Across the Asia-Pacific region people of the United States, New Zealand, Latin America, Malaysia, Japan, Canada and Australia, are mobilising against the US corporate monopoly-driven Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Huge marches, rallies and public meetings are under way in many countries, including the USA, as the formal signing ceremony of the TTP is scheduled to take place in Wellington, New Zealand on 4th February.
See the video below of a TPP protest rally in Peru, and the picture of New Zealand riot cops in training for 4th February. Other pictures are from Malaysia and New Zealand.
TPP = economic imperialism
The TPP will lock in the countries of Asia-Pacific under US imperialism’s economic control, and trample on the rights and livelihoods of people, and the sovereignty of nations.
The TPP exposes the advanced stage of US monopoly capitalism which necessitates constant expansion, monopolisation and protection of its multinational corporations and banks. It will sweep away hard won rights and regulations that provide some protection for workers’ wages, working conditions, jobs, health and safety, food safety, the environment, welfare and community services, and democratic rights.
TISA and the TTIP are the other two arms of US imperialist “trade liberalisation”. None of them have much to do with trade, but everything to do with removing all obstacles to greater monopolisation by corporations and financial institutions.
Rather than promoting “free trade” the TPP will introduce US corporate law across the region, law that inevitably enhances the interests of US monopoly corporations at the expense of ordinary people. It will allow US monopolies to penetrate every aspect of member countries’ economies, and undermine national governments’ policies and initiatives in areas such as health, education, environment protection and workplace rights and conditions.
Under the TPP, the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision (ISDS) empowers foreign corporations to sue national, state or local governments when they deem laws and regulations diminish their profits or are detrimental to future profit making.
Under NAFTA and other free trade agreements, the multinationals have lodged hundreds of claims suing national governments for loss of profit due to local environmental regulations and workers’ wages.
Veolia, a French multinational waste management corporation, is suing the Egyptian government for increasing the minimum wage that the Egyptian workers had fought for and won.
TPP signatory countries will be compelled to change their domestic laws and regulations to comply with the TPP standards, as drafted by some 600 multinational corporations.
Outrageously, in another blow to sovereignty, the draft changes to domestic legislation will have to be sent to US Senate for approval before they can become law!
Under the TPP, foreign corporations will be able to challenge government subsidies to State Owned Enterprises and open the way to further privatisation of public health, education and social services by foreign monopolies. The costs to the people will increase even more.
There is strong resistance by the Indigenous communities of New Zealand, Canada, Peru and Chile, angry with the Intellectual Property provisions in the TPP. The First Nations People of Australia are calling the TPP yet another invasion and dispossession. The minimal protections over their lands and culture from the ravages of mining corporations that the Aboriginal people have achieved, may well be dismantled.
Turnbull waves the Stars and Stripes for the TTP
US President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on 12th January, in which he begged the US Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
His appeal to the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t beat around the bush. It was all about expanding US imperialist domination over the Asia-Pacific region, 40% of the world’s GDP. “With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China doesn't set the rules in that region, we do," he told Congress. "You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it."
Back in Australia, US Ambassador John Berry passed on Obama’s message in the form of a media interview where he virtually instructed Prime Minister Turnbull to make the same appeal to the US Congress during his visit to America.
Turnbull was only too happy to oblige, and has been spruiking the TPP wherever he goes. He did so in a key speech to the US Chamber of Commerce, and again at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies where he stated, "The United States has created globalisation… The technologies that super-charge the prosperity were written and directed in the United States… We have championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and we urge your Congress to do so too.”
Broadcasting his government’s servility to US imperialism he declared, “The TPP is important for our world, it is important for America… I know that TPP is a controversial issue in this city, but I’d simply say this – the TPP is a very critical part of America’s continued presence in the Asia- Pacific.”
“It is much more than a trade deal,” Turnbull said. “And I think when people try to analyse it in terms of what it adds to this amount of GDP, that’s important, but the critical thing is the way it promotes the continued integration of those economies. Because that is as important an element in our security, in the maintenance of the values, which both our countries share as all of our other efforts, whether they are in defence or whether they are in traditional diplomacy.”
Under instructions from the US, the Australian government is going out of its way to shore up support for the TPP amongst the negotiating countries. It has re-affirmed its primary role as an agent and puppet of US imperialism.
World Bank cans the TPP
According to a report prepared by staff at the World Bank, the economic benefits of the TPP are wildly overblown for most countries.
In the case of Australia, their report could see an economic boost of merely 0.7% by the year 2030, or an average of less than 0.05% per year. This shoots down the hyperbole of Trade Minister Robb over vast exports of sugar, rice, minerals and steel, let alone services such as training and education, healthcare, finance, insurance and communications.
The World Bank report was also critical of the fact that trade with non-members of the TPP would become more complicated by a process where TPP members would lose privileges if they didn’t give preference to fellow TPP countries.
Even the bosses’ Productivity Commission is crook on it
The neo-liberal free-marketeers of the Productivity Commission have been distracted from their job of beating up the working class, and have denounced the “preferential” provisions in the TPP documents as contrary to their principles of “Free Trade”.
They were concerned about the unknown costs to Australian businesses due to new intellectual property provisions and investor-state dispute settlement procedures administered by outside tribunals. Each of these would grant legal rights to foreign investors not available to Australians and expose the government to potentially large unfunded liabilities.
The Productivity Commission’s criticism of the TPP reflects the disquiet amongst some sections of local capital (what little that’s left of it in Australia), worried that under the TPP regime they will be wiped out by big foreign capital.
The Commission pointed out that the earlier Japan and Korean trade agreements had been signed off without an independent assessment of whether costs would exceed benefits. There was also no mechanism in place to monitor the outcomes of the agreements after they come into force.
"Without such a detailed assessment it is not possible to form a view as to whether the aspirational goals typically ascribed to the formation of preferential agreements are commensurate with real-world impacts.”
It further stated that the investor-state dispute settlement clauses in the TPP "depart from national treatment principles by affording substantive appeal rights to foreigners not available to domestic firms.” This could create the risk of "regulatory chill" where Australian governments will be cautious about enacting new laws for fear they are challenged in foreign tribunals.
As for Robb’s self-proclaimed “protections” of environmental and health legislation, the Commission stated they were of “uncertain effect, lack transparency and have inadequate parliamentary scrutiny", exposing the government to "potentially large unfunded contingent liabilities dependent on decisions by international arbitration tribunals”.
Critics of the TPP have been saying all these things for years.
What happens next?
After the formal signing on 4th February, the text of the agreement will then be tabled in Parliament for 20 days and is reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
This committee, where the Turnbull government has a majority, only has power to make recommendations, not change the text. Indeed the Parliament can only vote on “implementing legislation” and cannot amend the text in any way. Voting on the “implementing legislation” will likely take place around March this year.
If and when the “implementing legislation” is passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the final ratification of the agreement can occur.
Even if the Turnbull government clears these hurdles, the TPP has to achieve similar endorsements from a majority of the other 11 countries. Under the logic of imperialism, the deal must be ratified by at least 6 of the 12 signatories representing 85% of their combined gross domestic product. While the US accounts for a sizeable chunk of the GDP, it requires another five countries to sign up to get across the line.
Fight the TPP!
The TPP was always about much more than trade. Obama said as much when he played the China card in his State of the Union address. It is the economic sharp point of the pincer movement to re-balance towards Asia and to counter China – the other sharp point is the military build-up which sees US marines stationed in Darwin and US, Australian and Japanese forces conducting joint military exercises.
Large sections of the Australian people are already very concerned about the future as wages decline, social services are cut back and job insecurity rises. Imperialist ‘free trade’ deals won’t help, as was shown with the infamous Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, reported as currently costing about $53 billion in lost trade each year.
The Australian people cannot rely on either the Labor Party or a few cross-bench senators to stand up to US imperialism. Amending or deleting bits from the implementing legislation isn’t going to make the bitter pill easier to swallow. Submissions to a Senate inquiry will also end up in the bin, but may get some momentary publicity. Ultimately, only mass mobilisation and public protest will stop the TPP.
In the coming months many will join demonstrations and rallies in this country as part of the wider Pacific Rim campaign to demand that their governments forget about pandering to US imperialism and ditch the TPP!
Fight the TPP!
Independence from multinational control of Australia!