Surprisingly there are very few reporters covering the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations here in Dallas this weekend. The only U.S. reporters are from Inside US Trade.
I spoke to some Australian trade negotiators last night at a reception – sponsored by the “Business Coalition for the TPP” – asking what was their country’s primary motivation for engaging in the TPP negotiations. (The photo at the bottom shows the sponsors of the reception). They said that they wanted to simplify rules for trading among the proposed TPP nations, presumably because it would “help trade”. There was no quantitative outcome for trade flows that they sought. Just “simplify rules”.
I told them that I understood what they were saying, but our U.S. negotiators had been promoting the goal of trade liberalization for years, including simplifying rules. While that seemed reasonable on its face, the result has been a record U.S. trade deficit. Thus, I said, CPA is trying to refocus them on pursuing an actual strategy to improve our trade performance, because mere trade liberalization has not been correlative with economic success.
I also asked the Aussie negotiators if they had a trade deficit with China. They were not sure(!?), but thought they may have a surplus. Astounding! How can they not have an eye on current net trade flows and future projected trends? Its not just the U.S. negotiators, who are well meaning, that focus on the technical aspects of trade to the exclusion of an actual national strategy. Other countries’ negotiators are also in default trade-liberalization-for-its-own-sake mode. Performance results not only don’t matter, but are not known.
When I spoke to negotiators, after hearing their views, about the importance of quantitative performance results for a national economy, there was really no opposition. General head nodding resulted. But they simply don’t have orders from above to pursue better trade flow performance or to pursue a national economic strategy.
Ron Kirk spoke at this TPP dinner reception. His speech was extra-ordinarily vacuous, focusing upon how Dallas has a lot of shopping and restaurants and that conference attendees should shop in the shops and eat in the restaurants (Kirk is a former Dallas mayor).
The excitement of the night came when some protesters, who had infiltrated the reception, stood up at the podium, spoke into the microphone, and presented Ron Kirk with the “Corporate Tool Award”. The “Award” was sponsored by the fictitious “Texas Corporate Power Partnership.” The lead protester tried to hand a large plaque to Ron Kirk, who declined to accept it, and other protesters materialized among the suited crowd to chant “T-P-P… T-P-P…T-P-P” while dancing a jig to the beat of their own chant.
Security officials escorted the identified protesters out. But 20 minutes later, other protesters who had infiltrated the reception, but had not participated in the first disruption, revealed themselves by walking in a circle and chanting against the TPP on grounds of public health, corporate power, 99% vs 1%, and other objections. Security officials again came in and escorted them out.
Today is Stakeholders Day, where CPA will have a “Stakeholders Table” and distribute our 21st Century Trade Agreement Principles to domestic and foreign negotiators as well as other stakeholder groups (NGOs, trade associations, companies). There is a lot of interest in those Principles, but we don’t yet have the critical mass of signatories to make them more powerful. So its important to get more signatories (companies and organizations can sign here). Our primary target is the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress.
[Here is a photo of the display screen showing the sponsors of the TPP reception dinner last night... taken with my phone so not great quality. The sponsors are generally importers and transnationals who have pushed the U.S. unilateral trade disarmament policy, divorced from the national interest].