I own up to having being a bit picky, as there are plenty of other definitions of ‘treason’ to be found in a google search of the dictionaries – but this seemed most appropriate to my theme.
I have written before about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) https://khakispecs.com/?p=1043 and https://khakispecs.com/?p=1490 However, until recently, my unease was based on what is known about the economic ideology espoused by those responsible for its concoction and not about its known content. That content was concealed from the New Zealand public by its political leaders, until after the Agreement had been signed. A fait accompli designed to negate much awkward democratic debate!
One has to wonder at the risks taken by the National government in signing onto this controversial initiative. One of the main aspects of National’s success in New Zealand has been its policy of following the electorate’s lead, rather than attempting to lead from the front. The fact that in this instance the government has taken the initiative and forced through a controversial policy, despite the risk of alarm signals spreading through the electorate, demonstrates two things.
Firstly the New Zealand government (as are those of Australia and the USA) is confident of the support of the corporates, which control the main stream media and which also stand to benefit from the TPPA. Given sufficient spin, and working from past experience, such as with the deployment to Iraq, or the sweeping aside of Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics,” it can persuade the New Zealand public to accept its one-sided version of truth over all others.
Secondly, the goal of a dominant neo-liberal world order, secured by American military primacy, is worth the investment of political capital. Any possible loss involved will be a relatively small price to pay, compared to the major step taken towards the desired, new global economic order. Furthermore, should the adverse consequences of the TPPA become apparent to the electorate and a political price have to be paid, that reckoning will come not in this, but in future electoral terms
Now that the buck has been passed and the international prestige for hosting the international leaders’ grand signing of the deal in Auckland has been gleefully accepted by New Zealand, I will write on the topic once again.
Negotiations have been completed and friendly handshakes exchanged between the respective leaders, so we are finally permitted to see for ourselves what our government has agreed on our behalf. Journalists and commentators, who act as go-betweens to political leaders and the led public, must now try to decipher from the six thousand, or so, pages of text, sorted into thirty separate chapters, what is in the agreement for New Zealanders. Though the government is eager to present the sweet, red side of the apple to the public, they can no longer keep hidden from us the green, sour, worm-eaten other side.
The sweet red is a boost to NZ economic growth. TPP benefits According to the World Bank, Given the absence of Black Swans and in the unlikely event of all other best economist’s calculations proving correct, by 2030, the New Zealand economy could have a yearly supplement of up to 3% to its GDP. For NZ, this represents an additional 0.2% of growth per annum that would not otherwise have been there. This compares very favorably with the 2030 benefits to be enjoyed by Australia and the USA at just 1% each. (For Australia and the USA that works out at around 0.07% per annum.)
As my two previous blogs on the subject illustrate, this underwhelming fractional gain in the nation’s economic well-being was sought with unseemly eagerness by the New Zealand government, the Presidency of the USA and the leadership of the world’s most powerful corporations. (Not the members of the US Congress, who held out against it until they privately received substantial economic inducements from interested parties.) https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/27/corporations-paid-us-senators-fast-track-tpp So what is in it for them, over and above the electoral kudos that will accrue to them as a result of this tiny boost to national economies?
As Joseph Stiglitiz, a former Chief-Economist at the World Bank, points out, the reality behind the TPPA’s publicly acceptable face as an ostensible free trade agreement, is a crony capitalist deal between corporates to carve up and exploit global markets at the expense of the democratic rights of consumers. Joseph Stiglitz The TPPA is not about consumers’ rights and benefits, it is all about investors’ rights and the benefits of multi-national corporations. (And you can bet your shirt that the majority of those individual international ‘statesmen’ responsible for negotiating the deal, would fall into that elite category of those who invest more than they consume – New Zealand’s Prime minister being a prime case in point.)
One of the factors that Stiglitz zeros in on, is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. We are assured that our negotiating team heroically de-fanged these proposals before they reached the final document. However, at the beginning of January, the news became public that using such provisions, even without the agreement being in place, a Canadian company was seeking damages of $15 billion from the US government for cancelling, on environmental grounds, the eco-hostile Keystone pipeline project. Dispute Settlement
It is not hard to imagine that several years down the track, in the face of increasing pressure to act on climate change, a New Zealand government finds itself forced to cap dairy production and gets sued for enormous sums by foreign corporate owners, whom the government has encouraged to invest in New Zealand dairying. Now, through the TPPA and its European equivalent, the TTIP, the corporates, who have so long and so cynically preserved their profits by working to delay the global reaction to rapid climate change, will be able to enjoy a second bite of the cherry
There are multiple other concerns, such as Big Pharma’s heightened ability to manipulate the price of drugs, greatly increased regulation of the internet and far tighter controls over intellectual property, which can do nothing but inhibit economic growth. Among these, a major anxiety has to be the consequences in regard to international relations. A major American interest in the TPPA, has been to contain Chinese economic growth and influence. Pacific populations excluded from the agreement include those of Russia, China, the two Koreas and Indonesia. Were the TPPA to develop into a ‘them and us’ scenario, it would be to New Zealand’s extreme disadvantage.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former senior US Treasury official and later, a much respected journalist gone rogue, offered this robust analysis in June last year. Craig Roberts
No doubt , reading the small print of the agreement, the most draconian provisions will have been watered down to ease public digestion, but the same parties, who came up with the original draft, remain more than eager to sign onto the final agreement.
Since the 1980’s, the economic theory of neo-liberalism has become increasingly established within the western world. The generally accepted belief among the political groups in power has come to be that what is good for corporates and globalisation is good for everyone. This is alleged to include even those, who are not members of the wealthy elites holding shares in those corporates.
The underlying credo of neo-liberalism is that the sovereign state will become increasingly irrelevant. Economic efficiency, is the ‘good’ to be valued more highly than any other aspect of human life on Earth, as the world moves inevitably towards a free market place in which the most powerful corporations can locate themselves wherever they will. It therefore follows that it is in ‘everyone’s’ best interest that those corporations should be free to exploit natural resources and markets wherever they wish and recruit the most talented people from around the world, deploying them around the globe as effectively as possible to assist them in this endeavour.
We have already been operating under this ideology for long enough to see how it works in practice. It works for the few, better than it works for the many. It doesn’t even work for the many in the USA, the country, in which the economic theory originated, and which it has subsequently propagated around the globe. However, there is no doubt that it has worked particularly well for the few in the USA and in general for the few in the other signatory counties, in nearly all of which, inequality is burgeoning and with it, the prospect of increased social and economic instability.
At a time of an impending existential crisis related to changing climate, when political controls over the economy are likely to be more urgently required than ever before, our government has just abandoned large tracts of its sovereign responsibility to boards of overseas corporations. These, will never place the welfare of New Zealand or global society above their own bottom lines.
Why did our politicians sign the TPPA? It would appear to be because their loyalty has been given to a dysfunctional ideology emanating from another country. Future historians may view their actions in much the same light as past historians viewed the between-war dabbling of certain members of the British elite with Nazism. They called it treason.