The TPP is a Multi-Dimensional Simultaneous Equation

By Clive, an investment technology professional and Japanophile

If I’d called it such, readers would probably think I was given to exaggeration because while the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a complex beast as Lambert has already covered, maybe you’d say that’s embellishing it a little. But it is not I who coined that description for the TPP. It was the Japanese cabinet minister who led Japan’s negotiating team.

It’s certainly as good a way to describe the TPP as any I’ve come across. And although there’s been quite a few other notions floated around what the TPP is supposed to be, they do not sing from the same hymn sheet. All of which got me thinking, what *is* the TPP?

Now that we have the full text, it’s a question which lawmakers in the TPP-participating countries are starting to ask in earnest. USTR Froman has already babbled his way through his response but last week the Japanese Diet got their chance to ask Japan’s Prime Minister Abe and Economy Minister Amari, who was Japan’s chief negotiator for the TPP agreement, the same questions at the Lower House Budget committee (which is the Japanese equivalent of a Congressional hearing).

The Nikkei provided excellent domestic coverage, which received the customary lack-of-interest from all other media outside Japan – what English-language translations there were managed to miss everything of importance. There’s a lot packed into five paragraphs so I’ll refrain from my usual habit of interrupting the flow with my two cents’ worth. The Nikkei article is best read as a whole because there is a pattern to Abe’s thinking, the merits of which we’ll discuss afterwards.

Let’s dive in. From the Nikkei…

TPP as a Security Safeguard; ‘also important for regional security’ says Prime Minister Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to the [Japanese Diet’s] House of Representatives Budget Committee on the morning of November 10th, said of the TPP “The target of each [TPP-participating] country’s economic reform will become improvements in the rule of law. The TPP is also of vital importance in widening the circle of our [Japan’s] national security.” Speaking of measures to target domestic agriculture, Abe added “The government really hears your concerns and the administration will implement whatever countermeasures are needed. Agriculture will become a growth industry”, demonstrating their ambition to expand agricultural exports.

Abe stressed that in relation to the TPP treaty agreement “we were able to secure promises of protections during our negotiations.”

Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira Amari pointed out in relation to repeated references to any TPP renegotiation by the U.S. Congress “The TPP is a multi-dimensional simultaneous equation. If just one thing is unpicked, there is a danger that the whole thing could crumble.” He stated that “Japan will not accept any re-negotiations.”

Prime Minister Abe then emphasised that as a result of the trilateral [China, Japan and South Korea] summit meeting which opened on November 1st “the cooperation among the three countries had been completely restored”. Rebutting a remark made by a committee member that historical disputes had made relationships worse with China and South Korea the Prime Minister countered “I do not think so at all.”

As for the South China Sea situation, such as China’s artificial island construction, Abe said this is a problem and “At international conferences and in bilateral talks, such as the East Asia Summit to be held [this] week, we will strongly highlight the importance of the rule of law.”

Clive again. See, I’m really not making that up; Amari did indeed describe the TPP in that way. And just like the TPP itself, I think Amari’s answer is also multi-dimensional but I’ll come back to that point later (but to give a hint, why did Amari, who is after all the minister responsible for the economy and the former trade minister never mention trade and the TPP in the same sentence?)

I’ll recap briefly first on agriculture and remind readers how much of a give-away deal the Japanese got from the U.S. as shown more fully here. F or whatever limited impact there is to Japan’s agricultural regions, Abe has basically said he’s more than happy to roll out the pork barrel. That is all just your standard Japanese politics at work so I won’t dwell on it any further here.

What is worth a comment is Amari’s reference to how fiendishly complex the TPP agreement has ended up as a result of all of that horse-trading. No wonder Japan – and likely other TPP countries too – insisted there could be no deal without the U.S. Congress passing the TPA “fast track”. If so much as one clause gets tweaked, the affected country will want concessions to compensate, these will come at the expense of another country who will want another set of concessions which will impact the terms for yet another participant. Japan has said under no circumstances can anyone pull on any threads.

And Amari was uncharacteristically blunt for a Japanese person when he said “Japan will not accept any re-negotiations.” He has signalled in an unmistakable way that if the currently-drafted agreement is not ratified precisely as written, Japan will walk away (probably to never come back).

This is a gift to those of us who want to oppose the TPP. Given the inevitable complexity, there are multiple attack surfaces which individual members of the Senate and the House of Representatives can have pressure applied to. The TPA is a double-edged sword because, while it enabled the USTR to negotiate on the basis that the agreed text would not be changed, it also means that anything obviously dumb (for the U.S. to accept) cannot be amended. If the up-or-down vote goes against the TPP, the TPP will be dead for the foreseeable future.

This is as high as the stakes get – please do not let up on your elected representative.

Okay, lecture over. Moving on, where did all these “regional security” notions come from? And not one, but two references to “the rule of law”. One for how – because of the apparently miraculous properties of the TPP – signatory countries (many of whom are, trying to be diplomatic here, not exactly pillars of the community) will suddenly renounce their corrupt crony-riddled ways, human rights abuses will vanish and rent-a-judge legal systems will rediscover their copy of Magna Carta which had got lost behind the back of the chair. Another “rule of law” mention was for where the gaggle of territorial disputes in the region will magically be resolved, maybe because under the TPP there could be a common standard for coconut quality inspections.

It sounds implausible because it is implausible. But I can understand the logic behind Abe’s thinking even if I disagree with how likely it is to achieve its aims. What I believe underpins both Obama and Abe’s strategising is that the Asia Pacific region today is a lot like Europe was after WWII. There are a group of disparate countries with profoundly different cultures, languages and states of development. There is also a long history of conflict. And, for bonus points, there is a large regional power (China in this case rather than Russia) who is the subject of great suspicion and mistrust from the U.S. because, well, it is not the U.S.

The thinking in Washington, which Prime Minister Abe seems to have also bought into, is that what solidified Europe was the succession of treaties (the Treaty of Rome and the Maastricht Treaty being the most notable) which lead to the EU. The EU acted as a bulwark to the USSR and, eventually EU expansion served to push the Russian sphere of influence back eastward. Overt security treaties like NATO went hand-in-glove with the economic treaties; EU membership begat NATO membership and NATO membership begat EU membership.

At the risk of incurring reader ire, I will stick my neck out and say that there is some sense in this. But the downside risks are equally compelling, if not more so. First and foremost is that any new regional power block will unnerve China. If you’ll return your attention to the Nikkei piece above, note the bizarre and completely counterfactual nonsense Abe proffers about how tensions with China have reduced and suddenly it’s all smiles between them.

What utter rubbish. The exact same factors are in play now as which caused violent anti-Japanese street protests (orchestrated by the Chinese government) in 2012. If anything, the territorial disputes dynamics have got worse. So Abe’s rush to reassure China that we can all be one, big happy TPP-land and not be any bother to our neighbor is an attempt to soften China’s concerns.

But what is the point of having a power block if you don’t exercise the power?

This is the second – and subtler, but more dangerous risk – overreach. The TPP block will inevitably end up on the horns of a dilemma. If it merely limits itself to definitions of what are the applicable standards for the dimensions of a coconut, it will be mostly harmless in terms of not upsetting the geopolitical established order. But given the political capital which has been expended in Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere on the TPP, that surely cannot be the aim. It would be wrong to say there is a fine line between “containing” China and “actively curtailing China’s boundaries”. There is no such line at all. Containment can become curtailing; it just depends on who and what is being pushed.

Naked Capitalism has been criticized in some quarters for viewing recent events in Ukraine not through the conventional “oh, that’s just so typical, isn’t Russia terrible” lens but instead “what on Earth was the EU even thinking getting involved with that abysmal Tymoshenko regime?” and it has been right to do so. One nuance which has got lost in the coverage of the conflict is that it coincided with the embryonic “Single EU Foreign Policy” .

That policy is unapologetically expansionist. Under the hopelessly-out-of-her-depth leadership of Baroness Ashton who merely parroted the Franco-German party line, the EU pursued a spectacularly ill-advised engagement with former USSR countries who had been cut loose and left to manage as best they could following the abortive neoliberal takeover of Russia. By far the biggest blunder was in Ukraine, where the EU was seduced by a stunningly corrupt and eventually wantonly anti-Russian government merely on the promise of being able to acquire another member state and greater influence. “Containing”

Russia was definitely an unwritten aim behind this EU foreign policy.

What no-one seems to have told the EU leadership – and what neither Abe, Obama or any of the other TPP cheerleaders in Congress can understand either – is that greedy and stupid governments are greedy and stupid governments. Greedy and stupid governments are usually unstable ones which also have a nasty habit of getting into trouble by picking fights with other, bigger countries. No amount of treaties is going to turn those bad governments into good ones. Worse, if you’re bound up in treaties, the actions of one country inevitably end up pulling everyone into the morass.

When Abe told the Diet “The TPP is also of vital importance in widening the circle of our [Japan’s] national security” he wasn’t kidding. That is exactly what he thinks it is. Note, again from the Nikkei feature, the total lack of any mention of trade. How odd, you might think, given what the USTR and most of the rest of the media keep using as a shorthand to refer to the TPP as – a “trade deal”. Hopefully after reading this article you’ll agree with my inescapable conclusion that the reason why neither Abe nor his minister Amari mentions trade – they went on about practically everything other than trade – is because the TPP isn’t anything to do with trade at all. It is a proto-security pact in disguise.

But what would preoccupy me if I were Japanese – and doubly so if I was an American because guess who will be supposed to be providing the military backstop to all of this – is: exactly who are we inviting into our “circle of national security”? And what sorts of problems do they have and whom do they have them with? And do we really want their problems to become our problems too? Some of those multi-dimensional simultaneous equations can prove to be very hard to solve.

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  1. Ignacio

    Quite interesting. In Lambert’s piece I commented that the TPP resembles EU treaties in its language and its objectives as well as institutions and its effect would be profound in creating interdependence and new rules from these institutions. The difference is that it is tried to be sold to the public as something as simple as a pact to reduce barriers, but it isn’t.

    The japanes view, also contrasts with the american view that the TPP is a “living thing”. Although this contradiction is only apparent. It is a living thing because after approval, without any change in the text, the TPP would be the starting point for future law changes not driven at the country level, but business-led changes.

    1. Clive

      I agree — the pies which the EU has ended up sticking its fingers is are nothing like what the original European Coal and Steel Community suggested. And how the TPP gets evolved is not explicit — no-one told th Euro participating countries that what they thought would be a classic social democratic policy implementation would be subject to a neoliberal bait-and-switch.

      1. Ignacio

        One thing that I added was that in fact, the world needs some kind of international agreement with new institutions and the ability to implement rules worldwide. But such a global framework should not be inspired solely by the interests of corporations as it looks the case for TPP or TTIP.

        So, the good thing about TPP is that it highligths this necessity but the bad thing is the result itself.

        1. gordon

          “…some kind of international agreement with new institutions and the ability to implement rules worldwide.”

          There used to be the UN, but that has been reduced to a cultural and relief agency with little remaining influence in international relations. The history of the UN (and of the League before it) highlights the powerful forces working against any kind of such institutions. We are now in effect entering on a period of unrestricted Great Power rivalries very reminiscent of the period before WWI.

    2. Clive

      I agree — the pies which the EU has ended up sticking its fingers is are nothing like what the original European Coal and Steel Community suggested. And how the TPP gets evolved is not explicit — no-one told th Euro participating countries that what they thought would be a classic social democratic policy implementation would be subject to a neoliberal bait-and-switch…

      1. Ulysses

        “And how the TPP gets evolved is not explicit — no-one told th Euro participating countries that what they thought would be a classic social democratic policy implementation would be subject to a neoliberal bait-and-switch.”

        This is a very important point! Once the mandate has been given to unaccountable, supra-national corporate lawyer tribunals: to “harmonize” and “reconcile discrepancies” among the labor, environmental, and health regulations of the nations who are party to the agreement– national sovereignty is dead. The Greeks have already learned that with regards to the EU. Those of us who would like to remain, at least nominally, citizens of nations, like the U.S. and Japan, must defeat TPP before we become subjects of a transnational bankster elite– as the people of Greece and Cyprus have already become.

  2. Pat

    I’m pretty sure the diplomatic corps of the Obama administration are well aware of these plans. Admittedly former China Ambassador John Huntsman is also a businessman whose multinational interests would be enhanced by the pro-corporate anti citizen qualities of the TPP, but recently he came flat out and said that the TPP was a key part to addressing the largest challenge in American history – finding equilibrium with China. (He also wants a larger military presence in those disputed terrorizes and ocean routes.) I’m sure this is about as realistic a strategy as the domino of Democracy theory that justified attacking Iraq, or that fueling our pushing the coup in the Ukraine.
    That said, I think we have to attack on the individual aspects of the actual agreement – not the hidden overall reason for it. Having relatively unstable and corrupt and yes greedy government bodies running this country currently the overreaching plan fueling this will not have as much on most of the people with votes, but the fact that their largest campaign donor will be on the losing end of this, or that they will lose their job will.

    1. Clive

      Yes — definitely — picking holes (there are plenty of them) in the nitty-gritty of the TPP provisions is a better approach than trying to win on the big-picture stuff.

  3. Thure Meyer

    “TPP isn’t anything to do with trade at all. It is a proto-security pact in disguise”

    But aren’t all trade agreements and treaties to some extent? I.e., they have in the past and will in the future be leveraged to involve our “national interest” and therefore require political action [or be the military backstop].

    I still don’t understand why any country would be party to such an agreement, particularly since it involves a loss of sovereignty. And the timing of this thing seems so ahistorical in the face of the ongoing problems we are facing just inside the US. Why spend even a micro-second on this when our infrastructure is crumbling, education and health are a mess, etc.

    It reminds me of “my precious” in Lord of the Rings – an obsessive, unthinking, blind, machine-like drive for what?

    Maybe someone could post a short historical summary of TPP: why and how it started and who sponsored it initially, because I’m left baffled as to why anyone with any brains would think this type of agreement will provide more national security or stabilize anything.

    1. susan the other

      They fired up ASEAN in the 50s. It was a military cooperation association of Asian Nations which included the US as their big protector. And when we “went in” for real into the VietNam war in the 60s (to try to salvage French and British imperialist interests imo) we automatically had allies from Japan to Australia, many of them very useful. VietNam Vets talk about what good jungle fighters the troops from the Philippines were. The propaganda about ASEAN was that each nation should have the means to protect itself (from China) and JF Dulles went so far as to propose that we give them all the bomb. Really. Certainly good trade relations were a given because of the willingness of the Asian Pacific nations to toss in with us as allies. The question about trade relations now seems like an insurance policy for us to maintain our sources for strategic resources more than protecting Big Pharma, etc. The probable reason it is downplayed as such is our pride. We’d rather frame it as a trade pact than a panic pact.

      1. kl

        Big pharma, et. al. are bigger than us or the U.S. government now. Also, there were a few attempts, Vietnam being one, that the U.S. supported the European powers on to prevent Leftist influence, but there were many more they pulled the plug on any European influence around the world, Suez and the European disempowerment in Africa being the most obvious.

      2. Mark P.

        Susan the other wrote: ‘…we “went in” for real into the Vietnam war in the 60s (to try to salvage French and British imperialist interests imo)’

        [1] Not really. Crazy but true: The US military investment in Vietnam was in large measure a side effect of US Cold War nuclear deterrence doctrine, sold in a dumbed-down version as the ‘domino theory.’ Note that as the other respondee to your post points out there were instances when the US did pull the plug on European imperial/colonial situations.

        [2] Why were we in Vietnam because of nuclear deterrence doctrine?

        Because part of US Cold War strategic doctrine was that the US extended its ‘nuclear umbrella’ to allies like Japan and W.Germany and S. Korea, and various lesser subaltern states — like the S. Vietnamese government of the time — which might face leftist/communist insurgencies or invasions.

        This ‘nuclear umbrella’, however, amounted to the frankly incredible promise by the US that if the Soviets or the Chicoms invaded one of those allies, the US was prepared to launch a protective nuclear strike in their defense if necessary and thereby almost certainly initiate WWIII — in which the US mainland population would itself be immolated.

        Except why would the US destroy itself (and the world) in order to protect, say S. Korea? It’s obviously not very credible. So, in order to create credibility with bigger allies like Seoul and Berlin and Tokyo, the doctrine was that the US had to be seen to backstop and keep its military promises to even its most inconsequential allies like S. Vietnam.

        As I say, this was sold to the mass populace in America and the rest of the West as the ‘domino theory.’

  4. Steve H.

    The equation converges to the number three, for the tribunal which decides what the answer shall be.

  5. grayslady

    Worse, if you’re bound up in treaties, the actions of one country inevitably end up pulling everyone into the morass.

    In the book “Sleepwalkers,” a history of the actions leading to World War I, a compelling group of maps showed the changing of national alliances that were instrumental in fomenting economic and political shifts that resulted in war. I can’t help feeling, while reading this article, that the TPP is son-of SEATO; that it has more to do with extending the dangerous “Carter doctrine” into Asia.

    1. Clive

      That — the WWI analogy — is exactly the fear I have for Japan (and the rest of the TPP countries). The U.S. government is playing with matches sitting on a bale of hay and seems unable to learn anything at all from history.

      1. susan the other

        And Japan just recently changed its constitution, against much public protest, to allow Japanese troops to be deployed in foreign countries.

    2. Praedor

      TPP is not a military TREATY. It isn’t even a trade TREATY. Treaties have consitutional force (law of the land force) whereas a mere agreement can become a disagreement. An agreement can be reversed, terminated. Treaties are far tougher to get out of, and luckily wrt trade deals, very difficult to get into. If TPP were a trade TREATY then it would be 1000x more important than it already is to kill it off.

      Someone mussing up trade or copyright isn’t going to draw the US or any other member of TPP Looting Club into a war because there’s no mechanism to it, no military strings wound through it. SEATO, NATO, already provide military protections. Trade/looting agreements do nothing but enrich wall street and CEOs and they cannot wage war.

      1. Clive

        It is a big mistake to apply U.S.-honed notions of constitutionality to Japan. Japan’s present-day constitution was foisted upon it by General MacArthur and as such it does not have the kind of resonance that the U.S. constitution or, say, the French constitution has for those respective countries. is an excellent overview and after reading it, it might be a good exercise to review your own ideas what constitutional protections in Japan are — and are not.

        1. Praedor

          I was referring to the US side of it. Many of TPTB in our government act like these AGREEMENTS have all the legal force of treaties, and they want the People to internalize and believe this. Congress itself acts as if once a trade agreement is passed that it is writ in stone and binding. It is not.

          Treaties are binding by US Constitution, agreements are mere handshake agreements with no legal teeth. This admin can get a trade agreement through and, in reality, the next admin is perfectly free to get out of it (or any others). They don’t ACT like that is the case but it is true nonetheless. The people need to FORCE the politicians to get OUT of these agreements. Not renegotiate them, not “tweak” them. Simply quit them. They do not serve the people’s interest so they must go.

          1. Clive

            Once enacted, the TPP becomes law. That law could be repealed by Congress but the U.S. couldn’t just act like it was like some unwise one-night-stand and try to pretend it had never happened.

              1. Praedor

                Fast track cannot produce a treaty and the TPP (NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, TTIP, TISA, etc) are NOT treaties. They are agreements. A treaty has specific requirements to be enacted and Congress cannot sidestep those requirements. This trade agreement crap is a way around the difficulty of making a treaty while trying to pull the wool over the People’s eyes to make them THINK they are as binding and strong as a treaty. Simply not so.

                Even so, the US quite easily even backed out of a full-on real treaty: the ABM Treaty. It has considered, now and again, backing out of the Test Ban too. I assure any and all that backing out of a trade agreement is easier than backing out of an actual treaty. This must be made to be understood by the populace AND by politicians. No trade agreement is “the law of the land” as an actual treaty is, as directly stated in the Constitution.

                1. TedWa

                  I believe no country can pull out of the TPP unless a majority or they all do, hence it being more like a treaty. War needs contracts and so do financial wars.

          2. hunkerdown

            The US are not the only agents in this game. Once the US does sign on, what action or inaction are the other signatories now entitled to take against a non-compliant or renouncing US, with its own irrevocable consent? Remember the Ghana incident?

            1. JTMcPhee

              It’s not like the US (and Israel, another rogue state) have not “walked away from” treaty and “agreement” obligations when it happened to suit whatever idiocy the PTB happened to congeal around.

        2. kl

          Clive, I am aware of the opaqueness and hermetically sealed induced perceptions they hold, but how could they believe this is a military treaty? (I am aware Abe represents the old militarist trend in J-politics.) How could Japan not see the sovereignty limitations of this treaty? Additionally, Japan is very FDI shy and is all about mercantilist arbitrage—though this is changing, as they have embraced U.S. style outsourcing as of late.

          1. Clive

            No, the TPP isn’t a security pact itself. I think it is perhaps better thought of as an enabler to a future one.

  6. jfleni

    RE: “The TPP is a multi-dimensional simultaneous equation. If just one thing is unpicked, there is a danger that the whole thing could crumble.”

    Naturally, the Trade Turd swindlers cross their fingers, and hope that they and the house game they run will relieve the rubes of their money after the equation is solved! Might be better to go to the state fair and just lose with a smile!

    1. Minnie Mouse

      The term for bad software is spaghetti code. It is undebuggable and unfixable. If you try to fix X over here you screw up Y over there. Interactions between unrelated functionality, or that which ought to be firewalled is the problem. The TPP seeks to maximize interactions.

  7. Uahsenaa

    Clive, I have a minor quibble with the translation, which points to what, in Japanese history, is perhaps a more apt historical parallel.

    The suru in 農業を成長産業にする needs to have the same subject as the preceding verb, toritomeru, so “we [the government] will gather all necessary countermeasures” has a parallel followup in “we will make agriculture a growth industry.” This is very strong language for a Japanese politician and is reminiscent, to my mind, since it’s my area of specialization, of the kinds of things you heard during the early 20th century, Japan’s period of greatest imperial expansion. Recall, the other major “get” Japan received from the US was a loosening of the fetters on their military. The Chinese “intervention” and the Korean “annexation” were both accomplished in the context of using the military to secure economic prosperity. Japan has the money–and now the will–to pour into a new military industrial complex and at the moment needs something to jumpstart their puttering economy.

    To be sure “imperial” Japan was very different structurally from “democratic” Japan, but the growing jingoism of the past decade has never really abated and seems to have found a solid buttress in completely eroding the article 9 constraints on aggressive military behavior.

    1. Clive

      Thanks — and yes, your translation of the implications of ~にする (as opposed to, say, a more neutral and perhaps more typical for a Japanese person to use in the same context ~になる) and which verb is in play is important. Someone is doing something here and Abe is making clear (which my translation didn’t adequately stress) it is Japan. Abe is saying (and readers should bear in mind this is for a Japanese audience) in effect, no more shrinking chrysanthemums, we’re (as you rightly point out Uahsenaa) invoking the language of the pre-war era with all the connotations of that.

      1. Uahsenaa

        I want to note, though, that your parsing is otherwise excellent and needed, since Japanese media have an unfortunate tendency to say one thing in English and something else entirely in Japanese.

      2. Dwight

        Abe is trying to allay concerns of farmers and rural constituencies about the TPP by saying the government will take necessary measures to protect farmers, then says the government will make agriculture a growth industry by promoting exports. This may be an empty promise based on the same claims about the benefits of trade agreements made by other governments, but I don’t see how it is comparable to aggressive language of imperial Japan.

    2. kl

      I noticed you and Clive are of the ‘gone native’ Japanophiles. Seeing no future for me in Japan, I got out at beginner level. Did learning the language get you to live there, so to speak? This is a serious, well-meaning question.

      1. Clive

        No, it was actually the other way round! Living there was made a lot easier — and more enjoyable — by getting the hang of the language. Or trying to anyway :-)

      2. Uahsenaa

        For me it was mostly a matter of finding the right Japan, I guess, though I don’t live there anymore. Despite all the blather about racial/cultural homogeneity you hear, it’s a surprisingly diverse place, and I found the West (Hiroshima, Fukuoka, etc.) far more pleasant than Tokai/Kanto, where people mostly seem to have sticks permanently shoved up their posteriors. I’m an academic/translator, so I have a professional interest as well. The literature is great, especially the wacky stuff from the kindai period, and, like Clive, I found the going much easier when I could speak (somewhat) fluently and actually talk about things I cared about. I found that, as a foreigner, I could get away with being open and honest in ways that would be a huge faux pas for your average Japanese.

        I also had a lot of conversations with bums, who, by the way, can always give you the real skinny on what things are like.

  8. Praedor

    TPP is a “trade” deal, not a military treaty. The US is already bound to Japan via treaty so there is no protection to be gained by Japan to be folded into a larger economic looting agreement (TPP), especially when extant agreements already cover US-Japan trade.

    TPP, TISA, TTIP does absolutely nothing to increase “protection” of ANYONE from potential enemies. That was already handled by NATO, SEATO, etc – specifically designed and written as TREATIES to provide a military umbrella (vs a mere agreement that has no real legal force and can be backed out of on whim in reality).

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Re: TPP, TiSA and TTIP are “mere agreement(s) that has no real legal force and can be backed out on whim and in reality”.

      That’s good to hear since, besides throwing many Americans under the bus economically, this neoliberal wet dream and surrender of our national sovereignty to Wall Street and large transnational corporations is blatantly unconstitutional.

    2. Uahsenaa

      I have to respectfully disagree that there is no military component to all this. Though Japanese “pacifism” (I use that term with great reservation) is enshrined in Japan’s constitution, it is the US that actually enforces it through its military presence in Japan and the immediate vicinity. People have to understand that the conservative cabal that runs Japan’s government does not necessarily want US protection, which is largely a holdover from the occupation period and quite unpopular across the Japanese political spectrum. While in Europe and NA it was the Vietnam War that garnered most protest energy in the ’60s, in Japan it was opposition to the US-Japan mutual defense treaty. What this cabal actually wants is control over a Japanese military and to reassert Japanese dominance throughout the East Asian sphere. This is rather clear both in the many books by the former Tokyo governor Ishihara (“No” to ieru Ajia is the most salient for this topic, a followup to his 1991 book Danko “no” to ieru Nihon) as well as Abe’s manifesto from his first run as PM.

      This background must be kept in mind, because, lo and behold, when Japanese negotiators were endlessly dragging their feet, suddenly the US promises, in an “unrelated” turn, they said, not to enforce the pacifism written into the Constitution. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese began negotiating in earnest, removing one of the major stumbling blocks to TPP becoming a reality. It’s all about the side deals. There’s far more to all this than just the text of the treaty itself.

      1. flora

        It will be interesting to see how this plays out with regard to the many US military bases in Japan, particularly the US military base in Okinawa which, I have read, is a sore spot.

        1. Uahsenaa

          Okinawa is its own can of worms. The US military presence there is very unpopular, due in no small part to the incompetent behavior of personnel stationed there, but part of that animus is direct toward the Japanese government as well for allowing it to be. Okinawans, while they have a historical and linguistic relationship to the rest of Japan, are not always thought of as “properly” Japanese, and that sense of being outside while on the inside plays out politically as well.

  9. lyman alpha blob

    “But what is the point of having a power block if you don’t exercise the power?”

    Agreed – these nations aren’t doing all this with the expectation of making nice with China, they’re doing it to bring the Chinese to heel.

    There is a very good article in the latest issue of Harper’s (not available to link to unfortunately but go buy the magazine at your local bookstore!) that helped me understand the motivations of Obama and the US in wanting this deal so badly. Going by memory here and some heavy paraphrasing to follow so take with a large dose of salt, but the author makes the case that deregulation of corporate America over the last few decades has hasd unintended consequences for the titans of industry. Corporations didn’t want the government telling them how to do business but they weren’t very careful in what they wished for and wound up being hoisted on their own petard by China. Many large companies looked to China for growth to the point where some US based multinationals now garner over 50% of their revenue from China. Problem is that China did not decouple its government from industry but retained the right of the government to decide what type of business would be allowed and what wouldn’t, just like pretty much every other successful developing economy in history including that of the US.

    Now the Chinese are putting the screws to some of these companies who really have no choice but to comply with Chinese demands or else watch their revenues plummet. They may be US companies but China essentially owns them. So now the PTB in the US want the power they lost back, ergo the TPP, except if successful the power will go to the non-state actors rather than the US government.

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch if you ask me.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The thing about it is, of course, that the PTBs’ corporate entities and some “shareholders” and such might suffer for the hubris and greed and their fallout, but the individual Fokkers who run these perverted policy engines will be laughing all the way to their private island retreats. Unless the Chinese ruling cadre can reach out and touch them, individually, personally, in their own bodies, with the punitive cudgel that’s apparently being applied to some subset of their oligarchy for “going a bridge too far…”

      Bearing in mind that corruption, whether as defined in NCese or more broadly, will always be a part of human interactions, just onaccounta what kind of beasts we are, and “whatever it takes to get the job [defined, of course, by parochial interests of the actors] done.”

      1. lyman alpha blob

        “Unless the Chinese ruling cadre can reach out and touch them, individually, personally, in their own bodies….”

        Heh. Evidently that is an option for the Chinese according to the Harpers article. It mentions a company called Rio Tinto which is the 2nd largest supplier of iron in the world. In 2010 state owned Chinese steel mills asked for discounted prices on ore and were rebuffed by Rio Tinto which then went on the sell ore to some privately owned Chinese mills. China then brought capital charges against four Rio Tinto executives causing the CEO of Rio Tinto to make an unexpected trip to China to “pay homage to China’s leaders” and the Chinese got their cheap iron shortly thereafter.

  10. advocate

    This entire conversatiion is good and sufficient proof that paranoia, greed, corruption, and abysmal economic illiteracy are not the sole province of governmnet.

  11. Plutoniumkun

    Thanks Clive, very thought-provoking article. I like that you put forward some of the arguments for TPP. This is what I like about NC – too many places stake their ideological places, without really wrestling with some of the tougher questions. It has puzzled me for a while as to why so many people put so much effort into TPP, when some of the material gains seem so marginal, and limited to such a narrow range of industries. Your argument makes sense.

    Of course, while the post WWII analogy is good, it does seem strange that so few of the people involved made the very obvious pre WWI analogy. To me, thats what Asia is increasingly beginning to resemble – and so much of it goes back to what I see as the idiotic ‘pivot to Asia’ policy. Yet another really crappy policy that seems to have a certain Clintons fingerprints all over it.

  12. Steven Greenberg

    It would be hard for it to be a set of simultaneous equations if it weren’t multi-dimensional. :-)

  13. kl

    i agree, post-ww2 was about coming together to shaft the ussr and left movements outside it, temporarily putting inter-imperialist strife on hold.
    What we are seeing now in the world is more akin to pre-WW1, and why not, that is our economic system again…

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