Australia Ploughing Ahead With TPP Negotiations Even Though It Has Never Checked If Any Previous Trade Agreement Was Beneficial
from the who-cares-if-it-was-beneficial,-it-passed,-didn't-it? dept
As Techdirt has noted many times, one of the things that makes it hard to engage sensibly with so-called "trade negotiations" like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP is the secrecy surrounding them. Aside from the odd leak and any crumbs of information that drop from the negotiating table, one of the few things that are made public is the predicted benefit of participating in these agreements. To hear the politicians tell it, the models employed for this purpose prove that a country would be crazy not to sign up to whatever deal they are currently pushing. Given the central role played by these econometric models, you'd think more would be done to refine them and check whether they get it right. Here's what has happened on this front in Australia, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald:
On the eve of negotiations expected to finalise a giant trans-Pacific free trade agreement with 11 of Australia's neighbours, the Department of Foreign Affairs has revealed that none of Australia's existing agreements has been subjected to an independent analysis to work out whether the claims made for it have stacked up.
That's rather strange, since Australia signed its Closer Economic Relations agreement with New Zealand 32 years ago and its free trade agreement with the US 11 years ago, so it's not as if the government there hasn't had time to collect and analyze the numbers. For the second of those agreements, we do have an independent investigation into how predictions compared with reality:
Ahead of the US Australia Free Trade Agreement the department published modelling conducted by the Centre for International Economics that said it would boost Australia's gross domestic product by $5.7 billion. A study conducted a decade later by the Australian National University found it had boosted trade not at all.
Given that sobering fact, and research that indicates trade agreements with Mexico and South Korea turned out to be equally disastrous for the US, you have to admire the shamelessness of governments that continue to commission these obviously-flawed models and trumpet their results, only to forget about them completely once they've done the job and the relevant agreement is signed and ratified.