The TPP Is Not About Helping the Poor in Asia

Dean Baker on 2016 July Jobs ReportIn fact, growth in all of these countries slowed in the years after 1997 when they switched from running trade deficits to surpluses. The slowdown was less in Vietnam than in the other countries of the region, but even Vietnam had slower growth in the period touted by Popper than in the years from 1991 to 1997. In other words, the idea that manufacturing workers in the US had to take a hit to allow people in the developing world to escape poverty is absurd on its face.

This argument is even more pernicious in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal currently on the agenda. The trade barriers to imports from the countries in the pact are already low, so the TPP would actually do little to open US markets further to these countries. On the other hand, a major thrust of the pact is to strengthen and lengthen patent and copyright protections.

These forms of protectionism will have poor people in the developing countries in the pact paying more money for prescription drugs, fertilizer, and software than they would otherwise. This protectionism will make them poorer and increase poverty. It will also make it difficult for people in poor countries to have access to life-saving drugs.

Of course the TPP will increase the profits of companies like Pfizer, Merck, and Microsoft. This could explain the huge efforts to promote the TPP among the public. Certainly this push cannot be explained by a concern for the poor in the developing world.

—Dean Baker
How Much Do We Learn About Trade and Poverty in the Developing World from a NYT Article Ostensibly Telling Us About Trade?

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