Freeing Up Free Trade

“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected” – The Avett Brothers

Dan O’Brien has a certain Godlike quality. Not in the sense of infallibility, nor in the sense of reassurance in his doctrine. No, Dan has a godlike Omnipresent. The man is EVERYWHERE!

Pre-election, when Dan told us Trump will not win, he was on RTE discussing the need for the government to stand up to Public Sector Unions and not give in to pay demands. Post-Trump-Election (PTE), he was back on RTE, warning us that the biggest threat to Ireland in the PTE era is the demise of “free” trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Really RTE? The rise of a misogynist, racist and dangerous demagogue can be glossed over? But what about TTIP?

I’m not picking on Dan. I think he’s a clever and erudite man who assesses data and delivers the best hypothesis’s he can. His hypothesis are always well structured and sensible. Unfortunately for Dan, they are formed in the same echo chamber of sameness that was resoundingly battered and won’t survive the PTE.

Free Trade and the march of globalisation has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system in the worlds history. But to quote Brian Hayes, “we represent 10% of the worlds population in Europe, 20% of the wealth and we spend 50% of all the public expenditure in the world.”

He’s right, and he’s wrong. He’s right that this formula is unsustainable, he’s wrong if he thinks TTIP is the answer. The wealth divide cannot be closed by agreements that will create wealth but not transfer it to those at the bottom. I’m also choosing to not explore the fact that these stats show (on a balance of trade model) that the EU is a wealth consumer and not a wealth creator.

I’ve written twice already about TTIP, in The TTIP of the Iceberg and The TTIP’ing Point. I’ve expressed concerns about food safety standards. I’m worried that the Establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court for investment dispute resolution will lead to individual states (and citizenry) losing out to Multinational Corporate Profiteering.

I am a FIRM believer in the Free Market. but with constraints. Those constraints must be on the side of the worker, taxpayer and individual states. These newer “free” trade deals seem to favour the Largest of the Large Multinational Corporations.

I say “seem to favour” because I haven’t seen the agreement, apart from the Wikileaks information. I guess that means TTIP is a free trade agreement, in the sense that it is free from public oversight. If our political class have learned anything from the new PTE era, surely it is that vast swathes of the public no longer trust them, rightly or wrongly.

The PTE era is here now. Populism is popular. The Davos Class of Government has ushered in the distrust of people across the globe. The G20 has been put on notice. Don’t pose for selfies with world leaders at extravagant banquets and then come home to tell a Junior Doctor that she is being unrealistic in her pay demands.

Free Trade must survive in the PTE era. Isolationism and protectionism can only lead to regression, both in terms of human rights and (Dan’s beloved) wealth creation. But it must be mutually beneficial to all parties and not just a Corporate/Geopolitical Manoeuvring Tool. It will take imagination, and it will mean our “experts” will need to step out of their echo chamber of convenience.

I’m not mourning the (apparent) demise of TTIP. I am optimistic that revised free trade deals, that will deliver for people, are visible on the edge of the horizon. Or is that the mushroom cloud of disregarded public anger?


Tony Groves November 2016 Image result for ttip cartoon




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