The Corner

Economy & Business

Why Is Elizabeth Warren Anti-TPP But Pro-Ex-Im?

Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be confused about what she really thinks about trade policy. The Massachusetts populist has been fighting with President Obama over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, arguing that it would give an edge to other countries, be inconsistent with our regulatory regime, and hurt large numbers of American workers. The Huffington Post:

Warren and other Democrats have raised concerns about the deal being negotiated with other 11 Pacific countries, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that it could worsen income inequality and allow private companies to challenge domestic financial regulations before an international tribunal. Those challenges, Warren and other critics argue, could undermine key financial, environmental and other regulations. . . . 

Obama also pushed back against criticism that the deal would hurt American workers, saying virtually everything he has done since taking office in 2009 has been about strengthening the middle class.

Now, based on the little we know about TPP, I do think there are real reasons to be concerned — Nick Gillespie highlights a copyright-law problem today. But that’s not what bothers Senator Warren. 

She worries it’s going to pose a problem for American companies, workers, and the environment — which certainly seems to be inconsistent with her support for the Export-Import Bank.

Ex-Im really does give an edge to foreign companies by granting them cheap loans. (It also enriches the large banks Warren claims to despise in the process.) The senator doesn’t seem to understand that when domestic companies are forced to compete with subsidized foreign companies, when Ex-Im subsidizes a select few U.S. firms at the expense of their unsubsidized competitors, a lot of American workers lose.

And how does Warren reconcile her concerns about the environment and the costs of fossil fuels with the fact that one of Ex-Im’s biggest foreign beneficiaries is Pemex? The Mexican-state owned oil and gas company has received over $7 billion in Ex-Im financing over the last several years, meaning it sends American taxpayer dollars to support fossil-fuel activities that aren’t regulated as they would be in the U.S.

The obvious conclusion: Warren either doesn’t get what Ex-Im does and and is content to swallow the talking points provided by its proponents, or her populism is less principled than her fans imagine.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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