Trade has become a dividing line in the Republican Party. While traditionally the GOP has been a vocal supporter of reducing trade barriers between the United States and its trading partners, the cost of trade deals on American jobs has led to outright opposition to the largest treaty now on the table, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to explain why he shifted from supporting the TPP to opposing it in the March 10 debate in Miami. Cruz was quick to say that the question contained an error.
"There are two different agreements," Cruz said. "There’s TPA (Trade Promotion Authority), and TPP. I opposed TPP, and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about."
Cruz was talking about two separate pieces of legislation that are linked, but indeed are separate. Before we untangle them, we will assess Cruz’s statement that he has always opposed the TPP.
In a June 2015 post on his campaign website, Cruz’s staff said that he was taking a wait-and-see approach to the TPP.
"Sen. Cruz has not taken a position either in favor or against TPP," the statement said. "He will wait until the agreement is finalized and he has a chance to study it carefully to ensure that the agreement will open more markets to American-made products, create jobs, and grow our economy."
When the treaty language was released in early November 2015, Cruz’s stance hardened.
At an event in Iowa on Nov. 20, 2015, Cruz said he would not support it.
"There are a number of Republicans on that (debate) stage who support TPP, who support (the Trade Promotion Authority)," Cruz said. "I voted against TPA, and I intend to vote against TPP."
That statement again blends Trade Promotion Authority with the TPP, but the key point is that Cruz said he opposed the trade deal.
A shifting stance on Trade Promotion Authority
Trade Promotion Authority is legislation that allows the president to negotiate a trade treaty with only an up-or-down vote on the final package in the Senate. The TPA was a key precursor to passage of the TPP. Cruz initially voted in favor of the TPA bill in the Senate.
In fact, in anticipation of that vote, Cruz joined with current House Speaker Paul Ryan to publicly urge Congress to vote in favor of fast-track authority.
Of particular importance to this fact-check, the opening lines of the op-ed the two published in the Wall Street Journal spoke of the promise of trade and described the TPP, while not actually using the name of the treaty itself.
"The United States is making headway on two historic trade agreements, one with 11 countries on the Pacific Rim and another with America’s friends in Europe," Cruz and Ryan wrote. "These two agreements alone would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers."
The op-ed urged passage of Trade Promotion Authority, but the linkage to the TPP was the starting point. Trade promotion passed in the Senate.
Following the Senate vote, the bill went to the House where it was split into two separate votes: one on TPA and the other on Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA (a program that provides training support, career counseling, allowances and wage supplements to workers affected by globalization and trade). On June 12, fast-track passed, but Trade Adjustment Assistance was voted down.
In a procedural vote on June 23, the Senate passed the fast-track legislation once again, 60-38. But this time Cruz cast a "nay" vote.
Cruz explained that he had learned new details of the TPA that smacked of a backroom deal and he would have no part of it.
Cruz said he has always opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The record shows that he took no position on the treaty itself until the full text became public. Then he said he opposed it.
However, when Cruz first supported granting the president the key authority to finalize the TPP, he spoke positively about the concept of the trade deal. He described how it could bring millions of customers to American business owners.
When the treaty moved from being a concept to actual text, Cruz opposed it. His statement glosses over his initial backing of the idea of the trade treaty.
We rate this claim Mostly True.