February 18, 2016

TPP Costs and Benefits - Summary of Testimony for ITC Hearing on TPP

Implementing the TPP at this time is difficult to justify.  The Petri-Plummer analysis indicates a net TPP benefit that would not be statistically different from zero after fifteen years, and their analysis ignores substantial job loss and income distribution costs. Tufts research indicates even smaller, probably negative, net TPP benefits and highlights costs ignored by Petri-Plummer. The biggest downside risk is that the TPP will significantly increase America’s already excessive trade deficits because it does nothing to fix the overvalued dollar.  

The dollar’s overvaluation has been driving the loss of thousands of American factories and millions of American jobs for nearly 40 years, yet no mechanisms have been put in place in the TPP or through parallel legislation to bring the dollar back to its trade-balancing equilibrium level and keep it there. By expanding trade without fixing the dollar’s value, the TPP would make existing deficits even worse.

Many have called for “tough language” in the TPP or in parallel legislation to prevent currency manipulation. However, such language would not fix the overvalued dollar because currency manipulation has contributed very little to the problem.

Currency manipulators have been the favorite scapegoat for U.S. trade deficits since the 1970s. However, U.S. laws designed to fight currency manipulation have never solved the problem. Even the IMF, which has had rules against currency manipulation since it was founded almost seventy years ago, has never once managed to “convict” a country of currency manipulation.
As defined by the IMF, currency manipulation means that a member government is manipulating the exchange rate of its currency and thus the international monetary system.

However, only 22 percent of all foreign purchases of U.S. securities and other portfolio investments in America between 1990 and 2015 were by official bodies (USTIC 2016). The remaining 78 percent were made by foreign private investors. Since 2000, the share of official purchases accounted for only 10 percent of the total. And as Fred Bergsten recently noted, “manipulation declined substantially in 2014 … and almost disappeared in 2015.” 

These facts seriously undermine the argument that “currency manipulation” is the cause of America’s trade deficits. In fact, as shown by the recent work of Hansen (2016),   currency manipulation may never have been the key reason for America’s trade deficits. The problem instead has been currency misalignment caused primarily by excessive private foreign capital inflows driving up the dollar’s value.

Implications for the TPP: The cost-benefit case for implementing the TPP is already exceedingly weak, and absent any effective mechanism to return the dollar to its trade-balancing equilibrium rate and keep it there, growing trade deficits will inevitably turn the small estimated TPP net benefits into substantial net losses for America.

The TPP should therefore be put on hold until an appropriate mechanism linking the dollar’s value to balanced trade is established.
John R Hansen

    February 14, 2016

America Needs a Competitive Dollar - Now!

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