If you read the latest Econlib Feature Article by Pierre Lemieux, "Free Trade and TPP," you won't have an answer to the title question of this post. So why I did I ask him to write it? Because I knew that Pierre would do a great job of laying out the pros and cons.
Here's what I said in the blurb that goes with the piece:
Free trade is good for almost everyone and so are movements to freer trade. But is that enough for economists to judge that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a good idea? No, argues economist Pierre Lemieux. Lemieux points out that the TPP is an instance of managed trade. Whether the TPP is good or bad depends heavily on how it is carried out. If you want to know how a careful economist with no dog in the hunt thinks about the TPP, this article is for you.
And here are some of my favorite lines from his article:
Contrary to what some critics claim, TPP is certainly not too dangerous to national sovereignty--which amounts often to nothing more than the right of a state to oppress its citizens. Indeed, TPP is not dangerous enough, as, in many ways, it reinforces the legitimacy of states' power of regulation and control.
Perhaps the decisive argument is about signaling. What signal would the approval or the defeat of TPP send? Defeat would likely signal in public opinion that free trade is a dead horse, while approval would hopefully signal that real free trade is still an alternative on the table. If this appraisal is correct, TPP would be a small step--a very small step--toward free trade.
This is, I suggest, how one should think about TPP. But the conclusion, as we have seen, is not clear. As French biologist Jean Rostand wrote, "We are not writing an exam where it is better to write anything than nothing." One thing, however, is certain: economists and educators should continue to present the argument for real free trade, whether agreed to multilaterally or declared unilaterally.
What a great line, and a great use of the line, by Rostand.