The Big TPP Push

I certainly hope I don’t have to recapitulate right now exactly why the Trans Pacific Partnership is the worst so-called “trade” deal ever including, but not limited to, the fact that the largest beneficiary is Malaysia, an economy based on slavery (yup, actual factual Gone With The Wind cottonpicking sale of human beings as a commodity) with which United States workers are supposed to compete.

Instead I want to warn you that pro-TPP Special Interests are ramping up the pressure on the corrupt D.C. Political Establishment to ensure passage during the lame duck session of Congress, likely the last time for many years Billionaire Mega-Corporations and their toadies will have to pass their anti-democratic agenda.

Trade deal’s supporters counterattack
By Megan Cassella, Politico
08/01/16 05:16 AM EDT

Business groups have launched a well-funded, national effort to lobby their way to TPP approval.

Caterpillar Inc. hosted lawmakers like Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota at its factories to meet face-to-face with the workers it says will gain from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trade Benefits America, a leading business coalition, is coordinating a grassroots advertising campaign that’s currently sending members of Congress between 60 and 70 pro-TPP letters every day.

And the Association of Equipment Manufacturers is driving around the Midwest in a truck outfitted with interactive displays on trade, part of a six-figure effort it’s orchestrating to highlight the tangible benefits of the sweeping 12-nation agreement.

The group is also running mostly digital ads in key Senate races to highlight candidates’ trade positions.

“When you see trade, when it’s just a sign being waved on a convention floor … that’s one thing,” said Kevin Madden, a strategist working with the Trade Benefits America coalition.

But when it’s “somebody who has a small- or medium-size enterprise in your local economy, who is directly responsible for the employment of people whose jobs are tied to exporting … that has an impact on lawmakers,” he said. “And that’s important.”

For many, the current fury directed at the agreement only increases the incentive to get it approved before Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes president and the agreement is either junked or put into a deep freeze for years. They are hoping the issue could make it onto the crowded legislative agenda during the lame-duck period after the election.

“Proponents of this are only going to work harder,” said Ed Gerwin, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democrat think tank that supports TPP. “Donald Trump apparently doesn’t want to trade with anyone; he wants to withdraw from the WTO and basically turn us into North Korea. And if Secretary Clinton says that she is not a supporter of TPP, that puts even more pressure on supporters of TPP to try to get it done now.”

Trade supporters recognize that in order to get the votes they need in Congress, the administration needs to work with lawmakers who want changes in particular provisions — chief among them protections for biologic drug firms and tobacco companies. But a third concern, involving financial services companies, was largely settled the week before the Republican convention in a compromise that could serve as a model for solving the remaining problems.

If the administration can duplicate that success with the other outstanding issues, it should still be possible to put together enough votes to pass the agreement, despite the difficult political environment, said Bill Miller, a senior vice president in charge of lobbying operations at the Business Roundtable.

Some groups are focusing on taking advantage of summer recess to show lawmakers the importance of trade deals on their home turf. For the agriculture community, for example, summer months mean one thing: “It’s fair time,” said David Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Everybody makes an appearance at the fair, right?” Salmonsen said.

And one weekday in mid-September, between 30 and 40 executives of footwear companies will descend on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers, squeezing as many back-to-back conversations as they can into a single day. Donning pro-trade buttons and carrying colorful fact-sheets on how TPP will reduce the cost of shoes, the executives plan to use the day as a last opportunity before the election to lay out for lawmakers the importance of the deal despite the negative rhetoric surrounding it.

Pro-TPP forces are also making a massive media campaign of misinformation, propaganda, and flat out lies to promote this pro-monopoly protectionist pact. One of the chief offenders is The New York Times or as I like to call it- Izvestia.

Greg Mankiw Argues that Protectionism Is Likely to Become Increasingly Dominant As More People Take His Economics Classes
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
30 July 2016

The elite types have noticed that the masses are not happy about the economic agenda that they have crafted. Since the elites can’t imagine that the problem has anything to with the fact that their agenda is designed to redistribute income from the masses to the elites, they turn to psychological explanations.

In this vein, Greg Mankiw, a Harvard professor and former chief economist to George W. Bush, used his NYT column to discuss voters’ attitudes toward trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Remarkably, the analysis Mankiw relies upon never asked about the location of the respondents, or at least this is not reported. That might have mattered, since a factory worker in an area that has lost a large number of jobs to imports, like Pennsylvania, may be expected to have a more negative attitude toward trade than a factory worker in an area where the economy is relatively healthy, like California. This is likely to be the case even if we controlled for more narrow industries.

The claim that a person’s direct economic stakes don’t matter also seems dubious, given that a standard prediction in trade theory is that in a rich country like the United States, more educated workers will benefit at the expense of less-educated workers. There has been considerable empirical work in recent years that support this theoretical prediction. That would suggest that people without college degrees being opposed to trade deals is entirely consistent with their economic interests.

However there is an even more important point at issue, trade deals like the TPP have very little to do with “free trade.” The trade barriers between the United States and the other countries in the pact are already low or non-existent in most areas. (We already have trade pacts with six of the eleven other countries.)

These deals are not about free trade, but rather about putting in place a regulatory structure that is friendly to the corporate interests that designed it. (The TPP was largely crafted by 21 different working groups, each of which was dominated by representatives from the relevant industries. For example, the working group on intellectual property had representatives from the drug companies and the entertainment industry.) The regulatory structure put in place will override laws at the national, state, and local levels.

This could mean, for example, that a decision by a county or state to restrict fracking would result in large payments to a foreign company (which could be a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. company) to compensate for lost profits. The same would be true of any other environmental, consumer, or safety regulation.

In some cases the TPP is directly protectionist. It would strengthen copyright and patent protections, even requiring that member countries have criminal sanctions for copyright protection. The New Zealand government estimated that just one narrow provision in the TPP, the extension of copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years, would cost it 0.024 percent of GDP, the equivalent of $ 4.4 billion a year in the U.S. economy in 2016. It also requires that web intermediaries act as copyright cops, removing material that copyrights holders claim to be in violation of their copyrights.

There is no obvious reason that anyone who is not a high up employee or major stockholder in a drug, software, or entertainment company should support these sorts of protectionist measures. It is possible that if enough people are exposed to college economic courses taught by industry propagandists it will increase support for trade agreements like the TPP, but the dynamics are somewhat different than Mankiw implies.

Meaning that an Economics Degree is simply a measure of how much voluntary brain washing you’re willing to endure.

NYT Does Impassioned Pitch for TPP in Its News Section
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
30 July 2016

The NYT gave an analysis of changing attitudes towards trade agreements that completely misrepresented the key issues at stake. The headline pretty much said it all, “both parties used to back free trade. Now they bash it.”

In fact, the current round of deals being negotiated, most importantly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) have little to do with a conventional free trade agenda of lowering tariff barriers and eliminating quotas. With few exceptions, these barriers are already low or have been eliminated altogether.

Rather these deals are about putting in place a regulatory agenda that is being designed to foster corporate interests. The deals provide a backdoor around the normal legislative process, since many of these measures would not receive the support of democratically elected officials.

The agreements are also protectionist in important ways, making patent and copyright protections stronger and longer. (It doesn’t matter if you like these government granted monopolies, they are still protectionist.)

In the case of the TPP the Obama administration is now contending that the defeat of the agreement would be devastating to efforts to maintain an alliance of countries to contain China. If this is in fact true, then it is understandable that the public would be outraged over the administration’s decision to let corporate interests get all sorts of special favors included in a deal that the administration now says is essential for national security.

It is incredible that the NYT tried to present the current debate as a narrow one over traditional issues of trade and protection. This is obviously not the case and there are no shortage of experts who could have explained this fact to its reporter. A good place to start would be the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who also happens to be a NYT columnist. Joe Stiglitz, another Nobel Prize winning economist, could have also explained the nature of these trade agreements to its reporter.

Propaganda and lies.