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Samuel Gregg On Free Trade, Trans-Pacific Partnership And The Church

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The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backed by many Republicans and President Obama, hit a snag Tuesday when key Democrats spoke out against the agreement.

What exactly is the TPP? It is a free trade agreement with 12 nations (including China and Japan) that purports to increase economic growth, jobs and free trade. However, there is much opposition in Congress.

Leading opponents of the measure in the Senate have pushed for additional protections for U.S. workers and address concerns about alleged foreign-currency manipulation by China that makes American products too expensive.

“It’s a betrayal of workers and small business in our communities to pass fast track, to put it on the president’s desk without enforcement  … and without helping workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told The Washington Post.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have not taken a formal stance on the TPP, but…

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, the U.S. bishops’ point men on social-justice issues, signaled their fears about the TPP deal’s impact on U.S. workers and  small farmers in poor countries faced with competition from U.S. agribusiness, among other matters.

The National Catholic Register asked Sam Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, to comment on the broader aspects of the TPP and its effects on global markets. Gregg was asked if he perceived any change in the Holy See’s global economic stance from the pontificate of St. John Paul II through Pope Francis.

At the level of principle, I see no substantive change.”

That said, Gregg suggested that Pope Francis “seems less optimistic about the economic benefits of free trade, though he has said that economic globalization has taken many people out of poverty. That is a simple empirical fact which is very hard to deny.”

Overall, Gregg views the Church as “cautiously optimistic” about free trade “since the1990s, partly because free trade is rooted in the principle of free association, which doesn’t somehow stop at national boundaries, and partly, because, on balance, it gets people out of poverty.”

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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