TPP Or Whatever
President Obama is campaigning for public support of the “Trans Pacific Partnership”, a new set of rules and agreements affecting trade between the US and Japan plus 11 other Pacific Ocean facing Countries. The Partnership’s intent is to “level the playing field” and to remove trade barriers.
The President has warned that if the US doesn’t help write the rules, China will. The implication being that China will obtain favorable trade conditions with these Countries and the US will be stuck with the current restrictive trade obstacles. Hmmm.
Supporters promise that with TPP intellectual property will be respected, labor conditions will be the same amongst members, environmental safeguards will be ensured, and protectionist import measures will be eliminated. Trade amongst these Countries today must contend with numerous rules and restrictions, each of which was created to guard against some “offense” while providing advantage to one of these countries.
For example, countries with a different view of intellectual property might choose to reverse engineer an American product and sell it at lower prices back to US businesses. Other Countries might choose not to require environmental protection investments and in so doing allow their companies to produce goods at a lower cost (which would presumably make these products more attractive due to lower price). Use of child labor, prisoners, or unsafe work places also lead to competitive disadvantages.
In Congress, TPP has boiled down to the President and the GOP favoring, and most Democrats against. It seems business interest versus labor and environmentalists. In many regards, The debate rhetoric has the sound of the Iran nuclear negotiations all over. “This deal is a bad deal, keep negotiating for a better deal”. Hmmm.
The status quo protects certain interests and to change the ground rules makes them understandably worry. The proposed new agreements are likely to advantage some interests too and their roaring support is also understandable. So, what’s next?
President Obama will move to put the PTT into effect if he can get “fast track” authority from Congress. With the GOP control of Congress, PTT seems likely.
Democrat opposition, however, runs deep with unions and environmentalists. Hillary Clinton who so far has dodged any commitment or opposition to PTT must consider whether she wants a disgruntled working class voter sitting on the sidelines in 2016. IMO, she could remain neutral and still not fear too much backlash because the GOP represent far more concern to unions and environmentalists.
As I understand the arguments for and against, they all have an element of possible truth. It just seems reasonable that the 21st century ought to warrant trade agreements reflective of a new century.
As always, however, the devil lies in the details.