International trade policy is a topic consistently debated by different factions of the US civilian interests. It not only in the US however, other nations experience the same phenomenon, special interest groups are constantly lobbying for their supporters and are convinced that economic estimates of net gains are a farce and that protectionism is the only form of profitable trade. Now this might be an exaggeration of the true feeling s of lobbyists in Washington, but their abhorrence of agreements such as TPP and the actions they take against them is anything but understated. It is then up to us, the economically educated, the “enlightened” if you will, to examine these agreements, to scrutinize them until it is clear they are the best they can be and if they pass this test then push them through to implementation.
However, little can get done with Obama’s weakened leadership status, after a tumultuous end to 2013 his influence over democrats and representatives alike is diminished. This can be seen in the stagnant nature of the progress of the TPP. The media and nation as a whole is allowing narrow interests dictate the direction of our future as a globalized economy instead of being lead to global economic prosperity by leaders that understand the broad benefits of free trade.
Special interest groups tend to oversimplify the benefits and detriments of free trade and broadcast these ultimately minor shortfalls in opposition to free trade. The environmentalists shout about the lack of environmental regulation in developing countries and claim that shipping production to them will in turn ruin the planet. They conveniently leave out that many trade agreements require developing countries to meet higher environmental standards for many industries. This raises the floor of the world’s pollution standards and often outsizes the increase in pollution from not producing in the US or other developed countries.
While the idea that narrow sects of the greater, more moderate US population, can dictate the United States foreign trade policy is dangerous, at the very least it is contractionary. Between special interest groups lobbying for different policies and congress amending anything and everything they get their hands on just to stay in office, it sometimes seems amazing we are not a protectionist country at this point. How much better off are we though, if every trade agreement is watered down with concessions? This is what makes it necessary to have things in place like the fast track authority, which allows the President to send an agreement to congress without giving them the ability to amend it. All they get is an up or down vote on passing it through to be signed and instated. This is an ability that interest groups are consistently talking down and claiming is a disservice to the people of the United States.
The truth is though, that the influence of these interest groups is greatly diminished by the elimination of amendment rights in congress. This is due to the fact that their lobbying acts have no or limited control over the content of the agreements if congress can’t change the agreement. Agreements also have a better chance of passing because congressional representatives can claim that the trade agreement was the best option they would have the opportunity to pass through and that there was no more they could do to protect the state civilians and industries that they were elected to represent.
It is my firm belief that the political influence of special interest groups has gone too far and that the consistent use of the fast track authority could be instrumental in evening out who controls our foreign policy. We should be ignoring the shouting individual with the big sign representing the latest hipster coffee shop trend, and listening to the quiet manin the corner who actually knows the advantages and disadvantages of trade and economic development.
Source of picture: texasgreenreport.wordpress.com