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Obama Pushes Support for TPP, Critics Fear Another NAFTA

The Trans Pacific Partnership, the proposed free trade agreement more commonly known as TPP, is being pushed by President Barack Obama, who argues the United States must be a part of such agreements in order to help shape trade in the 21st century.

On Monday he made his case at a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“We are part of a global economy. We’re not reversing that–it can’t be reversed,” Obama said. “Most manufactured products now involve a global supply chain where parts are made in all corners of the globe and converge and then get assembled and packaged and sold. The notion that we’re going to pull that up, root and branch, is unrealistic.”

But not everyone is convinced. Those opposing TPP include many supporters of Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton–who was for it before she was against it–and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

So just what can we expect from TPP if it is ever ratified and implemented?

“It’s the biggest global trade deal perhaps in a generation. It’s 12 different Pacific Rim countries, including the United States and Japan–which are the biggest economies–but also including places like Chile and New Zealand,” said Kevin Allison, a Chicago-based global resources columnist at Reuters Breakingviews who was previously a reporter for the Financial Times.

“You can think of it as a kind of a Pacific Ocean version of NAFTA,” Allison said. “TPP is going to lower tariffs on something like 18,000 different kinds of goods, it’s going to allow freer trade not just in manufactured items but also in services between the countries that have agreed to it.

“Altogether, the countries that make up the TPP agreement account for about 40 percent of global GDP. It’s an absolutely massive trading block, so this is for President Obama, I think, seen as a key part of his economic legacy, so he’s very keen to push this through before he leaves office.”

Allison joins host Carol Marin for a discussion of the TPP along with Phil Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs who was formerly a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and also served on President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers; and Susan Hurley, the executive director of Jobs With Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for workers’ rights.

Levy supports TPP, while Hurley opposes it.

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