Winning in Maui: TPP Ministerial Negotiations Fail, with No Date Set for the Next Round

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Sadly, or not, the TPP sausage made in Maui proved unpalatable to many trade ministers; not merely the casing, but the filling. Here’s the “Joint Statement by TPP Ministers” emitted by the United States Trade Representative. I’ll quote most of it so you can savor it:

We, the trade ministers of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam announce that, after more than a week of productive meetings, we have made significant progress and will continue work on resolving a limited number of remaining issues, paving the way for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Ministers and negotiators leave Hawaii committed to build on the momentum of this meeting by staying in close contact as negotiators continue their intensive engagement to find common ground. Negotiators will also continue to work to formalize the achievements that have been made this week.

In this last stage of negotiations, we are more confident than ever that TPP is within reach and will support jobs and economic growth.

The flaccidity of the language — “more than a week of,” as opposed to X days, “productive meetings,” as if there were ever any other kind, “paving the way,” “intensive engagement,” “within reach” — is remarkable even by American standards, and matched only by the superb irony of “committed to build on the momentum of this meeting.” What momentum?

Crucially, note that the text isn’t even agreed at staff level! (“continue to work to formalize”)[1]. And as Inside Trade tartly notes, the ministers “ended a four-day meeting without even an agreement in principle.”

How did the TPP fail in Maui? And why? And what next?

How the TPP Failed in Maui

The TPP failed badly and the Administration lost ugly. Crucially, the negotiators set no date to resume the negotiations.The Japanese say that others say August:

Ministers at the talks in Hawaii shared the view the negotiations should resume before the end of August, Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari told reporters, according to the Kyodo news agency.

But International Business Times and the Australian each say November.  An agreement in August would make TPP an issue for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose election is October 19, meaning that the campaign starts now, but a November agreement would make TPP an issue for the Iowa caucuses in the United States, tentatively set to take place January 18, 2016, with the New Hampshire primary to follow a week or so later. (These dates are still fluid, i.e. contested, but if 2008 is any precedent, campaiging in both Iowa and New Hampshire will be well under way in November, even if the Iowa primary is kicked back to February 1.) Both the August and November dates, therefore, put the unanimous agreement required to conclude the negotiations at risk. And that’s before we get to the requirement for ratification in the midst of a United States Presidential campaign, where the traditional kick-off coming on Labor Day.

Moreover, it isn’t clear that the negotiators themselves know what the remaining sticking points are (more on this below). The voluble Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb, quoted in the Guardian:

[ROBB:] The sad thing is, 98% is concluded.

Robb, quoted in Japan’s Mainichi:

[ROBB: The ministers] have taken provisional decisions on more than 90 percent of issues

Ignoring the backspin of “provisional,” which is it? 98% or 90%? Anyhow, any project manager knows that if the lead developer says the project is “98% done,” that means the project is really not done, and it’s time to toss out the Gantt chart and start thinking triage.

Finally, the Japanese noises, even in English, are not encouraging for advocates of TPP passage. Channel News Asia, Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of TPP negotiations, advocating the August date:

“If we can’t conclude it next time, it’s going to be very hard.”

An expert on Japanese diplospeak I am not, but I think that translates to: “If you think you can do this deal after the next 29 days have gone by, you’re demented.” Pleasingly, that requires Obama to throw Harper under the bus. So the Japanese are sitting in the catbird seat, aren’t they? (Yves parses a previous “wonderfully ambiguous” statement here, concluding: “It’s only about US eagerness, not about where the Japanese are.” Exactly.)

Why the TPP failed in Maui

When negotiations take place in secret on a secret text, blame and responsibility are hard to assign. It’s true that both Obama and Michael Froman are terrible negotiators — when your opposite number shouts that they “aren’t a U.S. colony” it’s clear that there are, well, trust issues, which tend to persist —  but historians generally label the idea that one general can lose a war the “Man in the Dock” theory, so I won’t treat Obama or Froman as the only parties to be accused in history’s courtroom. The failure of a major international negotiation between “Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam” must of necessity be complex and multicausal, and mono-causal “Industry in the Dock” theories (“Dairy!!”) and “Country in the Dock” theories (“Australia walks away!!”) theories have insufficient explanatory power. They are easy to write on deadline, though, and allow the quoted sources to throw shade on the unquoted ones, and so mono-causal theories abound. Here’s how that works in short form: 

There were some signs of tension in the press conference, as ministers showed signs of having been pushed on areas of special interest to their economies. The Mexican minister defended its position on automobiles, and the New Zealand minister defended its stand on dairy, remarking that his country started the negotiation and “will not be pushed out of this agreement.

Each minister puts another industry or country in the dock!

I believe the causes for failure are to be found in the “domestic politics” — read, nation-states that continue to function — of the potential signatory countries. For each, significant and immediate domestic pain outweighs vague future benefits and creates a humongously intertwingled hairball of irreconcilables:

The “final” ministerial meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) [that’s what they call the TPP in the Antipodes] in Maui has failed. Not opting to stay another day shows the gridlock is serious and potentially intractable’, according to University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.

‘Everyone is blaming each other in Maui’, Kelsey said. ‘But the underlying reason for the gridlock is the domestic opposition in almost all the TPPA countries.’

‘People simply don’t believe a deal that raises the price of medicines and handcuffs the right of governments to regulate is in their national interests’.

‘Despite erecting a shroud of secrecy around the negotiations, politicians know they can’t sign a final deal that they can’t sell at home.’

I’ll summarize a little of the intertwingling here. (Readers knowledgeable on Mexico, Brunei, Chile, Peru, and Vietnam please chime in!) Here’s why a few countries will have a hard time “selling” TPP to their variously sovereign peoples (or “electorates,” as we like to call them):

New Zealand: Dairy is 30% of New Zealand’s exports, and they want more. (There’s also huge domestic opposition based on sovereignty issues.) No deal on dairy, no deal for New Zealand. But speaking of dairy:

Canada: Dairy is huge in Quebec, and Harper won’t want to fan the flames of separatist sentiment before an election by taking away protection from it. Also, the much-loved CBC is a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE), and Canadians don’t want to privatize it under TPP rules. And speaking of SOEs:

Malaysia: Malaysia controls the Straits of Malacca, a global world trade chokepoint, so they really don’t have to do anything they don’t want to. The good folks at State who work for America’s First Black President made Malaysia’s little slavery problem go away by upgrading them to Tier 2 status under the Trafficking in Persons Act, based on prosecutions (as opposed to convictions[2]), and the Malaysians carved out exceptions for themselves on SOEs, but it’s not clear the Malaysian government has the legitimacy or the will to sign anything, enmeshed as it is in  humongous corruption scandal. ($700 million is alleged to have circled the globe and landed in a private account controlled by the Prime Minister, which also gives you a good idea of project scope if the United States was simply thinking of bribing them.) And since the Malaysian political system is built on ethnic preference and SOE employment, I can see the Malaysian electorate feeling a little iffy about any deal. And speaking of iffy electorates:

Japan. Here’s an exchange between Clive, our Japan maven, and me:

Lambert: It has occurred to me that Abe already got what he really wanted from Obama; permission to remilitarize. So wouldn’t it make more sense for him not to screw over his rice and beef industry, let TPP die, and then point the finger at the other guys?

Did Abe ever really go to the mat for TPP domestically in Japan? Or, if things are less personal and more subtle, did the powers that be?

Clive: No, you’re right Lambert I think. [Abe] got what he was after with the revised memorandum for military cooperation with the U.S.

He played Obama like a violin — giving just enough ground in the TPP negotiations to fool Froman (not saying much; my mother-in-law’s cat could fool Froman), get the revisions to the memorandum in place and then play for time in the rest of the TPP negotiations by floating deal-breakers for the U.S. like massive agricultural tarrif protection grandfathering.

Abe did diddly squat in terms of groundwork for getting the TPP established in Japanese domestic political circles. Abe practically handed Japanese agricultural lobbying the very tools they needed to force the LDP into prevarication.

I don’t have any time for Abe and his “strong Japan” posturing. But in terms of political skill, he runs rings round Obama and his inept failed ex-bank execs inner circle of cronies like Froman.

And then there’s this little nugget on auto from Fortune:

Japan and the United States had largely agreed on the rules of origin for cars, which determine when a product is designated as coming from within the free trade zone and therefore not subject to duties. But they ran into problems trying to get buy-in from Canada and Mexico, which are closely tied in to the U.S. auto industry.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Mexico was the world’s fourth-biggest auto exporter and he made no apologies for standing up for his country.

Japanese automakers source many car parts from Thailand, which is not a member of the TPP, and strict rules would upset existing supply chains.

So, auto is “largely agreed” but totally not? Because Canada and Mexico want strict rules that would put Japan’s supply chain at risk? Why do I think that Japan — again, sitting in the catbird seat — is pushing for an August date to shove a deal over the cliff that has nothing in it for them? (And if we’re thinking of bringing in Thailand, we’ll have to make another little Tier 3 problem go away, just as we did with Malaysia.)

And all this is before we get to IP, pharma, agricultural products like beef, pork, rice, and sugar, and ISDS[3], none of which are agreed either. At this point, one asks “90”- or “98%” of what, exactly?

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to the mischievous —  by which I mean the highly constructive — role played by Wikileaks in publishing chapters of the text: The ISDS chapter published this spring inflamed activists in all of the Five Eyes countries, the SOE text leaked during the Ministerial (!) was aimed like a dagger at both Malaysia and Canada, and the fact that our own NSA had been bugging the Japanese negotiators, also leaked during the Ministerial (!!), can’t have made that Not-a-U.S.-colony! too happy. (Of course, everybody knows that’s what the NSA does, and every other country does it, too, but such things should not be spoken of, and timing counts.)

What Next for TPP?

What next? The ash heap of history, one hopes, but things like TPP just don’t magically appear in the ash heap; they have to be put there. Here is the perspective I would like to share:

The TPP is a long-standing project of the global elites. I believe — as do Yves and others at NC — that the fundamental purpose of the TPP puts our national sovereignty at risk; the “lost profits” to be compensated for under ISDS are, after all, not a side effect of state regulation of markets, but essential to it; the regulation of cigarettes is a prime example of how government can protect their people by taking profits away from bad actors. Making sure that corporations lose profits from marketing and selling cancer sticks is a very good way to make them stop doing it. Policies like the Tobin Tax are another example; if, as two links today argue, 99% of trading is pointless, why not tax that industry out of existence? And if a government cannot do that because it faces ginormous fines[4] from the (rigged, corrupt) ISDS system, is it really sovereign?

So what to do if you wish the United States people to retain their sovereignty? I think it’s useful to conceptualize the TPP fight — both for and against — as a war. In war, there are three levels of abstraction. Starting at the highest level:

  1. War: One salient feature of war — I mean, besides killing lots of people — is that war can take years. Citizens, as well as activists, need to conceptualize the war for sovereignty, and against global elites, on that time frame. Americans can accept, apparently, that a baseball team can take years to rebuild, but have a hard time transferring that idea to politics, for some reason. The elite has all the time in the world, and can manipulate both financial and political time. Activists and citizens need to accept this, and roll with it. (Eyes on Trade has done this superbly; ditto Wikileaks; but American citizens are not yet engaged, en masse.)
  2. Campaign: Campaigns take place in multiple theatres and multiple fronts, on different terrain, with different leadership, and troops and materiel of differing qualities. American citizens, especially, really need to stop thinking of the Beltway, the Washington political class, and electoral politics (and petition drives, etc.) as the only campaign that matters. Remember: TPP must be decided unanimously. Wikileaks rushed aid to the Five Eyes with the ISDS leaks, to New Zealand and Malaysia with the SOE leaks, and to Japan with the NSA bugging leaks (aid to the citizens of those countries, that is; not the negotiators trying to sell them out). We need to do likewise.
  3. Battle: One battle is not a campaign is not a war. I sensed, rightly or wrongly, a falling off of reader interest in TPP when the administration managed to ram Fast Track through Congress. That was a defeat (and may yet prove costly, in Fast Track applies to both TTiP and TISA). Nevertheless, the anti-TPP/pro-sovereignty forces seriously damaged the administration; for Obama and Froman, it was a Pyrrhic victory, and for us, I would argue, it made the victory in the next battle, in Maui, possible. First, the credibility of the United States negotiators was put at risk, because it wasn’t clear that the U.S. could deliver on the deal; and second, politicians were encouraged to check with their own citizens. The moral: Don’t get discouraged or lose interest when a single battle is lost; in baseball, to lose a game or even a series is not the same as a losing season.

That said, the good guys won a big battle in Maui. Let’s break out the champers, because winning should taste sweet. And let’s hope — and plan — for victory in this campaign, and that we end the war with victory. Meanwhile, every delay helps, and if there’s no Ministerial agreement on TPP this month, it’s going to be much more difficult in the Fall.

Readers know I very rarely wave pom-poms… But “Yay!”


[1] “Capt. Spaulding: All right, send it that way and tell them the body will follow. Horatio Jamison: Do you want the body in brackets? Capt. Spaulding: No, it’ll never get there in brackets. Put it in a box” (Animal Crackers).

[2] I mean, come on. We’re talking Southeast Asia, here.

[3] Australia, apparently, was the hold-out on ISDS. Intellectual property watch:

In the area of investment, Australia continues to fight for several footnotes or provisions on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that are opposed by other countries. Sources said these objections have prevented TPP countries from concluding the investment chapter, as everything else is basically agreed.

“Basically agreed.” Well, that’s alright then.

[4] Here one thinks of the European elites bringing Greece to its knees through control of the payments system. I’m sure that episode will provide many valuable lessons for ISDS enforcement in future.

I’m leaving comments open because I’d especially like to hear from readers on how TPP is playing in their countries; TTiP and TISA, too!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Makes sense. He isn’t gaining voters, so he might as well try it early and enjoy the rest of the year.

      1. B0rt

        I don’t see it as being ‘all the better’. The Conservatives have a very large war chest compared to the other parties and the thought is that they are going to bleed the competition dry with a extra long election campaign. It’s such a cynical move on their part as they know their mandate is at large risk this election and are desperately trying to hold onto the next. I voted for these guys on their initial ‘transparency and integrity’ line and it’s very disturbing to me just how far they strayed from that in the 10 years they’ve had as the ruling govt.

        In the end though, I don’t think it will matter too much given that their party is on a downward trajectory along with the economy they managed so well. The realpolitik in me almost wants to see the train wreck that will be our central bank cutting the rate again to try and stave off an inevitable recession all while the Fed raises their rate and completely crushes our dollar

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          All the better for TPP. If the Conservatives either make, or visibly have to avoid making, promises to Quebec on dairy, that makes the deal with New Zealand harder. Correct me if I’m wrong; it’s been a long time since I resided in Canada.

          1. B0rt

            I’ve always looked at the regional interests as being the ultimate x factor that will prevent the TPP ever being agreed to by all nations. Arguements for/against supply management aside, they have a lot of political clout in the regions that they are most important to.

            However, if it was not for the upcoming election I have to wonder what the Conservatives would have agreed to as they are in love with the TPP. It’s somewhat paralell to what occurred in Saskatchewan prior to the last election when BHP Billiton attempted a hostile takeover of Potash Corp.

            Potash Corp used to be a crown corporation (provincial govt. owned) which was privatized back in the 1980’s by the then Progressive Conservatives. People here in Sask still feel robbed by it being sold off. (and if you want a great read on political corruption, the Devine Government of the 80’s in Saskatchewan is a prime example of it). When the news dropped that it was going to be taken over by an Australlian company, there was a huge uproar as it was perceived as a foreign interest taking over our resources (even though it was American owned!).

            As Saskatchewan is a Conservative stronghold and with the election coming up, they ended up blocking the deal as the felt it would not be a “net benefit” for Canada. If I remember correctly, this was the first time ever that a Federal Govt. had blocked a corporate merger/purcahse/takeover/whatever in the entire history of the country. They haven’t done this since and there’s been other mergers that I thinnk would meet the standard that they used there (like the selling off of Nexen to the Chinese govt. operated CNOOC).

            So cynically, I don’t have a lot of faith of the Conservatives representing the local interests much further if they are to get another majority in the upcoming election. Particularly since Quebec is a NDP stronghold at this time.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Thinking 11-dimensionally, I suppose Harper might try to nobble the NDP by inflaming the PQ! But it just seems to me — from far away — that in love with TPP or not, there’s no upside for Harper in signing it. Quebec may be NDP, but wouldn’t privatizing the CBC be pretty much reviled across Canada? Or am I out of date?

              1. ChuckTurds

                Harper wouldn’t hesitate to poke the bees nest that is the Bloc Quebecois since the Conservatives have almost nothing to lose from a groundswell of support for the separatist agenda. The NDP, who are the only party standing in the way of a Conservative minority government, would be is serious danger of losing seats to a resurgent Bloc lead by their recently returned hero Gilles Duceppe. Harper would love for them to play the role of spoiler.

                However, dairy farmers in Ontario would also be pissed. Rural Ontario is currently held by the Conservatives.

                Harper’s challenge is to determine if hurting the NPD in Quebec is worth hurting himself in Ontario.

                The CBC is for all intents and purposes already destroyed by Harper. People who are old enough to remember its former glory miss it, but won’t care enough at the polls to make that a factor on their ballot choice.

  1. Cugel

    I would imagine that if no amount of pressure can force the trade deal through before this fall, then Hillary or Jeb will have to take it up again in 2017. We’ll have this battle to do all over again with a new Congress.

    If the Democrats had 4 more Senates seats, or closer to 217 seats in the House it would probably be impossible to get this deal through, especially in the House, unless Jeb were President. Then, all the GOP would have to line up and ram it through. GOP Congressmen never face any blow-back from their voters for doing things that hurt them, because Fox News and right-wing hate radio never tells them about it. So, there’s little cost to them for betraying their own constituents.

    We have to make sure that there’s much more blowback for Democratic traitors though. It could start by launching serious primary campaigns against trade traitors like CO Senator Michael Bennett. When I sent him an email expressing opposition to TPP, his only response was to send me that standard generic “thanks for your communication response.” His staff couldn’t even be bothered to “send this guy the bug letter.” I’ll have to see if there’s anyone willing to run against him who I can support.

    1. Keith Howard

      Michael Bennet is among the worst of the DINOs. He no longer makes any pretense of interest in the views of people who are not billionaires. He can do this with impunity because of the condition of the Republican Party in Colorado, which is incapable of nominating a plausible Senate candidate from its stable of fools, lunatics, religious zealots, and jackasses. A halfway presentable opponent could seriously threaten Bennet, who is unimpressive personally, a poor campaigner, and almost completely invisible in the State.

    2. jrs

      Didn’t the Dems pretty much get exactly as many votes as they needed to pass Fast Track? So couldn’t they negotiate for 4 more if they really wanted to do the TPP deal?

      It’s only thing that always bugs me about the “Trade Traitors” re-occurring link in links is only listing Dems. I know less Dems voted for it, so it is easier to keep track of mentally, but this was strategic (the Dems have to seem against it while letting it pass) and only listing Dems makes it seem that there is a real difference between the parties on this. One has to argue in that case that Obama acts unilaterally and that the poor Dems that passed it weren’t coordinated, but were just a few mistaken people … likely story.

  2. OIFVet

    Yes, you rarely wave pom poms, and in this case doing so is well justified. Plus it feels damn good! But as you said, the elites are playing the long game and this setback won’t persuade them to back off these “trade” agreements. I hope we the public will continue to stay engaged and in the way. Major props on playing up sovereignty, BTW. I don’t think it can be repeated too many times that destroying sovereignty is what enables the elites to exploit us ever more ruthlessly.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Tactically, left and right can agree on it, also. (Which would be why, I think, the union angle was played up in the final days of the TPA battle, in places like The Hill and Poltitico.)

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      There was an anti- rising China element to TPP. The rise of the Asian Infrastructure Bank and SCO cooperation will make TPP harder to pitch,

  3. Vatch


    Thanks for a good article.

    You’re absolutely correct that this is the equivalent of a war, and wars can last a very long time. The Thirty Years War effectively lasted longer than thirty years, because it blended into a war between France and Spain. And of course, there was the Hundred Years War between England and France. The war between the Manchus and the Ming dynasty started in 1618, and didn’t completely end until 1683, even though the Qing (Manchu) dynasty came to power in 1644. (Yes, I’ve read portions of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, by Geoffrey Parker.)

    The current class war, of which the trade agreements are a significant part, may have started surreptitiously in 1971 with the Powell Memorandum. Or maybe it started in 1933 — I really don’t know.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think this war started in the mid-70s, when the neo-liberal dispensation began, and real wages flattened (among many other charts that went flukey around that time; in other words, it was well under way when Reagan took office). Conservative irredentists whose reaction to the New Deal was “Never again!” helped, but they were marginal figures until that point. (Gotta go read my Rick Perlstein, he’s good on this stuff.)

      1. craazyboy

        I’m generally not very thorough about researching poly-sci things, so sometimes when I see something I just say yeah, that’s it, and am content I found the answer.

        So it’s Jimi Carter, David Rockyfella, the Trilateral Commission and it’s global membership of policy heavies. And then here comes Japan, Inc…..$5 labor vs our then $15/hr union labor. But Tricky Dick helped too – going off the international gold standard and pissing off the Arabs resulting in the oil shock. That among other factors resulted in “‘inflation psychology” – high persistent inflation because companies just raise prices every year just because they think they have to. (I was there. I watched them do it) Then unions try and get COLAS to keep up. Then we got Volker’s 15% interest rates choking off the economy and biz investment. Then here comes Japan, Inc, expansion financed by near zero BOJ funny money. Well, it wasn’t so funny. Corp America then realized the only way to win the unprotected global free trading war was to break the unions, and move factories somewhere cheap – first to the South, then NAFTA, or anywhere else in the world. (I was there. I watched them do it) Or just say hell with making stuff – we’ll just buy it, stamp our logo on it, and ship boxes around. ‘Course when you move from a value added mfg model to a distribution model, you need a huge volume of sales revenue relative to employment. (I was there. The MBAs told me so) I think that was about the time that American citizens became consumers and ran up consumer debt levels to over 300% over what they were in the 70s.

        And then things just kept getting “better” and “better”….more Asian miracles, Indian miracles…..the Manhattan and Washington DC property and income miracles…..and on and on.

        Then again, any persons of consequence [Robber Barons] will deny any of that happened and say I am completely full of crap and just made all that stuff up.

        1. Winston Smith

          Well, back in 1976-77, the Yen was 290-300 Yen/Dollar, which would be equivalent to 1500 yen, which had roughly the same buying power as 15.00 USD did.

          And most automobile and parts factories were not located in Tokyo or Osaka bur rather out in the country side. You can still live rather cheaply in Toyoda City just outside of Nagano, near Toyota’s plants. Plus many workers lived in company owned dormitories that had super low to no rent.

  4. Syzygy

    Re: TTIP and the UK Labour leadership contest.

    Jeremy Corbyn, who creating the same sort of surge in UK support, as Bernie Sanders is achieving in the US, is fiercely opposed to TTIP, TISA and ISDS. If he is elected leader, there would be a significant change in LP policy which to date has weakly opposed ISDS, wants to protect the NHS but is essentially favourable to TTIP. Although, the Conservative government is likely to remain in power for the next 5y, a platform in Parliament arguing vigorously against TTIP, together with the many local activist groups, would be very effective.

  5. Toivos

    Losing the fast track vote in Congress was not a major defeat. It was a loss to be sure. But we waged a struggle in the heart of enemy territory and forced the admin to put major pressure on Congress (i.e. use up political capital) over what was essentially a procedural issue. The fact that we won a few of the votes early on was very encouraging. Should a final TPP vote come up, where each representative will have to be publicly identified as Yes or No and not be able to claim that they were voting on some obscure rule, makes me optimistic.

    Of course, it would be even a better if TPP dies in the trenches of the negotiating process. Kudos to Clive for his prescience in explaining how the Japanese would likely kill TPP through a slow process of delay and a thousand cuts.

    1. lambert strether

      No, I don’t think (and didn’t write) that it was a major defeat. If this were soccer, it’s the sort of defeat where you lose on points but your opponent’s star striker is out of the season. You can still win the league!

      And we’ll know better after we see what happens with TTiP and TISA.

  6. hardWorkingBee

    Finally, some good news! Thank you for your tireless efforts to keep us informed, alert and engaged. We have lost many battles, but the war ain’t over til it’s over.

  7. Another Anon

    Say it is 2017 and no TTP has been brought to a vote,
    does that mean fast track would then have to be re-authorized
    assuming the then president wanted it to be so ?

  8. Roland

    Lambert, thanks for the good reporting on the TPP. Your “long war” analogy is grim, but apt.

    For Harper, the election almost can’t come soon enough. In terms of campaigning, his rich donors have been spending heavily for at least a couple of years, so in my opinion a few more days won’t make much difference.

    Under the current Conservative government, Canada’s economy became heavily dependent on only two things: oil exports and a housing bubble.

    Canada is a splendid example of malvestment–massive amounts of capital devoted to unproductive–or often even wealth-subtracting–activity.

    Meanwhile, the government amassed big debts, and the central bank has no policy room. The next downturn, which is already under way, will eventually force the distressed sale of major public assets, at both federal and provincial levels.

    Remember that the taxpayers in Canada have publicly guaranteed the majority of private mortgage debts. Yeah, we can print our way out of that, but that’s still major stagflation, while the financial sector thrives to the direct detriment of the real economy. The usual.

    Can a minor-league central bank of a relatively open economy get away with doing QE? Textbook authors, pay attention–this could be good marginal blurb material.

    As a leader of something called Canada, Harper has been dismal. As the local overseer of a neoliberal slaughterhouse, Harper has been a model performer. Everything is a matter of perspective.

    I’m afraid the Canadian agricultural lobbies are not very strong, and don’t enjoy broad public support. Canadians are an overwhelmingly urban and consuming people, most of whom lost their personal connections to agriculture at least a couple of generations ago.

    As elsewhere, there has been a resurgence of interest in local food production, but it’s still at a relatively minor level and not yet politically relevant.

    The largest owner of farmland in Saskatchewan is Cargill. Most of the Quebec dairy sector is controlled by Parmalat (which I think is part of an even bigger conglomerate now). Will these TNC’s be lobbying to protect their position in Canada, or do they favour further integration? I don’t know, but they could probably benefit either way.

    As for Japan, they’ve done a pretty good job of protecting their agriculture, but they’ve done a really lousy job of managing their food production future. No other sector of Japan’s economy is so likely to fall off a demographic cliff. Japan has simply failed to provide the next generation of producers–the median Japanese agriculturalist is now over age 60!

    I follow some (non-political) blogs of people living in Japan and, anecdotally, it appears that from time to time there are now actual local shortages of certain food products, with sudden unpredictable spikes in price. For example:

  9. flora

    Great post. Good news. Thank you. Your analogy to a war is apt. Reading this I thought of Churchill’s 1942 speech after Britain had won the Battle of Egypt – after losing and losing since 1939.

    “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

    Winston Churchill

  10. Oguk

    Lambert, I really like your re-framing the TPP fight in terms of war. Not for the militaristic term per se, but for the depth of conflict analysis, which kinda applies to all of politics, now that I think of it. Politics is the long haul.
    It strikes me, also mentioned in comments above, that perhaps how these countries want to proceed with China is behind some of this politicking? If the TPP was based on the US deliberately excluding China to run the show, perhaps some of these countries want to see what China can offer them? Or just don’t want to piss off their good (and large) neighbor? Just speculating.

  11. Ollie in Oz

    Last Friday, Australia’s Trade Minister, Andrew Robb was interviewed on Australia’s ABC TV. He said that Australia is looking for relaxation of tarrifs in sugar trade and changes to the ISDS. Personally I think that sugar is a smoke screen and ISDS could be a real stopping point. Australian politicians seem to be embarrassed that all their hard work at trying to extinguish cigarettes could be undermined by the Phillip’s ISDS suit.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Chiming in from AUS. Sugar, sure, but ISDS and tobacco present even the current right wing corporo-fascist patsy government here with a ‘staring you in the face” example of the complete loss of sovereignty, $400M in cold hard cash to flow directly from AUS taxpayers on the whim of a stacked kangaroo court in a foreign land (even calling it a “court” is inaccurate, it’s just a corporate Star Chamber). Australia is way behind the US in the destruction of the rule of law, witness the attempt here to give the executive the power to summarily cancel passports, that passed this week in 15 minutes in the US whereas it triggered a big debate here and died due to Constitutional concerns.
      The second thing is the Pharma “carve-out”, they know that taking a massive downgrade to current fair and reasonable pharma benefits Australians enjoy is a political third rail: touch it and you die.

  12. notjonathon

    Lambert, if you can accept the idea that Abe is playing for failure on this issue (and the LDP ran in 2012 on absolute opposition to TPP (danko hantai–burenai, or firmly opposed, no wavering), is there the possibility that Obama himself, not able to oppose the financial overlords openly, deliberately sabotaged the entire process from the beginning, especially by naming the incredibly inept Froman (imagine instead Chris Hill or even my childhood friend, Rust Deming)?

    I may not be a subscriber to the 11-dimensional chess theory, but failure of TPP, TIPP, etc. won’t hurt his legacy.

  13. Ian

    I always wondered. Canada signed a very generous FTA with China that is locked in many decades. There is a fair bit of animosity between Obama and Harper though they are fundamentally very similar creatures. How does the FTA between China and Canada play out in this game?

  14. Uahsenaa

    I would note that the Japanese coverage of the Maui talks has been pretty clear. For instance, this article in the Mainichi has a number of take-aways:

    1) It’s emphasis on strong opposition within the government to the TPP. Moreover, it doesn’t associate this opposition with any particular party, so it’s another way of saying that opposition is widespread.

    2) Abe’s quote in the Japanese is pretty damning: “the remaining issues are always going to be there, so I expect them [to be brought up] at the opening of the next meeting.” For “always going to be there,” he says tsumekitte, which generally implies something that is always on hand or never absent, meaning “these concerns are never going away.”

    3) The coverage in the Mainichi has consistently referred to what was being negotiated as an “early stage agreement” souki daketsu not the final text of a finalized and lasting compact. It seems that as far as the Japanese press is concerned, what went on in Hawaii was a lot of agreeing to negotiate.

    For those who can read Japanese, and I realize that’s relatively few, you don’t need to be terribly well versed in doubletalk. It’s plain as day.

  15. JohnnyGL

    Also, go on and wave the pom-poms. Because you don’t want to lose them in the vaults with all the dry powder that the Democratic Party stores up!

  16. redleg

    I think that one overlooked part of this monster is water. It appears to me that private water companies would get paid damages for public water utilities or the public water utilities would get privatized.

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