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TPPA Symposium – VUW 281112

TPPA symposium at Law School, VUW.

Wed, 28 Nov, 2012

A few short personal reflections on the symposium

About a dozen present and former academics and other policy officials from the disciplines of law, international politics, economics, labour, ecology, and more gathered at a public forum at the VUW law school (Rutherford House) to present insights and viewpoints, almost universally critical, on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).  The TPPA is a global governance treaty being negotiated in secret negotiations among several Pacific nations, led by the USA.  Important aspects of national sovereignty, reflected primarily in the rights of global capital (corporations) versus the rights of democratic peoples to regulate for various reasons, may be negotiated away.

I’ll not try to summarize each speaker, nor even the TPPA, though there were some interesting perspectives which I hadn’t heard described quite that way before.

One of those different perspectives was from Geoff Bertram who stated that “labour mobility” is much more productive economically than capital mobility.  The concept of labour mobility in this context is that people move freely around internationally.    This is reminiscent of the intergalactic “trader” peoples in the mid-century fiction of Isaac Azimof.  The vision of this kind of world comes up against the reality that people live in a place, not float around.

Most insightful was Paul Buchanan who described the linkage that the USA and perhaps others (not China currently) put between trade and military.   Since 9/11 the idea of “collective security” is back full force, beating down the previous rise of “cooperative security”.  My practical question is:  what is the dynamic of the two, trade and military, in terms of applying pressure on other countries?  What should we be wary of in terms of switches in pressure on the trade front to the military front, or reverse?  They must always be viewed together (e.g. TPPA and the Wellington Declaration).   Of course, a John Key government will be willing to sacrifice on either.

Simon Terry tries to bring in sustainability issues but since TPPA opposition is not sufficiently based on a bigger picture focus from our cultural history, he has a difficult time.  Perhaps the popular old analogy of forest and trees needs to be expanded:

“not able to see the forest for the trees” expanded to “not able to see the climate for the forest and trees”.

Richard Keller    30/11/2012

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