Free-trade backers turn bashers in US

Ten years back nobody would have believed that people in advanced economies, the evangilists of Globalisation and free trade with turn their backs on free trade. Then we are living in intresting times. This POTUS election, has be one such instances where candidates from both side of divide have pushed for same. NYT summerizes we in below article.

Democrats and Republicans agreed on almost nothing at their conventions this month, except this: Free trade, just a decade ago the bedrock of the economic agendas of both parties, is now a political pariah.

Protesters, many of whom supported Senator Bernie Sanders, swarmed into Philadelphia this week and heckled speakers, even President Obama, over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade (TPP) deal that was finalised this year. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has tried to help Obama achieve this signature trade pact, renounced his support for the deal last week when he joined Hillary Clinton’s ticket.
Donald J Trump has made unravelling the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade accord in history, the centrepiece of his campaign, upending more than half a century of Republican orthodoxy.

The fragile pro-trade coalition on Capitol Hill once led by Republicans is also unspooling, and congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would include 12 countries that together account for roughly 40 per cent of the global economy, seems increasingly unlikely during the Obama presidency. Republican leaders in both chambers are not planning to bring it up this year.

Opponents of multilateral trade agreements, convinced that they have unduly harmed American workers, have enjoyed a stunning success that may signal a long-term political and policy realignment in both parties.

Republicans, proponents of free trade for decades, have found their base this year expanding to include anti-trade voters from poor and working-class areas who have joined forces, if not voting habits, with the Democrats’ most liberal voters.

“The primaries created seismic changes,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. “It will never be the same again. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will ever again be unabashed advocates for trade.”

Candidates often turn against free trade only to embrace it as president, as Obama notably did. Clinton also changed her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the campaign after championing it as secretary of state. Govenor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia suggested this week that Clinton would reverse as Obama did if elected, only to be strongly batted down by campaign officials. Trump’s criticism of the trade pact is far more frontal. In addition to tearing up the deal, he has said he would slap a 45 per cent tax on imports from China.

He believes he can attract liberal voters with this pitch, which he posted on Twitter this month, “To all the Bernie voters who want to stop bad trade deals & global special interests, we welcome you with open arms.”

In some ways, Trump is pulling Republicans back to their protectionist pre-war roots. They were the party of the ultimately disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised tariffs on imports, a position that was later reversed.

Democrats, with their deep ties to organised labour, have soured on trade deals in recent decades, especially in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law by the Clinton administration.

They say the deals have cost manufacturing jobs and lowered wages, though global trade accounts for fewer lost jobs than automation and other technological advances. (The apparel and furniture sectors, which employed many of the workers now backing Trump, are exceptions.)

In surveys, most Americans typically say free trade on the whole is positive, a fact often cited by its supporters. But polls also show that people are less optimistic about trade’s effect on jobs at home. Americans are more likely to say that international trade diminishes wages more than it improves them, and that it results in jobs losses.

The anti-trade talk “resonates with people who have been on the short end of the stick,” said Jeffrey J Schott, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“There are a wide range of reasons why this segment of the population has been left behind,” he added. “Both the attacks on trade and on Clinton are a surrogate for concerns about globalisation.”

The shift was visible among Republicans early this year when the embattled incumbent Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and a former United States trade representative in the second Bush administration, came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Other Republicans have since remained quiet, or also pulled back. Portman, who is in a tough re-election fight against Ted Strickland, the former Ohio governor, recently received the endorsement of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters.

These are positions that worry the administration greatly. “Globalisation is a force, and trade agreements are how we shape globalisation,” said Michael B Froman, the United States trade representative who has been criticised on Capitol Hill all year from members of both parties. “There is a lot of rhetoric in the campaign that reflects real anger and concerns about changes in our economy, but the right prescription is not to get out of trade agreements.” Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said “the White House is making progress, but it needs to pick up the pace and pick it up significantly.”

He added, “Congress has the final say on whether trade is good for our country and workers, and there are outstanding issues that have eroded that support.”

Sanders and Trump have relentlessly bashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and multilateral trade deals throughout the campaign, pushing Clinton toward Sanders’s position and leaving Republicans largely scared into silence, or equivocating.

“It’s been a one-sided conversation in this race, which is unfortunate,” said Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, who is a rare member of his party in the House who supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trade supporters are trying to counter the anti-trade crowd with local advertisements, posts on Twitter, op-ed articles and town-hall-style meetings.

“The current rhetoric about trade is in members’ minds,” Froman said, “but we are working hard to push back against misinformation that is out there.”

The White House is trying to allay concerns in Congress about when and how member countries will change their laws to adjust to the agreement and how the data of financial companies will be treated.

A fight over how intellectual property protections are managed for the biopharmaceutical industry has been sticky, and the topic has been the subject of discussions between the administration and Republicans in Congress.

Still, there is deep resistance to voting on the trade measure. “The chances are pretty slim that we’d be looking at that this year,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader. House leaders are equally indifferent.

Clinton has expressed strong reservations to aspects of the deal, and it is not clear what she would do to move a trade pact forward as president. Even less is known about what Trump’s approach might be, other than his assertions that his deal-making prowess would achieve accords that are better for workers.

Even so, the long-term impacts on both parties seem inevitable.

“We are not going back to business as usual,” Schott said. “If Clinton wins, I think there are feasible ways for her to fix what is broken and make it better. If Trump wins, he wants to just break the china, and once he does that, you won’t be able to put the pieces together again.”

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