Is the TPP Free Trade?

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Is the TPP Free Trade?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a not-yet ratified trade agreement reached last year between the United States and 11 other nations. Like all large trade agreements, the deal inevitably creates and prolongs some forms of protectionism, even while reducing some trade barriers. Given this fact, is the deal ultimately good or bad for free trade? At a Cato conference, “Should Free Traders Support the Trans-Pacific Partnership?” top experts in trade debated that very question. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman delivered the opening keynote, arguing, “If you’re interested in reducing taxes, promoting market-based rather than subsidy-based competition, internet freedom and entrepreneurialism, there’s a lot to like in this agreement.” Cato scholars K. William Watson and Simon Lester presented the results of their in-depth review of the TPP, soon to be published in full, which scores each aspect of the deal on a scale from protectionist to liberalizing, and finds that on net the TPP is market liberalizing. Former U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter also backed the deal, saying, “Better moving forward than standing still, better moving forward than moving backwards. And TPP moves market liberalization forward.”

Protecting Religious liberty
Many Americans believe their religious liberty is under attack, from efforts to censor religious speech in schools to attempts to force Christian vendors to serve at gay weddings. At a Cato conference, experts gathered to discuss how to deal with these questions of church versus state. The first panel of the day debated the relationship between religion and education in public schools, with Charles Glenn of Boston University arguing that the best way to protect parents’ religious rights is to allow them more choice in education. Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia delivered the lunch address, saying, “For many years, I’ve been urging the two sides in America’s culture wars to respect the liberty of the other side — to concentrate on protecting their own liberty, and to spend much less time, indeed to mostly give up, on regulating the liberty of their opponents.” Judge William H. Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the legal history of religious liberty and how its decline would impact religious judges. “If we cast aside the right of religious people to be let alone and replace that right with a new conception of ‘freedom,’ then we will do more than create problems for religious private citizens — we will also create unprecedented problems for religious judges,” he said.

The Future of Finance
Cato’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives is always seeking out new ways to think about financial and monetary policy, challenging the regulatory status quo. In that spirit, the Center hosted “Futures Unbound: The Cato Summit on Financial Regulation” on June 6 in Chicago. There, scholars offered what Cato’s Mark Calabria described as a “financial regulatory policy tasting menu” — a broad overview of Cato’s work on regulatory policy, with the goal of creating a structure that allows market participants to freely conduct their business without the intrusion of government bureaucrats. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, gave the keynote speech, in which he denounced the rise of Operation Chokepoint, which allows the government to limit businesses’ access to banks. “The federal government can intimidate banks into dropping entire sectors of the economy as customers, not based on risk or evidence of wrongdoing, but purely on personal or political motivations,” he said. Other speakers included Thomas Sullivan, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Cato’s George Selgin and Thaya Brook Knight, and Omri Ben-Shahar of the University of Chicago.

The Case for Restraint
For decades American politicians have overwhelmingly backed a policy of primacy — adopting a grand strategy wherein the United States must secure peace and liberty for the entire world through alliances and military aid. But after years of failed interventions, experts are losing faith in this strategy. At a Cato conference, “The Case for Restraint in U.S. Foreign Policy,” experts on international security gathered to discuss a new way forward in foreign affairs. Barry Posen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argued that the so-called “unipolar moment” — the belief that the United States is the center of the world, its “unchallenged superpower,” as Charles Krauthammer put it in 1990, is over. Instead, he argued that “liberal hegemony is an unnecessary, costly, and quixotic grand strategy in its own terms.” A later panel sought for an alternative to the status quo in history — finding it in the writings of the Founding Fathers. “A restrained approach, rather than being something foreign or idealistic or untested, is in fact a very American approach to foreign policy, and one that has deep, deep roots in American ideals and history,” said William Ruger of the Charles Koch Institute.