For some reason, I’ve been asked to do an interview with a Korean radio station about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, frequently described as “the world’s largest trade deal”, on the basis that the countries involved have a combined population of 2.2 billion, more than any previous deal.

The most interesting thing about the deal is what’s not in it (also, who’s not in it, notably India and the United States). Early drafts followed the classic pattern, with strong Intellectual Property and Investor State Dispute Settlement, while excluding environmental and labour protections (which never had a chance in this deal) . In the final agreement, the IP content, which previously included things like a binding commitment to Plant Variety Rights has been watered down to a generic agreement that IP is a good thing, while ISDS is gone altogether.

ISDS was always an appalling way of institutionalizing[1] corporate power. But the attempt by Philip Morris to use ISDS to overturn Australia’s plain packaging laws, using a spurious corporate base in Hong Kong, seems finally to have tipped the balance against it.

Much the same can be said about strong IP. The remorseless extension of copyright, calibrated to the lifetime of Mickey Mouse, seems finally to have come to an end in the US, and any attempt to extend the scope of IP now encounters vigorous resistance.

fn1. I’m sure there is a better word to express what I mean here, that corporate power is locked in more or less irrevocably by this kind of deal. But I can’t find it in the memory bank, or the Thesaurus. Any suggestions?

15 thoughts on “RCEP

  1. “Power locked in” as a word needs German, as “commons relegated” is 2 words.

    Chancery – at least this conveys the sentiment;
    “The chancery court [RCEP Court?] in the state is the premier venue for resolving high-profile corporate disputes.
    — Jef Feeley, 
    “Ex-McDonald’s CEO Fires Back at Chain’s Effort to Strip Pay,” 14 Aug. 2020

    JQ, will labour & environment have their power locked in at any stage in the foreseeable ffuture?

  2. “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

    There is argument over the attribution of this quote. Putting that argument aside, it is in my opinion an accurate summation of corporatism and its relation to fascism. Once corporations capture the state, the state is well on the way to oligarchic if not dictatorial fascism. I would simply reverse the quote. Corporatism is more properly called incipient fascism. We have just seen this played out in the United States where Trump made dictator moves in an attempt to build a movement towards a coup d’état.

    Trump was testing the ground, seeing if he could mobilize enough people for a violent take over. There was a lot of language from him and his minions about fighting; used in such a way that it was encouraging real insurrectionist fighting. Unfortunately for Trump he was too much of a buffoon to be credible. The US constitution is worded to prevent individual king-like tyrants arising (precisely because it defends cartel-like oligarchic rights). The proud boys turned out to be the coward boys. Finally, the military was not for turning. Behind the scenes, some blunt, straight talk must have been directed at His Donaldness. He suddenly caved in and acknowledged the President Elect.

  3. Iko, yes it’s out with the old would be Fuhrer and in with the.. old Fuhrers. Look at Biden’s cabinet choices for confirmation. As Biden gets closer to being confirmed with those announcements the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed 400 points to break through 30,000 for the first time. Concurrently something old has also registered on Wall St for the first time, as Michael Pascoe writes:

    “Wall Street is suddenly more worried about the risk of “civil unrest” than a US-China trade war.

    …For Mr Mangan, the “danger” is the pent-up frustration of 130 million Americans who can’t access $400 in an emergency but who are watching rich Americans get fabulously richer, thanks to central bank policies of ultra-cheap money boosting asset prices.

    If you have money, you can borrow more money for extremely little to buy real estate and stocks that are being pushed up in price by cheap money, making them even more unaffordable for those without money.

    …The November BoA survey has to be seen in the context of the uncertainty about how the US presidential election result will go down – how those MAGA-hat-wearing, assault-rifle-toting Trump believers will accept Joe Biden winning when their fuhrer claims he has been robbed.

    But it has been a regular subject of concern in Mr Mangan’s writing, the election merely bringing it to the surface for fund managers.

    “You’ve got no money, no prospects and little education. You don’t trust the ‘guv-mint’ and you’re certainly not wearing a face mask.

    “Your main hope for the future, Donald J Trump, just lost a ‘rigged and fraudulent’ election.

    “In those circumstances taking all that baggage to the street becomes very appealing. It’s all you’ve got.”

    Whatever the trigger, Mr Mangan’s argument – and it is not his alone – is that increasing inequality eventually causes an eruption, societal breakdown, the stuff of revolutions.”



  4. ” Behind the scenes, some blunt, straight talk must have been directed at His Donaldness. He suddenly caved in and acknowledged the President Elect.”

    No doubt to ease the way for the competent Trumpian president elect in 2024 to again from 2025 force global rethinking of trade deals following a four year Biden backslide into the pits of despair of neoliberal globalisation.

  5. Off topic but may be a connectiin JQ. And TECOTP.

    Yong Kwon is an economic historian and editor at Fellow Travelers Blog, a project that explores and advances left foreign policy proposals. He is also the director of communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed in this article are his.

    “UNPAID DEBTThe Freedman’s Bank and the abandonment of Black America
    By Yong Kwon

    “No people can well rise to a high degree of mental or even moral excellence without wealth. A people uniformly poor and compelled to struggle for barely a physical existence will be dependent and despised by their neighbors, and will finally despise themselves.”
    —Frederick Douglass

    “On May 29th, the fourth day of nationwide protests against racialized police brutality, protesters in Washington, DC sprayed graffiti on the walls of the Treasury Department annex on Lafayette Square called the Freedman’s Bank Building. …

    “Political apathy is inextricably tied to the failure of the Freedman’s Bank. And just as financial instability in 1873 revealed Congress’s disinterest in Black wealth, today’s crises also bring the persistent discrimination into stark relief. Case in point: even as the Treasury Department distributed 250 billion dollars to bolster the balance sheets of several large banks during the 2008 financial crisis, the government chose not to rescue two—ShoreBank and Carver Bank—that primarily focused on serving the Black community. In the end, these financial institutions were dismembered and sold to a consortium of larger banks.

    “The neglect of these and other minority-focused banks had both immediate and long-term consequences for the wellbeing of Black Americans. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition calculated that loans to Black-owned small businesses declined from an already-meager 8 percent of the national total to 3 percent during the 2008 recession.7 Eight years later, as some economists hailed the “recovery” of the American economy, the proportion of the loans going to Black small business owners remained unchanged from the recession trough. As a result, only 2.1 percent of small businesses with employees were Black-owned in 2016 despite African Americans representing 12.6 percent of the population.

    “There are troubling parallels between the fate of the Freedman’s Bank and that of ShoreBank and Carver Bank. The common theme is the US government’s failure to extend assistance when these financial institutions and the communities they serve face systemic crises. This pattern of neglect helps explain why Black Americans today still only own 1 percent of the country’s total wealth—and how racial discrimination in the United States extends far beyond police brutality. The defacement of the Freedman’s Bank Building in May 2020 could not fully demonstrate the enormity of the economic suffering that the Black community has endured, but it provides an opportunity to consider this long history of injustice.”

  6. Clearly, the RCEP is not worth the paper it is written on. China continues to escalate its sanctions, boycotts and tariffs against Australia. China has signaled it is not really interested in trading with Australia, except on terms very beneficial to China and very disadvantageous to Australia. This is an unequal relationship where power is being used against us. The general advice for unequal relationships is to get out of them. We should take serious note of China’s unambiguously aggressive and domineering signals and work towards greatly reducing trade and interactions with China and to seek other more, diversified markets.

  7. ” As usual, long and invigorating debate continued in Parliament and Murdoch Press over the various components, inviting participation from an informed and aware public as to such instances that could jeopardise the interests of local people and communities.

    All disclosures as regards consultative fees left unannounced previously were announced and taken into account, so that future employment from vested interests be not considered a motive as to certain negotiators. The nation remained thankful that no dumbing down had occurred this century or considered political processes be undermined to obscure changes in global politics…all tax obligations were met and the civilised world thus remained fit condition to challenge rogue states interested in undermining fair trade.”

    Yes, sounds nice, doesn’t it?

    As most know, am fond of Ikonoclast, but do wonder if Western affairs as a whole hadn’t been handled so badly this century, the current problems involving China and Western decline( yes/no?) would be non sequitur.

  8. Everything has been so badly handled that the Doomsday Clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight. This is looking really bad. I don’t even have any medical preconditions except being 66. Yet, I doubt I will live even another 5 years. I doubt a few billions of other are going to live longer the next five years. This is probably the end coming up.

  9. I hit post too early. I was going to add that it seems pointless even debating or commenting anymore. We are way past that. Enjoy what time you have left but try to do it in a low impact way. There is still a tiny sliver of hope, maybe 1 in a 1000. We dontt want to destroy that last sliver of hope as well.

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