26, 2017 at 23:35

    John Walsh – this is a really good article you’ve written. Thank you.

  2. exiled off mainstreet
    January 26, 2017 at 17:59

    This is a big deal and hopefully leads to the elimination of other “trade” deals with the extra-legal corrupt corporate arbitration tribunals having the power to eliminate all regulations. This provides more scope for other western countries to develop in other than neoliberal directions. Thus, I hope that NAFTA is also eliminated. One result of NAFTA was to eliminate the province of New Brunswick’s takeover of auto insurance, since it was eliminated by a NAFTA tribunal as costing parasitic insurance companies money. It is natural that Trumka would favour Trump’s position because these tribunals “trump” all regulation. What the absence of them means is that if Trump himself takes too corporate a view on regulations, something likely to happen in many instances, that future real left-type governments could reinstate those regulations. Thus, the bigger threat of global warming, contrary to the received wisdom, is the standard neoliberal new democratic crowd backed by Soros, the lamestream media, the deep state and the Davos crowd.

  3. Bill Bodden
    January 26, 2017 at 13:43

    The United States (and other nations) would be in a much better condition if people acted on principle instead of ideology and tribal loyalties as demonstrated by some “progressives” referred to in this article.

  4. Julia
    January 26, 2017 at 13:24

    Ick! The HuffPost progressive? Progressive activists (not the faux left that’s trying to corral our issues into an anti-Trump campaign) were happy the TPP got killed but now we are worried because Trump hasn’t spoken out against TISA.

    Please don’t think liberal pundits on corporate rags like HuffPo represent us.

  5. delia ruhe
    January 26, 2017 at 12:36

    If “free” trade is as important as the globalists claim, why are they not re-inventing it? The problem with it as it stands is that it’s “free” only for the investors who negotiate it. The freedom it grants them is freedom from any responsibility to labour, to consumers, and to the natural environment. Those three entities are not at the table, they are on the menu — and have got eaten as a result of virtually every agreement ever signed.

    Make a place at the negotiating table for labour, consumers, and Mother Nature, and then free trade becomes Fair Trade, and activists movements against it will not materialize.

    • backwardsevolution
      January 26, 2017 at 23:38

      delia – really good response: labor, consumers and Mother Nature must be at the negotiating table (which they were not). Great to read good, sound responses like your’s. Thank you.

    • Peter
      January 29, 2017 at 07:53

      Delia hi……when looking at the complaints resolution rules within say, the TTIP, we might add that the “freedom” globalism grants is the freedom from responsibility/accountability to governments. Governments would be assigned “observer status” only at the table, as it were.

  6. Stiv
    January 25, 2017 at 22:53

    Are you kidding? “A less confrontational approach”? He’s already pissed Mexico (that doesn’t matter, right?), China and theres more on the way. Wouldn’t be totally surprised if Russia ends up there in time too. But truthfully, Trump would be more likely to give Putin whatever room he needs and good luck with that. Still,never a big fan of the war mongers and Clinton is guilty of that. To think Trump is different is a fool’s errand. His reasons will be different.

  7. Zachary Smith
    January 25, 2017 at 21:51

    If Trump were to lay hands on a cancer patient and heal him, Hillary’s Fanatics would start writing editorials about him practicing medicine without a license. In other words, those people were never “progressives” except for publicity purposes.

    Killing TPP is well and good, but I’m not hearing anything about Trump willing to also trash TTIP and TISA. Maybe they’re part and parcel of getting rid of TTP, but I’d like to be sure.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 26, 2017 at 02:40

      Let me latch on here that Trump is moving to fast for me. The minute I want to applaud him, the next minute I want to throw a tomato at him. I better get use to it, because this maybe Donald’s hallmark, and I will either adapt or go watch comedy reruns….& I’m okay with that.

      Here’s an example; while I was explaining to my wife and son how getting out of the TTP was a good thing, the tv on mute behind me was broadcasting Trump’s renewal of the XL pipeline, and he was going towards going against the Lakota-Dakota people over property rights…so what’s that make me look like?

      The other story in the news cycle is this possible investigation of voter fraud in California…and at this reading President Trump has only been president for six days. It’s not good days and bad days, it’s Twitter seconds away from yay to boo chants at a dual personality jokester …yay/boo alternating from one to another, like the old record. All this on top of a very divided populace….I don’t know???

      Do you think we’ll make it? Will the Donald make it through? What will a Trump Stew taste light? So many questions, and everyone with different answers….this is made for tv.

    • Hank
      January 30, 2017 at 19:12

      Good Point

  8. Al
    January 25, 2017 at 18:51

    This progressive will give credit where credit is due and will take any goods (a big good, in this case) in the coming sea of bad from Trump. Without Trump, the TPP would have gone through. Yet many Dems have latched on to this new meme going around that “we the people” defeated the TPP, not Trump. I don’t think that type of self-delusion is healthy, especially when I heard it used by Wall Street darling, Chuck Schumer, a couple of days ago, as if he were leading part of an effective progressive movement.

  9. Tom Coombs
    January 25, 2017 at 18:27

    This is a bit off topic but true representation can only be achieved if your country has a federal voters roll not the many corrupt county voter’s lists. In Canada we have a simple method. Our income tax files have a check box asking if you want to be on the election roll. Rolls are updated upon deaths and electors simply tell Elections Canada if they move. Addresses can be okayed at the election poll on the day of voting. I worked as a polling clerk once. No one asked me my political affiliation, all i was taught was the proper procedure used to make it easy for the voter to vote. We counted paper ballots and had the totals within an hour of poll closure.

    • Fran Macadam
      January 25, 2017 at 19:24

      Canada does not elect the Prime Minister directly. He is chosen by the inner members of the party at their convention; the public does not choose those who run in their districts. The party members do – there are no primaries for voters. Only the district in which the Prime Minister runs as a member of parliament gets to vote for him; no one else in Canada. Candidates are chosen by the federal parties and are often parachuted into faraway safe ridings without consulting locals.

      The Canadian system is far less democratically accountable, since votes in Parliament are always along party lines, lest the government lose any vote, which triggers a election – which like politicians everywhere, they hate.

      • Tom Coombs
        January 25, 2017 at 20:22

        We have five national parties. The leader of government should be the leader of the party that gets the most seats. The parties actually have platforms. The leader has to appear in parliament to answer to opposition parties. I would have loved to see Reagan, Nixon, GW or now to see Trump talking directly to the opposition on televised sittings of the house.

        • backwardsevolution
          January 25, 2017 at 21:42

          Fran – what Tom Coombs is saying is that in Canada you get to choose whether you get on the election rolls by ticking a box on your Income Tax return. Done.

          I remember helping my daughter with a school assignment, comparing the governments of Mexico, U.S. and Canada. I came away surprised that I thought Canada had the better system of representation.

      • Johnny
        January 26, 2017 at 01:38

        You are right about that. It is Parliamentarianism. But US system is not completely democratic either. It doesn’t matter if 51? or 99? of voters vote for the president only 55 electoral votes are counted. California and Vermont have the same number of Senators and votes in the Senate despite California has a much larger population.

    • evelync
      January 25, 2017 at 21:02

      As far as your parliamentary system is concerned, I’ve been wondering if it might work better than what we have here now.
      At least in a parliamentary system there is a debated platform that Prime Ministers are held to account on.

      I think that if Bernie had his way and we got rid of Citizens United and elections were publicly funded we might have better luck with our political system being a representative democracy.

      • backwardsevolution
        January 26, 2017 at 23:31

        evelync – yes, Citizens United has got to go. You are so right on that.

  10. evelync
    January 25, 2017 at 17:38

    Bernie’s approach as the leader of the opposition is perfect, so far, IMO.
    Instead of spouting anti-Trump rhetoric, as the author says, he apparently is examining each policy position that Trump takes and depending on how he perceives it will affect average Americans, he embraces it or speaks out against it.
    That’s how he has gained peoples’ trust and why he has credibility.
    When he was mayor of Burlington, his “arch enemy” from the start – a wealthy developer – came to respect and work with Bernie, calling their duo “the odd couple”. They worked together to develop the water front.
    Bernie refused to allow an apartment building to be converted to condos if the renters were thrown out and instead as mayor, found a way to give the apartment renters the opportunity to become owners instead of being kicked out.

    • msavage
      January 25, 2017 at 18:25

      Bernie’s actions are an example that ALL progressives should be following, as the author if this article has suggested. Praise Trump for the good he does, and fight him on the bad. Using how actions will affect the average American seems like a good barometer, no?

    • Brad Benson
      January 29, 2017 at 06:53

      Bernie has no credibility. He supported a WAR CRIMINAL in the last election and has voted for every “Defense” Authorization Bill–always providing the money for the wars he said he didn’t support.

  11. Drew Hunkins
    January 25, 2017 at 16:57

    Give Trump some credit here. He had the chutzpah to sign off against something Obama and Killary never would’ve had the courage or forthrightness to veto. Yes, progressive activists, intellectuals, writers and rabble-rousers certainly laid A LOT of the groundwork for Trump to piggyback off of, but Trump definitely gets some credit here for slapping down the TPP.

    Now, it’s time to battle back against Trump’s more noxious policies that focus on rolling back consumer protections, labor rights, the Bill of Rights, progressive taxation and his saber rattling toward Tehran and his insistence to the Zionist Power Configuration that they can go ahead and move the capital to Jerusalem.

    Nuance is needed with Trump, on the few things he gets right they should be acknowledged, on the many dunderheaded policy proposals of his that are outright attacks on the public interest he should be condemned and denounced.

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