The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade agreement reached last year between the United States and 11 other Pacific-Rim nations. The deal was signed earlier this year, but congressional ratification faces substantive and political obstacles in 2016–and possibly well beyond.
Like all U.S. free-trade agreements, the TPP is not free trade, but managed trade. It achieves reductions in many trade barriers, while creating and prolonging other forms of protectionism. Does that mean free traders should oppose them? After all, past agreements have reduced domestic impediments to trade, expanded our economic freedoms, and locked in positive reforms, even if only as the residual byproduct of an ill-premised mercantilist process. Ultimately, free trade agreements have delivered freer trade.
If the agreement as written delivers more liberalization than protectionism and can be considered "net liberalizing," then it is credible to argue that free traders should support ratification of the TPP. Whether they do, then, depends on their capacity to not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
At this policy event, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will present his case for the TPP, which will be followed by a panel discussion of the Cato Institute's TPP assessment and a second panel discussion of the substantive and political obstacles to ratification.
- Download the abstract of the forthcoming Cato publication: "Should Free Traders Support the Trans-Pacific Partnership? An Assessment of the Largest-Ever U.S. Preferential Trade Agreement," by Daniel Ikenson, Simon Lester, Scott Lincicome, Daniel Pearson, and K. William Watson.