|President Pete Souza. attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting in Yokohama, Japan, on November 14, 2010. Photo by|
By Don Quijones, a freelance writer and translator based in Barcelona, Spain. Raging Bull-Shit, is a modest attempt to challenge some of the wishful thinking and scrub away the lathers of peddled by our political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media. blog,
2013 is proving to be a hectic year for corporate lobbyists and free trade advocates, as they frantically flit, like busy bees pollinating succulent orchids, from one global free trade conference to another. And at long last, it seems that their hard work appears to be paying off.
In the last month alone world leaders from 12 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Mexico, pledged to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the end of the year. On the other side of the globe, meanwhile, Europe has signed a sweeping with Canada.
And what’s more, despite all the furore over allegations of NSA and GCHQ spying on European national leaders, most EU member states are determined to ensure that the fallout from the scandal does not derail ongoing talks for a Transatlantic Partnership (TTIP), a treaty that would effectively knit together countries with nearly half the world’s GDP into a massive free-trade zone.
Indeed, the president of the , Martin Schulz, has already suggested that it may be necessary to temporarily suspend negotiations — not out of concern for joining in partnership with a nation whose recent actions have betrayed every possible notion of mutual trust, but rather out of fear that continued negotiations in the current climate could feed anti-free trade sentiment:
"If such events continue, and more news comes out, I fear that those who are against the free trade agreement in principle will become the majority,” said Schulz during last week’s EU summit. “My advice is to stop for a moment and discuss how we can avoid such a development."
All of which begs the question: why all the sudden newfound enthusiasm for more free trade? Even more important, why all the secrecy? Why are our leaders desperately reconfiguring the legal super structures of global trade without either consulting their respective voting constituencies or even divulging what is actually up for grabs in the negotiations?
After all, even by official estimates (which, let’s face it, tend to have a strong upward bias) the economic benefits of the trade treaties will be negligible, at best. In the case of the TPIP, the EU and the U.S. can expect to eventually (perhaps after as long as ten years) receive a 100 billion euro boost to their respective GDPs. It’s the sort of money that, once upon a time, may have sounded impressive or even meant something. But not any more, not since the Fed and the Bank of England led the world’s central banking community on the biggest money printing binge in recorded history.
Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region the TPP is forecast to open up massive new opportunities for businesses both large and small, as new trade networks are forged between some of the world’s fastest growing economies.
However, while the potential benefits of the new trade agreement are supposed to be huge, they cannot as yet be divulged to the public. As U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk recently told Reuters, it’s just too early in negotiations to release a draft text to allow more public input. But that’s not to say “there will [not] be a time, once we have agreed on the text, that we may – as we have with other agreements – be able to release that.”
The message could not be clearer: to paraphrase the late, great Bill Hicks, go back to bed America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Your governments are in control.
The Real Agenda
As for the few insomniacs who remain fully awake, the real end game in this new age of “free” trade (or otherwise put, corporate protectionism) is becoming clearer and clearer. According to Andrew Gavin Marshall, these new agreements have little to do with actual “trade,” and everything to do with expanding the rights and powers of large corporations:
Corporations have become powerful economic and political entities – competing in size and wealth with the world’s largest national economies – and thus have taken on a distinctly ‘cosmopolitical’ nature.
According to a ranking published by Global Trends, 58 percent of the world’s biggest 150 economic entities in 2012 were corporations. They include oil, natural gas and mining majors, banks and insurance firms, telecommunications giants, supermarket behemoths, car manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
The highest ranked company on the list, Royal Dutch Shell, recorded 2012 revenues that exceeded the GDPs of 171 countries, making it the 26th largest economic entity in the world. It ranks ahead of Argentina and Taiwan, despite employing only 90,000 people. Indeed, the combined revenues of the five biggest oil companies (Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Sinopec and China National Petroleum) were the equivalent of 2.9 percent of global GDP in 2012.
Should we be at all surprised that these massively bloated private corporations still want more for themselves and, by extension, less for us? After all, perpetual profit and revenues growth are their raison d’être; it’s what makes their sociopathic hearts tick.
“Acting through industry associations, lobby groups, think tanks and foundations, cosmopolitical corporations are engineering large projects aimed at transnational economic and political consolidation of power… into their hands,” writes Marshall. “With the construction of ‘a European-American free-trade zone’ as ‘an ambitious project,’ we are witnessing the advancement of a new and unprecedented global project of transatlantic corporate colonization.“
At the root of this model is the basic notion that corporate profits and investor returns must at all times supercede all concerns about public interest. As such, as Open Democracy has pointed out, investor-state dispute settlements under TTIP would empower EU and US-based corporations to engage in litigious wars of attrition to limit the power of governments on both sides of the Atlantic:
Thousands of EU and US companies have affiliates across the Atlantic; under TTIP they could make investor-state claims via these affiliates in order to compel their own governments to refrain from regulations they dislike.
In the sickest of ironies, as a growing number of countries are questioning and even abandoning global investor-state arbitration precisely because of negative impacts against the public interest, powerful corporate lobby groups in both the EU and the US — including the European employers’ federation BusinessEurope, the US Chamber of Commerce, AmCham EU, and the Transatlantic Business Council — are pressuring for the inclusion of investor-state arbitration in TTIP.
And as you and I know, they’ll get what they want! Read more>>