If Trade Is War, It’s Time We Fought Back

It is not often that members of Congress get the opportunity to weigh in on international trade. But negotiations over fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in recent months have given elected representatives the chance to voice their opinions on how the government should engage with other countries financially. For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a report this week highlighting various promises that presidents have made over the years as they touted the labor benefits of so-called free-trade pacts like NAFTA, and pointing out how they fell flat in living up to those promises.

But Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (a Vermont independent who is a presidential candidate) are among a tiny handful of lawmakers who are openly skeptical of the TPP. The battle lines over the secretive multilateral trade pact pit Warren and Sanders against President Obama, as well as most Republicans and Democrats. A day after dozens of Senate Democrats blocked debate on fast-track authority, most capitulated with a little arm-twisting and deal-making from Obama, and they voted to move forward with the debate.

For decades now, we have heard the claim that free trade is equivalent to freedom in general, that if corporations were allowed to freely do business around the world without having to contend with tariffs, regulations and other so-called trade barriers, it would naturally result in an equal playing field and prosperity for all.

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