Dissecting the TPP: Do We Need Free Trade?

“Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

AS the leaders of the twelve states involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) left the Hawaii island of Maui, the mood was somber. The deal, in secret negotiation since 2006, would result in a near complete pacific partnership stretching from Australia through to Japan, and down from Canada to Chile while notably excluding China.

Countries across the Pacific are signing the land-mark multi-lateral trade agreement
Countries across the Pacific are signing the land-mark multi-lateral trade agreement

The deal, pushed by the United States, is estimated to increase exports US $305 billion per year by 2025. This would create a pool of US $223 billion which would form the base of wages for the growing population of the pacific.

Though the TPP is talked of by our respective politicians as a free trade agreement, it is really only partial free trade. It is on this issue that the talks have hit their latest hurdle. Many tariffs are only being lowered, such as Japan’s tariff on US beef from 40% to just 9%. Even if the negotiations were a success, many parts of the agreement would not even be implemented in a short time-frame. In return for Japan’s lowering of US beef tariffs – over the course of 15 years – the US would maintain their current rates of tax on Japan for the next 20 yearsjust one issue amongst many others calling into questions the equality of such a deal.

People rally against the TPP, one of many across the USA and pacific.
People rally against the TPP, one of many across the USA and pacific.

This is not to mention the alarmingly low chapters involving trade, especially for an issue being sold as a trade agreement. Of the 29 chapters currently under deliberation, only five deal with trade between states as it is more traditionally known.

The core of the  TPP concerns ‘economic policy’, with little consideration given to the social effects beyond the economic boom. The wiki-leaked drafts offer little consolation for this, with analysts suggesting that of the US $223 billion entering wages the vast majority would go to those already earning over US $88,000. Other examples of corporate preference and freedom limiting aspects of the TPP include the ability for corporations to freely take states to court, restrictions of whistle-blower protection, and legislation conserving copyright laws over the internet – forcing internet providers to hand over their clients internet data wholesale.

The immensely popular John Oliver pointed this out in his “Tobacco” episode, where companies are already suing countries. This draws tax-payer money out of what may have funded a public good, into a court in which it must use to protect decisions it has made out of its UN appointed sovereign right to self rule.

With such effects as these, it is little wonder that the TPP has been wrapped under such secrecy. Even politicians may only request to see the document, and this is without the help of an expert to ensure that they interpret the document correctly.

In the face of a world already undergoing huge class polarisation, with the few at the top benefiting many hundreds fold over the much larger population of the shrinking middle and lower classes. The TPP appears to be scarily preferential to the corporations who are already ‘too big to fail’. Under the TPP copyright privileges would be expanded from the author’s life plus 50 years as agreed in 1994 by the UN Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), to Life plus 70 years for an individual’s work and up to 120 years for any corporate created work.

Copyright protection beyond the individual’s death and the secrecy that has surrounded the agreement appear to undermine the democratic values on which all member states were founded. Cambridges 2014 article “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” found that:

“Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While negotiations continue, so does China’s militarisation and land reclamation of the South China Sea. Many see the deal as a counterweight to China’s increased influence and presence in and throughout the pacific, as well as to offset the potential effects of a China-India free trade agreement. The South China Sea is the route through which already a third of the world’s goods passes, the TPP if concluded would take up 40% of global trade and further increase the reliance on and tension surrounding control of these critical straits.

Hence a significant beneficiary of the TPP are the member states and the balance of power in the region. The Chinese military-backed expansion into the Pacific and its roll-on effects on state security puts what shouldn’t be necessary external pressure to accept the US led deal. 

In a world of an exponentially growing population, there is an ever increasing need to create jobs. The Trans Pacific Partnership is certainly estimated to do this, potentially increasing exports in the region and in doing so creating a vast array of new jobs and capital. However is it at the benefit of our societies as a whole? The secrecy with which it has been held, and the information leaked so far suggests that – as my economics lecturer once said on the subject – It may only be possible to get free trade against the masses will.

For more articles on politics in the Asia-Pacific and across the globe, like and subscribe our page.

Have your own thoughts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Drop a comment below and join the quorum!

If you’d like to write for us, please contact the editors at: theglobalquorum@gmail.com

Advertisements

Post your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s