More homework, please

BACK in December, Paul Krugman promised to provide his opinion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, writing to readers, “I’ll do some homework and get back to you.” Today, his column provides his opinion of the TPP. It doesn’t provide much evidence that he did his homework. Mr Krugman writes:

The first thing you need to know about trade deals in general is that they aren’t what they used to be. The glory days of trade negotiations — the days of deals like the Kennedy Round of the 1960s, which sharply reduced tariffs around the world — are long behind us.

Why? Basically, old-fashioned trade deals are a victim of their own success: there just isn’t much more protectionism to eliminate. Average U.S. tariff rates have fallen by two-thirds since 1960. The most recent report on American import restraints by the International Trade Commission puts their total cost at less than 0.01 percent of G.D.P.

Implicit protection of services — rules and regulations that have the effect of, say, blocking foreign competition in insurance — surely impose additional costs. But the fact remains that, these days, “trade agreements” are mainly about other things. What..

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