Obama's Anti-China Free Trade Area of Free People [sic]

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/02/2013 06:31:00 AM
Question: What do you get when you cross the EU-US FTA with the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Answer: The Free Trade Area of Free People (FTAFP)[sic]

During the Cold War, older readers will remember that the United States began funding pro-democracy propaganda via Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and so forth. Now that the Cold War is over, we are, er...supposedly returning to that same sort of mentality from the Yanks. Or, at least news sources are telling as alike the Financial Times. Maybe it was a slow day at the world's premier financial newspaper, but it too has succumbed to this temptation of portraying US FTA initiatives as those meant to "bandwagon against" China in the economic realm.

I am honestly wary of this characterization since it, first of all, brings us back to the framing of trade as inherently conflictual when it's supposed to be mutually beneficial as per the theory of comparative advantage. Moreover, hasn't China pursued FTAs of its own especially in Asia that pointedly exclude the US and other Western nations? At any rate, an argument being marshaled is of China's exclusion helping to appease trade-phobic American lawmakers:
But much of the substance of the EU talks and of TPP points to China. The agenda includes state subsidies for business and protecting intellectual property – precisely the sorts of issues that are becoming huge bones of contention with Beijing. If the US can get enough important countries to sign up, it hopes to establish global trading standards that China would feel obliged to respect. On Capitol Hill, where free trade is not an easy sell in an era of unemployment of more than 7.5 per cent, the China angle is being used to rally support. “This is very much part of our China strategy,” an aide to a leading Republican senator puts it, talking of the discussions with the EU. 
And speaking of my admittedly, ah, tortured title, there is supposedly an emergent coalition of the WTO-plus trade willing to paraphrase a former American leader:
TPP and the US-EU trade talks represent an alternative strategy, an attempt to forge fresh rules by appealing to smaller groups of like-minded nations, in this case working around China rather than with Beijing. Supporters say this is not an abandonment of global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation but simply a realistic assessment of how to get things done.
You're either with us or against us in trade. Where have we heard something similar before? That said, I am doubtful whether joining up the TPP and US-EU FTA really is an American goal to isolate China in trade. After all, both American-led initiatives are hardly done deals and both face formidable obstacles to completion, so we cannot even begin to speculate about their merger.

That said, you must admit that Free Trade Area of Free People [sic] has a nice ring to it.