A Question For Free Traders on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

 

Up or down on the TPP?  How would you decide?

When Obamacare was being debated I had liberal friends whose argument in favor consisted of “We need to do something,” and “Health care is a right.” One of my responses was that slogans are not legislation and it is only the details of bill that are relevant. In the case of Obamacare, it was a 2,000-page piece of legislation that no one understood, and today even some of my liberal friend rue its passage as they understand what it actually contained.

When Dodd-Frank was being debated, some liberal friends said things like “We need to do something,” and “We need to end too big to fail.” I said again that slogans are not legislation.  And although the 1,000-page-plus Dodd-Frank bill stated in its preamble that it was ending “too big to fail,” we now know that the details of the legislation actually strengthened the hand of the largest banks.

Now the full text of the TPP has finally been released. It’s 5,500 pages, and let’s face it, no one who is going to vote on it will understand it. I like free trade as a principle. But the TPP does not simply say, “We like free trade — go for it!” It contains voluminous and complex provisions governing trade that only those who have spent the past few years negotiating understand (and my guess is most of them only understand the specific sections they worked on).

So what say you?

Published in Economics, Foreign Policy, General, Law
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  1. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    JoE will be along shortly to correct this, but I am very suspicious of anything deemed legislation that requires 5,000+ pages and forms something approaching a union without clearing the Constitutional hurdle for treaties.

    I think the U.S. has the most leverage with respect to negotiating trade agreements and can do them one country at a time if need be.

    In the case of TPP, I am a No.

    • #1
  2. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    BrentB67:JoE will be along shortly to correct this, but I am very suspicious of anything deemed legislation that requires 5,000+ pages and forms something approaching a union without clearing the Constitutional hurdle for treaties.

    I think the U.S. has the most leverage with respect to negotiating trade agreements and can do them one country at a time if need be.

    In the case of TPP, I am a No.

    Brent you’re just not getting the advantages of Big Gov .. it’s about the full employment of $5000.00/hr DC power lawyers ..

    • #2
  3. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    jetstream:

    BrentB67:JoE will be along shortly to correct this, but I am very suspicious of anything deemed legislation that requires 5,000+ pages and forms something approaching a union without clearing the Constitutional hurdle for treaties.

    I think the U.S. has the most leverage with respect to negotiating trade agreements and can do them one country at a time if need be.

    In the case of TPP, I am a No.

    Brent you’re just not getting the advantages of Big Gov .. it’s about the full employment of $5000.00/hr DC power lawyers ..

    Jet, there is an awful lot I don’t get about the advantages of Big Gov. I just wish I didn’t have to fund it or be subjected to it.

    • #3
  4. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    I am suspicious of anything that is supposed to lower trade barriers that is 5,500.  Imagine a 5,500 page law to protect free speech.

    • #4
  5. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    We already have trade agreements with many of the nations who are in this deal.  Such trade agreements are insanely difficult to negotiate. New ones invariably look like the old ones because of just how difficult it is to get the governments of all of the involved nations to approve them.

    It shouldn’t take much convincing here on the right that trade which is more free is an improvement for our society.

    • #5
  6. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Frank Soto:We already have trade agreements with many of the nations who are in this deal. Such trade agreements are insanely difficult to negotiate. New ones invariably look like the old ones because of just how difficult it is to get the governments of all of the involved nations to approve them.

    It shouldn’t take much convincing here on the right that trade which is more free is an improvement for our society.

    My question is how do we know it is more free?  What does the TPP actually say?  Are there actually restrictions on free trade buried within the text?  How does it affect the sovereignty of the U.S.?

    • #6
  7. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Frank Soto:We already have trade agreements with many of the nations who are in this deal. Such trade agreements are insanely difficult to negotiate. New ones invariably look like the old ones because of just how difficult it is to get the governments of all of the involved nations to approve them.

    Agree that when doing these pacts they are hard to complete. I think most of what makes individual agreements hard to negotiate is self-induced.

    It shouldn’t take much convincing here on the right that trade which is more free is an improvement for our society.

    Agree, it should take little or no convincing on the merits of free trade. It think it is going to be much harder to convince that TPP has much to do with free trade.

    All of the republicans supporting this are the same crew howling about how Obama is lawless, operates outside the Constitution, rogue, etc. When it comes to trusting him and his staff to negotiate an international agreement >2x Obamacare that is subject to a less than Constitutional hurdle suddenly all is well and we should trust both them and Obama. I think that is a hard pill to swallow.

    • #7
  8. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    While I am indeed inclined to support free trade, I am also concerned about what the leftists, amongst others, refer to as the “democratic deficit” in respect of this document. I am somewhat suspicious of the line of argument that says this is a unique opportunity to make a real change in world trade, but on the other hand there is no need to really get to grips with the detail before making it super-national law.

    • #8
  9. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Nothing that is that complex and opaque can be just passed in the name of free trade.  Nothing this administration does should be passed without extensive study and simplification.  Our trade regime is already so complex, riddled with special interests deals, that it is unlikely we can construct anything that actually moves us forward.  What is it’s purpose?   To isolate China?  To impose US regulatory restrictions and labor laws on our trading partners?  It should be killed, or sent back for study.  In the mean time we need to do those things that make us more competitive.  So a new President must lead Congress to massive tax and regulatory overhaul.  If we don’t do this, it doesn’t matter what we do it’s all down hill.   One of the candidates needs to make these points, saying that since free trade is crucial we need to etc. etc.

    • #9
  10. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    This ridiculous treaty should be rejected just based on its length.  Why?  Because precisely nobody will be able to process this information.  Therefore, anybody who votes for this piece of junk is just going along to get along with something.  The closest you will hear anybody come to explaining or defending this thing will be along the lines of what some staffer told to the member.

    • #10
  11. Freeven Member
    Freeven
    @Freeven

    Can I ask a stupid question? Why do we need agreements regarding free trade? If it’s truly free trade, no agreement should be necessary. If an agreement is necessary, then we’re no longer talking about free trade.

    • #11
  12. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    raycon and lindacon
    @rayconandlindacon

    How can anyone concerned about the growth and complexity of government be comfortable with this hideous monstrosity.  And why the sudden desire to trust the most duplicitous political ruler in the history of America.

    This is one more Iran deal.

    • #12
  13. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Freeven:Can I ask a stupid question? Why do we need agreements regarding free trade? If it’s truly free trade, no agreement should be necessary. If an agreement is necessary, then we’re no longer talking about free trade.

    This is an important point.

    I tend to agree. If it was about free trade all it would do is specify what tariffs, quotas, customs duties, fees, tax credits, and subsidies each country was repealing.

    Someone commented earlier about how these are used to exert influence. TPP specifically excludes China. If this agreement is about curbing China’s influence why is it sold as a free trade agreement?

    • #13
  14. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I don’t like the idea of opposing a trade deal just because it is Obama’s trade deal. I have yet to see any analysis or summary of what is in it, so I can’t form an opinion. However, 5500 pages makes me hesitant.

    • #14
  15. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    BrentB67: If it was about free trade all it would do is specify what tariffs, quotas, customs duties, fees, tax credits, and subsidies each country was repealing.

    To a large extent that’s what it seems to be doing. And all the exceptions to that, of course. Like the special US opt-out from free trade if Australia exports too much Swiss Cheese. (I’m not kidding.)

    Then you have things like Chapter 26 “Transparency and Anti-Corruption” with some soft requirements about stamping out bribery of public officials.

    And, buried in the back of that, Chapter 26-A about “Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Pharmaceutical Products and Medical Devices”, which does I know not what, and which may, or may not, require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to do something. Or not.

    • #15
  16. LilyBart Inactive
    LilyBart
    @LilyBart

    There is a difference between a goal and a process.   Free Trade is a goal.   TPP is a process.  It is possible to be for free trade, but deeply suspicious of this particular process.   It is a complicated document, not fully vetted at this point, and produced by people who’ve been proven not to have our best interests at heart.

    • #16
  17. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    LilyBart: There is a difference between a goal and a process. Free Trade is a goal. TPP is a process. It is possible to be for free trade, but deeply suspicious of this particular process.

    Amen.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Considering what the Affordable Health Care Act did to affordable health care, I wonder what the TPP will do to free trade.

    • #18
  19. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    The Reticulator:Considering what the Affordable Health Care Act did to affordable health care, I wonder what the TPP will do to free trade.

    You can predict this, by looking at our existing agreements.

    Trade agreements are as contentious in other countries as they are here.  Just as in America, getting them passed is a nightmare.  That is why if you look 20 or so agreements the US has with other countries, they all mirror each other.

    The fear seems to be that Obama and a global cabal of leftists are using the agreement to push a progressive agenda, but such terms would never be accepted by all of the countries covered by the TPP.  It’s terms are extremely predictable, as if they veer too far from what has worked in the past, the deal is dead.

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Frank Soto: The fear seems to be that Obama and a global cabal of leftists are using the agreement to push a progressive agenda, but such terms would never be accepted by all of the countries covered by the TPP.

    The fear is that they would push an anti-free-trade agenda favoring crony capitalists (which would include socialist capitalists) and such terms could easily be accepted by all countries.

    • #20
  21. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    The Reticulator:

    Frank Soto: The fear seems to be that Obama and a global cabal of leftists are using the agreement to push a progressive agenda, but such terms would never be accepted by all of the countries covered by the TPP.

    The fear is that they would push an anti-free-trade agenda favoring crony capitalists (which would include socialist capitalists) and such terms could easily be accepted by all countries.

    You are free to read the agreement if you have doubts,   It is online in it’s entirety.

    I would of course prefer completely free trade, with no side deals, but such side deals make these agreements possible, and the agreement makes trade more free than it is now.

    • #21
  22. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Frank, you’ve read the agreement and know that it makes trade more free?

    • #22
  23. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    BrentB67:Frank, you’ve read the agreement and know that it makes trade morefree?

    Why bother?

    Can’t we just trust the fact that it is called a free trade agreement and it was negotiated by the Obama administration, which is firmly committed to free markets and rejects crony capitalism in all its nefarious forms?

    • #23
  24. SParker Member
    SParker
    @SParker

    Freeven:Can I ask a stupid question? Why do we need agreements regarding free trade? If it’s truly free trade, no agreement should be necessary. If an agreement is necessary, then we’re no longer talking about free trade.

    The only I answer I can come up with is that trade agreements are either make-work projects for the overeducated or just the the long way of saying “David Ricardo had an interesting point, but… .”  So let me join you in stupidity: seems like the page-count on free trade ought to be 0 minus  all the pages of US law related to tariffs and subsidies.

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Frank Soto:

    The Reticulator:

    Frank Soto: The fear seems to be that Obama and a global cabal of leftists are using the agreement to push a progressive agenda, but such terms would never be accepted by all of the countries covered by the TPP.

    The fear is that they would push an anti-free-trade agenda favoring crony capitalists (which would include socialist capitalists) and such terms could easily be accepted by all countries.

    You are free to read the agreement if you have doubts, It is online in it’s entirety.

    I would of course prefer completely free trade, with no side deals, but such side deals make these agreements possible, and the agreement makes trade more free than it is now.

    In that case, maybe it should be called “An act to foster slightly freer trade — for some people.”

    • #25
  26. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    I’m a Yes. Of course.

    Lets examine some of these questions

    1. How many pages…should…it be? 5,500 is too long for some of you, apparently. Ok, give me a figure. 5 pages? Why 5 pages when all you need to say is “free trade”? 1 page? Still too long. It should only be 1 sentence. Or 1 sentence fragment to be precise. Right?

    2. What does “free trade” imply to some of you? That’s kind of an important question. Without answering that question, there’s no way for you to claim that it does or doesn’t do that job.

    3. “Free trade”, involves a lot of things. How do you structure a IP system that carries across multiple countries? Securing property rights is kind of a really important thing in having “free trade”. Is that done by simply saying “free trade”? Or do you perhaps need to spend a few…hundred or thousands…of pages outlining how it should apply across multiple countries judicial systems?

    4. So what are most of these 5,500 pages devoted to? Is it not important to specify what things mean and how they should apply across multiple countries, with different property regimes, different legal systems etc?

    Should you not spend some time to specify WHICH aspects of those countries legal codes need to change, how they need to change etc?

    • #26
  27. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    5. Undermocratic! God help us if we have to leave “trade” up to democratic vote!

    Does anyone…want…free trade? Do you want…free trade…in your job? Do you want unrestricted competition for your job?

    Trade and competition is to no individual’s benefit. We all want to be monopolists. That’s not new insight.

    Do you honestly think the American people, or even a majority of Republicans, would vote for more competition from Asia? Judging by the popularity of populist anti-free trade nut-jobs like Trump among “conservatives” who are supposed to be the champions of “free trade”, we can very well guess no.

    And what exactly would Joe Schmo know about, for example, IP law and how long patents or copyrights should apply for, or what rules should or should not be about setting up FDI in a foreign country?

    6. If there is any redeeming qualities of TPP is that, thankfully, vast majority of Republicans congressman and senators did vote for it.

    Big shame on those, 5-6, who didn’t. Cheap political hack jobs.

    • #27
  28. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    The Reticulator: The fear is that they would push an anti-free-trade agenda

    You’re more than free to read it, and tell us specifically which passages seem so to you.

    • #28
  29. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Ball Diamond Ball:This ridiculous treaty should be rejected just based on its length. Why? Because precisely nobody will be able to process this information.

    I agree with you on principle, however,

    I wouldn’t dare to presume to speak for James, but he often made the point to me that longer bills are better.  Why?  Because when they spell out everything specifically in great detail, its better than leaving it up to the whim of bureaucrats to interpret.

    • #29
  30. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Frank Soto:I would of course prefer completely free trade, with no side deals, but such side deals make these agreements possible, and the agreement makes trade more free than it is now.

    This is my position as well, tentatively.

    I haven’t heard about anything so objectionable that it would cause me to withdraw support … yet.  The text was only just released so it may take a little while to dig out any serious problems.

    • #30
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