A Trade Deal for the 21st Century: An Alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Protesters display signs at a rally in Ottawa, Canada, on July 10, 2014, opposing the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. (Photo: Sum of Us)Protesters display signs at a rally in Ottawa, Canada, on July 10, 2014, opposing the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. (Photo: Sum of Us)

It looks like the major media outlets are doing their full court press to lay the groundwork for the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In recent weeks, the news and opinion pages have been filled with articles and columns on the wonders of trade and why all good people should support trade deals like the TPP.

In fact, some of what these pieces say about the wonders of trade is true. There can be large benefits to countries from trading and there is no doubt that the United States is enormously richer as a result of international trade. But that hardly means that everyone was benefitted by the patterns of trade over the last three decades, nor is it a reason to support the TPP.

But let’s be positive about trade. It is possible to envision a different pattern of trade which will offer benefits for the bulk of the population of the United States and also for our trading partners in the developing world.

Let’s start with my favorite area in which to expand trade, highly paid professionals. Our doctors and dentists, and to a lesser extent our lawyers, make far more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. This is not the case for our autoworkers and steel workers. They earn considerably lower pay than their counterparts in Western Europe.

We can correct this imbalance by removing the barriers that make it difficult for foreign professionals to practice in the United States. This means creating standards for medical care that will allow adequately trained doctors in Canada, Germany and other countries to practice in the United States just like adequately trained doctors from New York or California. The potential gains from this change alone are enormous.

If we brought the average pay of our doctors down by $100,000 to around $150,000 a year it could save us around $90 billion a year in health care costs. This is a…

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