Tuesday, April 12, 2016

USTR Cozy With Some Think Tanks; Hates Others

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) seems to like a number of powerful think tanks, and it has held many private meetings with think tankers.

For example, on July 22, three think tanks met with USTR: Third Way, Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), and New Democrat Network.

Earlier this year, USTR Michael Froman spoke about trade at the Wilson Center.

However, USTR does not like think tanks whose ideas conflict with its own studies and ideas.  Here is more from Politico:
The administration wasn’t impressed by a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, which calculates that a $177.9 billion trade deficit with the other TPP countries translates to 2 million lost jobs, arguing that the methodology has already been debunked.
“The method EPI uses to create these numbers was given ‘Four Pinocchios’ by The Washington Post’s independent fact-checker last year for being a ‘whopper’, yet they continue to use it,” a USTR spokesman said. “The International Trade Administration's most recent official numbers show that 11.7 million jobs were supported yearly by exports of American goods and that 45 percent of those goods went to TPP countries. It’s unfortunate that opponents of trade, like EPI, continue to use faulty data to avoid having an honest debate about expanding American made exports through TPP.”
Many trade economists argue that imports don’t have a straightforward impact on jobs because some of them are used as inputs in other products made here, and some don’t compete directly with U.S. goods.
Rob Scott, one of the authors of the EPI paper, said the methodology he used is similar in some ways to the Public Citizen methodology but not exactly the same. He also noted that, unlike Public Citizen, his paper used data from the Census Bureau on trade flows, which is considered by the administration to be the most accurate.

USTR doesn't only rely on US think tanks to get its message across.  For example, in a trip to Malaysia last year, USTR Michael Froman promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at a think tank event.

Also, former Administration officials use think tanks to promote various policy initiative such as trade deals.  For example, former State Department official Kurt Campbell and former Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell praised TPP this week at the Truman National Security Project.