Trans-Pacific Partnership and US European Union free trade

Via Naked Capitalism comes more comment on two major global trade agreements also discussed here at Angry Bear. I keep wondering when our national conversation will get around to acknowledging ‘pro-business’ as having a second question to answer: which businesses mostly benefit and which lose out? And a third: what are the rules of free trade this time?

It’s a sign of the times that a reputable economist, Dean Baker, can use the word “corruption” in the headline of an article describing two major trade deals under negotiation and no one bats an eye.

By way of background, the Administration is taking the unusual step of trying to negotiate two major trade deals in the same timeframe. Apparently Obama wants to make sure his corporate masters get as many goodies as possible before he leaves office. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both inaccurately depicted as being helpful to ordinary Americans by virtue of liberalizing trade. Instead, the have perilous little to do with trade. They are both intended to make the world more lucrative for major corporations by weakening regulations and by strengthening intellectual property laws.

Baker describes in scathing terms why these types of deals are bad policy:

…these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.

All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly…

The idea is that once a deal is completed there will be enormous political pressure for Congress to approve it no matter what it contains….news outlets like the Washington Post will use both their news and opinion sections to bash members of Congress who oppose a deal. They will be endlessly portrayed as ignorant Neanderthals who do not understand economics.

 

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