U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will face the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday to make the case for the Obama administration’s trade agenda. Undoubtedly, the beleaguered Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be a major focus of the hearing after the latest failed do-or-die negotiation following on years of missed deadlines, unbending opposition by other nations to many U.S. proposals, and deadlocks on scores of TPP issues. Froman is expected to try to overcome Congress’ opposition to Fast Track trade authority by making his standard outlandish claims that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and other past trade pacts have led to U.S. trade surpluses.
Recently, Froman has begun making improbable claims about past U.S. trade agreements that rely on major data distortions. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) recent assertions that the NAFTA has led to a U.S. trade surplus with Mexico and Canada and that the U.S.-Korea FTA has increased U.S. manufacturing exports to Korea have been met with incredulity. These pacts’ recent anniversaries have spotlighted how the trade pact model on which the TPP is premised has led to massive trade deficits.
The premise that NAFTA would improve our trade balance was the basis for NAFTA proponents’ promises that the pact would create U.S. jobs. Many of the same government and industry sources made the same claims to sell the 2011 U.S.-Korea FTA. These pacts’ dismal outcomes – slow or even negative export growth, rising imports and burgeoning trade deficits – are intensifying congressional opposition to Fast Track authority for the TPP.