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Letters from Downunder

Chain link fence

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country (Ambrose Bierce, the Devil’s Dictionary)

(1/2017) Whatever you may think, the Trans Pacific Partnership is not about trade. It is about two far more important issues: status and world power. Reading the enormous number of publications on this topic, the thing stands that out is that those two things are never mentioned. But nevertheless it’s a clever proposal, typically American in its methods and innovation, with a most brilliant humanitarian carrot as its centrepiece: the betterment of workers in the poorest of the participants.

This is designed to appeal to left leaning concerns while confusing the right, and the fact that all twelve countries involved, (Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, United States, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, New Zealand) have worked on its implementation for quite a few years is a measure of the importance they have given it. Rave press releases about its benefits have studded the media while actual details have been scrupulously withheld from scrutiny on the grounds of endangering the resultant benefits.

Simply put, what is proposed is that any country entering into the agreement will be forced to raise the wages paid to workers, if less than an agreed minimum, and improve their conditions toward the standard of those in the USA. What they get in return is greater access to the American market, and to ‘free’ trade among the rest. That is, tariffs in those countries would be reduced to zero on most goods produced in partnership countries. In practice, (and from bitter experience), that does not include America. Free trade deals with America have so far proved to be one sided affairs, the bulk of the rewards going there because reciprocal reductions did not occur. Remember the ‘level playing field’? We quickly levelled by removing our tariffs on pretty well everything; you did as well - except for the 90% of our exports to you.

This same three pea trick is also part of the TPP, for one of its primary aims is to reboot and protect American manufacturing and agriculture. It does NOT aim to see increases in American wages, but to make the workforce more competitive by driving up costs for the opposition. Unlike many other deals, this one also has major reforms in other areas attached: land clearing, CO2 emissions, labour laws, unionism, food origin labelling etc, all designed to benefit America first, both directly and by showing that it also is a leader responsible toward the welfare of the world.

If the other nations refuse to abide by those conditions, it is a quick knife to the throat, though there seems to be no reason - except the complexity – that they could not then trade with the other members, but once one nation did comply and sees their manufactures entering American market it would be hard for the others not to follow. Note that five of the group have very suspect human right and exploitative reputations, and reductions in those things is quite an attractive carrot to humanitarians.

Now this is all good and well; trade, reforms and removal of barriers are three golden balls in the air like the pawn shop, (analogy intentional), but there is a far more serious intention underlying the TPP. It is of world significance, spelling the difference between potentially continued détente and peace on one side, and loss of power, influence and peacekeeping in the Pacific area on the other. This is the most important political tectonic strategy ever undertaken. At stake is nothing less than America’s place in the free world and her reputation as the greatest power on earth.

If America does not ratify the partnership it ipso facto hands control of Pacific trade to China, at least in the eyes of that country. It also sends the signal that China can be in charge of policy in the region, allows it to ramp up its power throughout the world. It says to everyone that America is no longer interested in world affairs. The whole purpose of the TPP is to ensure America’s leadership continues. To not sign it is to say ‘we don’t care about the world any more, we just want to go and play with out own toys.’ To become isolationist, inward looking, even paranoid and xenophobic is to admit defeat, and that is something America has never ever done.

It also says, ‘you have to look to yourselves for protection', something Australia is now realising, a sobering message for our marshmallow leaders. It also sends that message to Japan, long a de facto protectorate of yours, thus inviting them to rearm. The idea of having a ring of allies around the pacific is a vital part of maintaining world peace. Even more troublesome is that North Korea will be emboldened in its nuclear weapon program, the middle east will feel the restrictions loosening, Russia will ape the bear ready to pounce, and in the partial vacuum created, the rush to fill it will make the present problems seem like child’s play.

America has been policeman to the world for so long that stepping down from that role will assuredly allow anarchy to take hold. It matters not that the policing has been self serving – everything is , including this agreement.

Mr Trump is determined to restore American jobs. He may believe he has a magic wand with which to do it, but words are powerless. Plans and deeds are needed, and not the ones so far touted: His dictum that ‘companies proposing to ship jobs overseas will be met by enormous bribes,’ exactly equals communism, is exactly like China - who already owns a sizable chunk of your economy. He is part of the problem, and in true oligarch style will never see that. He can only make it worse, destroy everything positive and worthwhile you have built over the centuries, making conditions and living standards worse for 90% of the population. And he is well into the other 10%.

The TPP does not just benefit trade and conditions. It reinforces the maintenance of a peaceful world with a chain link fence.

Lindsay, admiring the New Year circus from

Melbourne, Australia

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker