November 24, 2013

Free trade deals should benefit all


When we negotiate such treaties, we must be particularly thoughtful and wary of how international treaties will affect domestic policies and values. Of course, any treaty must offer both signatories the certainty they require so that they may best create the mutual advantages each side contemplated when the treaty was signed.

These tensions are proportional to the cultural and economic differences between treaty participants. The tensions are reduced by the extent to which the benefits are evenly divided between nations and between segments within a nation.

I believe in free and balanced trade. I also believe in creating opportunity for other nations as the best pathway for them to adopt the values of entrepreneurship and sustainability we try to balance here.

However, I am wary of opportunism disguised as free trade. We are currently negotiating a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will embrace many of the nations that border the Pacific Rim. Across these nations are a broad diversity of wealth, of cultures and of values. These potential trading partners want access to our markets, and we want their markets to abide by principles that our good for our large corporations.

I say our large corporations because the little guy hears little about the TPP. Negotiations are conducted in secret, obscure to the public. The negotiations do not exclude large pharmaceutical companies and the like that wish to extend their patent monopolies both there and here. In fact, there are provisions that create more robust monopolies rather than enhance the competition that economists prize when we espouse the benefits of free trade.

Proposed treaty provisions remain secret even to Congress. When our special interests and theirs get the language they want, the TPP will go to Congress for their “fast-track” approval as an up-or-down vote with no chance to amend the agreement.

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