19 NOV 16 – The Trans-Pacific Partnership
Whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) is beneficial or a detriment depends largely on what role one believes the U.S. Government should play orchestrating world affairs, and further by what you believe it should prioritize above or below the overall domestic employment rate. Both espouse ‘America First,’ yet have very different ideas on how to achieve it, and at greater granularity, just *which America and *whose America need be put first.
The theoretically underpinning in favor of the TTP is routine and simple: in a neo-liberal world, institutions and investments and exchanges tie-up world economies in such complex, intractable ways that theoretically neither side can extricate itself from the other, and thus War between those nations is far less likely. When there is trade, there is no war. When there is a trade war, a shooting war is not far behind. Thus, in an American-led, neo-liberal world, the TPP then makes perfect sense as a type of geo-strategic power move: you open a multi-national market according to your rules; the market is so large, your competitor and potential military rival, cannot help be engage in it (decreasing chances for War) while having written none of its rules (increasing benefit to the authoring nations). The tension witnessed earlier this summer at the Democratic National Convention, and to a great degree, throughout the rise of the Trump campaign, has arisen as a backlash to the proponents of that American-led neo-liberal trade regime. In Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, middle America has found nativists and populists rallying figures. In contrast to the neo-liberal trade policies of the Clinton Administration (NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO), Sanders and Trump ran on a platform against the TTP and of placing the domestic population’s base needs first and always at rates of preferential treatment.
In light of that tension, the optimistic view of neo-liberal trade policies becomes just that – optimistic; the pessimistic view meanwhile becomes ammunition for the Populist’s narrative: that the Federal government has taken the people and their support for granted for so long and to such a degree that it really thinks it can ignore the legitimate needs of The People and somehow still reliably count on civil obedience while giving away ever-larger US tax-payer tax dollar payouts to foreign governments in exchange for international influence. Perhaps there is some truth to the basic mechanisms postulated to underlie that position. The philanthropy of the upper 1% does, after all, presume that agrarians and factory workers won’t unionize and revolt; it stands to reason then that commensurately, the Federal Government’s free aid package giveaways to foreign states are only possible as long as the taxpayer does not demand too much of their money directly returned to them in the form of benefits, and the Federal Government retain the Hubris needed to believe the taxpayer will always behave.
In the end, however, the TPP isn’t really about Trade alone, or about Americanism, or just about neo-liberal trade theory. It really is about one thing only: fighting the economic (and correspondingly political) influence of the People’s Republic of China by beating them at their own game – by writing the rules of 21st century trade in the Pacific before Beijing can. This needs to be clear to the Bernie supporters that waived their ‘No TPP’ signs at the Democratic National Convention earlier this summer. The TPP represents a reality we can choose to accept or not. Nonetheless, the fact remains, 28 trillion dollars in annual trade is and will be up for contest and control. The real question then becomes (regardless of your politics), just who do you want to control that relationship – the Government of the United States’ and its upper 1%, or China’s upper 1%?