Free trade and the Ohio primary: A "love" story

I don't like to brag about it or anything, but I consider myself the world's foremost Trans Pacific Partnership expert under the age of 35 with red hair.


Last year I wrote an in-depth industry report about the state of U.S. textile manufacturing and efforts to bring it back from overseas, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Exciting stuff, right?

Actually, the TPP is exciting stuff. It's become a big player in this year's election and probably a big reason why U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary last week.

Oh, what's the Trans Pacific Partnership, you ask? Allow me to explain.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement between the U.S. and 12 Pacific Rim countries (Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam among them). It passed in February after nearly a decade of blood, sweat, tears and basically begging Vietnam to play nice. Vietnam likes to trade its pudding cups and play hopscotch with China most of the time, but Vietnam's reluctance to be friends with TPP countries is kind of ironic considering they might become the most popular kid in school thanks to this deal.

The end result is an agreement that says, among other things, that stuff you export for free shouldn't just be made in your country, it should be made with stuff from your country...except the TPP's rules on material origin aren't quite that strict. Only 45 percent of your goods have to be made of local materials. Not a big deal if you grow tomatoes with nothing but dirt, sun and soil, but if you make, oh, say, complex pieces of machinery like cars--like people in Michigan and Ohio are known to do--it's a big freakin' deal. (Get the full rundown here.)

You really know your stuff, Veronica, but what does all this got to do with Ohio?

After winning Michigan, the Boston Globe reported on Sunday that Sanders is playing up his anti-free-trade-agreement stance in the Buckeye state. On the flip side, Ohio voters say they're skeptical Clinton will protect and restore American manufacturing jobs as president since she supported the TPP up until last year (not to mention her husband orchestrated NAFTA during his time in the White House).

So we shall see how the Ohio primary plays out, but if you ask me (and since you're reading my blog, I assume you're asking), this won't be the last we hear about the TPP this election season.