In the last two weeks, the President and Congress have been wrestling with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the associated “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority procedure to quickly create rules regarding trade.
These agreements are touted by our president and its supporters as “free trade” but they are not. Even its supporters talk about TPA “establishing rules to stop unfair trade, as though voluntary exchange of goods and money should be judged “unfair” by nameless bureaucrats in some alphabet soup agency, who then have the power to stop the unfair trade because they say so.
This agreement and fast-track process is being opposed by most grassroots organizations of both major parties. The Democrats generally oppose anything that might challenge union power, and all international trade limits union power to support otherwise unreasonable wages. Republicans have noted that our president often acts outside the law, and often just decides to create laws as it suits him. But some Democrats are supporting the proposal, based on market interference in trade that they like, just as some Republicans favor the agreement because it has the word “trade” in it. Members of both parties are also receiving encouragement by large donors who will use the agreement to keep out competitors who do not have full-time phalanxes of attorneys to ensure compliance, and to sue smaller organizations not equipped for such compliance.
Last year, President Obama unilaterally banned the import of guns and ammunition that he did not like last year using a mere executive order. Now he wants the TPA to give him the legal authority to implement trade policies in a nearly unlimited way. I write this missive because too many good conservatives are supporting this proposal merely because it has the potential to allow for greater trade. I believe those individuals are too easily beguiled by the “free trade” language in these agreements.
There are aspects of this agreement that people are only now seeing. For example, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has observed that this so-called free trade agreement has provisions which will lock in controversial civil forfeiture laws with regard to intellectual property rights, and sweep away the ability of individual countries to make their own laws. The agreement generally pushes the international community away from laws that are helpful for ordinary people, but useful for multi-national corporations.
Ken Emanuelson and I have authored a simplified primer on the TPA process which is available online here. (I use the word “authored” because Ken wrote most of the paper and should get credit for his work.) You can find the paper here.
I encourage you to let your federal representatives know that you are against giving an already lawless administration increased power. Just because it is spun as “trade” does not mean it is a good thing, and certainly going a bit slower and ensuring that we need not pass something in order to find out what is in it would be better than an unnecessarily rushed agreement. Smaller and less ambitious agreements would serve us better.
Free trade, for what it’s worth would be a simple bill that says something along the lines of:
“The tariffs on imported rice is eliminated.”
s/Barack Obama/, June 16, 2015
See? Free trade is not that complicated. The “fair trade” version comparable to the TPP would refer to 28 different other laws and international treaties that require its participants to show that the sale of the rice was not sold at too low a price, and not designed to gather market share on purpose, and that the gender/race mix of sellers meets some bureaucrat’s standard, etc.
Certainly, we could pass laws that are still beneficial if we added some market interference. But this proposal is far more than mere “managed trade” with some marginal benefit, and we need not approve it for fear of never having another chance to do it better.