CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Not a Free-Trade Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Not a Free-Trade Agreement

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 05:30

I find "free-trade" twice in the text and once more in a quote in this short piece on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is an inaccurate characterization of the deal. Many parts of the deal have nothing to do with free trade; they are about setting regulatory standards. Some parts, like the section on patent and copyright protection, are about increasing protectionist barriers. This is 180 degrees at odds with free trade.

So what's the problem here? Why does the NYT feel the need to waste words and makes its article longer in a way that misinforms readers. Can't it just refer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a "trade agreement?"

Comments (9)Add Comment
Free Trade is Better than No Trade
written by Last Mover, January 15, 2014 7:04

Dean Baker should go easy on the economic predators. After all, the low hanging fruit in America is wiped out and they must seek more beyond the borders as legitimate first movers of monopoly economic rent extraction.

Give them a hand as winners, won't you America. After all, the only alternative is more Big Commie Government that only produces losers.

Free trade. When both parties are better off. One side gets more monopoly profit to produce no added value, while the other side gets less government communism for the takers who drag down the makers.
written by john, January 15, 2014 7:04
In effect, this agreement, will protect the profit margins of US companies by assuring that signatory countries will not let their companies sell me low cost generic products?
If this is part of what the trade agreement aims to accomplish, then the NY Times public editor should be asked to address this repeated misuse of the term free trade.
written by Robert Sadin, January 15, 2014 7:26
Dean, Is there a reason why you don't call out Paul Krugman for his silence on this issue?
Considering the medical patents alone, it is not hyperbole to revive the Aids slogan....

He may be your friend, but it appears he is avoiding and evading this issue only to
stay in favor with the current Administration. Is there any other plausible explanation for his willful ignoring of this critical development?

This issue is more important than political positioning.
Once it is passed, the balance of power will be even more heavily weighted in favor of the ultra rich.

US champions tough environmental regs in TPP talks?
written by Richard Genz, January 15, 2014 12:41
I think it's at least worth mentioning the news value of this story, and not simply go for the standard "free trade isn't free" refrain that everyone here has already heard.

We "know" that TPP and similar deals are driven by corporate forces seeking to expand US copyright and patent protections and other self-serving provisions, right? I've never delved into trade policy myself, but this is how trade agreements have been explained by Dean Baker and other critics.

So for me it's interesting to learn that the US is on the receiving end of pressure to relax environmental standards discussed in the article. And to learn that in 2007, Democrats forced Pres. Bush

"to agree that all American free-trade deals would include a chapter with environmental provisions, phrased in the same legally binding language as chapters on labor, agriculture and intellectual property. The Democrats also insisted that the chapter require nations to recognize existing global environmental treaties.

Since then, every American free-trade deal has included that strong language." (from today's NYT story)

I wish DB had commented on how this apparently progressive policy fits into the narrative that "trade deals are a corporate ruse."
R.S, he did do that..
written by Matt, January 15, 2014 2:40
...and Krugman responded by saying he'd look into it. Silence since then, I think.

Ultimately, Krugman is a Democratic partisan that is more or less fully committed to the status quo. He marks the leftward limit (which is in fact centrist) of the acceptable economic discourse in the US. This is related to why many on the centre-left or left talk far more sense (i.e Beat the Press), but are not given podiums, while many on the right spout nothing but gibberish (i.e Niall Ferguson), and are given megaphones.
written by Robert Sadin, January 15, 2014 6:05
Matt, Yes, Dean did make a very mild remark regarding Krugman. And Krugman wrote a follow up saying that some people found fault with what he had written and he was going to research etc.
This on the lines of a famous ex athlete vowing to search for his wife's killer.

Yes, I absolutely agree about Krugman. He is worse than you say, in my opinion. Reich and Stiglitz represent the left most part of the Democratic party. Krugman is absolute unwilling to make a single forthright criticism of Obama. But I believe he can be shamed.
I wish Dean would write something forthright....a sort of "open letter to PK"

But I am afraid that Dean too has a career to look after. That being said, he is a refreshing figure on the scene.

And of course the major media don't want left critics getting space.

We agree!
written by steelhead, January 16, 2014 8:42
Why isn't anyone re framing the issue as "fair trade" vs. "free trade"... We are so f**ked.
I Also Care About "Fair Trade"
written by jerseycityjoan, January 17, 2014 3:45
I will join steelhead's club. I am for fair trade.

I thank God that I am not in a profession or field that requires me to make "Free Trade" my mantra, my guide, my Prime Directive, my personal Lord and Savior, my reason for living, my everything.

About the best thing Free Trade is good for is to help poorer countries take advantage of richer ones. If I lived in a poor country and the US talked such nonsense to me, I'd feel justified in saying I believe in free trade and doing whatever I could to violate the rules to my advantage too.

Of course the various elements within the rich countries who yap about free trade in the midse of seeking their own special deal don't have an excuse. I can't stand them.

Are we ever going to get over free trade and finally demand fair trade?

written by Sukh Hayre, January 17, 2014 10:58
Going forward, this is the price TPP nations must pay for U.S. military protection. Without the U.S., the TPP "partners" would be a lot more vulnerable to Chinese "influence" in the future.

Previously the middle-east paid for the U.S. military by being forced to sell their oil for pennies on the dollar. (Saudis increasing supply whenever "needed".)

For example, without the U.S. to stop them, would the Chinese not be in their right to "settle" vast land masses that are currently virtually unpopulated (Canada, Australia), compared to the number of people living in China?

How would this be any different than how the U.S. was "discovered" only a few hundred years ago.


Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.