David R. Henderson  

Larry Summers on TPP

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Tyler Cowen writes:

Larry Summers on TPP makes perfect sense. I haven't seen anything on the anti- side coming close to this level of analysis, and in a short column at that.

So I went to read Summers's "perfectly sensible" column. Here are the first two paragraphs of Summers's piece, which, presumably, makes them two of the most important paragraphs:
The Senate's rejection of President Woodrow Wilson's commitment of the United States to the League of Nations was the greatest setback to U.S. global leadership of the last century. While not remotely as consequential, the votes in the House last week that, unless revisited, would doom the Trans-Pacific Partnership send the same kind of negative signal regarding the willingness of the United States to take responsibility for the global system at a critical time.

The repudiation of the TPP would neuter the U.S. presidency for the next 19 months. It would reinforce global concerns that the vicissitudes of domestic politics are increasingly rendering the United States a less reliable ally. Coming on top of the American failure to either stop or join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, it would signal a lack of U.S. commitment to Asia at a time when China is flexing its muscles. It would leave the grand strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia with no meaningful nonmilitary component. And it would strengthen the hands of companies overseas at the expense of U.S. firms. Ultimately, having a world in which U.S. companies systematically lose ground to foreign rivals would not work out to the advantage of American workers.


As it happens, I am mildly in favor of TPP. But if I totally believed what Summers says above, I would move to neutrality or even opposition to TPP.

Here's the sentence in the above that would do the most to move me in that direction:

It would reinforce global concerns that the vicissitudes of domestic politics are increasingly rendering the United States a less reliable ally.

It's no secret that Larry wants the U.S. government to play a dominant role in the world and I don't. At my talk in Zurich last week, I was introduced to a man whose bank was essentially shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice. I would want to know the details, of course, but my prior view, absent details, is that when a government of one country pressures the government of another country to shut down a bank, that's likely to be a bad thing, not a good thing.

If the U.S. government is a "less reliable ally," that could be a good thing.

BTW, this next does not merit a whole blog post on a site called Econlog, but, while discussing Tyler Cowen's views, let me say that I don't get his view on Steph Curry. It's specifically his line: "I am a big fan of Stephen Curry, but in fact his family tale is ultimately a sobering one." My wife and I have been faithful Golden State Warriors fans and are having a wonderful time this year. My favorite comment from the play-by-play announcer is "Curry, for three." Curry's play has made the game more exciting. Here's a 6 foot 3 inch player whom Charles Barkley used to call "a midget," who, with his 3-point shooting and, less noticed, his reverse layups, has managed to offset the advantage of height. That has made the game more exciting. And, if Curry, as I fear, will ultimately play for the Charlotte Hornets, I will still love his play even as I continue to be a Warriors fan.




COMMENTS (13 to date)
Robert Simmons writes:

I think he's appreciating Curry, but notes how it took 35 years and a second generation great shooter to change the NBA towards adopting the 3. Not an entirely true narrative, but it is surprising how long strong adoption has taken.

Tim Ozenne writes:

Is the text of the legislation public knowledge? I've not seen it. Can you give me a link?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Tim Ozenne,
Is the text of the legislation public knowledge?
Which legislation are you referring to?

Andrew_FL writes:

If supporters of TPP were really in favor of free trade, they'd be proposing a unilateral repeal of all import tariffs in the United States.

That they would in fact bristle at such a notion tells you all you need to know about their real objectives. TPP has nothing to do with trade. That's just a head fake.

John Thacker writes:

@ Tim Ozenne:

The legislation before Congress right now on fast track authority? Yes, it is. Here is a copy.

The TPP, as well as all the many other possible trade treaties that might be negotiated and voted on under TPA (fast track authority)? No, because that one's months away from being voted on, and other trade agreements are even farther away.

John Thacker writes:

The bill before Congress on Trade Promotion Authority, known as fast track? Yes, it is public knowledge and there are links. (However, the system seems to prevent me from posting a link.)

The TPP or any other trade treaty that might be negotiated under fast track authority are not available yet, since they don't exist and wouldn't be voted on, at a minimum, for months.

@Andrew_FL:
Hmm, I feel like an overwhelming majority of the opponents of TPP would strongly oppose unilateral free trade, indeed bristle at the notion. Therefore, by your lights that tells us that opposition to the TPP has "nothing to do with trade," and that's a head fake.

By contrast, I (and I strongly suspect David) among other mild TPP supporters would in fact support unilateral free trade. In fact, I would be willing to major that among TPP supporters are found a greater percentage of unilateral free trade supporters than among TPP opponents.

However, I suspect that in reality it doesn't tell us much. The "head fake" accusation is simply too easy to make, and could be made equally at both sides.

Andrew_FL writes:

@John Thacker-Your argument is mistaken since it puts one person suggesting unilateral repeal of import tariffs by the US would be a more sincere gesture of support for trade, and gives that single individual the same weight as all the people whoever never cared about free trade before, who suddenly claim to, the same weight.

I do however appreciate the suggestion that it is just as likely I'm actually a protectionist plant as that a very large number of politicians are (gasp!) being deceptive about the motivations behind a policy they are advocating. Given that I am not in fact a protectionist plant I have to conclude either you are a little too naive or you actually believe I'm trying to sabotage the TPP because gosh I sure love tariffs.

You mild supporters are getting played. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thiago Ribeiro writes:

I know too little about basketball (I did not even know what a reverse layup was before googling it). Why are Curry's reverse layups helping him to "offset the advantage of height"? I get the three points thing, but I don't understand what he profits from reverse layups do they make scoring an easir task or just a more impressive one?).

David R. Henderson writes:

@Thiago Ribeiro,
Here’s the best video I can find of Curry doing a reverse lay-up. It’s only 15 seconds long.
When you’re 6’3” in the NBA, aka almost short, and you go in for a standard layup, it’s not hard for one of the tall trees, 6’9” or taller, to block your shot. Steph is one of the best at going in and then switching to his other hand to go around and under. That’s much harder to stop. Some games, when his 3 just isn’t clicking, he gets himself going with those and then plays a mixture of shots the rest of the game.
So to answer your question, it makes scoring easier (though it’s a very hard shot to master--so easier doesn’t quite convey it) and more impressive.

John Thacker writes:

@Andrew_FL:

I'm not suggesting that you are a protectionist plant. I'm suggesting that the set of TPP opponents includes lots of protectionists who would bristle at the suggestion of unilateral free trade.

Again, by your argument, it seems that unilateral free trade opponents who oppose TPP are the ones being played by the protectionists who oppose TPP. Surely regardless of the situation, unilateral free trade is a minority position on both sides.

I'm not sure how much validity your argument has (it might make sense for free trade supporters to approve or oppose the bill even with repugnant coalition members), but it surely seems that it applies just as well to opposition as support.

Matt B writes:

Regarding the reverse layup, in addition when you go under the rim and lay the ball up from the other side, this puts the rim in the way of your taller defender and makes it harder for him to block your shot.

Paul writes:

@John Thacker

How are unilateral free trade opponents being duped by protectionists who oppose TPP? Aren't unilateral free trade opponents themselves protectionists? Therefore, why would they want TPP in the first place, unless TPP is essentially protectionist and restricts free trade? This argument seems like it includes some non-obvious unstated assumptions. It seems as if Andrew FL's argument rested on the assumed inconsistency of TPP advocates, whereas it seems to me that the opponents of TPP are perfectly consistent. The opponents don't want free trade, and that is why they oppose TPP. The proponents do not consistently advocate free trade, so it is reasonable to believe that they have some other motive in promoting the TPP.

Thiago Ribeiro writes:

@David R. Henderson,
Now I literally see. Thank you very much.
@Matt B,
It makes sense. Thank you.

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