Goddamn it. I do not enjoy having my scattershot and academic knowledge tested by pragmatism. ;-)
So THING 1: Read this. Sagami is a textbook Rationalist which, near as I can tell, is the philosophy of "this is the world we live in" (Ohhhh) "and these are the hand we're given" (oooohh). Rationalists say things like "Southern California is effectively Mexico in all but name and expecting it to behave like Philadelphia is asking for disappointment." I think the rationalists sneak a little too much manifest destiny into their leanings as well as disguising Randian self-interest as fatalism but they also espouse a notion I tend to agree with: policy is of, for and by the big people, not the little people but the big people won't go out of their way to screw the little people because it's just business.
THING 2 is "put on your tinfoil hat."
The rationalists have been talking about currency wars for about three years now. Their prognostications have played out pretty well so far. John Mauldin didn't predict super-low oil prices, but he did predict that Abenomics would be a failed gambit to return Japan to solvency that would launch the G8 into a round of competitive devaluation. Stupid low oil prices have a lot of the effects you're looking for in a currency war, particularly if your economy isn't sensitive to oil prices but theirs is.
Here's the problem: the currency of the United States is strong as fuck. With Russia off doing its own thing, Japan hyperinflating as fast as they can and China pegging their currency to the dollar, the Euro is what you're worried about and the Euro is mighty competitive at the moment. Didja see that 30% drop over the past year? That's a 30% discount on BMW. A 30% discount on Bosch. A 30% discount on Eurofighter. A 30% discount on Steuben. A 30% discount on Hennessy. At least, against the dollar. And if your choice is a MAN diesel or a Dodge truck and suddenly the MAN is 30% off...
This agreement claims to do two things: Improve competitiveness of American business in Asian markets and give teeth to American trade law in Asia. The first is pretty well covered above. As far as the second, I've been known to give money to the EFF. They're doing The Lord's Work. BUT they are also primarily fighting for the rights of privileged Americans (of which I am definitely one - go EFF). The EFF mostly cares about your ability to copy your own software and music, while what really matters is the ability of the Chinese to copy your software and music. Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Taiwan... go to a night market there and pick up Photoshop for $10. First-run movies dubbed into the language of your choice for $0.50. Look at it this way: if the US can cut piracy in half, they double their profits overseas... and cutting Asian piracy in half would still put the level at "egregiously rampant."
One of the points Piketty makes in Capital is that something like 30% of the world's money is squirreled away in offshore accounts where it can't be taxed and that cracking that money loose would accomplish more than any other reform. He then says something truly outrageous: FATCA is exactly what the world needs and further argues that with the US stepping in to crush offshore accounts, their days are globally numbered.
But nobody talks about that. Because it's the New World Order pursuing humanitarian goals. You can't paint it red or blue so people cover their ears and go la la la.
So here we have a trade agreement that does two things: (1) increase American competitiveness overseas (2) increase American policy overseas and you ask "how concerned should I be about this?"
Well, you're American, right?
No nation-state should be in a position to impose rules on others. But there are issue areas where national sovereignty is just an illusion. Corporate taxation is a good example of this. No state can fight tax havens or multinationals on its own. Here, we need greater cooperation. The myth of national sovereignty helps big corporations screw us over. This parliament should focus on a small set of common decisions that relate to the common currency and the budgets of the member states but should leave other issues to national parliaments.
NAFTA was largely bad for the United States. If Mexico didn't have a nasty one-sided drug war to deal with, it would have been miraculous for Mexico, though. A trade agreement with Asia is an inevitability, not something to panic about; we're further continuing the game of marginalizing Europe for apple pie and baseball.
Here's my take on it: Democratic presidents really do feel like they're the rulers of the free world. That's why they're generally the ones more likely to use executive orders, covert ops, drone strikes, clandestine shit and shady accounting to advance foreign policy while Republicans put marines in boats and storm beaches. After the midterms, the Obama administration has decided they're going to walk the walk. If I were Vietnamese I'd be deeply concerned - I never voted for American presidents, why should I be subject to American laws?
But I'm not.
TL;DR - when your tax dollars paid for the Death Star, Alderaan is regrettable, not tragic.
(Sorry. Hadn't had my coffee when I started. This may be one long incoherent mess.)