Reports out of London suggest the United Kingdom is exploring the idea of joining the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, a long-standing goal of the erstwhile Obama administration and his failed, would-be successor Hillary Clinton.
In the U.S., the TPP deal was resoundingly rejected by workers, citizens, and conservative lawmakers, but it remained a favourite of the political establishment right until the last election.
Effectively, TPP is like a European Commission for Asia, replete with unelected trade commissioners, common regulatory standards, and even the prospect of open borders between the signatory nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
It is palpably absurd for the UK to be leaving one supranational institution — the European Union (EU) — in favour of joining another one on the other side of the world. Government minister Greg Hands semi-defended the idea in the Financial Times, stating: “Nothing is excluded in all of this… With these kind of plurilateral relationships, there doesn’t have to be any geographical restriction.”
WHAT IS TPP?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership basically sets up a common market for the member states listed above. It also establishes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which lets corporations sue nation states for setting their own policies that might have an adverse impact on corporate profit. In other words, it’s a massive blowjob to big corporates.
President Trump withdrew the U.S. from TPP early on in his administration, having called the deal “insanity” during the campaign, and watched as Hillary Clinton flipped back and forth over her support for it.
Fundamentally, the deal became increasingly unpopular with both the left and the right in the United States, with chants of “No TPP!” heard on the floor of the Democratic National Convention back in July 2016. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello even undertook a tour of the United States trying to raise awareness of how bad the deal was for America.
HOW BAD COULD IT BE?
The deal — secretive though it was — was feared to have major implications for manufacturing jobs in the West, as well as expanding executive/bureaucratic authority, regulations, and increasing immigration rates.
“Two-thirds of Americans say protecting American industries and jobs by limiting imports is more important than allowing free trade so they can buy products at lower prices from any country,” reported NBC in June 2015, reflecting the fears of ordinary workers.
President Obama declared TPP would be “the most progressive trade bill in history,” adding: “It will have the kinds of labor and environmental and human rights protections that have been absent in previous agreements.”
This led then-presidential candidate Carly Fiorina to lament the deal’s “trap doors” on the environment and climate change:
“…these extremely complicated, multi-party agreements are not in our interest, because buried in the 5,000 pages negotiated with 12 other countries, are trap doors.”
Despite lawmakers pledging TPP would not impact immigration figures, the final version of the 5,000+ page document had severe implications.
Rosemary Jenks, Director of Government Relations for NumbersUSA, said at the time: “When we say the TPP clearly impacts immigration, we’re saying that immigration is the entry of any foreign national into the United States whether on a visa or a visa waiver or a temporary basis or a permanent basis. Anytime a foreign national enters the United States that involves immigration. So, there is no question under my definition that TPP impacts immigration in a massive way.
In terms of sovereignty and having a say, TPP is probably actually worse than being a member of the European Union, which at least maintains a pretence of democracy with the European Parliament. TPP would have no such democratic backstop.
WHO SAYS WHAT?
Well, Hillary Clinton once called TPP the “gold standard” of trade deals, until she realised it was massively unpopular even in her party, and ended up having to embarrassingly row back.
Obama was evangelical in his support for it, and President Trump was scathing in equal measure. It’s also worth noting what then-Senator Jeff Sessions had to say about it, having been only one of a handful of legislators who read the document:
“They’re not even asserting that it will create jobs in America, raise wages in America or reduce our trade deficit because these agreements in the past have been bad for all three… I think for President Obama, I do believe the driving force behind this is a belief that this is some sort of a one unified governmental structure. It creates judicial bodies. The language of it confirms what I’ve been saying.”
“It’s really breathtaking and it’s an erosion of sovereignty.” He added, “particularly an erosion of congressional power.”
IS IT REALLY ABOUT TRADE?
In as much as the European Union is, sure. So really, only in part.
As AJ Kerns laid out in the St. Cloud Times in July 2015: “According to Citizen.org, TPP isn’t only about trade. Of the 29 draft chapters, only five deal with trade”. The Citizen.org site stated: “One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries… our federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with (international) TPP rules.”
Writing in Real Clear Politics in 2015, Dick Morris stated unequivocally: “TPP is nothing but an effort by the globalists to circumvent American sovereignty, transferring a host of issues from the control of the U.S. Congress and the various state legislatures to international trade courts”.
The Washington Post — previously a cheerleader for the deal — had to accept that Trump’s withdrawal from TPP would most likely hardly affect trade at all.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR BRITAIN?
Fundamentally, the TPP talk is about British politicians and bureaucrats once again attempting to offshore their responsibilities, and offshoring ordinary people’s jobs while mass importing more migrant labour at the same time.
It’s a way to remain part of an EU-style system without being part of the European Union, although some are even claiming the EU should now join TPP.
This is one of the few times I agree with Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. In fact, probably the only time.
He summed it up best in response to the UK-TPP story: “This plan smacks of desperation. These people want us to leave a market on our doorstep and join a different, smaller one on the other side of the world. It’s all pie in the sky thinking.”
This is an “out of the frying pan” moment for Britain. If we reject the EU and TTIP then we reject TPP on the same grounds. What this level of discussion proves is the establishment learned nothing from Brexit. https://t.co/J0ZpvNzCFR
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) January 3, 2018
It also tells us the powers-that-be learned nothing from Brexit. They didn’t get that Brexit was a pro-sovereignty, pro-bilateral trade deals, anti-mass migration vote. So now they’re just chasing a new “ever closer union“.
Raheem Kassam is the editor in chief of Breitbart London