Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Read any good reports lately?

With summer nearly upon us, it’s time to start gathering a list of good reads – both fiction and nonfiction – for those long lazy days at the beach.

USTR Michael Froman already has a  and list sorted out.

And his top candidate in the nonfiction category remains the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ opus on the TransPacific Partnership.

What not to read, according to USTR, is the just-released International Trade Commission analysis of the TPP.

One – the study by the Peterson Institute – reflects the opinion of the “editors” there who generally want to make sure that the end-product tracks their own philosophy that “free trade is good for all.”

The other – the ITC report – suffers from heavy-handed pre-publication editing by an irascible overseer in the form of the US Congress.  The numbers in the report are likely to be correct even though the writing is stilted and lacks adventure.

Even before advance copies of the ITC reached the bookstores, USTR was busy blasting ITC and praising Peterson.  Two days before its release, USTR sent pre-publication reviews to journalists touting how much better the Peterson report was.

In fact, USTR suggested that Congressional testimony by the American Potato Council was a better read.

(An aside.  The day before release of the ITC report a long-time Washington trade wonk remarked to me about the audacity of the Public Citizen organization pointing out the weaknesses of the ITC study – even before it was issued.   He did not know that USTR was following Public Citizen’s lead.)

USTR suggested there was lack of imagination in the ITC report – and the plot took the reader nowhere.  According to USTR, the ITC lacked any type of adventurous speculation – and thus lacked imagination.  It was simply not a good read, according to USTR.

In contrast, the Peterson report was liberal in its speculation that the TPP would put the United States – and the world in general – on the right road to eternal economic happiness.

Public Citizen said both were fictional – “way-out” science fiction with no relation to fact or history.

WTD’s recommendation for long days on the sand:  Plutarch’s Lives, which is much peppier and captures the reader’s imagination while holding to the facts – or various versions of the facts.  Neither the Peterson Institute report nor the ITC analyses contain stories of wife swapping.   Plutarch does.  He was no dummy.  He knew how to get readers’ attention.

The economic bottom line – Peterson predicts a national income increase attributable to TPP of 0.5 percent over 15 years; the ITC says 0.25 percent.  Both could be considered rounding errors.


Jim Berger

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