Latest Trade Agreements Are About The Opposite Of Free Trade: Protectionism For Big Business

from the this-is-not-free-trade dept

We've been talking a lot about the various big "trade agreements" that are being worked on around the globe -- with a major focus on the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact). These are frequently referred to as "free trade agreements." But an important point that gets lost in the various debates is that, generally speaking these are not free trade agreements at all. In many ways, they're the opposite. Free trade is about removing barriers to trade -- which are, generally speaking, a good thing. But the simple fact is that for the most part we already have pretty low trade barriers with most of the countries involved in these negotiations. Instead, this is almost entirely about a combination of regulatory arbitrage, and the ability to better move money around by giant multinational companies. The economics comic artist Michael Goodwin did a nice job demonstrating all this in a comic about the TPP a while back. Here's just two panels, though I highly recommend the whole thing:
Economist Dean Baker has a good article describing this in more detail as well, showing that these agreements aren't about "free trade" at all. As he notes, basic free trade generally makes sense. But, that's not what's really being discussed in these agreements:
In TPP and TTIP we are not talking about the textbook trade story. The actual trade barriers between the United States and the countries in these deals, with few exceptions, are already quite low. This means that there is little to be gained by lowering them still further.
Instead, he notes -- as we have in the past -- that these "trade agreements" are really just the opposite. They're about gifts for certain big businesses that they couldn't get through legislation:
TPP and TTIP are about getting special deals for businesses that they would have difficulty getting through the normal political process.
He lists out a bunch of examples, but here are a couple we've been focused on:
The pharmaceutical industry and entertainment industries will get longer and stronger patent and copyright protection.
Note how this is the opposite of true free trade. Longer and stronger copyrights and patents are actually barriers to trade. They're putting up regulatory barriers to the free flow of information, protecting certain legacy businesses at the expense of innovative firms. And, it's all done in secret, with basically only input from businesses. The only time voters actually get to see what's in it is when it's a done deal, and fully negotiated. At that point, the parties are too committed to actually allow any fixes that protect consumers or innovation.

So, when you hear people talking about these agreements as if they're "free trade" agreements, just recognize that calling them free trade agreements is a lie -- and it's a lie that's used to convince the gullible that these agreements must be good for the economy. And it appears to work on some people:
As Thomas Friedman once famously said in reference to his support of CAFTA, "I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade." Others in the media may be too sophisticated to express themselves so bluntly, but undoubtedly most share Friedman's view. Under such circumstances, there will be few politicians prepared to stand up for principle or their constituents and vote against the pacts regardless of what it is in them.
In short: people (correctly) believe that free trade is generally a good thing. Businesses recognize this -- and even though we generally have an awful lot of free trade around the globe these days, with fewer and fewer tariffs and trade barriers, governments are working on "free trade deals" because they know by calling them that, people will often support them, believing blindly that they're good things. Instead, there's very little that's actually about free trade, and an awful lot that's about propping up and protecting legacy business models, while stifling the important free flow of information.

Filed Under: corporate sovereignty, dean baker, economix, free trade, investment, isds, michael goodwin, tafta, tpp, trade agreements, ttip


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    David E.H. Smith, 31 Dec 2014 @ 11:56pm

    TPP; Obama to release full text of Submission to The Supreme Court to 'Tear Down that Wall' of Secrecy in Hope of Faster Passage Thu. Congress?

    Higher Taxes (But, No "NEW" Taxes) to Pay Secret TPP Tribunal Penalties; NON Shareholders Have to Pay SHAREHOLDERS, corporate America & ASSOCs., et al.
    How Much are You Selling your Right to Sue the Global Corporate Economy for?

    “But, WILL CHINA, The Muslim World, et al, SUPPORT PUTIN (BRICS, et al); The WHITE KNIGHT”?

    It will be good for, not only the NON shareholders of the enterprises that will be generated by the on-going global "cooperation" of corporate treaties, agreements, partnerships, et al, including the China - Canada Investment Treaty, The Trans Pacific Partnership, the EU - Canada CETA,
    but,
    for the potential shareholders, as well,
    who are quite interested to know if President Xi Jinping (China) will support Russia as a co-member of B.R.I.C.S. when President Putin uses his potential role as "The White Knight".

    And, while President Putin's potential support as “The WHITE KNIGHT” in the development of the CETAgreement, et al, litigation below can dramatically off-set the hundreds of billions of dollars due to the present & future sanctions leveled by American led, et al, corporations & financial institutions via their governments' signing their global corporate economic treaties/”arrangements”,
    and the potential for making trillions of dollars for the Russian economy over the next 30 - 40 years & beyond,
    are the citizens (SHAREHOLDERS & NON shareholders) of Germany & JAPAN just being prudent in wanting to wait for the outcome of:
    1) the submission to The SUPREME COURT of CANADA & the highest court in Germany, et al, to make their findings regarding “The Submission”:
    "The SHAREHOLDERS & Corporations of AMERICA, et al
    v
    the harmless Canadian NON shareholders, et al"?

    and
    2) "The MERKEL (Chanc. Germ.) Letter; To Sue, or, Be Sued”?
    (see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com )

    Have the federal representatives of the nations that are the potential signatories of CETA, TPP, et al, willingly provided the NON shareholders of China, Canada, Europe, the Trans Pacific nations, et al, with the aforementioned information? Are the federal representatives, et al, depriving the NON shareholders of Canada, et al, of the due diligence information that enables the family of the NON shareholders of Canada, et al, to make informed decisions regarding their financial planning?

    And, would a reasonable person conclude by a preponderance of the evidence, &/or, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these documents, et al, demonstrate that the SHAREHOLDERS of AMERICA, CANADA , the EU & Trans Pacific nations, et al, really do not care which NON shareholders pay them the punitive penalties, etc., by way of their secret (“Death-Star Chamber”) TRIBUNALS, as long as its not the SHAREHOLDERS who pay & not their corporations regardless of which country the corporations:
    1) operating from,
    2) maintain their headquarters,
    3) use to do their cyber banking, accounting, "taxation", etc.
    &
    4) et al?

    And, re; the CHINA – Canada Investment Treaty, is it understandable why the “coveted” Hong Kong investor & his associates are “concerned” with the aforementioned findings of The SUPREME COURT of CANADA, et al, & the effects of the findings, et al, on the EU, AMERICA, the Trans Pacific nations, et al, treaties with CHINA, et al?

    In regard to arms sales; how about the sale of arms (non nuclear) in general in regard to the "trade" treaties that are continuing to be secretly negotiated and how will the Tribunals, both; B.R.I.C.S. & non BRICS, adjudicate, decide & penalize the NON SHAREHOLDERS for the sale of legitimate, semi- legitimate & "illegal" sales of arms within the signatories nations & the those of others, &/or, unaligned? Of particular, interest is China, which does have an treaty with Canada, which puts China "at odds" with other arms manufacturing & nuclear powers that it (China) does not have any "arrangements" with.
    Are these types of questions that your politicians & the corporate lobbyists calls "forget-me-nots" ("Buyer Beware") that will be (maybe) worked out after the fast tracked signatures are obtained?

    And, what do you think is the significance of the line in The Submission to The Supreme Court of Canada “...And, lest one forgets that the revelation of the present perilous international treaties/”arrangements” began with the regard for the rights of Native Canadians as per the Treaties/”arrangements” that corporate Canada & the Government of Canada have “foisted” upon Native Canadians...”? What are the various ways that this line will cost the SHAREHOLDERS, et al?

    On the other hand, it may be worth repeating yet again,
    "What the TREATY of VERSAILLES was to the 20th century PALES in COMPARISON to the TPP, CETA, C-CIT, NAFTA, et al, in the 21st".

    And, how will YOUR submission to YOUR highest court IMPROVE upon The Submission that is presently before The Supreme Court of Canada?

    David E.H. Smith
    - Researcher
    - “Qui tam..."
    ******
    Please consider sharing the enclosed information & questions with 10 members of your family, friends, associates in order that they can use the due diligence info to make more informed decision about their families' financial planning, & then they can share it with 10 others...
    ******
    For more Information & Questions re; The Relationship between Human (Nature) Rights & Economics by way of the C-CI Treaty, the CET Agreement,
    TPP, et al, and The WAD Accord
    & List of RECENT ARTICLES, LETTERS & NOTIFICATIONS by DEHS,
    see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.