This story originally appeared on Marfa Public Radio.
The White House is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Representatives from 12 countries – mostly from the Pacific Rim – are in Hawaii this week. And they’re facing a Friday deadline to reach a deal. What might this mean for Texas?
“These are important markets for Texas,” says Calman Cohen, who leads a group called ECAT, the Emergency Committee for American Trade. “Many of your good products from Texas are going into these countries. For example, take a major neighbor of Texas: Mexico. Texas exports of goods and services in 2011 amounted to 87 billion dollars. We think through the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, as barriers are further reduced, those exports can increase. And from that perspective, having an increase in exports to these countries, would be a boon for the Texas economy.”
Opponents to the deal say one unintended export would be jobs. Jere Locke is the former director of The Texas Fair Trade Coalition. Although the White House is pushing it, not everyone in President Obama’s own party is on board.
“Democrats here in Texas aren’t supporting it either. And there are problems that go past the obvious, which is the loss of jobs.”
Locke believes the loss of jobs is “obvious” based on the last big trade deal – NAFTA – two decades ago – which his group says was a disaster. “And now we have 20 years experience with NAFTA and we’ve seen that the U.S. lost about 1 million net jobs to NAFTA.”
How does Calman Cohen and ECAT see the jobs issue? “Well, I see it basically the other way around. Our country has a very open economy. What we don’t always have are access to the markets of some of our TPP countries. If this agreement is successful, it will address some of the very very high tariffs that affect products that Texas might want to send. For example in Japan, the beef products that come into their economy are taxed at a rate of 38 percent. We’d like to see that come down.”
And if the deal is made, Congress still gets its say, in an up-or-down vote.