PHM-Exch> Jomo Sundaram: CP-TPP to seduce Trump
cschuftan at phmovement.org
Thu Mar 8 10:56:30 PST 2018
From: Jomo <jomoks at yahoo.com>
*Japan-led Pacific Rim Countries Desperate to Embrace Trump*
By Jomo Kwame Sundaram <http://www.ipsnews.net/author/jomo-kwame-sundaram/>
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Mar 8 2018 (IPS) - The grandiose sounding
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
(CPTPP) will be signed in Santiago de Chile today, 8 March. Instead of
doing something to advance the condition of women on International Women’s
Day, trade representatives from 11 Pacific rim countries will sign the
CPTPP, which some critics argue will further set back the progress of
humanity, including women who hold up ‘half the sky’.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) originally involved twelve countries,
including the USA, namely Japan, Brunei, Australia, Canada, Chile,
Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, now often
referred to as the TPP11. Although originally a minor initiative not
involving the US, the Obama administration led the negotiations which
claimed to have created a model ‘free trade agreement for the 21st century’.
In fact, the resulting 6500 page agreement has, so far, only been used by
Obama’s United States Trade Representative (USTR) to derail the already
protracted Doha ‘Development’ Round negotiations under the auspices of the
World Trade Organization (WTO), e.g., by ‘lame-duck’ USTR Michael Froman at
the WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December 2016.
In January last year, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from
TPP, effectively killing the agreement. Since then, Japan has worked hard
to keep it alive, with discreet help from Australia and others. Apparently,
they hope to draw the US back in order to check China’s growing influence
in the region while delaying other regional trade negotiations such as the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
After signing it, at least six countries must ratify the CPTPP for the deal
to come into effect. Even before signing, governments have announced plans
to drag their feet, indicating they are signing under duress. Incredibly,
no details of the new agreement were supposed to be released until after
the signing, and few consultations have been held by the signing
governments despite promises to do so.
*Bad deal not improved by reheating*
To make the case for the TPP, its advocates greatly exaggerated its
negligible trade benefits. US government studies — by the Department of
Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the International Trade Council
— projected very modest gains, even with the US in.
Despite the US absence from the CPTPP, its proponents have not hesitated to
make even more exaggerated claims about supposed benefits. With already
negligible trade gains from the original TPP, purported gains from the
CPTPP without the US are even more paltry. Not surprisingly, the TPP11 have
become even more desperate for US participation to maintain their original
The old claim that trade liberalization lifts all boats is increasingly
rejected in favour of more nuanced recognition that its costs may be as
much as its benefits, and distributed very unevenly. Such recognition has
enabled better understanding of the Brexit referendum outcome and Trump’s
election following a campaign in which all major candidates were opposed to
CPTPP losses, costs and risks are almost as great as with the TPP while
actual gains are even more trivial. Meanwhile, CPTPP citizens must surely
wonder why their governments are proceeding so secretively without public
consultation or even the fig leaf of credible cost-benefit or other
Minor amendments have been made to the original TPP agreement, largely
drafted by US corporations during the Obama presidency. But the new CPTPP
Preamble can only guide its interpretation, and does not replace
problematic TPP provisions. Some TPP11 countries have secured ‘side
letters’, exempting them from some of its provisions.
Meanwhile, several onerous provisions have been suspended, including some
of those extending the scope and duration of pharmaceutical patents. Well
over a thousand provisions remain, most not even challenged by the CPTPP
negotiators. The 22 suspended provisions can easily be restored if the US
chooses to rejoin the TPP.
At his World Economic Forum charm offensive at Davos in January, Trump
stated that he “would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better
deal” despite his anti-TPP presidential campaign and post-election
rhetoric. No one can be sure what he means anymore, especially following
his more recent declarations celebrating trade warfare.
US positions in the ongoing North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA)
renegotiations suggest his administration will demand stronger intellectual
property rights, especially pharmaceutical patent protection; this can be
easily accommodated by the TPP11 by reinstating suspended TPP provisions.
However, in light of the new USTR’s pronouncements, it is likely that the
White House will insist on removing ISDS provisions from the TPP to be
consistent with Trump’s ‘sovereigntist’ approach of putting ‘America
first’. Or worse, ISDS provisions may not be reciprocal, i.e., US
corporations abroad can use ISDS, but TPP11 investors cannot make such
claims against the US government.
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