Batman vs. Superman! Democrat vs. Republican! This year, 2016, has without doubt witnessed a lot of battles — cinematic, political, and ideological. So why not post something a little bit different? This time, I’ll talk about IBM vs. TPP. Or more accurately, IBM’s support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).
To save time, I’ll focus on TPP. So what is TPP? According to Wikipedia: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)… is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries [which aims to]… promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs… raise living standards; reduce poverty…” But do these noble goals help the sovereign nations? Or the multinational corporations that defy them?
Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. I never expected to write a political post. After all, I’ve avoided politics for the last two presidential cycles. So what changed this cycle? Good question. Maybe I’m beginning to see that this isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans, but about Globalism vs. Americanism. And as my multinational employer, IBM is supporting globalism.
What does IBM think of TPP, TTIP, and TISA?
IBM strongly supports the negotiation of free trade agreements… Binding trade agreements backed by dispute settlement mechanisms help to establish business environments that are conducive to trade, investment and economic growth for all participating counties.
- The ratification and implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement;
- The conclusion of negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)…
Going further, on 05 October 2015, Christopher Padilla, Vice President of the same IBM GRA wrote:
IBM is pleased an agreement has been reached in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Data is the lifeblood of the 21st century economy, and we understand this agreement contains groundbreaking provisions to safeguard the free movement of data across borders…
The TPP is a forward-looking trade pact that seeks to limit obstacles to digital data flows even before they can take root. IBM looks forward to [the] release of the final text of the agreement, and anticipates lending its strong support to the TPP.
Let’s keep an eye on IBM’s reference to agreements “backed by dispute settlement mechanisms”.
What do others think of TPP, TTIP, and TISA?
Meanwhile, according to In These Times, “8 Terrible Things About the Trans-Pacific Partnership“:
Like the WTO agreements or NAFTA, the TPP is an attempt to set the rules of the global economy to favor multinational corporations over everything else, trampling on democracy, national sovereignty and the public good.
The more than 600 corporate lobbyists who had access to the draft texts used their insider status to shape the deal, while labor unions, environmentalists and others offered testimony from outside, with little impact…
We’ve asked experts to explain, in plain English… the deal’s most alarming implications.
- #1 It gives 9,200 foreign firms the right to circumvent our courts and attack the laws we rely on for a clean environment, safe food and decent jobs…
- #2 Its environmental protections… would directly encourage fracking…
- #3 We’d lose millions of manufacturing jobs…
- #4 It does nothing to fix our enormous trade deficit…
- #5 It would make medicines more expensive, and compromise access for many…
- #6 It would compromise the safety of our food…
- #7 It would destabilize global finance…
- #8 It would strengthen already-flawed intellectual property regulations in awful ways…
Did you keep an eye on IBM’s reference to agreements “backed by dispute settlement mechanisms” ? Take another look at #1: “the right to circumvent our courts”. In fact, WikiLeaks digs deeper into this “secretive international tribunal” or Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in their sobering video, “The US strategy to create a new global legal and economic system: TPP, TTIP, TISA“. Scary or not?
What are my final thoughts?
Putting aside the ISDS tribunal issue for a moment, you might ask, “Wait, IBM is only worried about cross-border data flows, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that make its cloud and IoT solutions more competitive around the world?” Well, both might be true. But like outsourcing employees, just because IBM is based inside the US doesn’t mean it can’t build new data centers more cheaply outside the US.
Let’s come back to the ISDS tribunal issue. For the sake of argument, let me ask you, “What if another major earthquake hits the IBM data center in Tokyo, Japan, one of the TPP signatories? What if stricter seismic building regulations are more costly than expected?” Theoretically, and if I understand it correctly, under this TPP ISDS mechanism, IBM could sue Japan. It might not, but then again, it could.
Conversely, let’s take a look at another multinational corporation, Samsung, which is based in South Korea, a potential TPP member. “What if unexpected political riots in Dallas force Samsung’s US offices to close for some extended period? What if Samsung finds another reason to humiliate its US team?” Again, theoretically, under this TPP ISDS mechanism, Samsung could sue the United States.
Going even further, let’s imagine that the recent joint announcement of IBM and Samsung leads to the skyrocketing production of “next-generation magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM)… for [IoT] sensors, wearables and mobile devices” in the next few years. “What if Taiwan, a potential TPP member, raises its minimum wage, which raises the cost of manufacturing its magnetic materials? Could it be sued?”
Despite how unrelated these four scenarios might seem at first glance, the common thread or threat is the ever-growing global economic power of multinational corporations over sovereign nations. Which leads me back to the ideological battle I mentioned earlier — Globalism vs. Nationalism. Or in the United States, Globalism vs. Americanism. Can there be a balance between the two? Time will tell.
Do I have a flashback?
More than two years before investigating IBM vs. TPP, I found myself watching the Watch Dogs!
- IBM Opens First Cloud Data Center in South Africa (www-03.ibm.com)
- IBM asking employees to blindly support the TPP bill (www.reddit.com)
- The TTIP and TPP trade deals: enough of the secrecy (www.theguardian.com)
- 8 Terrible Things About the Trans-Pacific Partnership (www.inthesetimes.com)
- The Internet and international data flows in the global economy (www.ictsd.org)
- How a Wonky Trade Pact Became a Huge Campaign Issue (www.motherjones.com)
- The Internet, Cross-Border Data Flows and International Trade (www.brookings.edu)