One aspect of the TPP negotiations that I have not followed closely is rules for state owned enterprises. I'll take a look at it all eventually, but I've been waiting for more leaks and commentary, to explain the different views.
In the meantime, though, I wonder if such rules could apply a little differently than people expect. Viet Nam is probably the main target of these rules in the TPP, with China also on everyone's mind. But will these rules also apply here in the U.S.? Here's one example of how they might:
Kentucky town opens retail filling station, is criticized as promoting socialism
City hall ventured into the retail gas business Saturday, opening a municipal-run filling station that supporters call a benefit for motorists and critics denounce as a taxpayer-supported swipe at the free market.
The Somerset Fuel Center opened to the public selling regular unleaded gas for $3.36 a gallon, a bit lower than some nearby competitors. In the first three hours, about 75 customers fueled up at the no-frills station, where there are no snacks, no repairs and only regular unleaded gas.
The mayor says the station was created in response to years of grumbling by townspeople about stubbornly high gas prices in Somerset, a city of about 11,000 near Lake Cumberland, a popular fishing and boating haven.
The venture unnerved local filling station and convenience store operators suddenly competing with the city in this Republican stronghold. Critics said the government has no business injecting itself into the private sector, and one store owner branded it as socialism.
Mayor Eddie Girdler, however, is standing firm behind the idea of the city-run station. The canopied station on the outskirts of this southern Kentucky town was converted from use by government vehicles into one that can also cater to anyone looking to fill up with regular unleaded.
As trade negotiators consider rules on SOEs, they should think about situations like this one.
I also wonder if there is a possible investment claim here. If you are a foreign investor in the gas station market, and suddenly the government starts competing with you (possibly on non-commercial terms), is that "fair and equitable" treatment?