Leo Schenk – Columnist, Junior
On Oct. 5, the United States, Australia, Japan and nine other states around the Pacific Rim signed off on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest free trade zone in the world, comprising roughly 40 percent of the GDP of the planet. This agreement has been crafted over the last several years in an attempt to expand liberalization of services and trade between some of the largest and fastest growing economies as well as countries with massive natural resource reserves.
However, now that the agreement is before the national legislatures for the purpose of ratifying, many individualist rights groups are claiming that it will be a negative development for the individual consumer in member countries. According to The Guardian, a WikiLeaks release claims the agreement could set up powerful supranational courts for the purpose of prosecuting whistleblowers, as they may do damage to the economic image of the state. In addition, the agreement may enforce more stringent intellectual property laws than can be justified in the member states without the consent of those within the countries. This could lead to the restriction of advancing medicinal processes and technological developments due to legal loopholes exploited by large corporations, or so purports the International Business Times. One final argument against the TPP comes from several current presidential hopefuls, in an attempt to garner the support of labor unions. This is the same argument always used against free trade agreements by labor unions, that it will take away American manufacturing jobs to be outsourced to lower wage countries. This is a possibility—however, unlikely if NAFTA is taken as an example (where the rates of manufacturing job loss were unaffected). Though, these are all objections to be taken into consideration.
It is being praised by environmentalists for its advances of wildlife measures. According to The New York Times, the TPP “would strengthen international environmental enforcement agreements and could go a long way toward diminishing the illegal trade in certain plants and animals.”
With the trade zone including some of the key markets and supply countries for the smuggling of endangered animals around the region, the scale of promise to wildlife groups is unprecedented in its scope. The deal is set to be “fast-tracked” through Congress. This means that Congressional members cannot attempt to alter the deal, only vote yes or no on the current version, which is a standard procedure for the country in dealing with international trade agreements. As such, the current version, with all of these supposed leaks, is what will be proposed to Congress.
Taking into consideration both sides, I think that the TPP should be cautiously ratified and embraced because of the long-term economic benefits, but more importantly, the precedent it sets for the advancement of the world. The economic benefits will be massive, though not immediate. Once the economy adjusts to the easily accessible labor and resource markets, the GDP growth experienced in tertiary sector economies (e.g., the U.S.A.) should be bountiful. The real reason I think it is important to seriously consider this agreement, which has been negotiated behind closed doors, is the potential for a new international structure of relations. With the supranational structures the TPP is setting up amongst these large trading partners, the potential for individual, consumer, market and human rights gains are enormous and not fully understood. In the long run, the theoretical outcome could be the death knell of the definitive sovereignty of the nation-state. This means the potential for the final unification of humanity as a state, with a basis in human rights and decision-making. This is in no way decided, and, whatever happens, decisions must be made with caution, much deliberation and a watchful eye on civil liberties, but I would recommend this attempt as a valuable first step.