To the extent that trade agreements result in Americans being “freer” to transact how and with whom they please, I support them. But one of my biggest misgivings about these agreements, and the negotiations that precede them, is that they reinforce the fallacy that trade is an “Us-versus-Them” contest where the objective is to secure market openings abroad, while preventing such liberalization at home. Liberalization at home – opening the domestic market to competition – is what free trade is about. Thus, the objective of free trade negotiations is not free trade. Follow?
In response to a question from House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes about what was being done to ensure that liberalization of trade in film and television services isn’t excluded from the TTIP negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman assured: “The United States has made clear to the EU that we strongly support a comprehensive agreement without exclusions (my emphasis).”
Then there was this question from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA): “Can you assure me that the Jones Act will not be diluted in any trade agreements that are negotiated during your tenure?”
Among other favors it bestows upon domestic shipbuilders, the Jones Act forbids foreign-flagged vessels from operating between U.S. ports, ensuring that U.S. maritime shipping (as crucial as it is to U.S. supply chains and U.S. production costs) is an industry that operates without any foreign competition. None.
How much more economically self-destructive can policy be than a federal law that consigns U.S. businesses to inefficient production and transportation options, deters investment in U.S. manufacturing and distribution operations, and gives carte blanche to shipbuilders to be as unresponsive to customer needs as they and their unions desire?
Ambassador Froman’s answer:
We recognize the importance that the Jones Act has for the state of Louisiana. This Administratrion has continuously ensured that the application of the Jones Act is permitted under each of our trade agreements. As we continue to participate in discussions where this issue may arise, including trade agreement negotiations, we will continue to take this position.
About being clear to the EU that we strongly support a comprehensive agreement without exclusions…not so much.