Friday, May 22, 2015

Why the TPP Should Be Defeated

Economist Paul Krugman, no opponent of trade or liberalized trade, notices that when you have to sell a policy with lies and deceptions, it's probably a weak policy to start with. 

Just like with Salem's Bridgeasaurus Boondogglus, the wildly misguided effort to restart Polk County sprawl and support Keizer Station with a $600 million - $1+ billion dollar subsidy -- paid mainly by Salem taxpayers -- even if you don't understand the policy details, you can rely on the fact that when proponents keep coming up with ever-shifting rationales for a pre-determined desired outcome, you know that you're being conned.
In any case, the Pacific trade deal isn’t really about trade. Some already low tariffs would come down, but the main thrust of the proposed deal involves strengthening intellectual property rights — things like drug patents and movie copyrights — and changing the way companies and countries settle disputes.
And it’s by no means clear that either of those changes is good for America. On intellectual property: patents and copyrights are how we reward innovation. But do we need to increase those rewards at consumers’ expense? Big Pharma and Hollywood think so, but you can also see why, for example, Doctors Without Borders is worried that the deal would make medicines unaffordable in developing countries. That’s a serious concern, and it’s one that the pact’s supporters haven’t addressed in any satisfying way.
On dispute settlement: a leaked draft chapter shows that the deal would create a system under which multinational corporations could sue governments over alleged violations of the agreement, and have the cases judged by partially privatized tribunals. Critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren warn that this could compromise the independence of U.S. domestic policy — that these tribunals could, for example, be used to attack and undermine financial reform.
Not so, says the Obama administration, with the president declaring that Senator Warren is “absolutely wrong.” But she isn’t. The Pacific trade pact could force the United States to change policies or face big fines, and financial regulation is one policy that might be in the line of fire. As if to illustrate the point, Canada’s finance minister recently declared that the Volcker Rule, a key provision of the 2010 U.S. financial reform, violates the existing North American Free Trade Agreement. Even if he can’t make that claim stick, his remarks demonstrate that there’s nothing foolish about worrying that trade and investment pacts can threaten bank regulation.
As I see it, the big problem here is one of trust. . . .
Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact. . . .