As President Obama prepares to make his big lame-duck push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he’s narrowed his sales pitch for the deal down to two basic arguments, and he made both of them during an interview this weekend with CNN.
The first argument the president is making in favor of the TPP is, of course, the idea that it’s going to be great for the American economy.
According to him, the TPP will help us write the rules of the Asia-Pacific marketplace for decades to come.
This is the standard argument for the TPP, and it’s the most obviously flawed.
Sure, the TPP “rewrites” the rules, but it only does so in favor of the same multinational corporations that have gotten rich off every so-called trade deal that’s been forced on us over the past few decades.
Workers, small businesses, and everyone else who isn’t a pharmaceutical executive, fossil fuel baron, or a bankster will be worse off if the TPP is signed into law.
Which is exactly why supporters of the TPP don’t just rely on economics arguments to push their case.
They also make a geopolitical argument for the TPP.
According to these supporters, passing this massive 12-nation deal is necessary because it boxes out a resurgent China and preserves American supremacy in the western Pacific, therefore keeping Americans safe at home and abroad.
President Obama made a version of this argument during his interview with Fareed Zakaria this weekend:
Because Americans have been conditioned by decades of Cold War propaganda about Red China, there are probably a lot of people out there who think this is true.
But don’t believe the hype — the TPP won’t keep the US any safer.
Whether you support a more aggressive foreign policy or not — and I don’t — the reality is that we have plenty of military might and diplomatic leverage in the Asia-Pacific region, and the TPP won’t make us “safer.”
Bill Clinton’s former Asian trade and investment chief Clyde Preskowitz explained why in a brilliant piece for The New York Times this weekend.
“The Seventh Fleet has been patrolling the waters of East and Southeast Asia since World War II,” Preskowitz noted, “and America has had at least 100,000 troops based in Asia for just as long…[T]rade deals or not, America had enormous, chronic trade deficits with most countries in the region, guaranteeing economic and political engagement for decades to come. If the combination of the American military presence and their trade surpluses with the United States weren’t enough to mollify Asian leaders, no free trade deal would significantly change the situation.”
In other words, there is no “there” there.
The geopolitical benefits of the TPP, like its economic benefits, are pure fantasy.
All this talk about “confronting China” and “preserving American hegemony” is doublespeak aimed at keeping the American people in the dark about the corporate grab bag the TPP really is.
When it comes down to it, the TPP is just another neoliberal corporate plan to reduce national sovereignty and strengthen the role corporations play in running the world.
It’s as simple as that.