Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Toomey on Trade

In a big move today, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who's facing a tough re-election battle against Democrat Katie McGinty, came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in an op-ed today.  Toomey opens this op-ed with a broad defense of international trade but then criticizes the specifics of TPP:
About 46,000 Pennsylvanians have jobs in the life science and pharmaceutical sector, making it one of our state’s largest industries. TPP will make it too easy for other countries to steal innovations that we create in Pennsylvania and take the jobs tied to those innovations.
Pennsylvania’s largest agricultural product is dairy, with about 7,000 dairy farms in the commonwealth. This sector depends heavily on exports, which means it’s critically important that trade agreements open foreign markets to our goods. Unfortunately, TPP has failed to do this meaningfully, particularly with respect to the protectionist Canadian market.
I have brought these and other problems to the attention of the Obama trade negotiators, but regrettably, they have failed to address them. As it now stands, TPP is not a good deal for Pennsylvania. I cannot support it.
A good trade deal can open up new markets across the globe and help turn around our weak economy. We must not abandon trade. Politicians in both parties who demagogue trade do a disservice to our people, playing on their economic fears, instead of promoting their economic well-being. But we should not pass a flawed deal just to get a deal done. We should dump the TPP and return to the negotiating table to get an agreement that would create jobs and economic growth here at home.
Leaving aside the debate about whether support for "free trade" is necessarily a bedrock conservative principle, it's worth noting that Toomey is still defending the overall idea of "free trade" while arguing that TPP does not live up to those ideals.  Toomey's op-ed thus represents one way that even defenders of "free trade" can make some concessions to "free trade"-skeptics in the electorate.

Toomey's shift has some interesting implications for the Pennsylvania Senate race as a whole. Katie McGinty has opposed TPP and other trade deals in a very strident way--and had slammed Toomey for his prior openness to TPP.  Toomey's opposition to TPP weakens those attacks.

Recent moves by President Obama to defend TPP further complicate the electoral dynamic. Politico recently reported that the administration is stepping up its pro-TPP efforts:
Administration officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Agriculture Undersecretary Alexis Taylor are touting the deal across the country in meetings with business and agricultural leaders in a bid to generate positive local headlines. Lew met with Fortune 500 executives in Minneapolis earlier this month, while Taylor will promote the deal in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the National Corn Growers Association grass-roots leaders’ summit.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, meanwhile, appeared Aug. 3 with Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, one of 28 Democrats who supported fast-track authority last year, talking about how the administration is responding to the water crisis in his drought-stricken Central California district. Later that day, she was in Rep. Susan Davis’ San Diego district, touring a guitar factory with the trade-supporting Democrat. The next day, she stood alongside Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, another Democratic supporter of fast-track authority, shaking hands with startup entrepreneurs among his increasingly tech-centric, liberal constituency.
In Pennsylvania, the Obama administration is now on the opposite side of TPP compared to both the Republican and Democratic Senate nominees.  This puts McGinty in an uncomfortable situation.

Over and over again, the McGinty campaign has hammered Toomey on trade.  For instance, here's what McGinty had to say about Toomey's record on trade:
“Despite the fact that bad trade deals have devastated thousands of Pennsylvania families, Pat Toomey continues to support trade agreements like the TPP that will cost us tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
“Pat Toomey never remembers that he’s supposed to work for middle class Pennsylvania families, not Wall Street profits. He should change course and put our families first, before his allegiance to high finance, bad trade deals, and his former Chinese bosses.”
In another statement, McGinty further lambasted Toomey on trade:
“Families are working as hard as they can work,” said Katie McGinty. “People are working two and three jobs and they still can’t make those ends meet. This is about showing Senator Pat Toomey: it is time to reverse course. We are joining together here today to ask Senator Toomey to stop voting against the American worker.
“We’re here to tell Senator Toomey that we need somebody who’s going to fight for our jobs, for our companies, for our families. Stop pushing these bad trade deals that push our jobs overseas. And stop sticking up for the Chinese, who don’t follow the rules, at the expense of our hardworking women and men, and our companies, who are being left behind."
McGinty seems to view TPP as terrible policy, and yet Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, is campaigning heavily for TPP.  And McGinty isn't trying to distance herself from President Obama: he's at the very top of her endorsement page.

So Katie McGinty has spent all this time attacking Pat Toomey for supporting TPP, even though he now opposes it, while allying herself to Barack Obama, who defends it.

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