The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was released today, confirming that making regulations consistent to the benefit of corporate efficiency is a race to the bottom. Reading the TPP text, chapter 11.7 is quite striking: “Each Party shall permit a financial institution of another Party to supply a new financial service that the Party would permit its own financial institutions, in like circumstances, to supply without adopting a law or modifying an existing law.” This gives US capital free access to penetrate markets through new and unregulated financial operations, new vulture funds, new parasitic short term lending services. Also troubling is chapter 11.15: “Under terms and conditions that accord national treatment, each Party shall grant financial institutions of another Party established in its territory access to payment and clearing systems operated by public entities, and to official funding and refinancing facilities available in the normal course of ordinary business. This Article is not intended to confer access to the Party’s lender of last resort facilities”. This last portion on “not intended” is alarming and hardly binding.
The text is quite difficult to read. This is of course unsurprising when dealing with global trade agreements written by lawyers. But it is remarkable that a jargon filled and technical document forms the basis for an economic order that will have great impact on our lives. Sheldon Wolin, the renowned political theorist who passed away mere weeks ago, and someone who has influenced my thinking directly and indirectly (through Chris Hedges and Cornel West), was troubled by the subordination of the political to the economic, a realm controlled by a technocratic Elite. The study of political theory is the question of participation, a grappling with the question of how people can be given control of their lives when enmeshed in a larger society. Political theory, for Wolin, deals with articulating the methods of attaining such participation. The TPP is entirely intended to get around regulations enacted by democratically elected representatives of the people. It is a method of restraining the peoples’ will and their participation in controlling their surroundings, in order to create opportunities for capital investment by the power Elite. We must see our fight against the TPP as a struggle for participatory politics, for democracy, a moment of living in and yet transcending political theory.