Getting talked-out about TPP, TPA and assorted big-butt international trade acronyms?
Well get ready to hear a bunch more about those. (For those of you blessed enough to not be immersed in TPP and TPA, this is what they are: The TPP is the Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s a proposed free trade deal involving 12 nations, and nothing at all about transvestite people, making it more dull than it might seem on first glance to many average people; TPA is Trade Promotion Authority, which allows the U.S. president to agree to something like TPP without having his crazy Congress be able to alter the terms of the deal. The congressfolk either have to be for it, or agin it, like in a shootout.)
U.S. President Barack Obama is having a tough time getting TPA for TPP and TTIP (not even going to define that one), which is creating a bunch of news today, and the TPP news has been heating up for the past couple of weeks. Assorted press conferences, speeches and a splatterstorm of press releases have occurred and been issued, all trying to ramp-up the pressure to get a TPP deal done, or not done, and to try to blame dastardly foreigners for holding-up the whole danged thing, or for wanting the pernicious thing in the first place.
When I was in Washington two weeks ago, politicians and officials blamed Canada for dawdling over dealing with the supply management issue (which makes Americans and New Zealanders, among others, mad as heck), and blamed Japan for being dilatory about talking about rice import controls.
And they blamed other Americans for messing with what they thought should happen with TPP. Some of the Republicans steamed over Democrats refusing to support TPA. Some Democrats seemed peeved about Obama’s request for TPA, assuming he’d sell-out various local interests over things like Canadian dairy stuff. And Obama – I imagine – was sitting around the White House wondering how the heck he was supposed to deal with all these crazy people.
(I imagine Obama being a calm and detached man, only momentarily provoked into exasperated annoyance, because that’s how his dogs seemed when I unexpectedly met them in the White House vegetable garden, although they never seemed exasperated, even by a bunch of agricultural journalists fawning over them.)
On our side of the border, politicians and officials have been responding by repeating well-worn and comfortable lines about both supporting supply management and being super-keen about TPP. And they have been desperately trying to avoid saying anything concrete whatsoever about when Canada might or might not be willing to talk about supply management. I personally received a three sentence emailed official statement from the Canadian Minister of International Trade not informing me of when the government will be willing to talk about it, so I guess that question’s been cleared up. We have officially avoided saying we’re not going to say when we’re going to say something. Or something like that.
So what’s going to happen with this fine, thrashing and splashing barrel of trade fish? Here’s my guess, based on nothing:
1) Japan offers something on rice that doesn’t really do much, but lets the Americans declare victory and quickly retreat from the issue;
2) The Americans get so friggin sick of waiting for a Canadian supply management position, and begin to obsess about all the other TPP stuff, that when Canada puts forward a relatively weak and unmajor offer to slightly modify the present system, the Americans will initially holler for a better offer, Canada will then throw in a special exemption for American-made coffee creamer, which will allow the Yanks to yet again declare victory and run away;
3) Democrats will eventually support TPA, because “Holy crap, can’t we get out of Washington and start BBQ season already?”
4) Ten billion gallons of ink will be spilled onto news pages going through the complex reality of this agreement and negotiation, encouraging the world’s many billion people to leave it to the dozen or so people who actually understand this thing.
5) Some sort of deal will be announced at some point in the future and there will be much handshaking and great-sounding speeches about the achievement, and many of us at newspapers will pretend to understand what it is that was agreed to and people like me will write blog posts commenting on what we’re pretending we understand about it.
6) Canadian dairy will still exist, still mostly be protected by supply management of some sort, still frustrate and annoy Yanks and Kiwis, and drive domestic free marketeers crazy.