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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 28 New Delhi July 2, 2016

Washington’s Trans-Pacific Partnership - A Controversial Project

Friday 1 July 2016

by Michael Todd

Lately the US has been taking persistent steps to induce states which have signed the agree-ment on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to ratify it. The Obama Administration intends to launch a US-centric free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the year, presenting this as a real achievement against the backdrop of its obvious failures in foreign policy in other areas.

The US President himself has authored an article that appeared in Washington Post on May 2; it is devoted to the problem of integration in the Asia-Pacific region. Emphasising the US’ exclu-siveness, he affirms that global rules should be written by the US and not by countries like China. The mention of the fact that the TPP will strengthen America’s national security is intended for both outsiders and its own legislators who do not have a unified approach to the problem.

Washington has also adopted a policy of active inducement of other states in the region so that they accede to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, forming a second echelon of partners in the Free Trade Area. These states include, inter alia, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea.

Obviously the policy of the US to organise a new potentially powerful trade bloc without Indian participation and inducement of states in the region to a solely US-focussed model of economic development is contrary to Indian interests aimed at increasing its political and economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The idea of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was worked out solely in the interests of the US and Japan, Washington’s nearest regional ally; Japan has been provided with major advantages in its competition with China which is promoting its own model in the form of a comprehensive regional economic partnership.

The usefulness of the TPP for a country is considered to be of short-term duration. In the long term the economies of small countries, with the systematic application of the norms of the TPP, will be unable to compete with the US and would have to inevitably depend on the Americans with regard to regulation of the labour standards, transparency of the legislative system, protection of intellectual property, supranational regulation of disputes. These countries would have to waive their economic sovereignty and consequently freely state their foreign policies, whenever necessary.

The approaches to the application of standards and their interpretation by the US and America’s trade partners may funda-mentally differ. An example of this is the use and aggressive promotion of genetically altered products and plants by the Americans.

Leaders of the states of the Asia-Pacific region are unable to ignore the fact that Washington has faced rigid counteraction of the European Union in the implementation of a similar agreement between the US and EU on the formation of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Documents recently published in the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung indicate the exceptionally, in fact unprecedentedly, rigid pressure exerted on the European countries by the US on this issue. In the beginning of May this year sharp statements about the Americans on the Transatlantic Partnership came from the French President and State Secretary for Foreign Trade. The French proceeded from the need to protect their basic national interests and thereupon blocked the TTIP negotiations.

What is more, the reality of the TPP is not clear to the new US Administration that will take charge following the US presidential poll. The situation with regard to the TPP is contradictory in the US. The American legislators are delaying with the agreement’s ratification, focussing not only on the lame-duck Obama, but also the varied approaches of the major candidates jostling for occupancy of the White House to this question which can be concluded as ambiguous. This fact bears testimony to the irrefutable truth that the entire project of Trans-Pacific Partnership is controversial: it depends on the political situation both within the US and the world at large.