Through the looking glass

The New York Times has a piece about Obama’s push to gain “fast-track” authority for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would preclude any amendments by Congress after the deal (still secret, except for what Wikileaks has revealed) is announced. The key para, buried a fair way down

To the president, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would counter the economic weight of China and set rules on labor, the environment, intellectual property and investor protections for the growing economies of the Pacific Rim. For members of Congress, it’s about jobs.

shows how differently the debate is playing out in the US compared to other countries involved, such as Australia, and how much leading papers like the New York Times are missing the point

In the Australian debate, it’s generally understood (based on both economic modelling and past experience) that there won’t be much effect on jobs either way, at least not through the direct effects on trade. For the critics (just about everyone on the left), it’s precisely the “rules on labor, the environment, intellectual property and investor protections” that represent the big concerns. All of these rules benefit corporations at the expense of workers, the environment, the free flow of information and national sovereignty. It’s the general strengthening of corporate power, and not the flow of goods, that will harm jobs, wages and working conditions Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions, for example, have been used to challenge minimum wage laws.

Leading US critics like Elizabeth Warren and the AFL-CIO have raised some of these points, noting (for the benefit of Republicans in particular) that the ISDS provisions will enable unaccountable arbitrators to override US federal and state laws.

The use of trade deals as an instrument of geopolitics is also unwelcome for a country like Australia that needs to balance itself between the US and China. Despite its enthusiastic support for the US and the TPP deal, the conservative government here signed up to join China’s regional infrastructure bank, developed largely in response to China’s exclusion from the TPP.

But US news coverage can’t seem to get out of a frame set by the trade deals of last century, such as NAFTA.

17 thoughts on “Through the looking glass

  1. We might note that NAFTA was a disaster for the ordinary, i.e. poor, people of Mexico.

  2. Locally, Maurice L Newman’s opinion pieces tend to contain the clues of the imbedded agenda. (Source: personal observations over a time period of about 20 years)

  3. Maurice’s recent outburst caused me to pay more attention to him than previously. It turns out that he has read Roy Spencer, renegade climate scientist and creationist, and believes him. Faithfully. It would be interesting to see how much funding is going to the IPA and Liberal Party from the Kochs or Koch like sources.

    The worst thing about all of this is that criticising people’s faith, or the ideology of their church, is taken as an ad hom attack because, within liberal philosophy, subjectivism reigns. This means that people’s subjective beliefs cannot be subject to rational critical appraisal because the private realm is deemed to be one in which irrationality is acceptable. However, when their public policy pronouncements are justified using faith based thinking then it seems to me to be fair game to go to the foundations of that thinking where, most often, they can be shown to be fantastic and not grounded in reality.

  4. @jungney
    Indeed. Because Maurice Newman is batting for the LNP—not surprising as he is their chief business adviser—the newspapers and media more generally don’t tackle his sillier claims head-on: after all, how can the claim, that climate scientists are in a conspiracy to use Anthropogenic Global Warming as cover to install a one-world-government through the UN, stand up to even the slightest breeze of scrutiny? It can’t: it is a house of straw, and yet he promulgates these claims repeatedly, not fearing the slightest of opposition.

    If we truly had a healthy political environment, Newman’s claims would be refuted by people from the LNP as well as from opposition members; it should be easily refuted by journalists, for instance, and refuted not for being from the “other side of politics” but because it is wrong. And yet, here we are, still hearing or reading this nonsensical claim.

  5. I continue to believe Maurice Newman is a mere useful pawn who provides a smokescreen for the real grand plan.
    It’s the Babylonian Brotherhood we should fear, not the UN.

  6. Obama looks pathetic in his attempts to whitewash the brute and foister it onto his own already mauled civil society. Warren is gaining so much mileage and Obama’s flounderings and paper thin excuses, especially including the nonsenses re ISDS and fast tracking the other day, put him in such a bad light that only his capitulation on Surveillance laws a few years ago exposed the reality of his impotence to a worse degree.

    The US public, like everyone else elsewhere, has realised that the only beneficiaries are the Wall St gangstas and that the civilised world is on the Road to Serfdom.

  7. Based on my observations on the time lag between issues raised by JQ on his blog and articles in the smh and the age, I believe this issue is likely to be taken up in these papers soon after the May 2015 Budget discussions have run out of steam.

  8. Why are people getting so upset?

    Its obvious – under capitalism, the State will make rules for the benefit of Capital, and will refuse to make rules for the benefit of labour. With some “social welfare” exceptions, that is its only function.

    So if you want to enjoy your OECD capitalism, just lie back and let them **** you.

    As long as most swinging voters want their Ipads, cheap household goods and cars, and as long as the middle class receives over $80,000 per year, and the rich 10 times as much, there is little possibility of diverting corporations from their agenda.

    You need an alternative to corporate capitalism. At some point you have to grow up and move from fighting issues to fighting the system.

    Don’t you read history?

  9. The TTP will not help Australia and it certainly will not help the workers of Australia otherwise it would never have been suggested. Economics 101.

  10. Regarding the argument js and I have had regarding the obligations of the Crown to future generations to prevent climate change, I think these obligations are higher than a trade deal in law.

    I commented on this on Crooked Timber and will just copy my comments here


    I do not think trade deals override public trust in law, but after I go to the talk about trusts and statutes maybe I will know more about the hierarchy of and interactions between laws.

    Governments come and go — the institution of the parliament and its offices are more permanent fixtures albeit not immortal. Public trust is a very old law with roots in roman law so I think a trade deal could not override it. In England this trust was vested in the sovereign which is the Crown. In the U.S.A. I am not sure where it is vested — maybe in the People since it is a republic.

    Unless you are in agreement with the corporate vampires, you are probably better off agreeing with me that long time public trusts can not be overridden by short sighted trade deals. You can mix this with indigenous law too if you live in a colonised country.

    You might recall dsquared’s recent travelogue about New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi.

    At a talk I went to about how the environment is represented in government called “Who Speaks For The Earth” some one said there was a case about a river in New Zealand where the legal arguments involved public trust law and the Treaty of Waitangi dsquared wrote about.

    I did not catch the name of the river, if it was mentioned at the talk, so I am not sure but this case might be the Waikato River case which found

    “The repeal of s261 of the Coal Mines Act 1979 has not resolved the issue of ownership of river beds. Furthermore, we consider the conflict between Maori rights, the Crown and the public interest in general, over the ownership and use of rivers has implications far beyond the scope of the claims before this tribunal. We therefore recommend that the Crown give urgent attention to addressing these matters in the national interest.”



    “If this is meant as a normative statement, I agree with you. If its meant as a factual statement, I’d have to say you’d have to be deluded to believe that.”

    Law is normative I think, I have only studied planning law though.

    The Chief Justice’s talk on the interactions between trusts in equity law and statutes is blurbed as :

    “What may broadly be described as the law of trusts covers the relevant doctrines of equity and statutes which provide for the supervision of trust relationships, qualify equitable principles, and which may give rise to new categories of trust relationships or things called ‘trusts’. The interaction of statute law and equitable doctrine as in many areas of interaction between statute law and the unwritten law raises questions about ‘coherence’ which direct attention to Atiyah’s question:

    “All lawyers of course know that large areas of both the common law and the statute law are a shambles but is it one shambles or are there two?””



    I just told you what the actually existing law is. It’s the public trust legal doctrine.

    An Oregon legal scholar Mary Christina Wood wrote a book called Nature’s Trust relating public trust to climate change, and in the USA a group called Our Children’s Trust is trying to litigate the matter in the courts. It could do with more support as the courts seem to be politicised there.

    Mary Christina Wood appeared on the last episode of the Bill Moyers show talking about iT


    You should watch the clip. She talks about the law in the US going back to the founding of the USA and precedents in old case law.

    She also says the climate is not just an environmental issue but an issue about the viability of our civilisation so it is the biggest case a court could ever hear.

    She also says that you need popular support as well as the legal doctrine – so that is why all the activism like’s climate march is so important

    Also in Australia we have a former right wing politician (ex- leader of the liberal party) a John Hewson active on the issue of companies like superannuation companies having a duty of fiduciary trust so they should divest from investments causing dangerous climate change as this breaks the fiduciary trust

  11. It goes back to what Nicholas Gruen mentioned at Club Troppo a little while back re Herbert Marcuse and “Repressive Tolerance” in one of his columns.

    As Capitalism has become financialised it has become a defensive minded thing that no longer creates through technological innovation for the public, but feeds off humanity itself to satisfy the dictates of the ledger. The only creativity is of the lazy sort that feudalises and becomes parasitic of the living.

    The ISDS and monopolisation of cultural capital functions gravitates an operation away from value adding ecological and cultural best practice and is thus implicitly repressive tolerant rather than emancipatory. It does this through arbitrarily privileging one motive, the baser one and one very small group of (irrational) people, big capitalists, against a now conscious and overt human aspiration to creative use value against exchange value and becomes irrational by this.

    Financialised capitalism is like the individual half way up a ladder who panics and flays about, bringing the ladder and herself crashing down on collateral damage victims below.

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