Trump Vows to Disrupt Trade; Progressives Need to Push Him in the Right Direction

One of Trump's first policy announcements was that he would immediately kill the already-stalled TPP negotiations.One of Trump’s first policy announcements was that he would immediately kill the already-stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. (Photo: Ellen Davidson / Backbone Campaign)

The one election issue tying together populist voices on the right and left was trade — or so it seemed. Donald Trump’s upset win, fueled in part by Rust Belt rage against free trade deals and globalization, could hand liberals an unexpected opportunity to push a fairer set of trade rules, if they can shift the debate away from Trump’s reactionary “bull in a China shop” spectacle and toward a concrete movement to advance a people-centered alternative, based on social-justice principles, not return-on-investment.

A group of human rights organizations, including the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), has framed a human rights-based trade agenda requiring signatories to “understand, assess, and address their full effects on human rights, with a particular focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups,” such as women and migrants. Core provisions would include the right to a safe and healthy environment, fair access to medicines and respect for labor and indigenous rights.

The group contends that pending trade deals fail on these basic human rights standards. Such deals include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would link 12 Pacific Rim nations and was panned by both Trump and Bernie Sanders during the campaign, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would connect Europe and the United States.

One of Trump’s first policy announcements was that he would immediately kill the already-stalled TPP negotiations and, instead, seek to negotiate bilateral trade agreements supposedly more beneficial to the United States. But progressive internationalists, who note that the TPP was likely moribund anyway due to widespread public backlash, warn that Trump’s rhetoric is equally short-sighted.

In a broadly-worded memorandum on a…

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