Yesterday, in one of the most expansive corporate power grabs in world history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was formally signed in Auckland, New Zealand, although the deal still needs to be approved by Congress to be binding in the U.S.
The supposedly free trade agreement, nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids,” was signed by 12 countries and focuses on dropping trade barriers, such as tariffs, while imposing an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism to allow transnational corporations to force governments to do their bidding. The agreement includes provisions that restrict freedom online and also forces member states to adopt dubious changes to intellectual property law, including patents and copyrights.
TPP is one of the crowning achievements of an elite movement, often referred to as “globalization,” that promotes a rootless moneyed class by giving them near total power and control over the global economy. Under the new TPP system, corporations will call the shots in North America and a large swath of the Asia-Pacific region. Corporate concerns will legally trump all other concerns.
Outside of an exemption for the tobacco industry, corporations will now be able to drag countries into special corporate tribunals if the companies believe a law or administrative action hurts their profits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren noted that the ISDS process would “tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.”
Beyond expanding corporate power, TPP fuels the rise of an economic Cold War between the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific region. China, not surprisingly, sees TPP as an attempt to thwart their rising influence.
China has responded to TPP with its own rival agreement called the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) along with the Silk Road Economic Belt project for Eurasia. TPP ups the stakes for both proposals and will undoubtedly increase tensions between the U.S. and China.
While foreign policy observers may see the signing of TPP as a setback for China, the real losers will be 99 percent of people living in the countries under TPP who will be further disarmed against the power of a global kleptocratic elite.
There also are protections for polluters within TPP, so not only will the rich continue to get richer, but the world will face further degradation thanks to the agreement. Thanks to TPP, future generations will endure a more unequal society and a hostile planet.