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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press WaPo Turns Reality on Its Head: Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Not About Freer Flow of Commerce

WaPo Turns Reality on Its Head: Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Not About Freer Flow of Commerce

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 09:34

The Washington Post just loves anything that is labeled as a free trade agreement. (I'm going to call my old car a "free trade agreement" and sell it to the Post for a fortune.) Today it ran a piece on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that had the sub-head:

"goal of talks with Pacific region is a freer flow of world commerce."

While this is also asserted in the article itself, it is not true as the article makes clear. One of the main purposes of the deal is strengthening patent and copyright protection and other claims to intellectual property.

Note the word "protection." This aspect of the deal is about obstructing the free flow of international commerce. These forms of protectionism will raise the price of many items by several thousand percent above their free market price. They will cause large amounts of resource to be wasted to legal suits, lobbying, marketing, and other forms of rent-seeking activity. 

It is possible to argue for the merits of increased protection for intellectual property claims, but it is just flat wrong to describe this as creating a freer flow of international commerce. These forms of protection are 180 degrees at odds with free trade.


Comments (6)Add Comment
TPP = Total Predator Power
written by Last Mover, December 25, 2013 11:00

That's the real name but it's a trade secret. If it gets out others will copy it and undermine the essence of capitalist property rights with free trade competition - against the predators.
written by Albertsonstirfry, December 25, 2013 2:19
"These forms of protectionism will raise the price of many items by several thousand percent above their free market price." The countries in TPP already have very strong patent protection, beyond the TRIPS minimum, so patent protected goods are already likely to be significantly above the "free market price." Do we know how much worse this will be made by the additional protection in TPP?
written by Robert Sadin, December 26, 2013 11:24
Great that you are staying on this issue. It is a shame that this blog is exclusively reactive. Dean reads misleading stories and corrects them. But what about all of the errors of omission? Isn't it important to note what is not being said?

I would suggest starting with the startling avoidance of TPP by Paul Krugman. After one totally uninformed, casual blog, he has been totally silent. Interesting that the mail was unanimous against him....all from the left—not right wing trolls. His promise to research it further and write more is starting to sound more and more hollow.

Dean—Call him out on this!

The welfare of the world's people is more important than playing nice with a powerful colleague.
In news unrelated to this blog post
written by Shawn Wilkinson, December 26, 2013 4:04
But related to the general theme of Beat the Press, at least the Third Way following-press is losing the message war, at least according to Pew. So I fully expect more bad economics reporting coming from the pages of NYT, WaPo, etc. Especially since the think tanks can't even seem to convince self-claimed Republicans that the social safety net is ALL THE FORMS OF TERRIBLE. Now, if only we can convince a supermajority of Congress on these issues.

If TPP doesn't happen, maybe we'll have a war over intellectual property laws?
written by John Wright, December 26, 2013 7:19
If TPP doesn't occur the way the Obama administration wants, there is always the possibility of military force to get foreign countries to "see the light" and follow USA wishes on USA IP laws.

Seems ridiculous, but the USA politicians got the population behind the Iraq war as a necessary task for national security.

Maybe the next war will be over intellectual property security?

Here is a quote about the forceful "opening" of Japan in 1853 by the US Navy in the person of Matthew C. Perry.

"Perry attempted to intimidate the Japanese by presenting them a white flag and a letter which told them that in case they chose to fight, the Americans would destroy them. Perry ordered some buildings in the harbor shelled."

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_C._Perry
Congress killing jobs
written by Rich Austin, December 27, 2013 7:41
Posted in Skagit Valley Herald (WA) - Letters to the editor on Sunday, December 22, 2013

“Free” trade agreements are job killers. Note to Congress: U.S. workers demand fair trade.

One of the obligations of Congress is to “regulate commerce with foreign nations.”

NAFTA, the WTO and other lousy free-trade schemes were approved by Congress, and working-class America is suffering the results. On the other hand, wealthy investors — both foreign and domestic — continue to get filthy rich. Under the guise of “globalization,” Congress has sold out Main Street America. We have lost millions of jobs, and our wages and benefits have been stagnating for years.

Free trade is a historic failure of economic, industrial and, above all, ethical proportions.

Washington’s congressional delegation tells us otherwise. They claim so-called free-trade agreements have benefited us. To add insult to injury, a new, rotten, job-killing trade sham is being cooked up behind closed doors. It is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement. As if NAFTA wasn’t bad enough, here they come with NAFTA-on-steroids.

OK, granted, even though I have studied the dismal effects “free trade” has had on workers, I do not know everything there is to know about trade agreements. I accept my limitations. Having said that, neither do members of Congress know all there is to know about them. That is particularly troublesome given that they voted for them.

So here is my offer: I will rent the Lincoln Theatre and thus provide a forum for lawmakers to come and make their case for free trade. I invite them to do so in the sunlight of public scrutiny. How much more democratic can you get? There is, however, one caveat: A global trade expert will also be invited to “keep everyone honest.”

Phone lines are open. Operators are standing by to take their calls.

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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.