Quora: TPP Enforces Tough Regulations, Unlike NAFTA, Obama Says

Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia October 1. Reuters

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Answer from Barack Obama, president of the United States:

It's no secret that past trade agreements haven't always lived up to the hype.

During my time in Illinois, I saw first-hand how small-town communities were devastated as manufacturers moved overseas to cut costs and pay lower wages in other countries. Trade agreements like NAFTA didn't put in place tough, enforceable standards—and that meant that at times, our workers and businesses were getting left behind. So it's natural that some Americans view these trade agreements with a skeptical eye.

That's why, when we negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we fought for a deal that puts American workers first—because when our businesses and workers compete on a level playing field, no one can beat us.

So here's how TPP differs from NAFTA.

NAFTA failed to require a minimum wage, ban workplace discrimination, protect the right to form a union and bargain collectively, or prohibit child and forced labor. TPP includes every single one of these standards, along with enforceable trade sanctions for any country that violates them.

NAFTA failed to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, protect against overfishing, or combat illegal logging. TPP includes all of these protections, once again coupled with tough sanctions for violators.

NAFTA failed to protect a free and open Internet, protect consumers from fraud and deception, or simplify export rules for small businesses. Yes, TPP does all of this, including the first-ever requirements for digital and small businesses to ensure that our trade rules reflect what the 21st century economy demands.

Those are just a few of the ways that TPP is a better deal than what we've seen in the past. And believe me—if TPP did anything short of that, I would not sign it.

Finally, one final point, and it's crucial. Because Canada and Mexico are a part of the agreement, TPP represents an opportunity to renegotiate NAFTA. In fact, by raising environmental and labor standards and beefing up enforcement, TPP will fix a lot of what was wrong with NAFTA in the first place.

So junking the TPP actually means sticking with the status quo that NAFTA created—which means this trade agreement is our only real shot at bringing NAFTA up to code.

In the end, we have to be mindful of the past, without ignoring the realities of the new economy. We've got to ensure agreements we enter let us harness the opportunities of trade on our own terms. That means giving every working American what they deserve most: the chance to create, produce, and sell the world's best products and ideas. A good trade agreement helps make that possible—and that's what TPP is.

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Quora: TPP Enforces Tough Regulations, Unlike NAFTA, Obama Says | U.S.