Selling the TransPacific Partnership

It is extraordinary how little information is getting out to the general public, both in print and electronic media, concerning the content and dire implications of President Obama’s push for fast- track Congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Accord.

Granted that Congressional discussions on TPP are held in a secretive and mysterious manner. However, significant facts have been culled from leaked, undocumented sources that provide valuable insight into the content of TPP . Given its global impact, TPP promises to be the largest free trade agreement in history.

Currently twelve nations will become signatories to the Pact: US, EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam. Proponents of TPP make the same claims proffered in previous trade pacts (NAFTA). The promise made is it will boost economic growth and ensure that America’s exports will go to the most vigorous and fastest growing economies in the world.

What is unspoken by these free trade propagandists is that previous trade arrangements, (NAFTA) (WTO) and (GATT) produced massive trade deficits, job losses and an increased downward spiral of living standards. Devastating agricultural losses impacted many countries; Mexico being the most harmed.

This new so-called “Economic Consensus” trade model will not only reproduce previous economic calamities but will extend special privilege and protection for those very businesses which ultimately outsource American jobs.

Past history demonstrates that under NAFTA unsustainable assurances were made: that it would prevent damage to the environment, protect workers from unsafe conditions, and provide consumer protection for safe food, drugs and other products.

Instead of promoting economic prosperity for all, these accords will serve to enrich wealthier nations and corporations and create worsening poverty in the Third World. So what resulted was the exact opposite when these safeguards were opposed or eliminated.

TPP, like NAFTA, will also undermine democratic procedures by transferring decision-making from the public sphere into the hands of a small group of unaccountable wealthy elites. TPP will become an instrument that minimizes democracy. Contained in these arguments is the time-worn and abiding caveat that whomever controls capital and labor have deep-seated interests to protect.

One becomes perplexed at the enumeration of these convictions. In the Clinton years, Americans were promised “good paying American jobs.” Past history of these lies should immediately arouse suspicions of TPP.

It has been estimated, as an example, that under NAFTA, 700,000 jobs were outsourced. During the 90’s the world was made safe for billionaires. Numerous examples exist of the unaccountable power of corporations to block nations who would regulate such activities. This led to misery for poorer nations.

TPP is not just about trade. The corpus of TPP lies in the chapter that deals with Intellectual Property Rights (IP) which covers patents, trademarks, and copyrights. IP would potentially create unprecedented assaults on freedom of speech and individuals right to read, write and publish.

According to President Obama, unlike all previous inequities in past trade agreements, nations like the US who participate in TPP, “would have a level playing field for job creation and job protection, plus the eradication of child labor. There would be rules governing minimum wage and laws governing maximum hours of labor. Additionally environmental standards would be raised.

The idea permeating all these free trade pacts is an insistence on conflating democracy and free markets. It serves as a purposeful ideological strategy. Arguably, the primary architect of this construct of unfettered markets is Milton Friedman. His book, DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM became de rigor in American economic political thought with respect to free markets and individual freedom. Friedman’s political theory argues for a value-free social science and, consequently, a value-free economic system. Friedman’s vaulted ideological paradigm consists of a demand that government withdraw from its regulatory commitments so capitalism can organize the economic activity of society without political interference or coercion. This thinking encourages rational individuals to pursue from the market those goods that best serve their individual self-interests.

True individual freedom of choice in the market will be guaranteed when nation states begin to decentralize their welfare activities. Only then will individual freedom be advanced. However, coercion in capitalism occurs when individuals choose not to be in a market-driven society. Moreover, Friedman does not factor in his thesis the ethical and moral claims of equality and justice. This is an ideological system that punishes individuals who choose not to enter market relations and prevents them from opting out of the system imprisoning them.

A new political approach is needed to challenge capitalist hegemony and the new political consensus. It becomes necessary to agitate for public policies that will meet the social needs of populations. Modern information technology can become an invaluable mechanism to demonstrate the many social pathologies produced by unaccountable corporate power. It is hoped that a new global awakening will occur to provoke opposition to market tyranny.

Andrew Raposa is Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts State University in Westfield Westfield.


Andrew Raposa is Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts State University in Westfield Westfield.