Glob­al­i­sa­tion takes a knock

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - YOUSSEFF EL-GINGIHY

I Na YouTube video of pol­icy pro­pos­als re­leased this week, Pres­i­dent-elect Trump an­nounced that the US would with­draw from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. This trade agree­ment en­com­passes the ma­jor economies of the Pa­cific Rim with the no­table ex­clu­sion of China. Other poli­cies in­cluded a hodge-podge of cli­mate change de­nial through pro­mot­ing frack­ing and coal, dereg­u­la­tion, in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing and mea­sures against cor­po­rate lob­by­ing.

There are mount­ing con­cerns about xeno­pho­bia fol­low­ing Trump’s vic­tory. The appointments of Bre­it­bart’s Stephen Ban­non as chief strate­gist, the anti-im­mi­gra­tion Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Mike Pom­peo as CIA di­rec­tor (in favour of bulk data col­lec­tion) and Gen­eral Michael Flynn as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser would ap­pear to re­in­force Trump’s tar­get­ing of His­pan­ics, Mus­lims and other mi­nori­ties.

Yet amid all this soul-search­ing, the key ques­tion lib­er­als should be ask­ing is why au­thor­i­tar­ian na­tion­al­ism is spread­ing across the West.

The an­swer is rel­a­tively sim­ple. Ne­olib­eral glob­al­i­sa­tion has left mil­lions be­hind both in the ad­vanced economies and the global south over sev­eral decades. Wealth has been si­phoned to the top.

The eco­nomic fall­out post-2008 has seen in­equal­ity widen­ing, with many fall­ing into poverty. The ef­fects of aus­ter­ity on south­ern Europe are a so­cial catas­tro­phe.

The lib­eral and so­cial demo­cratic par­ties pre­vi­ously rep­re­sent­ing work­ing-class con­stituents have aban­doned them and are cap­tured by cor­po­rate power.

The Demo­cratic party un­der the Clin­tons and Obama as well as New Labour un­der Blair and Brown were em­blem­atic of this process. The re­sult has seen mil­lions of vot­ers turn to can­di­dates po­si­tion­ing them­selves as anti-es­tab­lish­ment. Hence the suc­cess of the SNP, Ukip, Brexit and now Trump.

Free trade agree­ments are at the heart of the mat­ter. Ne­go­ti­a­tions have taken place be­hind closed doors with cor­po­rate lob­by­ists.

Trans­parency has been min­i­mal. It is ex­actly this kind of un­demo­cratic, tech­no­cratic man­age­ri­al­ism which is prompt­ing a back­lash against elites.

It is the same tech­no­cratic man­age­ri­al­ism that saw the troika of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the IMF im­pose un­re­lent­ing mis­ery on south­ern Europe, ren­der­ing Greece as ex­pend­able. The troika even is­sued mem­o­randa to be rub­ber-stamped by na­tional par­lia­ments.

Both the EU-US trade agree­ment, or Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship (TTIP), and the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) are sold as re­duc­ing bar­ri­ers to trade through har­mon­i­sa­tion of reg­u­la­tions thus in­creas­ing growth.

But har­mon­i­sa­tion ef­fec­tively means a race to the bot­tom with the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor reg­u­la­tions be­ing adopted.

In fact, there are not many bar­ri­ers left and the ques­tion is more of how growth is distributed. It is now clear that trickle-down eco­nomics is a myth.

Trump has stated that he is against TTIP and TPP, and may even re­verse the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (Nafta). Many peo­ple do not un­der­stand what these trade agree­ments mean so let me spell it out.

They pro­mote trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion. This es­sen­tially means open­ing up pub­lic ser­vices to cor­po­rate takeover. They would likely make pub­lic or state own­er­ship dif­fi­cult.

They would re­strict the fi­nan­cial tools avail­able to coun­tries to reg­u­late banks. They would also limit their abil­ity to im­pose cap­i­tal con­trols.

They would lock in pri­vati­sa­tion through In­vestorS­tate Dis­pute Set­tle­ment clauses.

This means that multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions could sue gov­ern­ments if they took steps that harm their prof­its or even the fu­ture ex­pec­ta­tion of prof­its.

This would take place through pri­vate, se­cre­tive courts rather than the nor­mal law courts. In fact, prece­dents have al­ready seen tens of coun­tries sued by cor­po­ra­tions for mea­sures taken in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

The UK’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice is a good ex­am­ple. It is be­ing pri­va­tised, paving the way for a pri­vate health in­sur­ance sys­tem.

TTIP would mean that if a fu­ture UK gov­ern­ment took steps to re­verse this then they might well be sued.

In ef­fect, this acts as a de­ter­rent against gov­ern­ment ac­tions harm­ing cor­po­rate in­ter­ests.

This would ap­ply not just to health­care but to all pub­lic ser­vices, from ed­u­ca­tion and broad­cast­ers such as the BBC to pub­lic trans­port and util­i­ties.

These trade agree­ments would also en­force en­clo­sure of the com­mons through in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights. So drug patents would be ex­tended to com­bat cheaper generic medicines. Pa­tent­ing of the hu­man genome would be en­forced.

Farm­ers might have to buy seeds from cor­po­ra­tions. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a dystopian world to me.

Ne­olib­eral glob­al­i­sa­tion is not some ir­re­sistible force of na­ture. Eco­nomic pro­tec­tion­ism may not ex­actly be pro­gres­sive but the cur­rent sta­tus quo of wage stag­na­tion and fall­ing liv­ing stan­dards is un­sus­tain­able.

If steps are not taken to rem­edy the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of ne­olib­er­al­ism then the back­lash will only in­ten­sify, likely lead­ing to ris­ing na­tion­al­ism, fas­cism and global con­flict. – The In­de­pen­dent

Yousseff El-Gingihy is the au­thor of How to Dis­man­tle the NHS. Com­ments: let­ters@ the­sundaily.com

Two women walk­ing out of a Bei­jing store yes­ter­day. China will be handed the op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the rules for global trade and profit from a more iso­lated US if Trump aban­dons the TPP.

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