Cheering Fair Play and Neutral Referees at the Olympics and in the TPP

More than 200 countries are sending their teams to Rio de Janeiro this week to compete in the Olympics, with hundreds of separate competitions, from cycling and swimming to archery and gymnastics.  We all want and expect a level playing field where no athlete or nation has an unfair advantage and where neutral referees, not national biases, determine who wins the gold.

To achieve fair play in the Olympics, there is a substantial rules-based structure at the international, individual sport and national level. The Olympic Charter is more than 100 pages, and there are thousands more pages of rules and requirements set forth by international sports federations and national teams.

Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), most Americans have not read these thousands of pages, but understand that the basic rules reflect our common values and sense of fair play. So too does the TPP that sets for a detailed rules-based system that seeks to give industries in the United States a fair shot to win in foreign markets without discrimination or unfair advantages to our foreign competitors. Consider the basic principles that the TPP would implement:

  • Fair Play and Other Basic Rules. Like the Olympics, the TPP sets up a detailed structure so that all parties are following the same rules. These rules, from due process, fair play, transparency and anticorruption, are ones that are familiar to all Americans as part of our own legal system and values. Like the Olympics as well that has detailed rules for its own trademarks, the TPP protects private property, investment, innovation and intellectual property that are fundamental to any individual or organization.
  • Non-Discrimination. At the core of the TPP, like the Olympics, is nondiscrimination. Countries are prohibited from a wide variety of activities that seek to favor their domestic industries over ours and the other TPP nations. From tariffs leveled at the border or discriminatory standards and other local practices, the TPP sets forth detailed rules to eliminate discriminatory preferences to create a more level playing field.
  • Neutral Referees. Like the Olympics, the TPP can only work if there are neutral referees. Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and state-to-state dispute settlement do just that, ensuring that all parties and individuals, nonprofits and businesses alike are assured fair play when they own property or investments overseas.
  • Stopping unfair advantages. Like Olympic rules on equipment and antidoping, the TPP seeks to prohibit partner nations from giving their industries special and unfair advantages. Disciplines against forced localization and technology transfer are critical for manufacturers that want to be able to compete on fair terms.
  • Enforcement. Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the rules to which they have agreed and enforcement mechanisms are needed. The TPP has several strong enforcement tools to hold other countries accountable for violating the basic rules, such as nondiscrimination and fair play, while still ensuring governments retain their right to regulate in a fair, nondiscriminatory and reasonable manner.

Nobody wants a rigged system or one side getting unfair advantages. But in many foreign markets where the United States does not have a trade agreement, that is exactly what is happening, especially since China, Mexico, the European Union and many other countries have already negotiated trade agreements. TPP is part of the solution to ensure manufacturers in the United States can continue to grow beyond their record levels and sustain and create even more good-paying American jobs.

Linda Dempsey

Linda Dempsey

Linda Dempsey is the vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). In this capacity, Ms. Dempsey leads the NAM’s efforts to improve the global competitiveness of manufacturers in the United States by advocating intellectual property protection, increased export financing and the elimination of trade barriers as well as pushing for agreements and treaties to open up new export markets to create jobs. Ms. Dempsey is noted for her experience on a wide range of international trade and investment policy issues.
Linda Dempsey

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