Getting Down with the TPP

The TPP(Trans-Pacific Partnership) is, in my opinion, a once-in-a-century multi-country agreement that will foster peace through tighter legal and economic cooperation as per Democratic Peace Theory (see Notes below). It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than leaving all of these countries to make individual trade deals with no over-arching legal framework as China, the US, and the EU circle like hawks overhead.

Why would we want to perpetuate the status quo of the Realist’s anarchic international system (see Notes below) when we have a chance at strengthening the relationships that further democratic peace?  Let’s look at some common arguments that come from both the right and the left in the current Presidential campaign.

A) It means more jobs going overseas.  Rebuttal: Ending our trade agreements instead would not fundamentally alter our economy other than making it even more difficult on the poor and middle class to afford manufactured goods – our economy is still primarily services-based and no amount of policy change will significantly change that without putting the means of production in the hands of the government.  Making imported goods more expensive is not enough to make it profitable to manufacture those goods in the US.  That is a naive view.  Furthermore, ending trade deals and imposing tariffs is a sure way to make the international system more anarchic and antagonistic which ultimately is worse for the future of everyone.

B) It’s worse for the environment.  Rebuttal: Actually the TPP addresses this by bringing some lower standards in other countries up to a higher standard across the board.  It is not perfect nor comprehensive, but it is a positive and incremental change that brings many nations together on a higher standard.  In short, it’s a great way to start.

C) It’s worse for labor rights.  Rebuttal:  Similar to the rebuttal in B, although the TPP is not perfect or comprehensive it is still raising some standards and making it possible for nations and citizens of those nations to cooperate and agree that were not possible before.  A consistent legal framework is the most important and most difficult first step for positive change and that is what is happening here.

D) It’s worse for the American economy generally.  Rebuttal: The is actually just not true and is similar to the rebuttal in A.  Becoming an isolated, protectionist economy would be highly detrimental to our economy both in the short term and the long term unless we believe our government has some kind of magic bullet and can take over some means of production (I assume you don’t think that).  Barack Obama lays out the positive benefits better than I can though.
Notes:

How Political Idealism Leads Us Astray

Democratic Peace Theory

Realism (in International Relations)

The Case for Offshore Balancing (a Realist’s position on containment)

General facts about the TPP

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