By Count Friedrich von Olsen
For all of you Sentinel readers with your heads buried in the sand of local news, we turn now to something of national and international import. My subject this week is the Pacific Rim Partnership trade agreement, a 12-nation pact that President Barack Obama says is a major objective in his second-term agenda. Mr. Obama is at odds in his sponsorship of this agreement with members of his own party, finding himself aligned with a majority of the Republicans in Congress as the matter is being earnestly debated on Capitol Hill. For that reason alone, this is an interesting topic…
This weekend, as our president flies to a summit in Germany, he will have several key Democrats on Air Force One with him and he will plead with them for their support for the Pacific Rim trade accord, approved by the Senate last month, so he can win the support of the House of Representatives and fast track the pact’s finalization. Only 18 of the 188 Democrats in the House are with the president so far. There is majority Republican support for the bill to ratify the pact, but there is some scattered Republican opposition to it. The president therefore needs to ensure the votes of 200 Republican House members or thereabouts, to get the agreement in place…
So the question comes: Should the U.S. enter into this agreement? Certainly, there is an upside to the pact, as it will improve things for some sectors of our economy. On the other hand, there are some drawbacks, as it will have a hurtful impact on other portions of our economy. When he appeared on the public radio show “Marketplace,” Mr. Obama conceded that some sectors of the U.S. economy will be harmed by the Pacific trade accord. In the next breath, he offered his assurance that it would benefit a larger number of Americans. “The question is, ‘Are there a lot more winners than losers?’ ” our president asked. “And the answer in this case is yes.”
The readers of this column know I am no great fan of this president. I do not believe, as many say they do, that he is consciously and deliberately seeking to destroy our country. I, in fact, believe just the opposite, that he is sincerely doing the best he can to serve and improve our nation. It is just that I disagree with him on how to go about doing that. He thinks he can improve our country by making it easier for the non-productive elements of our society to access the fruits of the labor of the productive elements of our society. I fear that in doing what he is trying to do, he is going to overwhelm those hardworking pillars of society that are already doing the heavy lifting and that when they stumble under the oppressive load, we will collectively collapse. But I digress…
As far as the Pacific Rim Partnership goes, I am not sure our president is right. Nor am I convince he is wrong. I have not made up my mind. If I were a member of Congress, there are some issues I would want clarified before I cast my vote. So, without any further ado, here goes:
Under the Pacific Rim Partnership, will U.S. companies that have spent millions or tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars incorporating safeguards for the environment into their operations be put at a disadvantage in competing against foreign companies that are not required to meet such requirements?
Under the Pacific Rim Partnership, will U.S. companies that have engaged in collective bargaining with the unions representing their employees and who are now paying union scale wages to their workers and providing them with health and retirement benefits be put at a disadvantage in competing against foreign companies that are permitted to pay their employees peanuts and offer them no benefits?
Under the Pacific Rim Partnership, will U.S. companies that receive no subsidies from the U.S. Government but rather pay hefty federal and state taxes be put at a disadvantage in competing against foreign companies that are provided with financial assistance from their governments?
Under the Pacific Rim Partnership, will U.S. companies that, either because of their own high standards or because of their compliance with U.S. law, incorporated product safety standards into the design of the goods they produce be put at a disadvantage in competing against foreign companies that need adhere to no such standards in their manufacturing processes?
Under the Pacific Rim Partnership, will fishermen based in the U.S. who adhere to maritime laws restricting them from overfishing certain areas of the ocean be put at a disadvantage in competing against fisherman based in countries who need engage in no such restrictions?
By Count Friedrich von Olsen