PARIS -- The good news is that the Obama administration plans to create a lot of new jobs. The bad news is that those jobs will mostly be in Asia.
President Obama's recent trip to Asia revived debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the cornerstone of this administration's so-called pivot to Asia. The controversial agreement -- not likely to be finalized anytime soon -- currently involves the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea. Other countries expressing interest include China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Laos, Colombia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Tell you what: Why don't we just effectively erase all the borders in Asia and turn it into one giant pool of exploitable labor, because that's exactly what this agreement would achieve. The White House won't say that, though. Instead, the Obama administration is promoting the idea that the TPP will result in higher labor standards.
"The president has always made clear that he will only support trade agreements that include fully enforceable labor standards, which we are pursuing in TPP," according to a February statement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. "TPP will offer new tools to fight exploitative child labor and forced labor, deter employment discrimination, and will embed fundamental labor standards in our trade agreement with Mexico and Canada."
What utter nonsense. The U.S. government isn't even capable of following through on such guarantees at home. In fact, its policies promote the precise opposite.
The whole idea of temporary foreign worker programs in the United States, Canada and other developed countries is to establish a legal mechanism for importing and subsequently exploiting foreigners in domestic labor markets. They're forced to work long hours for low pay, differentiating them from the entitled teenagers who would otherwise be filling these positions. Foreign workers are effectively tethered to their jobs, lest they face unemployment and the loss of their immigration status. Sure, they can probably file a grievance with some government agency, but even if it's addressed, the aggrieved worker is apt to be cut loose.
Are we supposed to believe that governments of these same developed nations are going to suddenly care about labor standards in foreign nations?