Put Aside The TPP Sound-Bites; What Do Economists Think?

By Justin Kirschner

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed on February 4, and the ratification battle lines cutting deep through the halls of Congress and the town halls of New Hampshire, comparatively less attention has been paid to what economists make of the deal. Though more genteel in their presentation than the average senator or presidential candidate or senator-turned-presidential candidate, maybe these are the experts to whom we should be listening? Last week, a group of economists from Tufts University, supported by former Biden economic advisor Jared Berstein, released their report. It concluded that the TPP will likely lead to losses in employment and increases in inequality. On the other side are multiple studies, including most recently from the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Their analysis concludes that incomes will rise in the US but employment rates will be flat as a result of the TPP’s full implementation. The Peterson Institute economists conceded that some workers would be displaced, but called helping them “a compelling ethical and political objective.” Unfortunately knee-jerk reactions and political pandering have largely displaced rational analysis on the campaign trail. The noise has spilled over into Washington, spoiling what otherwise could have been a deeply analytical Congressional debate about what is best for the country.