POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Trans-Pacific Partnership

by David Trumbull - June 18, 2010 Res Publica

This past week, June 14-18, saw, in San Francisco, the second round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. TPP is a proposed free trade agreement pushed by President Obama. If you don’t like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and believe that trade pact cost American jobs, you will really hate TPP.

Along with the U.S. the nations engaged in the free trade talks are Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The U.S. already has a free trade agreement in effect with Australia (site of the first round of negotiations which took place March 15-19 in Melbourne). We also have free trade agreements with Chile, Peru, and Singapore.

That leaves Brunei, New Zealand, and Vietnam. New Zealand is a Western-style democracy that shares our heritage of British common law and tradition of individual freedom. As for the remaining two nations that President Obama wants to favor with special trade privileges—

Freedom House, the independent international watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world classifies both Brunei and Vietnam as unfree.

Brunei, which has been under martial law since 1962, is an Islamic state where most criminal activity is defined and punished according to draconian Islamic sharia law. According to the U.S. Department of State, in a report covering the year 2009—

The [Brunei] Ministry of Education requires courses on Islam… and prohibits the teaching of other religions. Private Christian schools were not allowed to give Christian instruction to Christian or Muslim students but could offer voluntary, Islamic instruction to Muslim students. During the year the government warned Christian schools that they or their personnel could be fined or imprisoned for teaching non-Muslim religious subjects

That same State Department report says of Vietnam—

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam… is an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam… During the year the government increased its suppression of dissent, arresting several political activists… Several editors and reporters from prominent newspapers were fired for reporting on official corruption… Police commonly mistreated suspects during arrest or detention…. Individuals were arbitrarily detained for political activities and denied the right to fair and expeditious trials. The government continued to limit citizens' privacy rights and tightened controls over the press and freedom of speech, assembly, movement, and association… Violence and discrimination against women as well as trafficking in persons continued to be significant problems…

There are nearly 200 nations in the world. The U.S. currently has free trade agreements in effect with 17 of them. Of all the places in the world the President could pick to start talks on a new free trade agreement, wouldn’t you know he would pick a repressive communist regime and an intolerant Islamic monarchy.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]