This year's American presidential campaign has given citizens around the world much to trouble their dreams. But, Murray Dobbins writes, behind the ugliness something good may be emerging -- the end of corporate globalization:
Increasingly grim inequality has revealed the broken promise and American workers are pissed. That is in large part what drives the mind-boggling Trump phenomenon in the U.S.: it's not exactly class warfare but Trump supporters sense the system as a whole -- political and economic -- is truly broken. And the support for Bernie Sanders is as close to class conflict as the U.S. ever gets. For the first time in over 30 years, these corporate rights deals are a hot U.S. election issue, with all three remaining candidates opposing the TPP.
But perhaps equally important, the state apparatus itself is showing cracks in its own consensus. This has taken the form of leaks from within the U.S. government about the TTIP and a government study of the benefits of the TPP to the U.S. Both present genuine threats to the future of these agreements in the U.S. And defeats in the U.S. could be the death knell for these deals everywhere.
And the government Cone of Silence which has been erected to protect the corporate juggernaut is starting to crack:
The leak regarding the TTIP came right on the heels of the typical reassuring noises from the Obama administration regarding protection for labour and environment standards in the TTIP. According to the New Republic article, "The Free-Trade Consensus Is Dead": "[d]ocuments leaked by Greenpeace Netherlands revealed that U.S. negotiators working on a trade deal with the European Union have actually been pressuring their trading partners to lower those same standards." The leak was a revelation to the French trade minister who declared that the talks were "likely to stop altogether" as a result. (In 1998 France killed the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the largest deal ever conceived.)It's worth remembering that, when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, everything in the United States changed. Hell hath no fury like a nation that's been lied to. Dobbin knows how things work:
The second nail in the coffin of free trade consensus in the U.S. came from a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) analysis of the benefits the U.S. could expect from the even larger deal, the TPP. The report, released this past week, will be difficult for promoters to explain away:
"[T]he ITC estimates a worsening balance of trade for 16 out of 25 U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors... Indeed, output in the manufacturing sector would be $11.2 billion lower with TPP than without it in 2032... the proposed 12-nation trade deal will increase the U.S. global trade deficit by $21.7 billion by 2032."
Once members of the political elite begin to question the high priests of free trade, the spell is broken, and all sorts of alternative political narratives present themselves. It takes an accumulation of unlikely suspects breaking with the consensus before that happens and we have already seen some high-profile defectors from the TPP -- including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, economist Jeffrey Sachs and in Canada RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie. At first the Teflon seemed to hold, but there is always a time lag when it comes to cultural change and their interventions are still playing out.
In Canada, we haven't reached that point. In fact, the Liberals are making noises about bowing to the corporate sacred cow. They would be wise to watch what is unfolding south of the border.