Trump and the Sunsetting of the Age of Multilateralism

by Scott Creighton

image from The Hindu Dec. 2017

What is happening to the “immutable bylaws of business” as described by Ned Beaty in that famous scene from Network? Are they under attack from within, collapsing under the weight of the logical fallacy of “lets run government like a business” or… is it something else that is troubling the grand plan of the New World Order?

Because, let’s face it… corporatism is the New World Order all of these neoliberals have been working toward for the better part of 60 years. And right now one pillar of the new Corporatist World Order is a little less stable than it was just a few years ago. Why is that? Is it due to a growing backlash from the world population left out of the spoils of neoliberal globalization or is it the beginning of something else? Something perhaps even worse?

And how does President Trump fit into it? Is he a catalyst or the accidental tourist president? Is he leading the global movement against those who see the world as nothing more than a “college of corporations” or it’s reluctant byproduct simply biding his time until he can undermine the growing momentum for “CHANGE” from within like his predecessor did for 8 long years?

Recently there have been a number of business insiders writing in their journals that they see a serious problem developing within the rule of the multilateral institutions and agreements that have served their interests so well in the past. For example, the Wire just recently wrote about the collapse of the ministerial conference of the WTO:

There is little doubt today that trade multilateralism is in a state of crisis. This was proved again at the recently-concluded unsuccessful ministerial conference of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) members in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is neither a one-off event nor just confined to trade.The Wire, Dec. 25, 2017

Multilateralism is indeed in crisis and many folks blame that on a rise in populist sentiment seen as a direct response to the failures of these multi-state agreements and institutions which at their core serve the interests of an established elite rather than those of the huddled masses living within the effected nations. Below I have listed 5 multilateral agreements (all of which deal in one way or another with trade) along with two multilateral institutions which have suffered major set-backs in recent months.

  1. Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or P5+1 2015) – Oct. 13, 2017 Trump administration “decertified” the agreement saying it was not in America’s economic interests.
  2. Paris Climate Accord (Dec. 12, 2015 with 172 UNFCCC members signed on by Nov. of 2017) – Aug. 4, 2017 Trump administration presents official notification they will withdraw from the agreement (goes into official effect one year after official notification however, Article 28 makes that announcement null due to it was prior to the 3 year mandatory participation period) stating “The Paris accord will undermine (the U.S.) economy,” and “puts (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantage.”[1]
  3. NAFTA (Jan. 1994 – created tri-lateral trade bloc with Canada, U.S. and Mexico) – 2017 Trump administration began renegotiation of NAFTA with other nations. It is still ongoing “One of the biggest ironies in trade policy is that, despite Mr. Trump’s opposition to the TPP, negotiators have drawn on its text to update Nafta
  4. TPP (massive multilateral trade deal that died BEFORE Trump took office and was supported by Obama and Clinton (at first she called it the “gold standard” of trade deals) – Jan. 2017 Trump signed order officially abandoning the TPP
  5. TTIP (European wing of the TPP – negotiations halted after the deal got so much negative press during American presidential campaign season) – Since the TTIP wasn’t as well known to the American voting public as the TPP was… “German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called on the US and European Union to resume talks on a free trade agreement after the Trump administration gave the clearest signal yet that it was willing relaunch negotiations on such an accord.” June 2017
  6. United Nations (multilateral institution)- In March of 2017 Trump officials informed the State Department they were seeking to defund certain UN programs to the tune of at least 50%.  After Nikki Haley’s disastrous threat to the UNGA regarding their vote on Jerusalem, the Trump administration cut $285 million from UN funding as punishment for the world voting the “wrong way”. Big Business and pure Neocons old and new applaud the move.
  7. EU (multilateral institution) – “The European Union is facing an existential crisis, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will say on Wednesday, as he announces a raft of economic and security plans in the search for common ground in the wake of the British vote to leave.Sept. 2016
  8. IMF (International Monetary Fund) – “The paper — written by IMF Deputy Director Jonathan Ostry, Division Chief Prakash Loungani, and economist Davide Furceri — proposes that neoliberal economic policies have resulted in increased inequality and stunted economic growth.Fortune 2016

The JCPOA (Iran deal) and the Paris Climate Accord are basically trade deals dressed up as something else. Iran is not nor have they ever been looking to build nuclear weapons and, say what you will about the validity of “Global Warming”, the Paris Accord was so watered down, even it’s biggest supporters had to admit it would have little to no effect on global climate averages.

They were essentially trade deals right alongside NAFTA, the TPP and the TTIP.

But even if you refuse to grant this writer that small concession, they are still considered multilateral agreements and both have been nullified (or are in the process of being nullified) by our current White House administration.

These are seven examples of the “immutable bylaws of business” which are currently in serious jeopardy for reasons that include the work of President Trump and his staff but are not in anyway limited to their efforts.

Who can argue that the election season of 2016 was good for multilateral trade deals? Even the Queen-pin of globalist trade agreements, Hillary Clinton (a woman who once called the TPP the “gold standard” of trade deals) had to modify her stance later in the campaign to pretend to be AGAINST the TPP due to massive public resistance to it and in spite of the fact that President Obama sorely wished to make it’s passage his lasting legacy. The TPP  and the TTIP are essentially dead in the water while NAFTA got so much bad press in 2016, President Trump and leaders from the other two countries are having to renegotiate it’s terms in  desperate rebranding effort.

And there also were a number of examples of the growing frustration with the global multilateral order of things all across the world:

  • the Greek economic referendum of 2011
  • Ukraine opting out of joining the EU until a U.S.-backed color revolution “fixed” that little problem.
  • Brexit.
  • The independence referendum in Catalonia.

Those are but a few examples of the forgotten people of an increasingly polarized world standing in unity screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”

So yes, “(t)here is little doubt today that trade multilateralism is in a state of crisis”

Our leaders have used business as a weapon against targeted nations for decades. Possibly even centuries. Maybe they have since the very beginning of this tarnished republic. My knowledge of such histories of insider business dealings is limited but based on the fact that the power of the young nation centered on slavery and the myth that all who were born here outside of those shackles were “equal” (when only landowners could vote or had a political voice in our “democracy”) it’s probably pretty fair to assume our glorious founding fathers felt much the same way about Big Business as our current gaggle of squabbling “leaders” do.

After being asked to lead a fascist coup here in the United States in 1934, Gen. Smedley Butler wrote in “War is a Racket” (1935) that he came to understand I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers” and as much as he is correct about the mergers and acquisitions projects we have called “war” for all these years, they are but one aspect, an aspect of last resort, in our never ending quest for total economic domination of the business of the world.

In 1944 Henry Wallace was asked by the New York Times to explain what “fascism” was and how it related to the United States of America. It is of import because neoliberal globalization is indeed fascism.

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases..

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism…

They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” Henry Wallace, 1944

Using the power of the state and the power of the market SIMULTANEOUSLY. The power of the state and the power of the market SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Fascism in our age is a “free market” ideology masking a crony capitalist system with oligarchs and their political assets at the forefront directing waves of (state-backed military and business-backed market) attacks across the globe as determined by “their linear programing charts, statistical decision theories, min-max solutions and the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments

None of this is about multiculturalism or democracy promotion or “humanitarian interventions” as we are told so many times in countless venues seeking to make a name for themselves as compliant, reliable servants to the masters of the universe. It always is and probably always was about BUSINESS.

At the forefront of this fascist state-business merger we find institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements and of course… the World Trade Organization (WTO) and few global institutions make the current crisis of multilateralism easier to understand than does the situation with the WTO.

        9.  WTO (1995 replaced GATT)

The Buenos Aires ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) appears headed to be a washout with the US refusing to accede to India’s demand for a permanent solution to the public stockholding for food security. India has put its foot down on the issue, saying that no substantive outcome is possible at Buenos Aires if its demand is not met…

Under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), developing countries can give agricultural subsidies or aggregate measurement support (AMS) up to 10% of the value of agricultural production. There is, however, a ‘peace clause’ that forbids any action against a developing country if it breaches the 10% cap.

Developed countries have linked India’s demand for public stockholding with its domestic support, which they say has breached the 10% permissible ceiling under the WTO rules. However, the Indian government has refuted the allegation. With the peace clause expiring this year and no solution in place, India can now be dragged to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism over its domestic price support for paddy, which, as per some estimates, has breached the 10% cap…

Every year, India announces an MSP for as many as 23 crops but the bulk of subsidy payout goes to paddy and wheat, which are considered as staple foods for Indians…

India has contended that the reference period of 1986-88 is outdated and that it needs to be given flexibility to stock enough grains to ensure food security for poor sections of its population…” The Wire, Dec. 13, 2017

And what was at the core of the washout you ask? a conflict between the needs of a state’s population and the desires of a global gaggle of businesses.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) could not reach a consensus on key issues such as food security in developing countries, e-commerce and the centrality of development in multilateral trade negotiations…

During the talks, the U.S. refused to implement India and China’s food security programmes without burdensome conditions. All major WTO decisions need to be agreed on “the membership as a whole” so a single country can become a deal-breaker.” Wiki Tribune Dec. 26, 2017

In essence the Trump administration wanted to impose the same kind of crippling neoliberal measures on India that previous administration had forced on places like Mexico and Haiti which resulted in the collapse of their internal agricultural industry and the displacement of millions of indigenous peoples throughout Latin America on behalf of Big AgroBusiness here in the states.

Along with that complaint, the Trump people complained that American businesses weren’t getting enough of a free ride when it came to the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM). For those of you who don’t know… that is where a business can sue a state or locality if they refuse to give into their demands for more profits in that area. The disputes are not taken to courts but rather to a board of Big Business lawyers who make a decision and render a verdict which is usually monetary. For example, if an American business wants to make more money in another country they can demand the minimum wage law is repealed and if the country refuses to do it… they can go before the DSM and file suit for the POTENTIAL lost profits… which, once again, seems to be the very definition of fascism.

“On the cards was a decision, without many stringent riders, to enable developing countries to safeguard the livelihood of poor farmers and meet their population’s food security needs. This was considered ‘low-hanging fruit’ as there was already a Ministerial mandate to arrive at such a decision by 2017.

However, according to multiple sources, the Trump administration reneged at the last minute on an earlier commitment by the U.S., and instead sought many onerous conditions — in proposed WTO norms relating to public stockholding of food grains — that developing countries could not accept as binding rules…

In a much criticised stand, the Trump administration decided to block the appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, under the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) on grounds including that the U.S. was losing far too many cases — something that many have contested.

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump had even threatened to pull the U.S. out of the WTO, and later as President, has said that his country has “not been treated fairly by the WTO.” The Hindu, Dec. 25, 2017

In this case we see the potential selling points that Trump can use to bolster support from his populist base. He will inform them that he is standing in opposition to this globalist entity and for that they will revere him and believe he is fulfilling a campaign promise.

But in reality he is tossing a wrench into the mechanics of the WTO because they aren’t giving our oligarchs everything they demand as soon as we demand it.

Trump isn’t opposing fascist neoliberal globalization with this move… he’s actually demanding more of it… and very few will ever dig deep enough into the subject to know the difference.

Look at his recent National Security Strategy of 2017 paper. In that his advisers make it very clear that they will not tolerate global multilateral institutions that fail to provide the profits they were designed to generate.

Page 19 – “For decades, the United States has allowed unfair trading practices to grow. Other countries have used dumping, discriminatory non-tariff barriers, forced technology transfers, non-economic capacity, industrial subsidies, and other support from governments and state-owned enterprises to gain economic advantages.

Today we must meet the challenge. We will address persistent trade imbalances, break down trade barriers, and provide Americans new opportunities to increase their exports

Page 40 – “The United States must lead and engage in the multinational arrangements that shape many of the rules that affect U.S. interests and values. A competition for influence exists in these institutions. As we participate in them, we must protect American sovereign and advance American interests and values…

The United States will continue to play a leading role in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and World Trade Organization (WTO), but will improve their performance through reforms. These reforms include encouraging multilateral development banks to invest in high-quality infrastructure projects that promote economic growth. We will press to make the WTO a more effective forum to adjudicate unfair trade practices.”  National Security Strategy 2017

The “unfair trade practices” quote sounds great in a quick sound-bite for some 60 second spot on Fox News. But in reality what Trump is demanding is that other nations open up more of their markets so we can do more damage to the infrastructure of their industrial and agricultural bases on behalf of Big Business. Just like Obama, Bush and Clinton did in years gone by.

Make poor/working class people suffer in foreign nations so our oligarchs over here or in South Korea or Britain… can live in even more luxury than they already enjoy.

Is that the populism Trump campaigned on? Is that the core of the anti-globalization movement? I don’t think it is in either case.

As the anti-neoliberal globalization sentiment across the globe increases and as these multilateral institutions appear to be faltering across the board, there are those who will try to separate the two issues in an effort to somehow save both. But in these contrivances which will certainly increase in number in the coming days, there is a sort of confession born of necessity which lays both bare and proves they are tethered to one another like a mother and her growing fetus.

There is little doubt today that trade multilateralism is in a state of crisis. This was proved again at the recently-concluded unsuccessful ministerial conference of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) members in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is neither a one-off event nor just confined to trade.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, a series of events have taken place in all three areas of global public goods – security, environment, trade – where multilateral negotiations and solutions have had hiccups. However, the setback of trade multilateralism should not be confused with backlash against globalisation. Manifested backlash against globalisation, as reflected in Brexit for example, is more about growing inequalities created by increasingly-prevalent economic tensions among capital, labour and technologies than trade per se.

It is true that, as against reversal, current trends in the three pillars of globalisation – trade, investment, migration – are all positive… Despite many political challenges, evident from the growth and diversification of sources of remittances, cross-border migration is not stopping…

Then the question is how to get trade multilateralism out of its crisis so that there is a greater political push for globalisation with equity…

If the WTO becomes dysfunctional, which may happen before the end of next year, then the world is heading for disastrous consequences in the other two areas of global public goods as well. It is better to pull up our socks now than to wait for another unfortunate, 9/11 type of incident to understand the virtues of multilateralism and global solidarity (globalization).” The Wire, Dec. 25, 2017

All of you anti-globalization activists who also support things like the DREAMERS Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform should take note of that little segment there which explains the “three pillars of globalization” as “trade, investment, migration”

That is

  • “free trade”
  • “open financial markets”

and

  • “flexible workforces i.e. “open borders”

Just thought I would point that out for you guys because you are starting to sound like some hipster playing “Free Free Palestine” at his table sipping coffee… at Starbucks. To put it in terms my southern readers might understand… all hat and no cattle.

But that’s a discussion for a different day.

Less than 25 years after the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created, its future as a body overseeing multilateral trade rules is in doubt. The failure of the recent ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires is only symptomatic of a decline in its importance.” The Hindu Dec. 25th, 2017

Nine global institutions/trade agreements in flux. Eight seemingly on their way to the trash-bin of history with many claiming this may be the dawning of the end of the age of multilateralism.

But is it necessarily a good thing and what is Donald Trump’s role in all of it?

The term “sunsetting” was chosen for the title for one very specific reason:

Application retirement, also called application decommissioning and application sunsetting, is the practice of shutting down redundant or obsolete business applications while retaining access to the historical data.

What is really happening to the immutable bylaws of business?

Are we watching the success of the rise of the global working class coming together to oppose fascist economic/state ideology or… are we witnessing the decommissioning of the pretense of the democratic process in world affairs?

Is there a causal relationship with the latter being a last ditch tactic in response to the former?

Only time will tell.

But it is safe to assume that Trump is certainly no more of an anti-globalization crusader that Barack Obama was and his personal war on multilateralism has, like his populist image, been greatly exaggerated. Like his hairline.

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5 Responses

  1. a lot of information here !
    guess we have to wait and see…..
    “been greatly exaggerated, like his hairline.” LOL

  2. Guess its time to start another war against Syria and set off a Color Revolution in Iran.
    And time for someone in the KSA to give MBS a sharp haircut, the same kind he dishes out.

    Keep pushing NK and hope they get stupid and retaliate for shutting off most of their oil supply.

    Then sit on your throne and push out tweets as noxious as your turds.

  3. Bravo! Excellent, excellent article !!!

  4. great article, much to think about!

  5. excellent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector do not understand this. You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

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