Can Somebody Please Tell Me What Is Going on with Obama and TPP?
Can somebody please tell me what is going on? What happened with the Obama administration and its making the case for the TPP?
I am what Paul Krugman calls “Davos Man” to a substantial degree–a card-carrying neoliberal, a believer in globalization and free trade, someone who has seen more than enough of the stupidities of places like Berkeley and so doesn’t mind hippy-punching now and then. As a believer in free-trade, in the importance of harmonizing global economic regulation, and in getting intellectual and general property rights right, I ought to be a very strong technocratic advocate for the TPP. Yet I found myself having major questions about it:
- If in 10 years we conclude that we have gotten the balance of this thing wrong, how do we amend it more easily then going through an entire de novo renegotiation process?
- What reasons are there to think the the intellectual property deal here is a good deal for the peoples of the Pacific as a whole, or even for the people of United States, rather than for current and expected short term future intellectual property holders?
- What reasons are there for thinking that the dispute resolution procedures currently in things like NAFTA need to be strengthened for the TPP rather than simply implemented as they are in other such agreements?
- Would not the geopolitical goals of the TPP be better served by an agreement less strongly weighted toward the interests of first world intellectual property holders?
If the Obama administration ever produced serious answers to these technocratic questions on the technocratic level, I missed them. Did I miss them? Why did I miss them? And if I didn’t, why didn’t they provide them?
Plus there is the big negotiating question: This is, primarily, a Republican priority. Why would a Democratic president put himself in the position of begging for Democratic legislative votes for a Republican priority, rather than demanding Republican policy concessions on issues of importance to Democrats in return for his signature?
Or, in short, as I have often asked of Barack Obama and his administration: Doesn’t anybody in there know how to play this game? Or, perhaps, just what game do those in there think they are playing?
There Are More Reasons to Oppose TPP than Just Jobs: “Rather than reforming and curtailing America’s onerous intellectual property laws…:
…TPP seeks to expand and internationalize them…. Rather than creating more real protections for workers abroad, the TPP has limited enforcements capabilities… even as it allows for a system of international corporate courts to dissuade and even retroactively overrule domestic regulations concern jobs, health and the environment. Opposing TPP is actually a fairly easy call…
Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats: “OK, I didn’t see that coming…:
…I don’t think it’s right to call this a case of Washington ‘dysfunction’. Dysfunction is when we get outcomes nobody wants, or fail to do things everyone wants done, because there doesn’t seem to be any way to package the politics…. Calling this ‘dysfunction’ presumes that this [TPP] deal is a good idea…. If you talk to administration officials… they offer a fairly sophisticated defense of this deal. It’s about geopolitics, they say–America has to be in the game here lest others (obviously including China) supplant our influence; meanwhile, they argue that the troubling aspects of the deal aren’t as troubling as they sound (they make a decent case on dispute settlement, less so on intellectual property). And they argue that the deal would actually improve labor protections in poor countries….
But the overall selling of TPP, to some extent by the administration and much more so by its business allies, has been… lectures from Those Who Know How the Global Economy Works–the kind of people who go to Davos and participate in earnest panels on the skills gap and the case for putting Alan Simpson in charge of everything–to the ignorant hippies who don’t…. But now Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes…. TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.