The TPP: Don’t Let Perfection Become an Enemy of “Good Enough”

    “When politicians can determine what can be bought and sold, the first thing to be bought and sold will be politicians.” – Mark Twain

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is just a continuation of what Reagan-Bush started with NAFTA and the Uruguary Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), now renamed “World Trade Organization” (WTO).

One criticism of TPP is “super courts” (arbitration panels). All those arbitration panels are the enforcement process, and the other criticism is all the “protections” for pharmaceutical patents and recorded music and films. But that is just US imperialism. It is just an extension of US domestic law. It is actually quite a crony capitalist demand by the US government, in favor of enriching some powerful vested interests in the United States, by requiring those other governments to arbitrate when ASCAP sues. Hollywood money?

Those who favor TPP point out that it is “process” more than a Thing. The vote in Congress to approve it becomes a very technical and comprehensive package of amendments to existing US laws. For example, some 1930s law regulating pork might have to be changed due to some way it held up selling Vietnamese pork products in the US market; the Vietnam government demanded it, to help Vietnamese pork exporters. The Congressional vote to accept TPP cannot be “amended” just to give a reversal-vote for the US pork producers, who themselves have been enjoying protectionism since the 1930s – even if the pork producers have bought every Congressman.

Always Remember: Trade treaties are always “trade off” negotiations. Each side gives up something. In trade treaties, each side agrees to stop punishing its own people. That is considered “giving up something” in mercantilist economics.

We all agree the “best of all possible worlds” would be Universal free trade, no barriers and every merchant and retail distribution system should honor “national treatment” of foreign goods’ imports and foreign service providers (e.g. doctors, lawyers, architects, financial services).

So, in a less than “best” of all (im)perfect worlds, the Trans-Pacific Partnership goes with:

  1. an increase in “the rules of Administrative Law” (a bureaucratic “cost”) in exchange for
  2. a more level and uniform “playing field” for international trade in services and intellectual property. Those, after all, are what the United States increasingly now exports to the rest of the world.

The True Opponents of the TPP (as they have also been against NAFTA, the WTO and Colombia FTA, et al.) are Labor Union Leaders. The “Rank and File” of labor unions probably don’t care about the issue, except to the extent their “leaders” sell them on a propaganda campaign about “cheap foreign labor.”

Labor union leaders depend on a revenue source to pay their own salaries and maintain big offices and private planes and publicity. They collect union dues. Whenever a union’s member-workers lose their union jobs, due to imports, the workers might go on to do some different work. But the union leadership would lose their dues paying members. More free trade tends to dry up union revenues, just as competition in schooling tends to dry up government-employee teachers’ unions’ revenue. (And we know what that means to the finances of the Democratic Party.)

The Economic Truth of any agreement like the TPP is that Some Americans will LOSE, just as Some Asian or other government-protected interests will be traded away (sacrificed) by their own governments. On both sides, there are losers, as well as many more diffusely widespread and a greater number of [smaller amount] winners over the years of future growth and division of labor.

Normal people think it is good to have future growth and division of labor, and could call it “Progressive,” but Union officials in particular and economically illiterate “socialist” partisans will oppose all open international trade if buyers might be given a free choice without paying a penalty tax.

The system of of the TPP (and the WTO and NAFTA) is to enact “norms” of equal treatment for all persons who trade inside a member country. It is called “national treatment.” It is what we have enjoyed inside the USA since before 1776.

Putting local, domestic USA special interests on the “chopping block” is good for every other American, because only protected vested interests can be “sacrificed” by governments that surrender the uneconomic and undeserved protections, and sign a trade agreement – as a “concession.” (This is a “concession” like agreeing not to cut off your nose to spite your face if the other side agrees also not to cut off its collective nose.)

More free trade is about Larger, more extensive markets and greater division of labor. Restricted trade is about Smaller markets and more special protections for political groups, crony capitalists, and payoff for politicians (without whom, the smaller market could never be enforced).
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This item has been published in The Washington Times, Monday, November 9, 2015 [link]

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