Free Trade My Ass: Flush the TPP

--One picture caught our attention today. And we’re glad it did.

Balloon shaped like a buttocks

Last week, you may know, negotiators representing 12 nations (U.S. included) congregated in Atlanta to talk… behind closed doors… about the massive trade deal called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Atlanta marks the 19th round of negotiations in the past five years. This time, though, it was signed by all 12 member governments and needs only ratification.

Many Atlanteans — the ones paying attention — no like…

#STOP protestor sign

If you haven’t heard, the TPP is a “free trade” agreement. Or at least, that’s what they’re calling it.

Truth is, the vast majority of it has little to do with trade. Of its 29 chapters, only five deal with trade issues.

According to the Office of the United States Representative, the chapters cover and seek to regulate: “competition, co-operation and capacity building, cross-border services, customs, e-commerce, environment, financial services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, labour, legal issues, market access for goods, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, technical barriers to trade, telecommunications, temporary entry, textiles and apparel, trade remedies.”

Free trade? Nah… not really.

What the TPP is really about is creating a supranational tribunal that gives multinational corporations equal status with sovereign nations.

(Yay!)

Meaning, all national sovereignty will be thrown out of the window. And a corporate-led tribunal will be able to override decisions made by Congress.

Passage of the TPP would give corporations the power to sue any nation and drag them into their own court, with judges they hire on a revolving basis… who also fill in as their lawyers.

Woe to the taxpayers who dare step in the way of the corporate crony march toward global domination.

Pinky and the Brain

Pinky and the Brain’s wet dream has come true…

-- If there’s one good thing coming out of the TPP negotiations, it’s that it is exposing, in plain daylight, one simple truth about our political system…

Both parties are wings on the same predator, in servitude of a global elite, hungry for nothing less than full dominance over every aspect of your life.

“A butterfly,” Dave Gonigam of the 5 Min. Forecast wrote last week, “can hardly flap its wings without coming under the auspices of the TPP.”

And if passed, it’ll be every psychopathic politician’s “man on the moon” moment.

We beg you… don’t fall for the hype.

The TPP is not about “free” trade or bringing the world together to sing Kumbaya. You don’t need hundreds of pages of legalese to bring forth free trade.

In fact, all you need is a sentence or two:

“Go forth,” a real free trade deal would say. “Trade freely.”

And you don’t even have to tell anyone it exists. The beauty of free trade is people will trade freely without being told to.

[Cue gasps from the global elite]

The TPP is government-managed trade. Plain and simple.

And the purpose of it, as mentioned, is to establish a transnational economic authority that will, inevitably, create more “too big to fail” companies that will, inevitably, suck all the money, life, and hope from those whose tanks are already running on fumes.

That’s the pessimistic view… and it’s what happens if we don’t steer the ship away from the iceberg up ahead.

We must fight back.

It won’t be easy. The TPP has been drooled over in the crony spank bank more than a Hustler magazine at summer camp.

And for almost half a century, to boot.

According to a Congressional Record transcript of a hearing held in 1967 called “The Future of U.S. Foreign Trade Policy,” this plan has been in the works for quite some time.

During the hearing, former Undersecretary of State, and American trade policy finagler, George Ball, said…

[T]he widespread development of the multinational corporation is one of our major accomplishments in the years since the war, though its meaning and importance have not been generally understood. For the first time in history man has at his command an instrument that enables him to employ resource flexibility to meet the needs of peoples all over the world. Today a corporate management in Detroit or New York or London or Dusseldorf may decide that it can best serve the market of country Z by combining the resources of country X with labor and plan facilities in country Y — and it may alter that decision six months from now if changes occur in costs or price or transport. It is the ability to look out over the world and freely survey all possible sources of production… that is enabling man to employ the world’s finite stock of resources with a new degree of efficiency for the benefit of all mankind.

But to fulfill its full potential, the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries — or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.

To achieve such a free trading environment we must do far more than merely reduce or eliminate tariffs. We must move in the direction of common fiscal concepts, a common monetary policy, and common ideas of commercial responsibility. Already the economically advanced nations have made some progress in all of these areas through such agencies as the OECD and the committees it has sponsored, the Group of Ten, and the IMF, but we still have a long way to go. In my view, we could steer a faster and more direct course… by agreeing that what we seek at the end of the voyage is the full realization of the benefits of a world economy.

Implied in this, of course, is a considerable erosion of the rigid concepts of national sovereignty, but that erosion is taking place every day as national economies grow increasingly interdependent, and I think it desirable that this process be consciously continued. What I am recommending is nothing so unreal and idealistic as a world government, since I have spent too many years in the guerrilla warfare of practical diplomacy to be bemused by utopian visions. But it seems beyond question that modern business — sustained and reinforced by modern technology — has outgrown the constrictive limits of the antiquated political structures in which most of the world is organized, and that itself is a political fact which cannot be ignored.

For the explosion of business beyond national borders will tend to create needs and pressures that can help alter political structures to fit the requirements of modern man far more adequately than the present crazy quilt of small national states. And meanwhile, commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies – and even the domiciliary supervision of earth-straddling corporations – will have to be increasingly entrusted to supranational institutions….

We will never be able to put the world’s resources to use with full efficiency so long as business decisions are frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations, reflect no common philosophy, and are keyed to no common goal.”

-- “If this were a James Bond film,” Curtis Ellis writes in the Huffington Post, “after revealing his diabolical plan for world domination, George Ball would have activated a needlessly complicated death trap to dispatch the congressmen.

“However, this being Washington not Hollywood, Ball didn’t unleash a congregation of alligators, but David Rockefeller, the High Priest of the Eastern Establishment.”

Rockefeller and Ball then tag teamed the hearing, droning on and on about how European states need to be unified under one common monetary union. And how Latin America needs to be controlled into prosperity by the U.S. And how Europe should seek to do the same in Africa…

Yadda… yadda… yadda…

And now… we’re here.

Staring down the biggest trade deal in history — one that could rock our world in the coming years.

And get this…

It’s been made clear that the TPP is a “living agreement” — meaning, it will change over time. One of the stated terms is that the transnational tribunal can change the rules, add members, and restructure the deals on its own accord.

For the corporations, by the corporations.

American flag with corporation logos as the stars

If you want to see how the TPP means more job offshoring and lower wages, the complete opposite of its stated claims, check this out.

-- When will Congress vote on the TPP? We don’t know. Which means there’s still time to fight back. (We’ll show you how tomorrow.)

Once it’s complete, Obama will give notice that he intends to sign it. And then 90 days later, he’ll sign it and send it to Congress for a vote.

For at least 60 of those 90 days, the text must be made public. But we don’t suggest you wait until then to do something.

Here’s the first thing you can do…

Send a message to Congress. Call your representatives. Talk to them. Let them know you want them to vote no on this.

Tell them, in no uncertain terms, we want the TPP dead.

Tomorrow, we’re going to drill down and talk about five HUGE reasons the TPP is terrible for you. Then, we’ll show you a few ways to fight back.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to “free trade.”

Today, we invite Ferghane Azihari and Louis Rouanet to the show to talk about the difference between genuine free trade — and the crap the government is peddling.

Read on…

No More “Free Trade” Treaties: It’s Time For Genuine Free Trade

By Ferghane Azihari & Louis Rouanet

It is erroneous to believe that free traders have been historically in favor of free trade agreements between governments. Paradoxically, the opposite is true. Curiously, many laissez-faire advocates fall into the government-made trap by supporting “free-trade” treaties.

However, as Vilfredo Pareto stated in the article “Traités de commerce of the Nouveau Dictionnaire d’Economie Politique” (1901):

If we accept free trade, treatises of commerce have no reason to exist as a goal. There is no need to have them since what they are meant to fix does not exist anymore, each nation letting come and go freely any commodity at its borders. This was the doctrine of J.B. Say and of all the French economic school until Michel Chevalier. It is the exact model Léon Say recently adopted. It was also the doctrine of the English economic school until Cobden. Cobden, by taking the responsibility of the 1860 treaty between France and England, moved closer to the revival of the odious policy of the treaties of reciprocity, and came close to forgetting the doctrine of political economy for which he had been, in the first part of his life, the intransigent advocate.

In 1859, the French liberal economist Michel Chevalier went to see Richard Cobden to propose a free trade treaty between France and England. For sure, this treaty, enacted in 1860, was a temporary success for free traders. What is less known however, is that at first, Cobden, in accordance with the free trade doctrine, refused to negotiate or sign any “free trade” treaty. His argument was that free trade should be unilateral, that it consists not in treaties but in complete freedom in international trade, regardless of where products come from.

Chevalier eventually succeeded in obtaining Cobden’s support. But Cobden was puzzled by the complete secrecy surrounding the negotiations and, in a letter to Lord Palmerston, he attributed this secrecy to the “lack of courage” of the French government. Similarly, today, the lack of transparency concerning free-trade negotiations is problematic and it is often hard to know what the content of a treaty will be.

Today, while some of these treaties are currently being negotiated, there are already examples of similar agreements enforced. One could refer to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) or more regional agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the European Economic Area (EEA).

But why would protectionist governments who spend their time hampering markets by giving monopolies and other kinds of privileges at national level, open markets at the international level?

The very fact that governments are negotiating in the name of free trade should be suspicious for any libertarian or true advocate of free trade.

Intergovernmental Agreements Enhance Government Power

Murray Rothbard opposed NAFTA and showed that what the Orwellians were calling a “free trade” agreement was in reality a means to cartelize and increase government control over the economy. Several clues lead us to the conclusion that protectionist policies often hide behind free trade agreements, for as Rothbard said, “genuine free trade doesn’t require a treaty.”

The first clue is the intergovernmental and top down approach. Intergovernmentalism is nothing more than a process governments use to mutualize their respective sovereignties in order to complete tasks they are not able to accomplish alone.

Nation-states are entities which rarely give up power. When they finalize agreements, it is to strengthen their power, not to weaken it. On the contrary, free trade requires a decline of governments’ regulatory power.

Also, free trade does not require interstate cooperation. On the contrary, free trade can be and has to be done unilaterally. As freedom of speech does not need international cooperation, freedom to trade with foreigners does not need governments and treaties.

Similarly, our government should not rob their population with corporatist and protectionist policies just because others do. Anyone who believes in free trade does not fear unilateralism.

The simple fact that bureaucrats and politicians do not conceive of the international economy outside of a legal frame settled by intergovernmental agreements is sufficient to show the mistrust they express toward individual freedom. This reinforces the conviction that these agreements are driven by mercantilist preoccupations rather than genuine free trade goals.

Extending Regulatory Control Beyond Your Own Borders

The second clue concerns the intense conflicts between governments on these agreements characterized by a high degree of technicality. History shows that multilateralism leads toward deadlock.

The failure of the Doha Round is the cause of the proliferation of bilateral and regional initiatives. The contentious relations between governments come from the will of some states to dictate their norms to other countries’ producers through an international harmonization process. But this is the exact opposite of free trade.

As economic theory shows us, exchange and the division of labor is not based on equality and harmonization but rather on differences and inequality. Furthermore, the technicality and secrecy surrounding free-trade agreements favor mercantilism and protectionism to the extent that technical regulations are used to favor producers who are politically well connected.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a good illustration of this balance of power. It was at first an agreement between four countries (Brunei, New-Zealand, Singapore, and Chile.) which tried to resist some neighbors’ commercial influence, especially China. Then the United States came and convinced more countries (Australia, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, and Japan) to join the negotiations. Let’s also notice that most of the countries invited are already bound by regional or bilateral agreements with the United States.

China remains excluded from the process. This governmental drive toward regulatory hegemony is obviously the complete opposite of free trade. Indeed, free trade supposes letting consumers peacefully choose what products they want to promote rather than determining what is available through bureaucratic coercion.

Consolidation of Monopolies

The third clue concerns the vigor with which governments have tried over several decades to impose at the international level a more constraining legal framework for so-called “intellectual property.” The first initiatives appear in 1883 and 1886 with the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Amended several times during the twentieth century, the initiatives embrace, respectively, 176 and 168 states. These conventions are placed under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an international bureaucracy which joined the United Nations system in 1974.

A turning point came in 1994 with the signature of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) administrated by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is now incorporated as an essential part of the administration of international commerce and benefits from the WTO’s sanction mechanisms.

In 2012 we endured a fresh attempt by our governments to reduce our freedom to create and share intellectual works with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

And, if we look at the negotiations mandates of these trade agreements, we can see they all include a chapter on the reinforcement of “intellectual property” rights. Intellectual property has become a key concept of the international economy. But this must not hide its illegitimacy.

As Vilfredo Pareto remarked, “From the point of view of the protectionist, treaties of commerce are … what is most important for a country’s economic future.” Each time a new “free trade” treaty is enacted, what is seen is the attenuation of tariff barriers, but what is notseen is the sneaky proliferation and harmonization of non-tariff barriers impeding free enterprise and creating monopolies at an international scale at the expense of the consumer. It’s time for genuine free trade.

[Chris’ note: This article originally appeared on Mises.org here. Remember, tomorrow we’re going to talk specifically on how this trade deal will affect your life… and how you can fight back.]

Until tomorrow,

Chris Campbell

Banner image credit: arindambanerjee / Shutterstock.com

Chris Campbell

Written By Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell is the Managing editor of Laissez Faire Today. Before joining Agora Financial, he was a researcher and contributor to SilverDoctors.com.