Why Free Trade Advocates should oppose The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Other “Free Trade” Agreements

For some time now, the Obama administration has been quietly trying to fast track an unpopular NAFTA style “free trade agreement” called the Trans-Pacific Partnership through congress. I tend to oppose the type of government managed “free trade agreements” and find unfortunate that too many libertarians and conservatives (not to mention liberals) are willing to give them uncritical support, despite the fact that they tend to be opposed by the general population. Overall these agreements are not about free trade and free association for people in the country but are about perpetuating corporatism, by limiting corporate liability internationally (regardless of any destruction corporations cause) forcing other countries to accept US government subsidized goods, encouraging foreign governments to build infrastructure for western corporations and above all imposing the government granted monopolies known as intellectual property upon the developing world.

This means that newly emerging firms from the developed world are now forced to pay tribute to western corporations for use of any ideas that the state has granted western companies monopolies on. This hardly seems fair or strikes me as a good way to help with the enrichment of the developing world. Additionally it means that foreign manufacturers stand to loose the ability to make many of the cheap generic drugs that are badly needed in many places. I have already discussed the harm that imposing drug patents on the developed world does here. Needless to say the new proposed agreement will be about expanding and prolonging the durations of patents and copy rights above and beyond what was set by Korea-US trade agreement and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

On a more abstract level, these “agreements”, by definition, involve our government intervening in the economic policies of other governments, and as such are completely inconsistent with a the notion of small or non-intrusive government. I believe a consistent advocate of small government should oppose them.  A consistent free market advocate should favor our government leading by example rather than meddling in the economic affairs of other countries. This is not to mention, that as I understand it, the favored industries tend to be ones our government subsidizes.  If we actually grant all the assumption of free market rhetoric, the appropriate thing to do would be accept trade from all other countries regardless of their trade policies. As such,  It also seems to me that a major point of these trade pacts is to get policies favorable to the stronger country “locked in,” so when the weaker country elects new leadership, or public opinion in it changes, it will still be stuck with these policies.  This also goes for our government’s support of the World Bank and International Monetary fund, which seem first and foremost interested intervening international to promote U.S. business interests.

I am under the impression that many of the supposedly small government people in both the conservative and libertarian movements have a decidedly corporatist bias, in which they more likely to ignore or take for granted, or even praise, government intervention on behalf of corporate interest while railing against the welfare state or regulatory state.  This strikes me as a double standard, but an unsurprising one, since a great deal of free-market rhetoric is funded by corporate interests, takes corporate power for granted, and often makes corporations out to be the victims of government intervention, rather than a product of it.  With this said, I would like to see the power of corporations more vocally questioned, and I think advocates of free-markets and small government could play a key role in doing this (if they dump their corporatist influences), and make their world-views more consistent at the same time.

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