By Joe Montero
Among those who know something about it, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is very unpopular. The suggestion that it is about corporate greed trying to impose a multinational agenda that is not in the interests of the countries concerned is often made.
This is not exactly right. There is more to it than this. Over emphasis on greed diverts from the deeper reason why it has come about.
The TPP is an agreement that has nothing to do with the promotion of real free trade. It is a scheme to impose a tougher regional control of the dominant economy in the Pacific region. This is the United States. Never mind that it is now out of the TPP mark 2. It can be changed down the track, just by stroke of the pen.
Underlying everything, is that the dominant corporations are American based. This is an economy moving to consolidate its hold on global resources and markets. Donald Trump doesn’t have to sign up for this to proceed, or for the TPP to facilitate it. This is taken care of by already existing arrangements and the dominance of these corporations in many of the countries concerned.
What is different about the TPP, is that the purpose is to increase the mobility of labour and capital to a new level.
Arrangements being signed to will in the long-run lead to the circulation of more cheap labour. Some workers in the lowest wage countries might get some benefit. But this will have a detrimental effect in the higher wage countries, and ultimately, drive a race to the bottom for all.
Even more important, is the movement towards the complete freeing of investment flows and leaving no place untouched. This will encourage the further growth of the speculative economy, while at the same time, outlaw governments from taking measures that restrict it.
The move towards consensus politics over this in Australia is wrong, no matter which way you cut it. Talk about changing it afterwards is nonsense. The agreement cedes this. It is the reason why there is now a new groundswell of opposition. The campaign to change Labor’s most recent position is being led by the unions. The executive of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, which represents the unions in the state, unanimously voted last week to oppose and campaign against the TPP. A groundswell of opposition is also growing within the Labor Party.
The TPP will not lead to jobs and economic prosperity for most people. What it will do, is lead to a transfer regional income to the richest and most powerful, and it will tighten the grip of the dominant corporations over the political process. This is a recipe for the escalation of corruption. We already have far too much of it and don’t need any more.
This last effect, by courtesy of the hemming in of government capacity to exercise controls over the economy, means there will be less capacity to take measures to protect the environment, provide welfare, build the affordable public education and health systems and more.
When it comes to intellectual property, most of the attention has been on the advantage the TPP would bring to drug companies and the end to cheap medicines. This is bad enough. there is more. It will provide the dominant corporations with a great deal of control over knowledge relating to the technology and processes that drive the economy.
A global mechanism to regulate trade and punish governments that break the imposed conditions will be put in place. The governing bodies and tribunals that deal with allegations, will largely staffed with representatives of the corporations.
If signed and ratified, the TPP organize business activity under one gigantic umbrella of new rules, likely to change our living environment in ways very different from what elected officials tell us.
A group of well organised and connected corporations will hold the power in its hands, and this will increase its control over the Australian economy and society. There can be no doubt that there will be an attempt to use TPP will be used, as a block against the Chinese challenge to US supremacy, and this will contribute to raising global tensions and putting national economies under threat.
The secrecy that has surrounded the progress of this agreement suggests that those involved have a lot to hide, and on its own, is a good reason to be wary.
Australia’s interests don’t lie in signing up with the TPP. Improving trade relations with other countries is important. There can be mutual benefit in this, so long as agreement is reached, which all as equals, does not hand power to corporations and reduce the power of governments over economic policy, and is not designed to fuel a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.