Freer trade or freer hand for multinationals?

Outlook

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama will get his cherished Trans-Pacific trade deal after rolling over heavy resistance from his own party in Congress with the help of Republicans. The White House’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the deal “will send an important message to the world about America’s engagement and continued global leadership”.

Perhaps it will – and it’s certainly a minor miracle to see this President securing co-operation from the Grand Old Party. Yet it’s notable that the White House didn’t attempt to argue that the deal will be economically transformative. It has rowed back from making those sorts of inflated claims in the face of stark evidence that most trade in goods across the Pacific is already pretty free.

Moreover, the White House still hasn’t addressed the valid fears of Democrats and others that the investor-state dispute provisions of the deal will enable multinational corporations to override national democratic and legal restraints. Freer trade is to be welcomed even if it’s not some a panacea for pepping up feeble growth rates in the western world. But if it’s bought at the price of undermining the accountability of global firms – and weakening civil society in the process – that’s simply not a good deal.

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