Obama State of the Union – Will the Transoceanic Trade “Partnerships” be Free Trade Agreements?

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 13 – Iain Murray, vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, had the following to say about the announcement during last night’s State of the Union address that the United States would pursue two major agreements – a Trans-Pacific Partnership already in the works and a Transatlantic Partnership as well:

Last night’s announcement is welcome news in many ways. In pushing for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and beginning negotiations for a transatlantic partnership, the president does seem to recognize the enormous value trade provides in promoting economic growth. That said, we are concerned he calls neither of those transoceanic agreements ‘Free Trade Agreements’ but instead refers to them as ‘partnerships.’

Free trade would mean eliminating tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers that hobble the free flow of goods and services, with even those so-called sensitive products and sectors being included. It means streamlining regulations and loosening restrictions designed to protect special interests and advance national champions.

If the agreements instead are weighted down with protections, they will represent a lost opportunity to bring the undoubted benefits of free trade to all Americans and to other trading partners. A recent European Union study found eliminating half of the non-tariff barriers to trade across the Atlantic would raise U.S. GDP by more than $50 billion a year – and increase US wages. The deal should go farther than that. 

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