United States

Jan 24, 2018

Rundle: the anti-democratic rot at the heart of the TPP

Without the US, the TPP is a less threatening beast, but a beast it remains.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


It's aliiiiive! Like Godzilla emerging from the irradiated seas of Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has re-emerged, with 11 of the 12 original negotiating nations signing up, just a few hours ago.

Pretty good, huh? Well except that the twelfth nation is the US, who withdrew from the agreement in the early weeks of the Trump administration. Trump said he would throughout his entire election campaign, slating TPP as a bad deal, similar to NAFTA, which he alleges decimated US manufacturing.

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48 thoughts on “Rundle: the anti-democratic rot at the heart of the TPP

  1. Alan Austin

    Excellent analysis. Thanks, Guy.

  2. klewso

    All these “benefits and no down side”?
    From the party that brought you “Labor’s negative gearing policy will ruin the Oz economy and decimate family home values”?
    …. Pass me my medication – before it’s affordabilty goes through the roof.

    1. klewso

      I’ve already lost an i.

      1. Woopwoop

        Never mind, you gained an apostrophe.

  3. Wayne Robinson

    I’m currently reading ‘Alt America’ by David Neiwert. According to the author, NAFTA didn’t decimate American manufacturing. Manufacturing plants didn’t get shifted to Mexico. They went to countries such as China. And because México had to remove tariffs on imported American corn, millions of Mexican corn farmers were unable to compete and were forced to migrate to America and accept low paying low skill jobs native Americans weren’t willing to do. So México actually lost out on the deal.

    1. [email protected]

      Wayne Robinson
      “Europe has done it” Untrue
      The EU is essentially a very protectionist trade group.
      French and German agriculture in particular are protected by high tariffs.
      One consequence is that African farmers are burdened with cheap imports from the EU and a high tariffs when exporting to the EU.

      1. kyle Hargraves

        I was salivating with the expectation that someone would criticise the various trade policies of the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); indeed include the Fisheries Policy for that matter of the EU. The CAP has been under “reform” for sixty odd years with no material benefit to either the consumers or the taxpayers. The French farmers receive revenue independently of production. Ski instructors (or anything tourist-related) doesn’t quality.

        Almost ALL of the farms in Europe are too small to be viable on account of utterly stupid conventions regarding inheritance until the end of WWII. By comparison the farm went (only) to the eldest son in England. The other sons sought careers in either the Church (Anglican naturally) or the Foreign Office (or failing that the Colonial Office – do you see : England really did NEED an Empire ) or (lower down) the armed services (preferably Navy then the Army and – if one must – the Air force). If all else failed then a “Planter” – read colonial farmer – in the Indies (e.g. Rubber, Coffee, Tea, balsa, teak etc.) was an option . Failing that : immigration!

        Peering into my crystal ball if the Right acquire government in the Netherlands and in the Czech Republic then the only members comprising the EU will be the usual suspects, low productivity southern Europe and the former soviet countries; in other words “it” will be over.

        1. bref

          So bleak Kyle. Even if the Right won government, there’s no way Holland will leave the EU?
          And ‘it’? You mean life as we know ‘it’, or some other mythical ‘it’?

          1. kyle Hargraves

            You have expressed a contrary opinion and that is just fine. Time will tell. However, the last time that I was in the region, which wasn’t such a long time ago, the Dutch were not happy about propping up all and sundry [my expression] around Germany, France & Spain. As an aside I met a number of Turks, a month or so hence, who didn’t think Membership was such a good idea after all.

            “And ‘it’? You mean life as we know ‘it'”
            Oh no Bref – there will be life after the EU (and probably superior life) after the EU. Ditto for a spat with N. Korea or an Arab state and Iran.

            The pronoun merely represents the EU. My thanks also to AR for (checking? and) confirming that I intended emigration but, of course, immigration from the perspective of the new host country. Lastly, the comment was intended as general; I clicked in the wrong place – but the correct place this time around.

          2. bref

            I too have a lot of dealings in Holland and surrounds and I agree there’s much disquiet and argument over the EU. But as with Britain, its mostly about Brussels’ interference in law and red tape. Rather than breaking apart and closing borders, I think it much more likely their system will evolve into something they can all live with. I find in general their politicians and governments are much more willing to experiment with new ways of doing compared with our stodgy, stuck in the past pollies. You’re probably correct though in that there will be a lot of upheaval before they arrive there.

        2. AR

          I presume that you meant “emigration” – assuming that you do know the difference?

      2. Wayne Robinson


        Why the comment addressed to me? I commented once as a sort of book review ‘justified’ by the mention of NAFTA.

  4. bref

    While we might argue over the particulars of a TPP. The fact is that as the world gets smaller so trade will inevitably become more and more open. Its a bit like renewable energy or climate change or electric cars, we can rail against it all we like, but its going to happen regardless so we may as well manage it as best we can.
    Currently it only takes 20+ hours to travel anywhere in the world, in my childrens’ lifetime I expect this will reduce to one hour. I fervently hope that future trade partnerships will also lead to more open borders. Europe has done it and we have it with New Zealand, why shouldn’t we expand our open borders to England, Europe, Canada and maybe the US (or maybe not the US).

    1. Guy Rundle

      Yes to trade. No to trading away our right to elect governments who run public enterprises for the public good, and regulate business activities. Fair nuff?

      1. bref

        Couldn’t agree with you more.

    2. Kenneth Piaggio

      These ‘free trade’ agreements do not promote more open trade, Bref. Quite often the opposite. Devil in the detail. Guy has highlighted a few of the worst aspects of this agreement, but all the others need to be closely examined.
      A personal gripe has been the formal change in the spelling of our medications in Australia (so that we lose the spelling that is part of the heritage of our English language to be replaced by the American’s version) in preparation for the Big Pharma imposed changes that were part of the Trade Agreement.

      1. bref

        I dont actually disagree too much with anyone here. We know that things will change over the years no matter what happens and we know that none of it will ever be perfect. Its just that we have to start somewhere.

    3. Jimbo

      You say Q; “Europe has done it and we have it with New Zealand, why shouldn’t we expand our open borders to England, Europe, Canada and maybe the US”
      Yes, Europe has done it and look at the result. (You wont find it in the MSM) Why not add Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the other basket cases in North Africa?
      The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions are a crime against the Australian people. There have been enough examples of that in the world to guarantee extreme caution but these fools appear to have signed the deal.

      1. bref

        As with several of my close friends I can see you’re a glass half empty kind of guy Jimbo. I’m the glass half full kind of person. I hope that even with all the flaws of our systems we can manage to move forward toward a better world. We have to start somewhere.

    4. TommyT

      Lol. Pure unadulterated delusion.
      Meanwhile in the real world Europe is seeing the reemergence of the far right getting into their Parliaments and borders are going back up all over Europe.
      But yeah dude. Keep living that fantasy

  5. Dog's Breakfast

    Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb!

    Just how much damage can these fools do before they are kicked out of office?

    1. AR

      Enough that the incoming fools (to be kind, knaves to be accurate) can just carry on seamlessly, as per their riding orders.
      Only their silk is different, same shit, different buckets.

      1. bushby jane

        Have the other mob signed any ‘free’ trade deals?

          1. Dog's Breakfast

            All relevant, and all good, I don’t care who signs them, they are dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb dumb.

  6. Dion Giles

    International trade deals are made to pander to greedy donors to political parties,and to DFAT bureaucrats, in order to scour the world for the cheapest and most cowed labour to produce for tariff-free exports to Australian greedies – who in turn clamour for casualisation of our own workforce to be “internationally competitive”. Thus they are in effect a means of importing Asian slavery.
    Trade should be directed to fostering innovative and high quality goods, not “el cheapo” leading to closure of more and more of our own industries.

  7. Keith1

    “Trudeau scuppers TPP” was a nice headline at the time, just as GR’s Godzilla riff is entertaining now, but really what is the surprise? Turnbull said at the time: “We will work through this and we have, of course, additional opportunities in the future for us to reconvene to keep working through these issues, and hopefully we will be able to find a pathway forward that accommodates the requests from Canada.”
    The headlines at the time, not wanting to spoil a good sensational yarn, failed to hint that the “scuppering” involved requests for changes. Nor did they factor in the neo-liberal determination of leaders such as ours.

  8. AR

    The Ciobot was talking at Fran this morning on RN, and in his best aping of Talcum’s magisterial manner, loftily claimed that ISPS would never be invoked the way …err Philip Morris did over plain packaging.
    If this resurrection of this iniquitous scam.. sorry, scheme demonstrates nothing else, it is that democratic pollies have the strength & resilience of meringue in a hailstorm.
    Batten down the hatches coz it’ll become a lot worse before the End.
    Not with a Bang but a Simper?

    1. Rais

      Heard that of course the ISPS isn’t there to be used, it’s just for decoration and I might have a bridge you could buy, as new, only used by little old ladies going to the shops once a week.
      First use when the US comes back in will be aimed at crippling the PBS. Count on it. That’s when I start making use of contacts in Thailand and India, importing my own low cost medications like Americans do from Canada.

    2. TommyT

      It’ll all end with a bang eventually. The sort of bang where millions die in civil and global wars. It seems the only thing that can change the rich from a course of action is violence so extreme and widespread even they and their families can’t hide from it. It was ever thus

  9. Paul Munro

    Thank you Guy for continuing to draw attention to the monsters hiding in the interstices of arrangements like the TPPP (-1).
    There has always been a problem for Australian sceptics or would be critics of what became neoliberal globalisation. The orthodox economics of the ALP embraced the emerging doctrines to such an extent that only the less timid ventured to express opposition tot he consequences that were also emerging. Within the ALP there were not many sufficiently well equipped to avoid the tag of being unreconstructed Whitlamites or some other marginalising denunciation. The problem has become progressively worse as the voices of clear headed discussion are fewer and when found drowned in the short term infotainment brainwash. Issues like preservation of a degree of governmental control over pharma in Australia are vitally important; so was the issue in the recent FTA’s about avoidance of external litigation inhibiting sovereignty over regulatory regimes. But the latter issue hardly ever attracted serious attention across public opinion.
    I was chilled by the extent to which an observation by George Orwell in June 1938 resonates through our modern version of democracy in Australia: “The freedom of the press in Britain was always something of a fake, because in the last resort, money controls opinion;…..The time is coming,…..,when every writer will have the choice of being silenced altogether or of producing the dope that a privileged minority demands”.
    Of course we are not there yet, quite; Crikey, just as Orwell did, plays an important role in using and widening loopholes to good effect; so also must the few within ALP ranks who have the mind and courage to mould politically marketable resistance to extensions of capitalist ascendancies so unrestrainedly adopted by the governments we endure.
    Please keep the pressure on.

  10. kyle Hargraves

    With all due respect Guy there is not a paragraph of what you have submitted that most of the Crikey readership didn’t know already. For your next assignment , may I suggest, in the context of the TPP you might refer to President Xi’s remarks regarding free trade (the so-called Davos remarks) and link this aspect into the (substantial) progress of the “Belt and Road Initiative” or BRI – although I’m not one for jargon – which China intends to develop commercial undertakings with a list of countries that emulate the membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (or AIIB).

    As a hint you might identify that the BRI is conducted at variance to the US strategies of financial colonialism (see the post by Wayne Robinson January 24, 2018 at 1:46 pm). In contrast, China does not negotiate trade treaties as such but undertakes (promises if one prefers) infrastructure projects financed and built by Beijing. The repair of the ports in Sri-Lanker years ago is a historical and indeed a current case in point. Consider the “financial colonialism” of China in Africa and indeed the Pacific. It works like a charm. In this context a chat about the TPP MIGHT be useful – but do see what you can make of it.

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