There are many serious issues raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the one that may have the greatest long-term impact is its provisions on drug patents. The explicit purpose is to make patent protection stronger and longer. While these provisions are likely to lead to higher drug prices in the United States, they will have their greatest impact in the developing world. In most developing countries, drugs are far cheaper than in the United States. This is especially the case in India. The country has a world-class generic industry that produces high-quality drugs that typically sell for a small fraction of the price in the United States. The U.S. drug industry desperately wants to eliminate this sort of price gap, which can exceed a ratio of one hundred to one. This should have everyone very worried.
Obama and Congressional Republicans have few areas of agreement. Opponents of their shared trade agenda seek to make that list shorter. Anti-trade advocates should question whether they are either blinded by an idealized partisanship that can only lead to paralysis, or captured by special interests at odds with the general welfare.
While Obama appealed to party loyalty, many Democrats, who have watched factory after factory leave the United States with no replacements in sight, seized the moral high ground. They took a stand against the secret trade-negotiating process that puts all the power in the hands of powerful industry lobbyists, shutting out U.S. workers and their representatives in Congress.
On Friday, the House of Representatives held an extensive debate on whether Congress should adopt fast track rules for ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership. What ensued was a jumbled debate in which advocates for fast tracking the TPP entered into a world of fantasy economics and delusional politics.