After much speculation and insubstantial promises, we now find ourselves inching closer to the final stages of the TPP agreement. The empty rhetoric and political bombast is coming fast and thick, with some key show-downs taking place amidst a general feeling that we’re quickly running out of time to force a withdraw. While there are further protests scheduled and some time left, unless there is mass large-scale revolt, it is hard to feel in any way optimistic that this deal won’t go ahead.
The wild claims of the National government regarding the apparently substantial positive effects that this trade agreement will have, have been made to look suitably flimsy and dishonest by reports that show the damning and definitive evidence to the contrary; when all the facts are assessed, the data points to the true overarching problem – that we are on the verge of a global neoliberal confidence scam that effectively undermines our democratic sovereignty.
The TPPA is hard to take for a multitude of reasons, not least the disempowerment of our democratic rights as citizens, and while it shouldn’t really be a surprise to us that our government supports it – considering our prime minister is a foreign exchange poster-boy and neoliberal devotee, once the head of global foreign exchange for the evil credit-pedlars of Merrill Lynch – our collective rage is valid and more necessary than ever before; for it is much more than just economics, trade agreements or GDP at stake – it is our very lives and the lives of our fellows that will be directly subverted and disenfranchised by this toxic deal. This is information that the media have largely failed to understand – or purposefully ignored – and that politicians should feel they can only disregard at their own peril.
We have so far seen a large amount of public misdirection, accompanied with the usual feint-and-parry between government officials and the press, but little genuine debate or transparency. The National party and their surrounding media groupies have done a good enough job of convincing the average person that this trade agreement will be no different than other more benign precursors, but there are many among the common ranks and ground-swell of the left who have tried to disseminate factual information from the start. It is a shame that many are written off as ‘cranks’ by the mainstream for they have often been the only ones with accurate information. As Jane Kelsey well explained to Mike Hosking recently, we stand on the precipice of the complete corporatocratic usurpation of our country’s ability to rule itself by democratic means. When seen for what it is, it’s not really about trade – it’s about global corporate domination.
So when our elected government states the supposed positives of such an agreement, we would do well to filter such claims through the contrasting evidence. The United States Department of Agriculture has released a report stating that the predicted positive effects of the TPPA on our GDP will be somewhere around 0.01% by 2025 – in other words, almost nothing. Offset that with the probable increase in things like extra pharmaceutical costs of $25 million per year – taken from our health budget – and you’ve got a recipe for economic and societal disaster.
What the TPPA will ultimately equate to – when the rhetoric is disassembled and disregarded – is the forced corporatisation of our country with the real threat of legal enforcement. The most surprising thing in this ongoing political circus is not that National will sign the deal nor that Labour are mostly sympathetic to it also – with some stipulations – but that we the collective are under any illusion that we can stop it democratically without serious activism and prolonged mass-protest. Unfortunately for us, the ship has almost sailed, and as the bristly charlatan Mike Hosking recently said, ‘Time will tell’. Indeed it will Mike, but only in the negatives.
Without the details of the agreement being released, we already know how this will play out. There have been recent examples of the consequences of such binding corporatocratic deals visible on the global stage with both Australia and Germany being sued by Phillip Morris and Vattenfall for passing laws that diminish the chances of predatory corporate profits. These examples are minor compared to what we can expect in the coming years ahead. What we stand to gain as a country is so incomprehensibly minuscule compared to what we stand to lose that it’s almost a completely different conversation, and one that threatens to happen too late to make any real difference to the course of events.
It is comical – tragically so – to even call such a corporate deal a ‘free trade’ agreement for there is no such thing as ‘free trade’ in the neoliberal wasteland of the global free-market economy. Any rhetoric that seeks to dispel our collective concerns as ‘irrelevant’ or unfounded are typically arrogant and, at the heart of it, just childish attempts to pacify us until the ink has dried. Far from irrelevant, our concerns are founded upon our rights as citizens – those who will be most detrimentally effected. It is often the intention of politicians to dissolve serious concerns with flippant misstatements and disinformation but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so easily distracted; for if we fail to change our course we will be forced to witness one of the biggest global destructions of national sovereignty ever committed on a non-military scale.
For some further dark-prophesising of what’s in store for little New Zealand, we need only look at the recent events in Greece and see how cruelly economics deals with humanitarian issues. The thing to make clear, above all other considerations, is that neoliberal capitalist economics – and all its monopolising offspring – is designed to operate in only one direction – increased profits for the rich and deeper austerity for the poor. Capitalism indeed is built on the principals of scarcity and inequality, and the only way to ‘make the pie bigger’ in a world of limited resources and credit-spending is to redistribute money from the bottom to the top, something we have been seeing on an ever increasing scale.
This leaves us in an unfortunate position; in a country once praised for its equality and opportunities, we are now seeing the approaching end of progressive solutions. We are facing the beginning of what may be a long and destructive downturn in our quality of life and democratic power, and can expect the looming dark-reality of further economic recession in the years to come. If viewed as just a numbers game, the numbers spell very bad news for all.
With democracy and sovereignty so threatened by economic policy, any reforms we now attempt to make – at this late stage – via democratic measures are doomed to failure. We are caught in an ideological trap without the means to vote our way out – what good is democracy when democracy becomes merely a tool of the plutocratic elite? We as a collective must instead focus our energies towards sweeping system change and intense activism, using every tool available and with the dormant power that can only be found in the collective spirit. We must now stand together and demand that enough is enough. Whatever it takes.