The TPP & China

Below is guest post by Chuck Searcy, a US veteran who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over 20 years. 

The reporting on “trade” is actually pretty misleading, because the TPP does not have much to do with trade (only what? — five out of 23 chapters related to trade?).  It’s mostly about widening opportunities for multinational corporations to intrude into fragile markets such as Viet Nam to take enormous advantage of local companies and production sectors, particularly drugs and agriculture.

There is something that doesn’t meet the “smell test” about the likelihood that U.S. beef imports into Viet Nam will sell more cheaply than locally produced meats.  That’s because heavy U.S. government subsidies are very well hidden.  The Vietnamese have no clue how to peel through the layers of America’s generously subsidized economy and learn the truth.  But American corporate lawyers will be lined up to take action against Viet Nam for the slightest advantage that Viet Nam seeks under the TPP.

We’ve slapped Viet Nam down several times — with textiles, shrimp, catfish, under terms of the US-VN Bilateral Trade Agreement which the Vietnamese naively thought would help them so much.  The WTO turned out to be a major disappointment for Viet Nam.

Courtesy of WikiLeaks

And no one knows the consequences that will result from America’s attempts to exclude, or cordon off, China from this commercial arena.  The scheme is not realistic, and could be quite damaging for Viet Nam. Much of Viet Nam’s raw material (threads and fabrics for the garment industry, for example) come from China.  Will Viet Nam now have to buy these inputs from other more expensive markets? Possibly. No one quite knows.  But “origin” in China will not be allowed.  That will be great satisfaction for Obama and Washington politicians, who want to “contain” China.

Prof. Herman Daly should be studied and listened to much more carefully. The “steady state” economy that he and many others promote is really the only answer to conventional economics, which is a runaway train that is gobbling up resources as if there will never be a tomorrow.  The conventional approach is to create a rapacious, advertising-driven consumer market that is based on waste and finite destruction.  It is simply not sustainable.

For politicians in Viet Nam and most other countries to continue to speak as robots about “growth” is dangerous for future generations.  We simply do not need to be destroying the earth as we’re doing, in a quest for meaningless gadgets and playthings, while much of the world’s population lives a meager existence only because we have such a distorted global economy that we refuse to distribute a food supply that is actually adequate to feed the entire world.

The TPP is just one more ticket to one more glittery ball to be enjoyed by a few wealthy patrons, as the masses stand outside shivering, but at midnight the clock will strike and everything will collapse (or maybe we’ll turn into pumpkins).

Most of us are in denial that such a scenario will really happen.  And maybe it won’t, if we listen to a few enlightened people like Herman Daly — and if it’s not too late.

Final note:  I recently was in a meeting with two semi-retired company executives and Vietnamese government advisers who are part of a Vietnamese think-tank.  After all the discussion about “trade” advantages turned out to be mostly irrelevant, they concluded, with some confidence, that “trade” didn’t really matter in the TPP.  The reason Viet Nam had to sign the TPP, they said, was strictly political.  “Viet Nam must have a place at the table,” they said.  “We have to be viewed as being a significant ‘international’ player, so we cannot be left out of the TPP.  It is important for our positioning against China.”

There you have it.  It’s all about positioning vis-a-vis China and exactly the trap in which the U.S. wants to ensnare Viet Nam.  Next will come big weapons sales from the U.S. and after that the “independence” that Viet Nam fought for during the past century will be lost to the behemoth of global state capitalism and militarism.

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