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Defusing the critics of the Trans Pacific Partnership

[2B] Gobierno de ChileWEBCriticisms from both aisles carry no weight

Author: Nicholas Giokas – Contributor

To put it bluntly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is shaping up to be one of the most important trade deals in history. The rules, regulations, and tariffs being negotiated could very well set the tone for every economy in the Pacific and will inevitably have lasting effects on the world economy. With such an important treaty naturally comes a great deal of criticism. The problem with the vast majority of such criticism is that it carries no weight. Since the negotiations are behind closed doors no one knows what will be in the final copy of the trade deal; meaning that there can be no concrete debate over the details of the treaty but only over the “big ideas” surrounding it. Now there are two main “big ideas” that dominate the debate surrounding the TPP: one coming from Populists calling for a democratic process to negotiations and one from the general Left calling for less globalization.

The first “big idea” I’ll tackle is that of Populism vis a vis multilateral treaties and negotiations. Do you know what’s incredibly difficult? Getting several parties to come to a consensus over a complex, incredibly nuanced subject. Do you know what would make it nearly impossible? The general electorates and politicians (many of which don’t really have any knowledge concerning what’s being negotiated) throwing a hissy fit every time something even remotely not in their favour is put into writing. It’s very easy to imagine the difficulties of tariff negotiations over, say, automotive manufacturing, if the voters in places like Detroit or Windsor had a direct influence on negotiations. Simply put, it’s difficult to get people to act against their own self-interest for the benefit of everyone else. So, any argument for democratizing the process is essentially an argument for derailing the process entirely.

What’s more, other Populists are hiding behind the “transparency” argument, which would end up having the same effects as democratizing the process. So I say to those getting angry over the lack of input you have over international affairs: Get as angry as you want, just carry a tree with you so you can replace all the oxygen you’re wasting.

The other “big idea”, this time coming from the Left rather than the Right is the stupendous idea that globalization is somehow bad. Now there are two main camps within the Anti-Globalization group: those that fetishize the socio-economic systems of everywhere that isn’t a part of “The West” and the other camp that believe that free trade is inherently harmful.

I’ll deal with the latter camp first since it’s a simpler rebuttal: No, you are not smarter than the consensus of economists who say that free trade is beneficial. To the other camp, those that criticize everything non-”Western”: You talk about peaceful coexistence, but ignore that greater economic interaction between states deters conflict. You bemoan the impoverished conditions in some countries but advocate against improving those conditions through trade. You argue that economic growth theory is a conspiracy and then plug your ears when the countries you’re attempting to “advocate” for cry they need to hit economic growth targets to improve lives of their citizens. I’m wholly sorry to say that if you’re one of these people you’re essentially a hypocritical intellectual black hole: you’re as dim as you are dense.

Each of the arguments against TPP I’ve just brought up are very flawed, but they are ones brought up most often, much to the chagrin to those with any sense. The most unfortunate thing about each of these groups is that they attack the TPP deal out of a sense of misguided righteous anger. They see the less savory parts of the world and want improve it. The TPP deal will not have the terrible fallout they expect and will spur much more economic growth. So, I sincerely hope they stop being so angry; it’s bad for one’s blood pressure.

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4 comments

  1. I Want Information

    While I’m not anti-free-trade or even anti-globalization, would the election fought over the Canada-US FTA in 1988 not suggest that the process can be democratized to at least some degree before something is signed? The suggestion that something can only happen so long as people are never told about it is a pretty pessimistic and patronizing attitude to take toward the vast majority of citizens who will ultimately have their livelihoods improved or destroyed under the agreement.

    Your point that it’s all done in secret, so we can’t even debate it because we know nothing about it, is also rank ignorance. If the TPP is, as you say, “shaping up to be one of the most important trade deals in history”, we should know about what is being negotiated. Otherwise, rumours about the terrible things that are in it will come out and cause even greater opposition to the agreement.

    If you can only do something by hiding it from everyone, it demonstrates that you are patronizing and lazy. Full stop.

    Now, if the leaks from this secret meeting are to be believed, great institutions like the CBC are at threat from the TPP. Supply management in the dairy Industry may be under threat, for better or worse. If you believe in “the experts”, maybe ask a dairy farmer if they want supply management ended. If the case can’t be made publically for its ending, then maybe the case isn’t as cut-and-dry as you portray it. What else might change under the TPP? I don’t know. It would be great to know so I could actually consider it without considering rumours. Depriving one side of information is not a way to win a debate, it’s a way to stifle a debate because you don’t think you can win. Talk about a black hole.

    And frankly, economists have their own vested interests in free trade agreements that run counter to other people’s interests. So let’s not pretend economists are the ultimate arbiters of fairness and good judgement.

    If you’re one of those people who will support any and all trade agreements just because “economists say so”, then I’m wholly sorry to say that your arguments are like hot air balloons. They look pretty fancy, but they are essentially full of hot air.

  2. In reply to the previous comment. From the author of the article:

    You’re exactly the kind of ignorant pseudo intellectual I was talking about in the article. Now I’d explain why the example of the ’88 FTA is a perfect example for NOT democratizing the process but in your final paragraph you concluded that economists can’t be trusted so I guess I can’t bring up facts since they were written by those dirty, dirty economists. So, what I’ll tackle first is the assertions of a “patronizing and lazy attitude”.

    See, friend, the issue is that you are the prime example of why democratizing multilateral treaties is a bad idea. By putting scare quotes around the word “expert” you’ve firmly established your stance, as many like you have, as someone who is anti-intellectual. There’s a worrying trend of people like you googling something, browsing the Wikipedia article, and then coming to the conclusion that you know more about a subject than someone who’s spent years studying it. The issue isn’t that the case for aspects of the trade deal can’t be made, it’s just that morons like you will kick up a fuss no matter how much evidence there is against you. Your comments at the end of your comment all but cement this. NEWSFLASH Economists aren’t some boogeyman. Krugman won his Nobel Prize on New Trade Theory based on cold, hard, data and research yet troglodytes like yourself seem to think that you can just ignore actual facts-based research because you kinda sorta watched a documentary once. Now, I’m not saying that the TPP deal is going to be perfect, it’s more than likely going to be imperfect, but the imperfections are going to arise due to domestic politics and not due to economists and experts.

    Now you brought up the ’88 FTA for why democratization is good. I’m not sure how the Opposition Parties trying to argue that Free Trade compromises sovereignty (which has been proven to be completely false) and engaging in a sickening amount of fear-mongering is a good example for democratization bringing about a facts-based debate on trade deals.

    The biggest issue that I have with your point is that you feel entitled to know and critique everything in an ever evolving deal. Idiots like yourself said the same thing about the Iran deal but it’s been proven after the negotiations that even when presented with scientific facts people will go off spouting populist garbage and act like they’re winning the debate.

    As to your quip about how I support things because “economists say so”, replace economists with doctors and free trade deals with vaccinations and you’ll get a decent picture of what you sound like. I do spout a lot of hot air but using experts as sources is something you’re supposed to do in academia you fucking nitwit.

    Now, I sincerely beseech you to read an actual book on economics and learn something instead of shoving your head so far up your own backside you’re in danger of creating a singularity.

  3. Wow Nick, ad hominem much? Dial back the mad and try again.

  4. @Nathan

    Ad hominem?
    A) Ad hominem is when you attack someone for things completely unrelated to the argument. If I call you an idiot because of the arguments you make that’s not a logical fallacy, I’m just insulting you.
    B) Throwing out a random logical fallacy isn’t an argument, it’s barely even a point

    And “dial back the mad”? Nah, I’m alright with being a jerk, it doesn’t effect if I’m right or not and it’s more fun.

    So, Nathan, construct an honest argument if you don’t like what I’m saying. It’s pretty easy, a lot of the arguments I make are pretty flawed so you should be able to figure something out.