Oct 8th 2015

Why Support the TPP?

by Jeffrey Frankel

Jeffrey Frankel is Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard University.

"Many citizens and politicians made up their minds about TPP long ago, based on seemingly devastating critiques of what might emerge from the negotiations. They should now look at the outcome with an open mind. They just might find that their worst nighttime fears have vanished by the light of day."

CAMBRIDGE – Agreement among negotiators from 12 Pacific Rim countries on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) represents a triumph over long odds. Tremendous political obstacles, both domestic and international, had to be overcome to conclude the deal. And now critics of the TPP’s ratification, particularly in the United States, should read the agreement with an open mind.

Many of the issues surrounding the TPP have been framed, at least in US political terms, as left versus right. The left’s unremitting hostility to the deal – often on the grounds that the US Congress was kept in the dark about its content during negotiations – carried two dangers. A worthwhile effort could have been blocked, or President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration could have been compelled to be more generous to American corporations, in order to pick up needed votes from Republicans. In fact, those concerned about labor rights and the environment risked hurting their own cause. By seeming to say that they would not support the TPP under any conditions, Obama had little incentive to pursue their demands.

Seen in this light, the TPP that has emerged is a pleasant surprise. The agreement gives pharmaceutical firms, tobacco companies, and other corporations substantially less than they had asked for – so much so that US Senator Orrin Hatch and some other Republicans now threaten to oppose ratification. Likewise, the deal gives environmentalists more than they had bothered to ask for.

Perhaps some of these outcomes were the result of hard bargaining by other trading partners (such as Australia). Regardless, the TPP’s critics should now read the specifics that they have so long said they wanted to see and reconsider their opposition to the deal.

The most controversial issues in the US are those that are sometimes classified as “deep integration,” because they go beyond the traditional easing of trade tariffs and quotas. The left’s concerns about labor and the environment were accompanied by fears about excessive benefits for corporations: protection of the intellectual property of pharmaceutical and other companies, and the mechanisms used to settle disputes between investors and states.

So what, exactly, is in the finished TPP? Among the environmental features, two stand out. The agreement includes substantial steps to enforce the prohibitions contained in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It also takes substantial steps to limit subsidies for fishing fleets – which in many countries waste taxpayer money and accelerate the depletion of marine life. For the first time, apparently, these environmental measures will be backed up by trade sanctions.

I wish that certain environmental groups had devoted half as much time and energy ascertaining the potential for such good outcomes as they did to sweeping condemnations of the negotiating process. The critics apparently were too busy to notice when the agreement on fishing subsidies was reached in Maui in July. But it is not too late for environmentalists to get on board.

Similarly, various provisions in the area of labor practices, particularly in Southeast Asia, are progressive. These include measures to promote union rights in Vietnam and steps to crack down on human trafficking in Malaysia.

Perhaps the greatest uncertainty concerned the extent to which big US corporations would get what they wanted in the areas of investor-government dispute settlement and intellectual property protection. The TPP’s critics often neglected to acknowledge that international dispute-settlement mechanisms could ever serve a valid purpose, or that some degree of patent protection is needed if pharmaceutical companies are to have sufficient incentive to invest in research and development.

There was, of course, a danger that such protections for corporations could go too far. The dispute-settlement provisions might have interfered unreasonably with member countries’ anti-smoking campaigns, for example. But, in the end, the tobacco companies did not get what they had been demanding; Australia is now free to ban brand-name logos on cigarette packs. The TPP also sets other new safeguards against the misuse of the dispute-settlement mechanism.

Likewise, the intellectual property protections might have established a 12-year monopoly on the data that US pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies compile on new drugs (particularly biologics), thereby impeding competition from lower-cost generic versions. In the end, these companies did not get all they wanted; while the TPP in some ways gives their intellectual property more protection than they had before, it assures protection of their data for only 5-8 years.

The focus on new areas of deep integration should not obscure the old-fashioned free-trade benefits that are also part of the TPP: reducing thousands of existing tariff and non-tariff barriers. Liberalization will affect manufacturing sectors such as the automotive industry, as well as services, including the Internet. Liberalization of agriculture – long a stubborn holdout in international trade negotiations – is noteworthy. Countries like Japan have agreed to let in more dairy products, sugar, beef, and rice from more efficient producers in countries like New Zealand and Australia. In all these areas and more, traditional textbook arguments about the gains from trade apply: new export opportunities lead to higher wages and a lower cost of living.

Many citizens and politicians made up their minds about TPP long ago, based on seemingly devastating critiques of what might emerge from the negotiations. They should now look at the outcome with an open mind. They just might find that their worst nighttime fears have vanished by the light of day.


Jeffrey Frankel is Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard University.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015.
www.project-syndicate.org



Related article on Facts & Arts:

Grandmaster of the Great Game - Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China

by Alfred W. McCoy

TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 12th 2019
Extract: "The Republican Party has lashed its fate to an increasingly unhinged leader. Though three other presidential hopefuls for 2020 now stand in Trump’s way, none can defeat him. But they can damage his reelection effort, which is why the Republican Party has been scrapping some primaries and caucuses. How well Trump does in November next year may well depend on how his fragile ego withstands the coming months."
Sep 2nd 2019
EXTRACTS: "Most people think of revolutions as sudden earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that come without warning and sweep away an entire political system. But historians, political scientists, and even the odd politician know that the reality is very different: revolutions happen when systems hollow themselves out, or simply rot from within. Revolutionaries can then brush aside established norms of behavior, or even of truth, as trivialities that should not impede the popular will............ Only time will tell whether we are currently witnessing the hollowing out of British democracy. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may well have crossed some invisible Rubicon by.......... Whatever happens now, British parliamentary democracy may never be the same again. It will certainly never again be the model that so many people around the world once admired."
Aug 29th 2019
EXTRACT: "Events such as prorogations and dissolutions happen when countries face difficult times. Therefore, because of the disastrous effects of Brexit: sterling in freefall; a recession looming on the horizon and Britain’s international standing at its lowest ebb since Suez, it is no surprise that the country is in this position now. The worrying thing is that using the monarchical power of prorogation does not solve problems – it has a history of turning them into frightening and often violent crises. There is a worrying relationship between the use of such powers and a complete breakdown in government."
Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: "Reminiscent of Don Quixote, Trump is tilting at windmills. His administration is flailing at antiquated perceptions of the Old China that only compound the problems it claims to be addressing. Financial markets are starting to get a sense that something is awry. So, too, is the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the global economy is fraying at the edges. The US has never been an oasis in such treacherous periods. I doubt if this time is any different. 
Aug 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "In fact, with firms in the US, Europe, China, and other parts of Asia having reined in capital expenditures, the global tech, manufacturing, and industrial sector is already in a recession. The only reason why that hasn’t yet translated into a global slump is that private consumption has remained strong. Should the price of imported goods rise further as a result of any of these negative supply shocks, real (inflation-adjusted) disposable household income growth would take a hit, as would consumer confidence, likely tipping the global economy into a recession."
Aug 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Climate change is real, and it is a problem. According to the IPCC, the overall impact of global warming by the 2070s will be equivalent to a 0.2-2% loss in average income. That’s not the end of the world, but the same as a single economic recession, in a world that is much better off than today.  The risk is that outsized fear will take us down the wrong path in tackling global warming. Concerned activists want the world to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But it will mean slowing the growth that has lifted billions out of poverty and transformed the planet. That has a very real cost. "
Aug 20th 2019
EXTRACTS: "It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson has lied his way to the top, first in journalism and then in politics. His ascent owes everything to the growing xenophobia and English nationalism that many Conservatives now espouse................Johnson has chosen a government of like-minded anti-European nationalists. His principal adviser, Dominic Cummings, was described by David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister from 2010 to 2016, as a “career psychopath.” Cummings is, alongside Johnson, the most powerful figure in the new government; he is an unelected wrecker who earlier this year was ruled to be in contempt of parliament. Fittingly, if depressingly, he now is masterminding our departure from the EU with or without parliamentary approval."
Aug 19th 2019
EXTRACTS: "Back in May, a jury found Patrick Syring, a former State Department official, guilty of 14 counts of making threats against my life and my staff at the Arab American Institute. This week, a federal judge sentenced Syring to five years in prison to be followed by three years of court-ordered probation.................It gives me no pleasure to see this man going to jail for a long period, but it does provide us all with a sense of enormous relief. I've been threatened before. My wife, my children, and I have received death threats for the past 50 years – owing to my advocacy for Palestinian rights and the rights of the Arab American community. My office was fire-bombed and an Arab American colleague, whom I hired, was murdered. Two individuals who, in the past, made death threats against me and my children were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. But this case was different."
Aug 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Gaslighting typically refers to intimate relationships. It’s a way of controlling someone by creating false narratives – for example, that they are irrational or crazy. If such lies are repeated constantly, victims may get confused and start believing there really is something wrong with them. Confusion, diversion, distraction and disinformation can similarly be used to gaslight an entire society. So how can you tell if you are being gaslighted, and how do you avoid it in the first place?"
Aug 14th 2019
EXTRACT: "Trump has once again painted himself into a corner. Since the latest massacres, he’s been at pains to present himself as a reasonable fellow who can get behind gun reform (and perhaps mollify suburban women, his most dangerous foes on this issue). But he’s also noticeably (and typically) anxious to maintain the loyalty of the rural voters who form an important part of his base. Trump has also taken the gamble of using racial politics and white supremacy as instruments for winning in 2020. When faced with the dilemma of trying to assuage suburban voters or keeping the base close, time after time his instinct has been to shore up the base. (That didn’t work very well in 2018.)"
Aug 5th 2019
Extracts: "it is impossible to model many of the most important risks. Global warming will produce major changes in hydrological cycles, with both more extreme rainfall and longer more severe droughts. This will have severe adverse effects on agriculture and livelihoods in specific locations, but climate models cannot tell us in advance precisely where regional effects will be most severe. Adverse initial effects in turn could produce self-reinforcing political instability and large-scale attempted migration........Achieving a zero-carbon economy will require a massive increase in global electricity use, from today’s 23,000 TW hours to as much as 90,000 TW hours by mid-century. Delivering this in a zero-carbon fashion will require enormous investments, but as the Energy Transitions Commission has shown, it is technically, physically, and economically feasible......Added up across all economic sectors, however, it’s clear that the total cost of decarbonizing the global economy cannot possibly exceed 1-2% of world GDP. In fact, the actual costs will almost certainly be far lower, because most such estimates cautiously ignore the possibility of fundamental technological breakthroughs, and maintain conservative estimates of how long and how fast cost reductions in key technologies will occur. In 2010, the International Energy Agency projected a 70% fall in solar photovoltaic equipment costs by 2030. It happened by 2017."
Jul 31st 2019
Extract: "I admire the US for its culture, entrepreneurialism, and universities, and I have many American friends. Furthermore, I know how grateful the rest of the world has to be for US leadership after World War II. Never before had a victorious power behaved so generously toward others, including the defeated. We owe so much to US policy in the second half of the twentieth century. But although I am no declinist regarding American economic, intellectual, and military power, the country’s soft power has certainly decreased, and its positive influence around the world has declined. The reason for this is simple: US President Donald Trump is a bad man surrounded by a bad team of incompetent and dangerous ideologues."
Jul 30th 2019
Extract: "This pattern holds true in every extremist movement I have studied, whether from the past or the present, or the West or the East. This abuse of religion that provides security and certainty to those who are experiencing a loss of control is a universal phenomenon. If merely left there, it would not be a danger. But when it masks a political agenda or when it justifies violence either by groups or state actors, it becomes a danger."
Jul 30th 2019
Extract: "......the day before Mueller testified, the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And the day after Mueller testified, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report stating that Russia would be involved in the next presidential election, and that countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China have the capacity to interfere in US elections as well. Despite these warnings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate consideration of two bills aimed at strengthening US election security,....."
Jul 15th 2019
".....one of the most accurate recession indicators, known as the yield curve, has recently been flashing warning signs. Every postwar recession in the US was preceded by an inversion of the yield curve, meaning that long-term interest rates had fallen below short-term interest rates, some 12 to 18 months before the outset of the economic downturn."
Jul 6th 2019
Extract: ".........growing poverty even when working, the collapse of stable and safe social identities linked to work, the increasing instability of employment security, and the rapid change of local communities due to emigration, migration, collapsing housing affordability, and redevelopment initiatives that displace communities. These provide precise and urgent electoral rallying points. They are particularly effective given that so many mainstream politicians ignore these basic grievances. In recent years, the lineup of politicians opposing the New Right – Hillary Clinton, the Remain campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Matteo Renzi – have been unwilling to even recognise these structural problems. This provided the New Right the opportunity to appear credible, simply by acknowledging them."
Jul 6th 2019
".........an openly Russophilic administration in the US may be one reason why Putin’s domestic support has been declining so sharply."
Jul 3rd 2019
"Extract: .........in a world of rapidly expanding automation potential, demographic shrinkage is largely a boon, not a threat. Our expanding ability to automate human work across all sectors – agriculture, industry, and services – makes an ever-growing workforce increasingly irrelevant to improvements in human welfare. Conversely, automation makes it impossible to achieve full employment in countries still facing rapid population growth........The greatest demographic challenges therefore lie not in countries facing population stabilization and then gradual decline, but in Africa, which still faces rapid population growth."
Jul 1st 2019
Trump’s personal style – vocal, expertise-averse, scandal-prone and driven by a focus on his partisan base – may be unusual, but aspiring Democratic presidential contenders may be making a serious error in allowing Trump’s “Wizard of Oz” act of big claims and small achievements to pass unchallenged. There is a massive gap between the pledges he made to voters and the reality of an outsider presidency thoroughly co-opted by its party. So far, the “Trump revolution” turns out to be an ordinary Republican presidency.
Jun 25th 2019
"Trump’s vindictive bluster has steamrolled economic-policy deliberations – ignoring the lessons of history, rejecting the analytics of modern economics, and undermining the institutional integrity of the policymaking process. Policy blunders of epic proportion have become the rule, not the exception. It won’t be nearly as easy to spin the looming consequences."