Tags: Baker | trade | agreement | deals

Economist Dean Baker: Trade Deals Are 'Bad News'

Friday, 14 Jun 2013 08:13 AM

By Michael Kling

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The two major trade deals in the works would most likely be "bad news" for most Americans, argues Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

"Most of the people living in our partner countries are likely to be losers too," Baker writes in an article for Truthout.

One deal in the works is the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan, Australia and several other East Asia and Latin American countries. The other is with the European Union.

Editor's Note:
'It’s Curtains for the US' — Hear Unapologetic Warning from Prophetic Economist.

Importantly, the deals are mainly about regulations — not trade topics like cutting tariffs, Baker, an assistant professor at Bucknell University, points out.

The trade pacts would most likely limit national and local powers by restricting health, safety and environmental rules that nations can enact.

That's unwarranted, he argues. For instance, suppose a country decided to ban a particular pesticide, believing it poses a health risk. If its risks were negligible, the country banning it would be the one suffering from less productive agriculture and higher food prices.

"Is it necessary to have an international agreement to prevent this sort of 'mistake?'"

The trade deals will probably strengthen copyright and patent protection, especially for prescription drugs at the urging of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. That would mean much higher drug prices for our trading partners.

"The difference in prices can be quite large," Baker notes. "Generic drugs, with few exceptions, are cheap to produce. When drugs sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars per prescription it is because patent monopolies allow them to be sold for high prices."

That would mean less revenue for other U.S. industries and fewer job opportunities for everyone from manufacturing workers to workers in the tourism business, he warns.

"The public may not have the power to stop the high-powered lobbyists from getting their way on these trade pacts, but it should at least know what is going on," he states. "These trade deals are about pulling more money out of their pockets in order to make the rich even richer."

Not knowing what's going on in the negotiations is an issue for others.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is urging greater transparency for the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. Specifically, she is requesting the White House reveal the "composite bracketed text," which has proposed treaty language from the United States and other countries.

"The lack of transparency is this area is troubling because, as you know, the bracketed text serves as the focal point for actual negotiations," Warren writes in a letter to the White House.

Editor's Note: 'It’s Curtains for the US' — Hear Unapologetic Warning from Prophetic Economist.

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