The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a new, supposedly, high-standard global trade agreement that “levels” the playing field for American workers and American businesses, “supporting” more made-in-America exports and higher-paying American jobs.
The deal is in its final stages of completion, but just how much do you know about the TPP?
If you answered “almost nothing,” that’s okay.
Why is it okay that you know almost nothing about the upcoming historical global trade pact?
Because the government kept the trade agreement secret from the U.S. people.
“The story that they put out is that they couldn’t make it public until the deal had been approved, but that they would tell the congress-people what was in it,” economics program coordinator and professor Judith Robinson explains. “They were going to keep it a secret, what was actually in it.”
“And is that bogus? Yeah, I think that’s bogus,” Robinson says.
The logic goes, that the government didn’t want the U.S. people to misinterpret something they do not fully understand. But, since congress is going to vote on it, they’d have access to the 2,800 page document.
“We’re flying blind here, as to what’s actually in this thing, for starters,” Robinson admits.
On paper, free trade as an economic theory seems sound. But, Robinson has her doubts.
The theory follows that the division of labor is a more efficient way of doing things. If one person in a village is a good teacher, and another person can build homes more efficiently, then the teacher should teach and the builder should build. Trade between the two would balance out wealth.
The TPP is, essentially, taking this logic global.
If it’s true between two villagers, it’s true between an American and a person in Asia. If an Asian person is more efficient at producing something, than he should do it. And if an American is more efficient at producing something, than he should do it. And it’ll all balance out in the end, because of free trade.
“We can talk about the economic theory that free trade is a good thing, but it really does not apply to the modern world, with trade going on around the world today,” Robinson said.
She elaborates, saying that there are assumptions that go into the theory of free trade in order for participating economies to balance-out in the end.
“For one thing, you have to assume that both economies don’t have any unemployment,” Robinson highlights.
On a theoretical level, it seems valid to let everyone specialize and trade freely, but the reality seems much more complicated.
“If you end up with one country making everything and another country making nothing, then that’s not the idea. But that’s sorta what seems to be going on. We are not selling very much to China. And they are selling a humongous amount of stuff to us. So it’s not balancing out,” Robinson says.
Sociology professor Philip Lamy agrees that things, globally, are not balancing out.
“There’s no denying we live in a global society. The problem is surrounding big businesses benefiting instead of everyday people and small businesses,” Lamy asserts.
The TPP would, essentially, be run by the multi-national corporations, themselves. Secret courts, not open to the public, would rule on conflicts. The proceedings would be announced to the public, but the paperwork would be all secret.
Global trade law would have power over an individual country’s laws. Robinson points out that the North American Free Trade Agreement courts already overrule U.S. political decisions.
“NAFTA and the world trade organizations have the power, and it’s because we signed a treaty allowing it to happen,” Robinson says. “The term popular sovereignty means people have the right to rule. And these international tribunals override popular sovereignty, all over the world.”
An international republic of rulers, almost?
“Yeah, except they are not even elected,” Robinson adds.
Hillary Clinton voted to support TPP for years, but recently in her election campaign curiously said she has changed her mind.
President Barack Obama has declared his philosophy on global free trade saying he would rather “our” U.S. multi-national corporations rule the roost, instead of Asian multi-national corporations.
“Our” multi-national corporations? The American peoples’ multi-national corporations?
Or just the top five percent of the wealthiest Americans’ multi-national corporations?
Weighing in on the issue, senior communication major Jack Workman cited an interesting quote regarding the interests of U.S. people being undermined by the government.
“Remember what Jefferson said, in 1816? ‘Governments are republican only in proportion as they embody the will of their people, and execute it.’”
Congress is currently considering the TPP under fast-track rules adopted last year. These rules give Congress the right to approve or reject the agreement, but not to amend it.