Like most U.S. presidents, Obama has a legacy he wishes to leave behind, and part of that legacy are the economic trade deals known as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The fascinating detail that the White House and others have decided that one ocean needs no hyphen or capitalization (Transatlantic), while another does (Trans-Pacific), should spurn all kinds of conspiracy theories and lively discussions. But, in the much larger global context these trade deals are extensions of the U.S. based economic global hegemony, a hegemony that has recently come into conflict with the two rising economic global players... Russia & China. With the TPP from the Pacific and the TTIP from the Atlantic, this U.S. led economic hydra (along with the IMF/World Bank, Goldman Sachs/Wall St., London's Gold Exchange, S&P and some others), has over the last couple of years been reacting to the only economic "King of the Mountain" threats to have occurred since the eve of World War II, the making of BRICS Global Investment Bank which has a more global focus (e.g. South America, India and Africa), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with infrastructure projects centered in Asia. The economic title bout of the 21st century has been years in the promoting and is currently being fought in many locations around the globe under the guise of many different names and localized issues, the two most obvious places of this conflict are the historical Geo-strategic "back doors" of Ukraine and Japan.
The Transatlantic Head
"This crisis and future U.S. policy toward the region should be viewed through the lens that transatlantic interests are best served by a Ukraine that looks toward Europe and the United States for inspiration and becomes a stable and prosperous country on the border of the European Union and NATO. Tragically, Putin’s Russia will never see Ukraine in this light, but that should not deter transatlantic policy." Stephen Odell ~ Executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ford Motor Company, March 23rd 2014, Telegraph
A very telling quote from a U.S. industry "leader" regarding the TTIP, the Ukraine conflict (shortly after the Crimean Referendum), and the Atlantism attitudes towards Russia and it's economic relationship with Ukraine and the EU. Just a glance at the TTIP would show that it is hoped it would bring reduced tariffs and regulations on U.S. imports into the E.U., with the U.S. auto industry taking a hit the possible profits of the TTIP is more than enough incentive for Ford to be slandering Russia. Another area of industry incentive is the idea that the TTIP could be used as a platform for a new global digital economy, but after the Snowden revelations and the fragile relations due to the NSA snooping, the European Commission is rethinking it's General Data Protection Regulations (GPDR). Looking a bit deeper into the TTIP reveals secret corporate negotiations, privatization plans, potential for environmental abuse, stripping of safety regulations, international corporate courts, threats to food safety as well as the opaque promises of GDP gains and increases in job opportunities for the EU and the U.S. In an article by Prof. Dr. Henning Vopel (Dir. of Hambur Inst. of Intl. Economics HWWI), and Dr. Jorn Quitzau (Head of Economic Tren Research at Berenberg), the reservations and criticisms are clearly laid out...
"None the less, critics maintain that history has shown that the harmonization that accompanies free trade agreements typically involves a weakening of standards. If the weakest or business-friendliest standard (I read the U.S.), of any given country is adopted as the binding standard under the free trade agreement, that could unleash a downward spiral"
The E.U. agreements with Ukraine also point to the US/EU intention and underlying incentives of Ukraine being incorporated (figuratively and literally), into the TTIP as part of it's eastern trade front, and in effect a Baltic trade wall separating Russia from Europe and the U.S., that's in addition to the actual wall that some speculate Kiev has in the works. The TTIP along with the IMF package (which may yet run into road blocks of previous Russian loans), make up some of the main bricks of the economic wall being constructed by this regional head of the western hydra. Comparing these "Tranatlanticist" interests and the apparent ideologies and attitudes of exclusion represented in the TTIP with the inviting nature of the Silk Road leads one to seriously question both the means and ends of the TTIP.
The TTIP is but one of the economic onion layers of the Ukraine conflict and one of many tactics being used by the Ukraine head of western hydra. NATO and others have created layers upon layers conflicts and escalations making the Ukraine situation harder to resolve due to the nature of the interwoven complexity.
- NATO hype on Russian military movements by Breedlove and others as well as pressure on the European partners of NATO to escalate military tensions in the Baltic area while propagating European and U.S. fears of "Russian aggression", which seems nothing more than double speak for an existential threat to Russia.
- The historical context of the Baltic region in relation to Russia offers a Pandora's box of old embers of revenge to ignite that predate the retired Waffen SS and the 2010 crash of Polish diplomats that can be incorporated and used by others.
- The war cries of the EU and U.S. (and elsewhere) nationalist, neo-con, cold-war, communist and other hawks in government, media, industry and think tanks that have been waiting for any justification to use propaganda, fast track bills, enact sanctions, lower oil prices, justify lethal arms and much more.
- Western Ukraine's internal oligarch conflict that has recently risen to a boil.
- Other nations sending arms, training, offering safe havens and guidance that adds to the tensions of the conflict.
In the GABA talk regarding the TTIP with Ulrike Geurot last summer, she framed the current divide in the German Green party...
"If you look in liberal green spectrums... you have now a competition between Freedom and Peace... What tops what, does peace top freedom... or does freedom top peace?" (paraphrasing)
Where does global prosperity fit into all this peace and freedom? Where does the TTIP fit into this triangle? Echoing the White House, Donald Tusk (one of Obama's main advocates in the EU for the TTIP), recently had this to say:
"We need to advance the negotiations, for sure, and we have to convince public opinion on both side of the Atlantic, TTIP is not only about trade but also jobs, it's about the political security for our population."
In light the conflicts in Ukraine between the TTIP and the BRICS of the New Silk Road, one has to wonder... is "security" double speak for jeopardy?
The Trans-Pacific Head
The TPP is one the economic teeth of the western hydra head that is attacking the Silk Road and forming yet another trade wall (much like the TTIP), except in this case the West is using Japan (one of the nations in TPP negotiations), as a barrier to China. Previously I hit on how the AIIB and the TPP are seemingly at odds, as evidenced by Obama's preemptive reaction to the UK signing with the AIIB by sending out OFA (Organization for America), emails pushing the TPP... the day before. Back in 2011 Jagdish Bhagwati pointed to the conflict driven nature of the TPP and China:
"America’s design for Asian trade is inspired by the goal of containing China, and the TPP template effectively excludes it, owing to the non-trade-related conditions imposed by US lobbies. The only way that a Chinese merger with the TPP could gain credibility would be to make all non-trade-related provisions optional. Of course, the US lobbies would have none of it."
He also points to the coercion (fostered by threats of Chinese expansion in the South China Seas), that was a major factor in getting countries to sign on to the TPP.
"Many Asian countries joined the TPP to “keep the US in the region” in the face of Chinese heavy-handedness. They embraced the US in the same way that East Europeans rushed to join NATO and the European Union in the face of the threat, real or imagined, posed by post-Soviet Russia."
As with the TTIP, there is an automotive scent to the TPP due to the focus on U.S.-Japan Bilateral Negotiations on Motor Vehicle Trade and Non-Tariff Measures, just one of many areas of industrial interests. The main opportunities advertised to the U.S. citizens consists of support for U.S. exports, enforcement of fundamental labor rights, promoting "strong" environmental protection and that it will help small U.S. businesses benefit from Pacific Rim trade. Even Brookings came out to support the TPP and it's "geopolitical importance". On the other hand, the opposition to the TPP is enormous and in many ways parallels the TTIP, even if one were just to consider the U.S. led opposition, such as the recent comments by Senator Elizabeth Warren:
"The name may sound a little wonky, but this is a powerful provision that would fundamentally tilt the playing field further in favor of multinational corporations... worse yet, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty."
Warren isn't alone, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (DM CT), Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), just recently spoke out against the TPP being "fast-tracked". The opposition has bleed into many different areas such as the familiar investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), and how it favors the U.S. by design. Intellectual property rights are also threatened as was pointed out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation...
"...the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate."
Doctors Without Borders and Health Global Access Project recently spearheaded protests claiming that the TPP is a "Death Pact" with some holding signs that read "Hands Off Our Medicine" as Lauren McCauley of Common Dreams reported back in January. In fact the list is so long that I don't want to bore you, the Daily Kos recently succinctly summed up many of the points of opposition.
This is just the Western opposition, as Jagdish pointed out above the TPP is about the U.S. economic containment of China, in fact much like the pleas to reform the IMF quotas, there were also pleas to bring China into the TPP fold... and both would have been constructive in deterring the recent AIIB gold rush or even the needs that spawned it. It's odd to compare the accusations of failure on this very issue, Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post stated that "So, no contest, the executive branch screwed this up" while also stating that "And hey, what do you know, Congress did that stalling thing." On the other hand the Wall St. Journal in it's chiding remarks not only blamed Obama and his administration, but also specifically the Republicans for not ratifying the IMF reforms and in effect aiding China.
Although the Pacific Rim region is hosting no Ukraine type conflict, there are many other regional factors that make this head of the hydra just as complex as the TTIP/Russian front, and just as much of an existential threat to China.
- As mentioned above, the South China Seas dispute has been and still is an ongoing issue of regional contention.
- As with the Ukraine conflict, the historical context of Japan and China that predates both the Sino Japanese Wars and the Boxer Rebellion, none of which should be ignored, even if Japan is now interested in the AIIB.
- In response to the Snowden revelations and NSA snooping China has increased it's internet restrictions cutting off access to Gmail and forcing people in China to use VPN (virtual private networks), not to mention how a Chinese CEO recently equated Apple Computers to Hitler.
- Japan's PM Shinzo Abe has brought a new age of Japanese re-militarization to his administration, one that is not so well received by many in Japan. Just recently Japan unmasked it's "entrance to hell", or the Izumo "Air Craft" Carrier. Due to the nature of Japan being a U.S. vassal state it would seem reasonable to assume that Abe isn't the only one that deserves the credit for Japan's re-militarization.
- The U.S. "Pivot East" (as opposed to the EU's), prior to the South China Seas dispute is best represented by the ongoing conflicts about Okinawa, with protests there and also in Japan. Japan has historically abused the people of this island since WWII as Japan has been "accommodating" the U.S. military "allowing" the various branches to use Okinawa for their very own private landing pad. This has been to the to the detriment of the environment, disrespect to the people, and a blight to Okinawan sovereignty. Just as there was no excuse for Nagasaki, there is no excuse for Okinawa (either from Japan or the U.S.), and the continued abuse to both the people and the environment of this beautiful island... I sure hope some folks get out and give PM Abe a real U.S./Okinawan welcome when he shows up with President Xi later this year, let's put an end to the "Pivot East", that should in fact be a "Pivot to the Mirror".
Okinawa's Hakkaku kite
Where the Two Heads Meet
The Hydra aptly describes the nature of the U.S. led Western conflict with both Russia and China, simultaneously setting up trade barriers such at the TPP & TTIP posing as economic security, re-militarizing, and the all too familiar accusatory tone and attitudes of the White House and State Dept. towards both nations. There are other similarities...
- The list of criticisms of both the TPP and the TTIP show many similarities such as secret courts, environment consequences, internet/tech rights and secret negotiations with corporate ties just to name a few.
- Both the TPP and TTIP are exclusionary and economically adversarial to China and Russia respectively, this would include the Silk Road, BRICS and the AIIB.
- Both Ukraine and Japan have been historic "back doors" into Russia and China respectively, as well as the pairs of nations having much historic conflict.
- Both the current Ukraine conflict and South China Seas dispute represent military confrontations in both areas.
- The re-militarization in the Ukraine and Baltic regions is reflected in Japan's military developments at home, in Okinawa and elsewhere. Both have not seen this kind of military presence since WWII>
- Both China and Russia represent a "threat" to the U.S. economically, militarily, technologically and due to the Snowden revelations the NSA is deeply involved in both nations.
The Imperial U.S. Hydra has many hungry heads, and these are just two that face Russia and China. AFRICOM, the Middle East, and even once cozy allies (before and after the AIIB migration), are all areas of interest as the Hydra unleashes it's defensive offense. Hopefully the current back peddling by the White House in regards to the AIIB is a sign that the administration is taking a turn for the better. Maybe one day this monster can be tamed a bit and used to foster an age of peace and prosperity rather than exclusion and the chances of war. I have already written how I think U.S. foreign policy should play out with these two nations, one involves William Faulkner's 'The Bear' and disarmament with Russia, the other is the story of the Stone Monkey King and the lack of ethics in U.S. economics in regards to the global marketplace. Where does this Hydra fit into that triangle of Peace, Freedom & Prosperity... can it fit?
In closing I'd wanted to add I lived in Okinawa as a kid, I remember the hibiscus flowers, the huge butterflies, the bridges over the coy ponds, origami, the star sand, sugar cane fields and car flipping typhoons... I also remember Kadena's XXX theaters just outside the gates, the sound of SR-71 Blackbirds & stacked corrugated tin roofs next to the sewage plant. What the U.S. has done to this island I have few words for.
Please support very Independent Jounalism