Corporate America's Desperate Bid to Retain Global Economic Supremacy

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Political cartoon by Thomas Nast showing statue of Andrew Jackson (US President) on a pig, which is over '"fraud'", "'bribery'", and '"spoils'", eating "'plunder'". Courtesy: Harper's Weekly 28 April 1877, pp. 325

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 25 October 2014

In 1832, a United States (US) politician named William Marcy coined the phrase: to the victor belong the spoils, a doctrine that is the very antithesis of a merit based system of rebuke and reward.

The significance of this term, which encapsulates the notion of political patronage to an excessive degree, is to define the practice of the political party that wins an election and subsequently gains office, and then goes on to appoint relatives, friends and supporters to positions of power and authority as a reward for their labour. In the US, in particular, this process has changed very little to this day as the current regime continues to nominate and appoint its own particular group of victors to a disparate array of positions of favour.

That successive US regimes have used and abused executive power to manipulate the domestic political landscape is well know. However, on the international stage, this policy is significantly less understood and appreciated as the events that transpired during and immediately after WWII testify: the US usurped the British Empire and successfully feasted themselves upon the spoils of an economic empire created via the International Monetary Fund (1944), The World Bank (1945) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT - 1947), a broad range of multilateral agreements regulating international trade that has largely been superceded by the World Trade Organization (WTO - 1994).

Thus, US regimes', in extending a doctrine that exploited the weak and vulnerable amid the death and destruction of WWII, has enjoyed its spoils as victor for over seventy years. Nonetheless, like all empires that have gone before, this particular manifestation of worldly power, the US Economic Empire (US-EE), is also beginning to fade.

Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP - 2005) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP - circa 1995).

What are the TPP and TTIP agreements, and who are involved?

The TPP is a proposed regional free-trade agreement that currently involves twelve countries throughout the Asian-Pacific region, namely: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. The TTIP is also a proposed free-trade agreement that involves the European Union (EU - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom) and the United States.

Why is the US-EE so keen to promote these two agreements?

The WTO is no longer fit for the US-EE's purpose. While most developing countries have been prevented from prospering in the world of liberalised free-trade, there have been a few notable exceptions, namely: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS). This group of five nations have been able to skilfully navigate and negotiate their way through the administrative mire of the WTO to a point where they now threaten US economic pre-eminence. Thus, the TPP and TTIP offer the US-EE an opportunity to retain their global economic superiority by excluding those who challenge it the most or, if they should wish to join, to make membership disproportionately onerous so they can be exploited.

Why are the TPP and TTIP negotiations held in secrecy?

Clearly the proposed agreements, as the recently leaked file by Wikileaks and document by the EU indicate, are in direct conflict with, or at least contrary to the current policies of most of the nation states involved. That is, if the electorates of the respective nations were fully aware of just how much these agreements threaten their livelihoods and that their national sovereignty is about to be seriously eroded by the use of Investor-state Dispute Settlement's (ISDS) then there would be at least a public outcry and most likely nationwide protests. Thus secrecy is paramount if the public are to be managed and, by hiding the extent of the agreements, it also offers the signatories an opportunity to deliver a fait accompli.

Why are multinational corporations allowed to participate in the negotiations?

In truth, there is no such thing as free-trade, there always has been winners and losers. Thus the notion that nation states can trade freely across borders may sound fair and idealistic but in reality most markets are rigged and commodity prices are often subject to manipulation. The fact that nations are either coerced, bullied, destabilised or even attacked militarily in order that powerful multinational corporations can gain access to resources and markets is common practice. These corporations fund these activities and also provide the revolving doors enjoyed by most of the victor politicians when they leave public office. Thus, they feel it is their right to be involved in the negotiations and fully expect due consideration of their requirements.

Nonetheless, neither the TPP nor the TTIP were inspired by the US who have relied on the dated GATT and current WTO agreements until they experienced a serious erosion of their economic superiority in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008: a product of their own making. Subsequently, the US regime have been instrumental in the drafting and negotiating of the TPP and TTIP agreements, again in their favour, given that the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO that began in November 2001, and is mired in irreconcilable disagreements to this day, is in effect moribund.

Thus, the US-EE sees both the TPP and TTIP agreements as their preferred route in maintaining global fiscal supremacy, even though in reality they are morally and fiscally bankrupt.

Of course, it is worth noting that both of these agreements have their proponents and detractors alike. The proponents usually say that it will promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs. The detractors will counter, and rightly so, that no free-trade agreement has ever achieved these lofty ideals and in developed countries, in particular, there are always more losers than winners. While both arguments may add to the public discourse that is sorely needed, the fact that these agreements will only serve to increase corporate power and make it practically impossible for national governments to regulate their own markets for public benefit is patently obvious.

That the US-EE and a broad range of multinational corporations who are predominately American are seeking to retain the lions share of the victors spoils by plotting an alternative path to global economic superiority is not in question. The question is whether the other nation states involved in these proposed agreements are going to sacrifice their own people on the altar of fiscal supremacy by the US-EE or will they champion the public's cause and uphold the democratic will of the people.

The prospects for democracy do not look good.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
Aesop