Elizabeth Warren Is Either Wrong or Inconsistent on TPP
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a digital-copyrights, environment, human-rights, labor and trade agreement among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP countries represent a third of our top 15 export markets. For example, Singapore consumes nearly as much in American goods as does France despite having 1/12 the population. Do we see which major Pacific power is not involved, and why we have the urgency to sign this agreement with other Pacific nations?
We are a high-wage country with a capital-intensive economy. Our biggest exports are industrial machinery, aircraft and spacecraft, vehicles, medical and technical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. With the exception of agricultural products and petroleum, American exports are generally bound for the markets of wealthy countries meaning American manufacturers and service providers generally stake out claims at the high ends of their markets. For them, access to 7 billion customers is better than 315 million.
Bill Watson observes that almost every demand of U.S. environmental activists and goes further than any previous U.S. trade agreement has been adopted, but met with staunch opposition from every other country in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). New restrictions on logging, shark-finning, and commercial whaling are anathema to free-trade agreements, which are meant to facilitate trade rather than hinder it. An explicit exception that ensures that domestic bans on the activity won’t violate existing trade rules would most likely encounter little or no resistance from other TPP countries.
Insistence that all of the TPP’s environmental obligations be enforceable by dispute settlement and trade sanctions has been met with unanimous resistance. You shouldn’t be surprised that it’s not because of a desire to pollute (most of their environmental laws are stronger than ours), but because that punitive, litigious approach is seen as an especially confrontational way to pursue common environmental goals. The purpose of trade agreements is to open markets and bring economies closer together. Making that conditional upon the adoption of specific environmental policies frustrates both the trade and the environmental agendas.
An initiative the TPP will further is lowering tariffs on solar panels and wind towers which will enable countries to pursue environmental goals in a cooperative way that fosters economic growth and consumer choice. Things like this in combination with green industrial policy instead of just one or the other is the way to go.
She has been fighting with President Obama over the agreement, arguing that it would give an edge to other countries, be inconsistent with our regulatory regime, and hurt large numbers of American workers. She does support reauthorization on the Ex-Im bank which really does give an edge to foreign companies by granting them cheap loans. It also enriches the large banks which we know she loves. Domestic companies lose when they are forced to compete with subsidized foreign companies, and Ex-Im subsidizes only a select few U.S. firms at the expense of their unsubsidized competitors.
As Veronique de Rugy notes, one of Ex-Im’s biggest foreign beneficiaries is Pemex, the Mexican-state owned oil and gas company which has received over $7 billion in Ex-Im financing over the last several years. The bank sends American taxpayer dollars to support fossil-fuel activities that aren’t regulated as they would be in the U.S. I love Senator Warren, but she isn’t consistent. She should either oppose or support both for reasons she has stated.
Progressives and Liberals for Business
I agree with Nick Gillespie. Generally speaking, free trade—or even just freer trade—is a moral and an economic good. As a basic condition of human existence, individuals and companies should have the right to do business with whomever they want to the greatest degree possible. Virtually all economists agree that unilaterally reducing one’s own trade barriers helps the country choosing that course of action. Per usual, this is more about politics and economics than principle.
Progressives stress the opportunity and necessity of social progress, usually driven by an empirical foundation. Through gradual reform of social and welfare policies, progressives seek a democratic society that reduces inequality, poverty, and discrimination, which are viewed as negative byproducts of capitalism. Much of the effort to reform policies and institutions necessarily involves an active central role of government.
Liberals share the ideal of equality, but seek to couple it with a wide range of personal freedoms, including voting rights, freedom of religion, property rights, and other choices of personal value. Support of personal development and opportunity are central to the liberal notion of government. Support for free trade and free trade agreements fit well within the context of liberal and progressive beliefs.