Politico gets into the act telling readers how tragic the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is for the rural economy in a special report. Here's the punch line:
"But for the already struggling agricultural sector, the sprawling 12-nation TPP, covering 40 percent of the world’s economy, was a lifeline. It was a chance to erase punishing tariffs that restricted the United States—the onetime 'breadbasket of the world'—from selling its meats, grains and dairy products to massive importers of foodstuffs such as Japan and Vietnam.
"The decision to pull out of the trade deal has become a double hit on places like Eagle Grove. The promised bump of $10 billion in agricultural output over 15 years, based on estimates by the U.S. International Trade Commission, won’t materialize. But Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact also cleared the way for rival exporters such as Australia, New Zealand and the European Union to negotiate even lower tariffs with importing nations, creating potentially greater competitive advantages over U.S. exports."
Wow, we could have had another $10 billion in agricultural output after 15 years, if only Donald Trump had not pulled the plug. Hmm, $10 billion in additional agricultural output in 2032, is that a big deal?
Well, if we turn to the International Trade Commission (ITC) report cited in the piece, we see that it amounts to 0.5 percent of projected agricultural output in 2032. That's about equal to six months of normal growth of the agricultural economy. This means that, according to the ITC report, with the TPP in effect, the agricultural economy would be producing roughly as much on January 1, 2032 as it would otherwise be producing on July 1, 2032 without the TPP.
Is this a "lifeline" for the agricultural economy?
There is also reason to be wary of the ITC report, since these models have been incredibly bad at predicting the outcome of past trade deals.
It's also worth commenting on the apparent horror with which Politico views the possibility, "rival exporters such as Australia, New Zealand and the European Union to negotiate even lower tariffs with importing nations." In the good old days, economists used to believe that the United States was helped by stronger trading partners. This was one reason the U.S. generally supported the process of economic integration that led to the European Union.
If other countries remove barriers between them, this could make some of their goods better positioned relative to U.S. exports, but it can also lead to more rapid growth in these countries, which will increase demand for U.S. exports. While both effects are likely to be small relative to the size of U.S. production, it is entirely possible that the growth effect will exceed the substitution effect. Long and short, there is no need for reasonable people to be terrified by the prospect of other countries crafting trade deals.