Today the US and 11 other Pacific nations announced an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a historic expansion of corporate power and control over the world economy. The agreement, if implemented, sets up a clash between the corporate capitalism practiced by the United States and the state capitalism practiced by the People’s Republic of China as to which power and economic system will dominate East Asia and Pacific Ocean resources.
Though more details about TPP have been revealed, the full 30-chapter text of the agreement remains hidden for the time being. Wikileaks has released some of the details already. However, the full agreement will have to be released 90 days before Congress votes.
Despite the announcement by the parties to TPP agreeing to the terms, the deal will not be formally adopted in the United States until approved by Congress. While the Obama Administration succeeded in winning fast-track authority for the deal, which prevents amendments, Congress still has an up or down vote.
That vote is by no means assured especially with House Speaker John Boehner announcing that he will resign from the Speakership and Congress on October 30th. The vote on TPP may not come until as late as February of next year and many House Republicans, especially the more conservative ones who just helped force Boehner’s resignation, oppose TPP.
Democrats in Congress are also skeptical of the virtues of TPP including Sander Levin, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means subcommittee, who cited concerns about Mexico and Japan’s trade practices and promised TPP would be subjected to “an intense period of Congressional scrutiny.” Members of Congress were previously forbidden from discussing the details of TPP in public.
Though the Obama Administration tried to hasten the process of passing TPP through Congress to avoid the 2016 presidential campaign season, it is now clear that TPP will become a major issue in the 2016 election cycle. Candidates of both major parties have publicly opposed TPP and neoliberal trade policy in general.
On the Republican side, current Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has made opposing multilateral and transnational agreements like TPP a central plank of his campaign while, on the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders said in regards to TPP that “Wall Street and other big corporations have won again.”
All the candidates will have a difficult time avoiding TPP on the campaign trail given the scope of the agreement and its wide-ranging effects on the US and global economy. Labor unions have already come out hard against a deal likely to cost US jobs, while human rights activists have condemned efforts to allow countries into the agreement that use slave labor and engage in human trafficking.
Given TPP’s extensive impact, all sorts of interests will now be forced to fight by proxy in Congress where the fate of the agreement ultimately rests. If the US Congress votes TPP down, the agreement is likely to collapse and deliver a major setback to the long march towards forming an unchallengeable global corporatocracy by political and economic elites.
If TPP passes, what is left of the Western democratic state will be hollowed out to the point of irrelevancy. Major economic and political decisions affecting nations will be made in boardrooms not legislatures.