A New Sport for These Times

Does the reader remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Twelve nations, primarily along the Pacific Ocean, negotiated a trade agreement. The nations were:

United States • Singapore • Brunei • New Zealand • Chile • Australia • Peru • Vietnam • Malaysia • Mexico • Canada • Japan

The TPP was based on a unique concept that each member nation was assured a commensurate share of income based on the Gross Domestic Product of the partnership. Earlier trade, tax and tariff arrangements were modified to accommodate this unique idea of international partnership instead of international balance of trade.

There were progressive economic concepts in the agreement but there were many loopholes that benefited corporate interests above national interests.[1] While the language touted liberal issues like environment, labor rights and humanist politics, there were just as many backdoor caveats that would permit corporate participants to ignore the ‘nice’ language. A good description of the new trade relationship was that nations were investors in the partnership, not traders.

For the United States, this was all for naught when Congress dragged its feet and Donald officially withdrew in 2017. Nevertheless, the new partnership was signed by the remaining eleven nations in 2018 and became the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A characteristic of these agreements is that while there are direct economic benefits for being part of a team instead of constantly manipulating trade and tariff, it is more difficult to shift national politics or apply sanctions to other members of the partnership. Unlike today’s supply and demand free-for-all, being part of a supply partnership introduces permanence to international economics – meaning that whichever partnership has the most important partners, the more likely that partnership will dominate the global economy.

Another aspect is that a partnership needs one partner that is large enough to sustain the overall economy for all the nations in the agreement. There are only three nations that can fill this role: China, the United States and possibly India. The economic ballast needed for a successful partnership requires one partner that has global dominance in GDP, population and land mass. Corporations already know this and have constructed supply chains that depend on one massive corporation to sustain the chain. Amazon, Walmart and Google are examples.

Now that the reader has suffered through the rules for the sport for these times, the sport is which of the three anchor nations (China, US and India) can build partnerships with the most nations, the best nations and the nations with the best natural resources in the shortest amount of time? The winner will dominate the global economy for a long time.

The game already is in play:

China understands the concept; in 2013 China started its Belt and Road project using infrastructure as an international connection between 70 nations and intends to dominate politically and militarily as well as economically. The US along with the G7 nations belatedly introduced its own Belt and Road plan; Joe Biden hopes the plan, known as the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, will provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow the $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035.

Ancient Mariner


[1] To keep this post from becoming a book, if the reader has further interest just type TPP in your search engine – much has been written pro and con.

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