. . . The way the story’s told here, the TPP is a plaything of US corporate interests hell-bent on imposing the very worst of American imperialist views on such important principles as the ownership of patents and copyright, at the expense of supposedly “weak” negotiators like New Zealand.
The implication is that the US political-industrial machine is driving this outcome not just inexorably, but inevitably to a conclusion that will only benefit existing corporate power.
But if that’s really the case, why is it that hardly a day passes without coverage in the US media of the mounting trouble that US President Barack Obama faces in getting the permission he needs from Congress and the Senate to agree to a TPP-style deal?
If anything, the political dynamic in the US indicates that vast economy is becoming more instinctively protectionist and unwilling to grant the “fast-track” legislation required to allow the US to be a nimble participant in the TPP negotiations. They now involve 13 trading nations around the Pacific Rim, and perhaps a 14th if South Korea is allowed to join too.
In the last fortnight, Obama has lost support for fast-track legislation from the Democrat Leader of the Senate Majority, Harry Reid, but a swathe of other leading Democrats. On the Republican side, where liberal sentiment towards global trade might have been expected to reign, hard-right Tea Party-ites have further eroded support for free trade.
Indeed, no US President has managed to secure fast-track legislation since 2002. Efforts since 2007 by both the George W Bush and Obama administrations to renew fast-track authority have foundered to date.
So if TPP’s most ardent critic in New Zealand, University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey, is right and the Pacific Rim trade deal is a stitch-up between evil US corporate interests and its puppets on Capitol Hill, then clearly the puppet-masters are doing a pretty crappy job.
The recent Wiki-Leaked documents from TPP negotiations suggest much the same thing. They show the US on the backfoot on many of the most contentious intellectual property and environmental issues.
Recent US media reporting suggests the US is facing opposition to proposed environmental safeguards that developing economies regard as trade barriers dressed up as principle.
If anyone is succeeding on Capitol Hill at present, it would seem to be American trade unions, who would much rather kick TPP negotiations beyond the 2014 mid-term US elections later this year because they fear trade liberalisation will cost the Democrats votes. . .
New Zealand has much to gain and little to lose from the TPP thanks to already being an open economy with few restrictions on trade.
Heavily protected sectors in other countries will have to undergo the adjustment to a more liberal trading environment. But any short-term pain will be worth the long term gains for producers, consumers and taxpayers who pay a high price for tariffs and other trade barriers.