The Trans-Pacific Shell Game

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is being portrayed as a boon for all 12 of the countries involved. But opposition to the agreement may be the only issue that the remaining US presidential candidates can agree on, and Canada’s trade minister has expressed serious reservations about it. Are the TPP’s critics being unreasonable?

In a word, no. To be sure, the TPP might help the US to advance its goal of containing China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region, exemplified in US President Barack Obama’s declaration that, “With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.” But the economic case is not nearly as strong. In fact, though the TPP will bring some benefits, they will mainly accrue to large corporations and come at the expense of ordinary citizens.

In terms of gains, one US government study on the topic projected that, by 2025, the TPP would augment its member countries’ GDP growth by a meager 0.1% at most. More recently, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) estimated that, by 2032, the TPP would increase America’s economic growth by 0.15% ($42.7 billion) and boost incomes by 0.23% ($57.3 billion).

But TPP advocates have largely ignored these results, preferring to cite two studies by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, a well-known cheerleader for economic globalization. In 2012, the PIIE claimed that the TPP would boost total GDP in member countries by 0.4% after ten years. In January, it declared that TPP would augment total GDP by 0.5% over the next 15 years. In a World Bank study released the same month, the authors of the PIIE research projected a 1.1% average increase in GDP in TPP member countries by 2030.

Something is clearly amiss.

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Societal Involution in the North

Jayati Ghosh

The term “involution” – which means to turn into oneself, or to shrink, or to reverse a process of evolving – may seem like a strange one to apply to societies. Yet that is the term that increasingly comes to mind when considering recent social and political trends in the United States and in some parts of Europe.

Consider the United Kingdom, currently in the throes of a heated debate before the referendum that will be held about whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union. Many issues and concerns have been raised on both sides, and politicians and business leaders inside and outside the country, from top financiers to US President Obama, have pitched in with their own views and warnings about the implications of “Brexit”. But within the country, public discussion appears to be focussed essentially on only one issue: immigration.

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