Tag Archives: Tpp

Trade treaty arguments’ conspicuous omission

In the wake of yesterday’s extensive coverage of the latest development (whatever it was) in the Obama administration’s quest to enact new “free-trade agreements” like the Trans Pacific Partnership, I realized there’s something notable about the associated arguments that I had not noticed before.

Sherlock Holmes memorably observed once, of the non-reaction of a dog at night, “that was the curious incident.” Even with this model before me, it has taken quite some time, but today I finally picked up on a similar absence from advocacy of new trade treaties:

Proponents aren’t promising jobs.

On the surface, this is easy to overlook because “jobs” are still part of the arguments. Mostly, however, in the form of opponents warning that these treaties will result in loss of many Americans’ jobs. Treaty proponents mostly, so far as I can tell, tut-tut and then attempt to change the subject to rosy forecasts for “growth,” or to disingenuous scoldings about protectionism, or to booga-booga-China-scary xenophobic jingo.

What I realized today is notable, however, is that not only are proponents saying little to refute directly the claims of job losses, they aren’t promising job creation. In 2015 American politics this is almost like not including an appeal for money. It’s so strange you might not even notice its absence at once but when you do it’s simply shocking.

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What’s wrong with the Trans Pacific Partnership

For the little that it’s worth*, I’m solidly against pending “free trade” agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Curiously, and presumably unintentionally, TPP advocate (and US President) Barack Obama has recently articulated what may be the best reason to oppose these schemes. A new Reuters article quotes Mr. Obama as saying “As we speak, China is trying to write the rules for trade in the 21st century. We can’t let that happen. We should write those rules.”

Now, set aside the childish jingoism. For a moment, let’s even set aside the ambitious sleight-of-hand attempted in the uses of “we.”

I think the real key here is the phrase “write the rules for trade in the 21st century.” In context, Mr. Obama seems to be saying that the TPP and similar treaties, if enacted, will amount to “writing the rules of trade” for the century ahead. Which, as he implies, is a very big deal; in fact it would  probably be at least as accurate to describe these treaties as efforts to (re)write the rules for “any and every kind of economic activity on Earth.” Which I think we might safely also call “most of what we have laws and regulations for.”

Thus I’m extremely troubled by the argument that “the rules for trade in the 21st century” should be written in secret, by corporate lobbyists plus a handful of unelected bureaucrats in the role of moderator, and then “fast tracked” into supranational law with limited debate and no amendments.

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