The Corporate Plutocracy and Mega Oligopolies are still plotting TPPA

By   /   September 28, 2016  /   17 Comments

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Politically, the champions of neoliberal globalisation are under siege, not always in ways we would welcome. This is evident in the US presidential contest, the vote for Brexit and the re-election of Jeremy Corban as Labour leader, but also in the rise of racism and fascism in other parts of Europe, including in the imminent Austrian re-election, and the support for Donald Trump.


Rust never sleeps. Nor do the ideologues and corporate moguls who are desperate to conclude their interlocking raft of mega-deals against a turning tide. There are various ways to analyse this conflict and the dynamics are constantly shifting. The following reflections follow talks with people in Europe over the past two weeks, specifically on the international economic agreements and the reorganisation of global capital. They are tentative. Comments are welcome.

Politically, the champions of neoliberal globalisation are under siege, not always in ways we would welcome.  This is evident in the US presidential contest, the vote for Brexit and the re-election of Jeremy Corban as Labour leader, but also in the rise of racism and fascism in other parts of Europe, including in the imminent Austrian re-election, and the support for Donald Trump.

In this context the TPPA, TTIP, CETA and TiSA, as well as the European Union’s deep integration agreement, are all threatened. The leaders of crucial EU member states, especially Germany, know that following their ideological inclinations and moving to conclude TTIP would be political suicide. Germany and France have effectively declared the TTIP dead, at least for now. Attention is shifting to the CETA (Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement), which was presented to Europeans as more palatable but is now being challenged as equally toxic, especially when so many big ‘Canadian’ companies are US subsidiaries.

The political threats to the TPPA have also taken new and unexpected turns. Vietnam will not now put the agreement up for legislative approval until after the US election. It requires huge changes on intellectual property and the constitutional status of the trade union at a time when key leaders have changed and Vietnam seems to be rehabilitating its relationship to China. In Australia, the post-election Senate where the government lacks a majority has called for a hearing on the TPPA. That means a vote will also be delayed until after the US election. New scandals over rice threaten to affect the political process in Japan.

These delays, and political uncertainties in other countries (except NZ) will make the US Congress even more reluctant to OK the deal because the administration can’t guarantee what other countries will do. Our friends in Washington say the Obama administration is desperate to shore up the missing votes. Intense lobbying and offers of sweetheart deals already underway will intensify after the presidential election, as Obama pulls out all the stops to push the deal through in the lame duck period between administrations.

Rewriting the monopoly term for biologics medicines, without writing the actual text, remains the top priority. The current text says 8 years or five plus some procedures, which may or may not equal 8 years. Big Pharma’s political allies, one a key member of Congress, are insisting on 12 years. New Zealand’s ambassador to the US Tim Groser and Prime Minister John Key have been working overtime to reassure the US government that we are with them. Groser has twice given a reassurance that New Zealand’s legal regime on biologics in practice it provides 21 years of monopoly protection, which is not true. Key has been parroting Obama’s tagline that without the TPPA, China will make the global rules. Clearly, short term pragmatism to strengthen Obama’s arm has priority over accuracy or strategic considerations of our dependence on China.

Faced with these uncertainties around TPPA and TTIP, the architects and negotiators of these deals are playing a shell game, shunting the same texts around the agreements in an attempt to achieve their goals in one way or another. The main focus now is the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations, with next texts posted on wikileaks and Greenpeace Netherlands websites over the past two weeks. There is pressure to conclude the agreement by the end of the year, especially because no-one can predict what happens under the next US administration. That will only happen if they strip it down to the bare essentials, and probably not even then. The biggest issue for Europe of ensuring protection of privacy for data is far from settled internally, let along in negotiations with the other parties. I will write more about the TiSA in another blog.

The TPPA, TTIP, CETA and TiSA are all Anglo-centred deals. Focusing solely on the troubles they are facing can obscure other equally important dynamics. Neoliberalism is resurgent in Argentina and post-coup Brazil. There is a real prospect that most of Latin America, which has been a thorn in the side over the past two decades, will become a vanguard and vehicle for the elites once again. There is talk that the neoliberal governments of Brazil and Argentina with seek to join the TPPA and the TiSA. Argentina also likely to host the next WTO ministerial meeting at which rich countries will push to get the ‘new issues’ of e-commerce, investment and SOEs on the agenda and shed the development rhetoric of the failed Doha round.

Their participation would provide new impetus and credibility to the troubled deals, but probably only after the negotiations are over to ensure they don’t slow down the process.

However, the price of accession for each country would impose a huge economic and political cost and make the deals another site of political struggle between left and right.

More broadly, the dynamics of the ‘new Cold War’, symbolised by the anti-China rhetoric in the US, are also shifting. The competing blocs of Anglo-Americans and BRICs both face economic stagnation and potentially infectious crises, especially if China’s debt wall collapses. While parts of the Arab world are being destroyed, the Gulf States are consolidating their economic and strategic influence through their own negotiations, for instance with the EU, that are intended to strengthen their growing influence over global supply chains.

That brings me to my final point, which became very clear to me as I talked with people in London and Brussels on a project for the International Transport Federation and UniGlobal on the implications for their members of the TiSA. The current rapid reorganisation of capital that is driven by digital technologies is moving at a frenetic pace. Some now refer to it as the 4th industrial revolution – I’m still undecided about the term and how it relates to financialised capitalism. This new phase of capitalism cannot tolerate differential systems of national regulation, especially that seek to balance competing interests and values (externalities) and empower their citizens.

There is no doubt that mega-corporations now see these agreements as a means to bind countries to adopt or maintain rules that concentrate control of global supply chains in hands of the major oligopolies. That is reflected in the new chapters on e-commerce, rules against data localisation, unshackling of logistics chains, and other highly technical issues. As we understand this agenda more clearly, and its relationship to shifting geopolitics, we will face a real challenge to link resistance to the existing political movements that have been built over recent years.


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  1. Castro says:

    Awesome. No TPPA, No Zealand falls to the Chinese organ-harvesting death merchants… yay! On the up side, at least “we” won’t be accused of being “wacist” as we become a province of the world’s largest dictatorship. Hooray!!!

    • Aaron says:

      I can’t tell if this comment is satire or a real opinion.

      This is usually an indication it comes from the National Party Social Media Team but you never know, there might actually be people who think like this

  2. elle says:

    Donald Trump is totally against the TPPA.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yes he is entirely that is why I am going his way.

      Oh yes his climate change policy is zilch but who else is going to take Washington back from the corporates as Obama pledged to do and failed, Hillary wont as she is in cahoots with corporations already and is plainly a lair. She is being more like ShonKey every day sadly.

  3. CLEANGREEN says:

    Yes Jane,

    “Faced with these uncertainties around TPPA and TTIP, the architects and negotiators of these deals are playing a shell game, shunting the same texts around the agreements in an attempt to achieve their goals in one way or another. The main focus now is the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations, with next texts posted on wikileaks and Greenpeace Netherlands websites over the past two weeks.”

    And there will undoubtedly be more to construct as we go forwards such as similar to CETA the Chinese free trade agreement now also on the table.

    This evil collection of rogue’s secret plans wheeling out their toxic assortment of corporate regulated “so called free trade” policies as sentinels of their restrictive collective legally, regulatory, controlled anti competition trade policies called TPPA and all their assorted cousins were designed together to be thrown out like buckshot from a shotgun at all weak countries hopefully to score at least one hit to force them to choose any one or more as their only choice forward must be called out for what it is.

    Simply the plan is only just a poisoned chalice to choose any one of their planned “free trade policies” and no more than this Jane.

    Every country in the world trade forums now should declare this corporate driven toxic anti trade regulated policies as bad for any country that will only serve their interests while these restrictive trade policies would undermine our collective right to promote our own regional business interests to compete on the world stage with them all.

  4. Debsisdead Debsisdead says:

    It must be remembered that the German pol who announced “TTIP is dead” is none other than the ruthlessly ambitious Sigmar Gabriel.
    Gabriel is leader of the socialist turned neoliberal SDP, the junior partners in Germany’s coalition federal government.
    The junior partner whose stated aims & policies generally go from the SDP caucus straight into the cabinet wastepaper bin. Usually with Gabriel (an avowed fan of Tony Blair)’s silent approval.

    Gabriel didn’t get where he is today by confronting Germany’s corporate elite – quite the reverse. His statement needs to be judged in the context of the at that time, looming, regional elections.
    It was in everybody’s interests, including CDU (Tory) boss Chancellor Angela Merkel, that TTIP be a non-issue which is why her response to the claim that the trade deal was all over, was so muted.
    Kiwis will remember too well how both Labour & National neolib pols avoided any mention of TPP during Aotearoa elections.

    This deal will be resurrected immediately after elections in the US and even possibly the German elections to the Bundestag next year.
    like Aotearoa elections in Germany are decided by a mix of regional (constituency) MPS & proportionally determined party lists so all the major parties, possibly including the sell out German Greens will avoid it.

    However by then the TPP will have been ratified in the US.
    The Oblamblamblam has no chance of getting numbers on Capitol before the election to ratify the deal, but if ClintonInc gets up as prez a horror scenario that is likely, she will want to get TPP ratified as far as possible away from her next election – meaning as soon as poss after her inauguration.

    I’m picking March – maybe as late as April.

    And this is the truly disgusting reality of the assault on democracy that is TTIP and TPPA, at no stage anywhere have they been given a mandate by citizens.
    It is that starkly unconstitutional reality which must be the basis of citizen rejection.

    All is not lost while the agreements aim to prevent governments from acting to inhibit corporations there is nothing in either agreement which can prevent citizens from joining together to obtain the same outcome.
    In this case, tech the enabler of corporate tyranny, can be used against the buggers.

  5. Debsisdead Debsisdead says:

    what is the go? I don’t wanna repost if my post is gonna turn up later. I’m obliged to say delays prevent any form of dialog.

    Are comments moderated, or do they just disappear into the ether never to be sighted again?
    At the very least the daily blog should provide feedback to posters at the time of posting.
    Sad to see this site is happily creating its own elite.

    [Hi Debsisdead. As has been pointed out previously, there is a ‘bug’ in the Queued Messages system whereby messages awaiting Approval end up in various Folders, aside from the Pending Folder, where they should all go (except for Spam). So it requires on-going human intervention to check each Folder; dispose of real spam; and re-direct real Messages to the Pending Folder. From there, Messages are Approved, unless they contravene our Posting Policy. There is no bias involved and messages from left-wing or right-wing commentators, as well as bloggers, have to be sorted out for Approval. We deal with it to the best of our ability. – ScarletMod]

  6. Reg Loudpants says:

    i reckon brexit or the re-election of corbyn (crikey – a professor can’t even spell his name right and no one on this website corrected it!) had nothing whatsoever to do with neoliberal globilisation.

    can someone explain why it was?

  7. Andrew says:

    Firstly, the increasing trade between nations in the last two decades has lifted over a billion people out of abject poverty and if we stay the course we can possibly end extreme poverty, worldwide.

    Secondly, because of the internet, free trade in intellectual work is with us whether we like it or not.
    Art, music, design, IT, engineering, science, architecture, accounting and law are all sectors of the modern economy that are now mobilised on the www and no amount of wailing by is going to stop that.

    It’s the future: You’d better get used to it because it’s not going away.

    • Debsisdead Debsisdead says:

      Well if you read the article you would see that no one is arguing to wind the clock back and stop global trade, the opposition to TPPA & TTIP is targeted at those clauses which seek to establish corporate hegemony by preventing sovereign governments from legislating to protect their citizens, and further entrenching a number of extremely dubious claims for ownership of intellectual property by both increasing the scope of IP ownership and extending the period such ownership applies.

      The US failed to force these measures on governments through the WTO meetings on GATT, so somewhere inside the beltway a decision was made to halt the multilateral negotiations on trade by which agreements and their drafts were subject to public scrutiny, and move to a unilateral process.
      The US identified a range of issues and then unilaterally approached a selected group of target nations. Bribery, blackmail & straight out extortion was used to leverage political leaders in the small group of target nations to forgo their duties to their citizens and acquiesce to an agreement that substantially reduced themselves & any future governments from legislating to protect their citizens from rapacious corporations.