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.