Trans-Pacific Partnership: Twilight of the Nation-State
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday 12/10 declared that President Obama should not act to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership before his lame-duck session following the 2016 election. Given the massive trade deal’s dependence on Republican support, it seems McConnell will get his way. Opponents of the treaty, however, should take cold comfort from what is only a delay in the inevitable, save some extraordinary public outcry.
At issue in McConnell’s decree is no more than a partisan tussle, a question of backroom deals and minor tweaking to the 12-nation trade agreement. To give a sense of the overall support the TPP enjoys from U.S. politicians, one of the biggest bones of contention involves just how weak to make the TPP’s regulation of the international trade in tobacco. Nevertheless, the media’s predictable representation of beltway squabbling over the trade deal is of a titanic struggle. The theme as always is that checks and balances are alive and well, and that the bellicose posturing of the two-party duopoly in Washington symbolizes the political health of the republic. A step back from the CNN vantage point, though, reveals Republicans and Democrats wrangling for the best handhold as they rush national sovereignty itself toward the cliff.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the work, not of statesmen and -women, but of corporate representatives. Its purpose is to grease the skids of international capital. Actually, with the TPP the term “international capital” becomes quaint and hollow. Because under the TPP, it is national sovereignty that attacked, evaded, and loop-holed into oblivion. It is after all national sovereignty and its vestiges of national regulatory agencies and laws, its vestiges of public interest, its faint vestiges of democratic institutions, that presents the flow of global capital with its greatest source of friction. The very drafting of the agreement was kept secret not only from the world’s citizens but from its politicians as well. In the United States, some voices in Washington raised objections to the closed proceedings, but the only text that came to light before the deal was reached was made public only because it was leaked.
Further indication of the pro-corporatocracy nature of the TPP is the clause involving business vs. state dispute “settlement.” Here, a state law placing a restriction on a foreign business entity can be challenged by that business entity, but not in a U.S. Court of law. The state law will not be interpreted by a court of the state or even a federal court, but by a three-member commission answerable to no one but the corporate interests that put them in place. Further, the state in question will have no representation in the proceedings unless such representation is granted by the federal government. The same federal government, mind, that is currently arguing over tobacco regulation and that is committed to the eventual passage of the TPP.
The comedian George Carlin used to say an interesting thing. After decrying the corporate and militarist forces that shape modern life, he would conclude that “Germany lost the war. Fascism won.” An average, horrifying evening spent on YouTube looking at the smoking bomb craters of Syria and the consumer mayhem of “Black Friday” suggest he was right. On the other hand, if we take for our definition of fascism Mussolini’s dictum that it is “the marriage of corporation and state,” it would seem that our current fascism has become a one-sided marriage. How long will it be, we can ask ourselves, before the interests of corporate capital leave the burdensome nation-state behind altogether? Perhaps when the first state law is struck down by a supra-national commission, we will look at the TPP and see, somewhere in the fine print, the words “Dear John.”