July 28th, 2015
in Op Ed
by Joseph M. Firestone, New Economic Perspectives
The trade agreements currently being negotiated by the Obama Administration are potentially enormously important in their possible impact on the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being negotiated by 12 Asian-Pacific nations, and, if agreed to by Congress could be expanded in membership later on under the President's sole authority.
The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will encompass 29 nations, including the United States. And the third agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), perhaps the most dangerous of the three, will likely encompass 52 nations, if agreed to by all.
These agreements would bind the United States to multilateral terms with much of the world with some notable exceptions, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Uruguay, and Indonesia. In other words, their scope is unprecedented and their provisions are not yet public. Based on leaks of drafts of the agreements, the book discusses many possible implications of the likely content of these agreements.
By far the most important are the potential effects of the agreements on the consent of the governed, the sovereignty, the monetary sovereignty, the separation of powers, the Federalism, if any, and the democracies, of the participating states. In short, the agreements provide for the governments of the participating states to be subject to external private authorities beholden to multinational corporations, which, in Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) proceedings, can subject nations to fines in unlimited amounts in response to complaints from corporations at the discretion of three-judge tribunals having no accountability to the parties to the agreements. The agreements are, in effect, declarations of dependence!
Most disturbing about the potential effects of the agreements, is the likely constraint on the policy space of participating nations, including the United States, they would produce in relation to legislation and regulations affecting the profits or expectations of profits of multinational corporations. It is the policies of all levels of government: national, state, and local that make it possible for societies to adapt to changes when they meet new challenges. With severely constrained policy spaces they cannot try new policy innovations, nor even use old policy expedients that have been effective at other times in the past to meet particular problems.
It is folly to disarm the governments of nations, and with it their political systems, so they cannot do their jobs in helping peoples and societies to adjust to such changes. That way lies repression, chaos, human suffering, violence, bloodshed, extreme conflict, and loss of life. Ossified and paralyzed political systems have spawned all of the major bloody political and social revolutions we have seen in the history of man. And we are asking for all of that if we stop or hinder national governments from following adaptive policies that solve various problems of change, and that produce social and economic justice. Yet these three trade agreements are likely to do exactly that.
In this new Kindle e-book, entitled Declarations of Dependence: Trade Tyranny, Sovereignty, and Democracy, I discuss a range of issues and use a critical approach to consideration of the trade agreements, and especially the recently passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and the TPP. I come back again and again to the likely governmental impacts of the agreements. What I also do in this book is to review the fast-track legislative process and politics, up to the present, consider the question of how to get around "fast-track" legislation, which I consider a ruse and a fraud, and also consider a variety of justifications for the TPP and other trade deals, while challenging the very fundamentals of their "free trade"-based justifications, with a more comprehensive perspective on trade agreements as instruments of public purpose. Finally, I place the trade deals in the broader context of the multi-decade conflict between democracy and neoliberalism, and locate the trade agreements as part of this struggle and the continuing efforts of neoliberalism to master and rule over political democracy.
The result is a book intended to fuel popular resistance efforts to defeat the trade deals in the coming months and years, if necessary. Of course, whether it does that or not depends on how the book is received and used by you, my readers.
Mike Norman, Matt Franko, and myself had a conversation about the book and related matters on Mike's Talkshoe podcast today, July 24. The podcast is also below.