This week negotiations begin again in Singapore on the Transpacific agreement, a project hailed by its promoters as the biggest, most ambitious trade agreement ever. Eleven countries participate: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, United States, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zeeland, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It’s billed as a tool for growth, employment and prosperity, but the reality will be quite different.
The world economy has seen three decades of neoliberal trade agreements along with strong financial liberalization, both domestically and in transborder flows. They have been accompanied by new rules on intellectual property, government procurement, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor relations and the prohibition of performance requirements on international corporations. These agreements radically redefine any nation’s development strategy, delivering it into the hands of transnationals and the “free market”.
What has the result been? A semi-stagnant world economy, high unemployment, rapid environmental deterioration and the worst crisis in 80 years. One might think that with these “achievements” we would have stopped negotiating new trade agreements. But it’s exactly the opposite.