“We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy and we should do it today while our economy is in a position of global strength. If we don’t write the rules for trade around the world, guess what, China will. And they’ll write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand.”
— Barack Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a Speech at Nike Factory in Oregon, May 8, 2015
Those very few words of Obama’s, his most widely circulated PR effort to garner support for the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and thoroughly representative of the thinking of our imperial elite, are so revealing, so wrong and so dangerous on so many levels that one scarcely knows where to begin. In fact they carry the seeds of our destruction. And they are focused on China.
First, the arrogance and hegemonic intent of the statement is astonishing even though it has become routine for the U.S. elite. What gives the United States, a country of 300 million on the opposite side of the vast Pacific, the right to determine the rules of trade for East Asia, which includes China, a country of 1.3 billion people? The U.S. can no longer assert that privilege based on its economic power since its gross GDP, measured in Purchasing Power Parity is now, according to the IMF, second to China’s.
Clear evidence of the relative power of the Chinese and American economies was the world’s reaction to China’s launch of the badly needed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to provide development funds for Asia and beyond. The level of funding necessary for such development has long been denied by the U.S.- dominated World Bank and IMF. U.S. allies, even the UK and Israel, stumbled over one another to join the AIIB, despite the bullying of the U.S. to stop them, leaving the U.S. and its cat’s paw in East Asia, Japan, out in the cold. More amazingly, the U.S. thinks it can write the rules of trade for China and East Asia! Given the new economic realities, that day is past. Indeed, Obama, perhaps unwittingly in his desperation to sell the measure by frightening us into acceptance of it, acknowledges this fact. What else can he mean when he says, “we should do it (pass TPP) today while our economy is in a position of global strength.” What is he saying implicitly about the situation tomorrow?
Second, there is a win-lose mentality run rampant in Obama’s words – and this is the most frightening part of his statement. Simply put, we Americans write the rules for our benefit and to the detriment of others – or others write the rules to the same end for them. This is no longer a viable view of the world. For where does that view end? It ends in conflict and then domination and submission – the struggle, economic and otherwise, of each against all. In the 21st Century and beyond, with a world rife with high tech weapons of unimaginable power, such conflict will produce untold suffering and death for billions if not the end of the human race as we know it. Simply banning the supply of such weapons will not be enough, because they can always be recreated. There is no permanent technical fix, only a temporary one – no matter what the nuke abolitionists might like to think.
This view is quite the opposite from the outlook of the Chinese, which is tirelessly about creating win-win situations. Not win-lose. Not, “You are either for us or against us.” But “Win-win.” Read China Daily, as you should for some sense of balance, or any of the outlets from China, and you will find the win-win philosophy ever present. The Chinese are clearly onto something here. In that direction lies the possibility (not the guarantee but the possibility) of peace, prosperity and development for the planet. In the direction pointed to by Obama and the US imperial elite lies what we have witnessed throughout the Middle East and North Africa and now, since the U.S.-instigated coup, in Ukraine. The people of East Asia, including Japan, should be wary of the U.S. siren call to make one or another of them the “co-winner” in the region. In fact Obama’s call to write the rules (of trade or anything else) should be a warning to the people of East Asia and elsewhere. The conclusion for them is that if the U.S. decides it must write the rules to contain them or put them down, then eventually so it will be. By that very statement the U.S. forfeits its claim to leadership in the world. By that very statement the U.S. is telling the world that every nation is dispensable except this one.
Third, rarely mentioned in the objections to TPP among U.S. progressives is its role as an instrument of imperial domination. True, as these folks say, the TPP is not meant to help U.S. workers, as Obama would have us believe. True, it is a corporate giveaway. True it is a secret and therefore very anti-democratic agreement. On this last score there should be no doubt. Members of Congress get to see at least some aspects of the TPP as it is being written. But they may not bring aides or experts with them as they view the deep dark secrets of the agreement. They may not take notes or make copies of the text. They may not reveal its contents to the public. And so we the people are totally excluded from any knowledge of what lies in the TPP. Nothing could be farther from the democracy or transparency that the imperial elite likes to claim as its hallmark. In contrast one can be certain that the rich and powerful, whether Nike executives or the international banksters, know all they need to about the TPP and have extraordinary influence over it. But such considerations are all about us Americans and our local rulers. Such considerations leave out the questions of war and peace and the reality of U.S. Empire, a phrase that rarely passes the lips of our mainstream progressives.
Yes, let us work to stop the TPP. But let us be aware that this battle is not simply about a few more goodies for Americans. The TPP is in fact one more step on the road to Armageddon, which the U.S. seems to be paving with some measure of desperation and panic.
John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com