Krugman’s blog, 3/21/16

There was one post yesterday, “Clinton and CAFTA:”

Joel Benenson, Hillary Clinton’s number-cruncher/strategist, has an interesting note up about the implications of the Ohio primary. The rules of the game require, of course, both that he be totally positive about his candidate and that he profess a certainty about the meaning of every victory that I’m fairly sure he does not, in fact, possess. The truth is that nobody can be sure exactly why Ohio was so different from Michigan; the big takeaway from the Ohio result was, instead, that the yuge Michigan polling miss was an outlier rather than a harbinger, and that — combined with the big HRC delegate gain on 3/15 — moves a Clinton nomination from highly likely to overwhelmingly probable.

Still, I was struck by this:

Ohioans took a hard look at Senator Sanders’ claims, and rejected them. Despite his attempt to portray Hillary as an ardent free-trader, Hillary voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the only multi-national trade agreement that ever came before her in the U.S. Senate.

I very much doubt that many Ohioans knew about Clinton’s anti-CAFTA vote, or even what CAFTA was. But I did. In fact, CAFTA was an important part of my education on modern “trade” agreements, helping to make me a lukewarm opponent of TPP.

A lot of this comes out of a seminar on trade policy I taught at the Wilson School, in which I asked students to look at a series of cases; DR-CAFTA (it also included the Dominican Republic) came as something of a revelation to me, because when you looked at it carefully, you realized that it wasn’t really a trade agreement at all. Instead, the most important issues were things like intellectual property, in particular pharma patent enforcement — and this made it a bad deal for Central America, despite sounding good.

And TPP is another modern trade-agreement-that-really-isn’t, with the most important provisions involving intellectual property and dispute settlement. People inside the administration argue with me that the trade provisions are important, especially for some poor countries, and that the IP and DS stuff isn’t as bad as portrayed; I grant that it’s not a slam-dunk case. As I said, I’m only a lukewarm opponent.

But back to Clinton/CAFTA: Is this a misleading example? Actually, no — her record in the Senate was in general one of caution about and selective opposition to to trade deals. I’m sure we’ll be told that this was insincere and inauthentic — after all, Clinton Rules apply. But she wasn’t a knee-jerk free trader.

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