The news media and advocates of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement have repeatedly described opponents of the deal as “protectionist” or opposed to trade itself.
For instance, after Donald Trump pressed Hillary Clinton to swear off passage of the deal, the New York Times reported that Trump was embracing “nationalistic anti-trade policies.” The Wall Street Journal said Trump expressed “protectionist views.” President Obama warned that you can’t withdraw “from trade deals” and focus “solely on your local market.”
But opposition to the TPP is not accurately described as opposition to all trade, or even to free trade.
In fact, the deal’s major impact would not come in the area of lowering tariffs, the most common trade barriers. The TPP is more focused on crafting regulatory regimes that benefit certain industries.
So the most consequential parts of the deal would actually undermine the free flow of goods and services by expanding some protectionist, anti-competitive policies sought by global corporations.