Donald Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.
Which begs the question, what the hell is it?
Well, it’s rather important as it will encompass a huge percentage of the world’s economy and will affect you over here in Britain, despite the fact we’re not in it.
Here’s some background.
Who’s in it?
Think of the TPP as a bit like the European single market but replace Britain, France, Germany, etc with the Pacific Rim countries of the USA, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
It’s big. In fact it covers 40% of the global economy and a combined population of 800 million people.
What does it do?
Nothing yet. While a final proposal has been put forward, it has not yet been ratified.
If it does come into force, each country will reduce or eliminate tariffs (taxes on imports) on agricultural products and industrial goods from member countries.
In theory this should boost trade between countries, but there are losers in such a deal as we’ll see later.
Is it a bit like TTIP?
Yes, TPP is a free-trade agreement just like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) only different countries are involved.
TTIP is the proposed agreement between the EU and the USA.
Can Trump ruin TPP?
In order to take effect at least six countries accounting for 85% or more of the group’s economic output have to ratify the deal, meaning Japan and the USA have to be onboard.
The Conspiracy Theorist’s Guide To The TPP
1) It could be used to imprison whistleblowers.
Part of the TPP deal involves signatories standardising copyright laws in order to provide the same protection for goods across the trading bloc.
Among the concerns raised by the Electronic Frontier Foundation after a draft chapter on intellectual property was leaked is the...
Dangerously vague text on the misuse of trade secrets, which could be used to enact harsh criminal punishments against anyone who reveals or even accesses information through a “computer system” that is allegedly confidential.
2) It’s a neoliberal plot to enrich corporations.
Very possible if past trade agreements are a guide.
Trade agreements in general come in for a lot criticism from those who see them as a tool to drive corporate profits at the expense of working families and smaller producers.
While probably not being on the scale of New World Order-style project, there is evidence that while big corporations profit from trade agreements, smaller producers sometimes suffer.
This can happen in two ways. Firstly, by reducing or removing tariffs on goods a country can be flooded with produce from another country that’s cheaper than it can produce itself.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had such an effect on Mexican farmers when US farmers, subsidised by domestic legislation, exported corn and other grains at a price the Mexicans simply couldn’t compete with.
As a result, 1.3 million farm jobs were lost in Mexico.
A second effect of NAFTA was that many US manufacturers found themselves able to move production bases to Mexico where wages are lower.
In response, manufacturers that remained in the US had to lower their wages to compete.
This is the main reason Donald Trump is so against TPP although experts are split on whether the same outcome would occur.
3) TPP will negatively impact Europe and the UK.
We just don’t know because, Brexit.
Potentially the TPP could negatively impact Britain, although there are steps being taken to mitigate against this.
From 2002 - 2012, exports in Asia-Pacific economies have rose 10% while developed countries including those in the EU saw a decline of 13%.
Whether or not this trend continues is up for debate but there is a risk non-TTP economies will struggle further when trying to compete for exports with countries who share a trade agreement.
The EU is forming separate trade agreements with each signatory to the TPP but, obviously, the UK will be leaving the EU soon.
As with most things Brexit related, it’s simply not know what affect it will have just yet.
4) It will allow corporations to sue governments for ridiculous reasons.
TPP contains an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause that allows any company investing in a signatory country to sue that government if they violate the treaty.
Ostensibly this a mechanism for businesses to protect their investments while operating abroad, but some argue it could be used for more sinister purposes.
Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor, Joseph Stiglitz, has argued the ISDS in the TPP could be used by oil companies to sue signatory governments that take steps to tackle climate change.
He said: “We know we’re going to need regulations to restrict the emissions of carbon.
“But under these provisions, corporations can sue the government, including the American government, by the way, so it’s all the governments in the TPP can be sued for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming.”
5) It’s just a plan by the USA to keep China at bay.
Less a conspiracy and more geo-political reality,
The TPP would undoubtedly allow China’s neighbours to be less dependent on it for trade whilst simultaneously bringing them further under the economic influence of the USA.
The importance of the deal to the Obama administration was summed up when the President said: “If we don’t pass this agreement—if America doesn’t write those rules—then countries like China will.”
His Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, has said it is the equivalent in geopolitical terms to building another aircraft carrier.
China is yet to signal if it will join the TPP but Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has said such a move would be largely positive and “would contribute largely to our nation’s security and Asia-Pacific regional stability”.
China won’t initially be part of TPP although its stance on the issue has softened from outright suspicion to one of cautious welcome.
6) Negotiations were made in secret and were influence by American big business and lobbyists.
Negotiations have been confidential, ostensibly to “preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise”.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has accused big business of “whispering in the ear” of negotiators but while it is fact a number of committees set up to influence the deal are populated by executives and lobbyists, Congress receives written reports of negotiations so in theory should provide scrutiny.
7) Trade agreements trample on human rights.
As far as TPP is concerned this is largely untrue in regards to the pre-implementation process so far.
In fact, countries are required to meet minimum standards in areas such as child and forced labour and employment discrimination.
In order to sign up to TPP, Malaysia has taken steps to crack down on human trafficking in the construction industry.