Protectionist Conspiracy Theories and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Protectionists have never found an international trade agreement they don’t hate – even when their protectionist President is on board. 

Two months after approving the 2009 tariff on Chinese tires that only served to raise prices for U.S. consumers without restoring a single lost American tire job, President Obama did something smart and announced U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations for a next-generation Asia-Pacific trade agreement.

The goal from the U.S. standpoint is to generate domestic jobs by increasing exports to a region of the world that represents roughly 40% of total global trade, and already comprises the 4th largest market for U.S. exports.

Participants in addition to the U.S. include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The TPP has already held 13 rounds of successful negotiations, with the 14th set for Leesburg, Virginia this coming September 6-15.  By all accounts, they’ve made solid progress on a host of issues affecting agriculture, industrial goods and textiles, as well as proposed rules to protect intellectual property, eliminate technical barriers to trade, protect the environment and support workers.

Meanwhile, protectionist groups like the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition are insisting that TPP is really a corporate scheme to destroy the environment, market unsafe products, export U.S. jobs overseas, end family farming and prevent sick people from obtaining generic drugs.

According to the protectionists, representatives from 10 countries, along with hundreds of stakeholder observers, have somehow managed to hold 13 going on 14 TPP negotiating sessions – all in secret.  They’ve even convinced several members of Congress to ask U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to look into TPP and make certain U.S. interests are being well represented.

Let’s hope he does exactly that.  The Administration should be involved, and good public policy is more often than not the product of openness.  Then, assuming the verdict is positive, let’s get these negotiations concluded and an agreement approved as quickly as we can.

Ainsley Shea