The TPP: the crown of transnational strategy

The TPP seeks to transform the rules of the world order in response to the needs of globalizing transnational capital.

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Article published in ALAI’s magazine No. 509: A 10 años de la derrota del ALCA 17/11/2015

The recent formal conclusion of negotiations for the Transpacific mega-treaty (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement - TPP) is aimed at reaching goals that transnational capital has been pursuing since the 1980s.  Its first strategy was headed by the structural adjustment programmes of the triad WB-IMF-IADB, and the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA (1994) was the first advancement in integrating the political objectives in a binding text, followed by the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO 1995).


When the WTO was recently created and working to introduce the themes of Finance and Intellectual Property Rights (Singapore Agenda-1996), as well as a Multilateral Investments Agreement (MIA), the general director of the WTO, Renato Ruggiero, cynically described the moment: "We are writing the Constitution of a single global economy" (Singapore, 1996).


Nineteen years after the Ruggiero statement, the discourse on hegemony and the world economy is being renewed with the TPP: "Under this agreement we, rather than countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy." (B. Obama, October, 2015[1]).


Nonetheless, the objective was never restricted to the world economy, nor regional ones, nor does it seek global prosperity, security and sustainability, much less democracy, but rather the transformation of the rules of the world order in response to the needs of globalizing transnational capital.


Over more than twenty years of resistance struggles, networks of social activists, of personalities, academics and governments have demonstrated that behind the cliché "free trade agreement" there are essentially political objectives such as eliminating the facilities of the State to regulate for social goals, placing corporate rights of capital above human rights and those of nature, and creating mechanisms of global governance of the economy without any democratic legitimacy or control.


The agreements as instruments of transnational policy


Over the last thirty years, the United States has accumulated experience as well as failures, in their attempt to impose global rules, written into Agreements to consolidate the interests of transnational globalization. The free trade agreements (FTAs) have been one of these means and the best known cliché to impose this corporate strategy.


The United States, after concluding FTAs, first with Israel (1985) and then with Canada (1987), as well as a regional one (NAFTA, 1994), unfurled a global strategy to reach a Multilateral Agreement (in the WTO) or through bilateral or regional agreements such as regional agreements, both those of the FTA type as well and those for the Protection of Investments, for the Protection of Intellectual Property, or that prepare the political-diplomatic terrain through Framework Agreements on Trade and Investment.  The most favored terrain for the offensive of the FTAs was Latin America: 11 FTAs of a total of 20 agreements, all reached before the attempt to crown this strategy with the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA [2]).


Within this strategy, the priority has been on questions of investment and intellectual property.  The agreements, euphemistically called Bilateral Treaties on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investment (BIT) were imposed on underdeveloped countries on a world scale.  Of the 42 BIT treaties that the US has signed, the space chosen in the decade 1994-2004 were the so-called countries in transition (16 countries); only eight Latin American countries, without TLCs, were added to this group [3]. In this field, the European countries are dominant in the world with 30% of the approximately 4,600 BITs in force[4]. 


One strategy much defended by the transnational monopolies has been the Multilateral and Bilateral Treaties for so-called intellectual property protection (patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial designs and others), an area dominated worldwide by the developed countries, with 51% of the 2.3 millions of patent requests. Nevertheless, the importance of China is unquestionable, with 28% of the total, above the 23% of the US.  In requests for trademarks, China has 25% and the US 17% of the 6.5 million requests [5].


In this strategic matter, of the 34 treaties for the protection of Intellectual Property, 24 have been bilateral agreements with 24 countries (13 previous to the WTO and 11 afterwards). Two Multilateral Treaties have preceded 8 multilateral agreements or specific reforms with the WTO or afterwards [6].


A three-track strategy


Transnational interests, headed by the triad of the governments of the US, the European Union and Japan, have for three decades pushed for bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives. Starting from the neoliberal rules achieved with the North American FTA (NAFTA), their reproduction in the WTO, and the attempt to extend them to the whole hemisphere through the FTAA, the conditions in which Japan was developing its productive articulation in Asia through the APEC Forum was also transformed, as were the conditions in which the European Community - European Union maintained their neocolonial relation through the Lomé and Cotonou Agreements with the ACP countries (their 79 ex-colonies in Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific).


The triad tried without success to incorporate additional themes into the agenda of the WTO, where they faced the unexpected civil society mobilization and the opposition of various blocks of countries, headed by those from Africa and the most dispossessed areas, in the third ministerial summit in Seattle, US (1999). Four years earlier, the APEC Summit in Osaka (1995) had entered into a crisis due to the attempt to transform a forum of political-economic dialogue into a space of obligatory deregulation on various themes.  The same thing happened during the failed the Summit of the WTO in Cancun, in September of 2003 [7].


The regional space, where a number of the controversial issues were already inserted into the 11 FTAs with Latin American countries, encouraged the US to insist in trying to obtain the acceptance of the hemispheric project of an FTA, the FTAA.  However, in the historic Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata (November, 2005), the US President (G. W. Bush) and his allies from Mexico (V. Fox) and Chile (R. Lagos) suffered a noisy defeat at the hands of an unusual alliance between governments opposed to the FTAA and alternative hemispheric social networks such as the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA) and the Continental Campaign against the FTAA.


"The good thing is that we didn't have to do the work. The Mexicans and Chileans were more angry than we were": Thomas H. Shannon, Joint Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean of the State Department, stated in a declaration to the press [8].


A change of strategy: using what is available to obtain what is desired


With a chain of disasters and a worn out strategy that was clearly unpopular, the neoliberal coalition, especially the US, changed their strategy and adopted a varied agenda of "soft power" [9], renewed as "intelligent power" to facilitate the weakening of resistance and adoption of the policies they were seeking.  For this they proposed: 1) to strengthen and deepen the agenda and the labour of the official hemispheric institutions, the majority coming out of the first Summit of the Americas (Miami, 2004); 2) to coordinate policies of the regional financial organizations and continue the agenda of advising on deregulation or "competitive modernization", with the Latin American governments and the leaders of business organizations; 3) to firmly support the lobbying work of US organizations with a Latin American agenda, such as the Council of the Americas and academic institutions; 4) to make intensive use of the support of powerful media groups; and 5) to support and strengthen business opposition to Latin American governments that were seeking to confront this dominant model, even to the point of promoting (hard or soft) coups d'état.


In the words of ex-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in July 2009: with respect to the US foreign policy approach, the “facts demand a different global architecture…  We'll work through existing institutions and reform them… We'll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions… At the same time, we are working with our key treaty allies, Japan and Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines and other partners to strengthen our bilateral relationships as well as trans-Pacific institutions.  We are both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-Pacific nation.” [10].


Ms. Clinton made public what had been going on for some time without a great deal of noise, under the mandate of the never eradicated 23 thematic initiatives of the Action Plan of the Miami Summit (1994), [11] intensified as of 2005 with public-private alliances through periodic meetings of Ministers of the Americas in Finance, Energy, Agriculture, Mines, Defence and another dozen themes, under the formal umbrella of the IADB, OAS and IICA [12].


At the same time, a network of ‘civic’ institutions and organizations, intimately tied to the policies of the US State Department, has been "modernizing" the public policy of the majority of Latin American and Caribbean governments, through "regulatory reforms" and "competitiveness", as well as forming alliances with the business leadership of our countries.


Thus the law firm of ex-officials of the privatization wave, Jacobs, Cordoba and Associates, the direct authors of 11 programmes of (de)regulatory reforms of Latin American governments (of a total of 74 governments "advised" in the world) [13], are also the "super-experts" of the Inter-American Competitiveness Network -- RIAC [14] of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils linked to the World Economic Forum, the Summit of the transnationals [15].


For their part, the business organization Council of the Americas, created by D. Rockefeller, has since 2006 intensified its hemispheric programme of neoliberal promotion and political relations: 75 meetings in 16 capital cities; lobbies converted into a cult by business leaders, and governments, including some sympathetic presidents[16].


Thus banks, technocrats, lobbyists, academics and powerful corporate media monopolies have continued working daily, in coordination with government officials and some civil society organizations, from inside our countries with transnational programmes and ideology, that we have not managed to eradicate, even with progressive governments.


Since 2007, we warned about this dangerous strategy [17], that has not only given rise to the Pacific Alliance, but has now become the political support of the TPP: that dangerous prong of the new transnational pincer grip, of which the other, tomorrow, could be its twin, the Trans-Atlantic treaty. 


The TPP is intended to go beyond the defeat of the FTAA and crown in triumph this long and multiform strategy to create a world adapted to their interests. Only united social mobilization at a global level could bring sufficient pressure to bear on legislators and governments, in order to defeat this Super-FTAA.


 (Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


Alejandro Villamar is an analyst, activist and member of the Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC).


 * Article published in Spanish in ALAI’s magazine: América Latina en Movimiento No. 509 (November 2015), titled "A 10 años de la derrota del ALCA" (10 years on from the defeat of the FTAA).



[2] USTR. 2015.

[3] Calculations with USTR statistics, 2015.

[4] Calculations with UNCTAD data.

[5] Calculations with data and figures of WIPO on I.P.

[6] Calculations with USTR statistics [7]

[8] and


[10] and








Publicado en Revista: A 10 años de la derrota del ALCA

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