Dean Baker Answers the WaPo TPP Challenge

The Washington Post’s TPP Challenge
By Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
21 August 2016

Those folks at the Washington Post are so much fun. Now that it looks like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) might fail, the Post challenges TPP critics, “if not the Trans-Pacific Partnership, then what?”

Let’s see, the Obama administration had how many staffers working how many years to craft the TPP? And the critics working in their spare time should come up with the alternative?

Okay, but we’ll accept that the critics are much smarter and more competent than the TPP team. I’ll at least outline some items I want in my pact.

First, we can accept the actual “free trade” items in the pact. Let’s eliminate the tariffs and quota restrictions as provided for in the TPP. That won’t have much impact, since in almost all cases they are already very low, but no good reason not to go to zero.

There is one item worth noting here. If this is really an anti-China deal, which is the main line these days of TPP proponents, then we would probably want to up the country of origin requirements. As it stands, the TPP provides that if 30 percent of the value added of a product is made within the country, then it can get the preferential treatment awarded to TPP members.

This means that if a Chinese company sends a product to Vietnam, where 70 percent of the value comes from China, it can be shipped to the U.S. under TPP rules. And, having more confidence in the private sector than government bureaucrats, my guess is this Chinese firm can probably find a way to get through with 25 percent Vietnamese content and possibly even less. If the point is to in some way lock out China, having a 30 percent country of origin requirement was probably not the way to go.

A second item would be serious rules on currency. The TPP doesn’t actually include rules any rules on currency, although there is a letter of understanding from TPP members. This has zero legal standing, meaning that if Australia or Vietnam suddenly start accumulating massive amounts of dollars to prop up the dollar against their currencies, and thereby make their goods more competitive, there is nothing we can do about it.

The third item would to be to reject the archaic protectionism of the TPP in strengthening and lengthening patents and copyrights and instead promote open innovation. This is especially important in the case of prescription drugs. We can provide for a system of open sourced research funding. This means that governments pay companies under contract to research and test new drugs. All findings are posted to the web as soon as practical and patents are placed in the public domain on a copyleft basis.

We can also do open sourced funding of college textbooks so that the texts for college classes can be downloaded at zero cost or printed out for the price of the paper.. Isn’t free trade wonderful?

And all that without mentioning the ISDS Kangaroo Court to gut regulation and National Sovereignty, the minimal GDP benefit except to Vietnam and Malaysia, and that pesky Slave Labor economy in Malaysia even once.

So I will.

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