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Totally Perverse Pretence

Entry 1472, on 2012-12-05 at 20:09:29 (Rating 4, Politics)

Often our politicians tell us that they are doing the best for the country even though many people would be doubtful of this claim. And we should be more suspicious when the politicians are dealing with negotiators from another country with their own agenda and when the negotiations are done in secret. As a specific example I would suggest the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership, or perhaps more appropriately I would propose "Totally Perverse Pretence") trade negotiations which are currently causing some concern.

We are assured that our government will consider the best interests of the country and won't agree to anything unless it is clearly in our favour, but can we really accept this assurance? There are at least two problems with it: first, this government has shown a clear tendency for pandering to the demands of large foreign corporations; and second, the negotiators for the other parties are likely to be at least as skilled - and possibly more skilled - than ours, so even if ours do their best it's unlikely to be good enough.

There is another big warning sign too. That is that these negotiations are being held in strict secrecy, even though there have been several leaks already. If the process really is as good as we are told and is likely to produce such positive outcomes why all the secrecy? It seems that this type of negotiation, which is likely to affect everyone, should be a bit more open so that we can all at least get an idea of what is being negotiated, allegedly for our benefit.

The fact is that it is doubtful whether we can benefit much through this process. The US seems to be more interested in enforcing strict so-called intellectual property protection laws, in restricting our state owned enterprises so that foreign companies can take over, and in ensuring they have access to our economy while making less than a fully honest effort to open access to theirs.

And fair enough. Why shouldn't they do what's best for them? Just as long as we realise that this is not about fairness or openness or anything else. It's about imposition of a particular economic ideology and trying to ensure big American corporates get even greater power than they already have, although ironically the corporate handouts New Zealand gave to Warner Bros for the Hobbit movie might not be possible as a result - but I guess that means the movie wouldn't be made here either!

In fact reading through some commentary on the process in the US it is actually unlikely that the average American will come out ahead either. It seems as if the whole process is entirely for the benefit of big corporations, plus to advance the noble (not) cause of neo-liberalism of course (but that goes without saying, doesn't it).

I'm not against foreign trade because clearly it is necessary in our modern society. But I am against secret negotiations which are likely to favour multinational corporations and to stifle alternatives to the conventional economic theories (or should I say dogma because saying economics has theories in the same sense as science is probably too generous) which have caused so much harm already.

Do we really want big foreign corporations suing our government if it passes laws which benefit the people of this country but might result in a loss of profit to the corporation? Do we really want foreign multinationals insisting we deliberately cripple government owned companies so they can "compete fairly"? Do we want corporations to have intellectual property rights to things they have no real right to? All of these things are likely to happen in the US gets its way.

We need negotiations affecting the public to be made more open, not more secret. We need less corporate power, not more. And we need to explore viable alternatives to pure capitalism and free markets, not entrench them even more in international trade deals.

The TPP is potentially a road to total disaster. The best outcome we can really hope for is that no decision will be reached and the whole corrupt process will be forgotten. But I suspect the real power behind these negotiations (there's a conspiracy theory for you) will make sure that doesn't happen.

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Comment 1 (3391) by Jan on 2012-12-07 at 09:11:54:

Any corporation only has one purpose – to make more money for its shareholders, whatever it takes. We’ve seen developing countries selling control of their natural resources (like water) to US companies in exchange for much-needed infrastructure. They are mortgaging their future to a heartless, soulless money-making machine. They only defence we have against these monstrous organisations is through our laws. For governments to get in bed with business in this way is a very slippery slope. I think you are dead right to be concerned – great post!

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Comment 2 (3393) by OJB on 2012-12-07 at 09:51:51:

I think you are basically right. To be fair corporations do have other purposes as well as making money, but profit is by far their number one priority (in every case as far as I am aware). Large corporations can provide good products and services too but they need to be carefully controlled because, given the chance, they will almost always take the easy route to greater profit whatever the consequences.

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