Confronting Trump’s Trade Agenda from the Left

June 07, 2017

Deborah James
NACLA Report on the Americas, June 7, 2017

See article on original site

On the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency, the death certificate for the moribund Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed. Although the TPP was already dead in the water—President Obama never had sufficient support to bring it to Congress for a vote after he signed it in February 2016—Trump’s final blow to the trade deal created the illusion that the Left and Right had somehow become unusual bedfellows.

To be sure, when considering the rest of Trump’s trade agenda, there appears to be little overlap between Trump’s policy proposals and an alternative progressive trade policy—the latter of which would promote good-paying jobs, environmental protection, access to affordable medicines, and equitable global development. But Trump’s opposition to TPP, as well as his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), does raise an important question for progressives: namely, what would a progressive trade policy look like in the current political environment?

There are three considerations to this question. First, the United States should not negotiate any new trade agreements until the existing ones are fixed. Then, the hard work: reviewing and renegotiating existing agreements, like NAFTA, that harm workers and the environment. A third task follows from the first two: hammering out the contents of a new trade agenda moving forward.

No New Trade Agreements

In addition to the TPP, the Obama administration had been negotiating an agreement to lock in the privatization and deregulation of services, called the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), since early 2013. The TiSA is a project of the major financial services, technology, logistics, and transnational retail corporations to redesign the global economy in order to allow them to move capital, labor, inputs, and data across borders with minimal oversight and accountability—and with no mandate to benefit people in the countries in which those corporations operate. The TiSA would accomplish this by facilitating the privatization of public services, and then locking-in deregulation—including prohibiting regulation of new services that have yet to be developed. The Trump administration has yet to publish a formal position on the TiSA talks. However, Trump has stacked his cabinet with TiSA advocates, and his own portfolio is chock full of financial, real estate, construction, and retail interests that stand ready to benefit from further deregulation of the global economy. 

Read the rest of the article here at NACLA Report on the Americas.

Deborah James is the Director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research ( and coordinates the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.

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