The TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, has been a strange instance where free marketeers and many people not disposed toward economic freedom but who are generally opposed to corporatism have found common ground. Both groups have highlighted the secrecy around the “agreement” and the degree to which the public generally has been marginalized. Now that it has been finalized we are learning what the American people have “agreed” to.
It should be noted that the only reason we know much at all about the TPP is thanks to Wikileaks and people within the negotiations who have gotten the information out.
As the opportunities for trade liberalization have dwindled, the nature of trade agreements has shifted. They’re no longer just about removing barriers to trade. They’ve become a mechanism for setting global economic rules more generally.
This trend is alarming to Simon Lester, a free trader at the Cato Institute. “We’ve added in these new issues that I’m skeptical of,” he says. “It’s not clear what the benefits are, and they cause a lot of controversy.”
And this system for setting global rules has some serious defects. We expect the laws that govern our economic lives will be made in a transparent, representative, and accountable fashion. The TPP negotiation process was none of these — it was secretive, it was dominated by powerful insiders, and it provided little opportunity for public input.
The Obama administration argues that it’s important for TPP to succeed so that the United States — not China — gets to shape the rules that govern trade across the Pacific. But this argument only makes sense if you believe US negotiators have been taking positions that are in the broad interests of the American public. If, as critics contend, USTR’s agenda is heavily tilted toward the interests of a few well-connected interest groups, then the deal may not be good for America at all.