When US Navy Admiral Locklear said that we needed the TPP as much as a new aircraft carrier, he was referring to the Pacific Pivot, a realignment of military and trade investments in the Asia-Pacific.
The TPP is as much a free-trade agreement as it is a containment and obstruction policy aimed at China—who was excluded from the TPP—and who is the center of the economic world in Asia.
In the Pacific, and I want to make sure that we understand that the Pacific is not Asia—it’s an entirely different region with vastly different peoples, histories, economies and priorities. In the Pacific many of those who make up the 12 independent countries and 12 or so territories struggling for independence, they understand very well the intersection between trade and militarization. This intersection is violent and criminal and it is embedded in our histories, and it is still going on.
In Hawaii, for example, we cannot separate trade from militarization. Pearl Harbor is Pacific Central Command. The coup of our Queen Liliuokalani was at the gun point of the US military supporting American businessmen looking to annex Hawaii for the sugar trade.
To say that Hawaii is on the frontlines is an understatement. During World War 2 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked a US military base, not Hawaii. It’s important to make clear that it was a reciprocity treaty, a US free-trade agreement that initially set the stage for this insecurity.
Now, Obama and the leaders of the ASEAN countries are inside meeting about the TPP and the South China Seas– trade and militarization– creating more insecurity for the Pacific.
For those not familiar with the issue around the South China Seas, in 2009 Obama joined the TPP, and Washington began to draft new plans to realign US military and trade in the region. In 2011 just before the APEC meeting in Hawaii, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Pacific Pivot– the military and economic rebalance– intensifying the territorial dispute.
Washington is provoking the tensions occurring in the South China Sea as a result of 4 small outposts being built by China. Not military outposts mind you, but commercial ones, and we are sending battleships and fighter jets to provoke and try to intimidate China. The problem is that it does not intimidate China, it is only making them more defensive, particularly since the US already boasts 400 military installations, outposts and bases in just the Pacific.
Although there is already a 2002 agreement between China and ASEAN to work through the disputed territory, Washington took it upon itself to impose the “Freedom of Navigation” proposal to push China’s territorial claim to 12 nautical miles of its shore. This is China’s traditional maritime and shipping artery where billions—if not trillions of dollars of trade are at stake.
All we have to do is think about the Gulf of Mexico and the Cuban Missile Crisis to imagine that what the US is provoking is war.
Now, paradoxically, elsewhere in the Pacific, this meeting over the South China Sea is occurring while the US has recently annexed nearly 2 million square kilometers of Pacific Ocean Territory despite objections by Pacific Island Countries, AND the US is forcibly removing islanders from Tinian and Pagan off their ancestral islands so that they can use these islands for military training.
Look at the “Cooperation and Capacity Building Chapter” of the TPP Agreement. I encourage you to read this text as bully rules that seek to impede the transport of goods of non-TPP countries through the region, while privileging US access and security.
The strategic-economic partnership of the TPP establishes a multilateral, rule-based consensus that provides the US with greater “legal” presence in the region.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the territory of the South China Sea is without dispute, but that China and ASEAN have had this dispute ever since South East Asian countries attained independence from the colonial powers (mostly since WW2), and I want to reiterate that they already have a legal mechanism in place to address the boundaries bilaterally with the 2002 “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”
The “Freedom of Navigation” proposal that Obama is peddling, is nothing more than an attempt to legally entrench its military and trade regime in the region, while obstructing China’s maritime presence. For us in the Pacific, this TPP containment and obstruction strategy is making the region far more unstable by invoking a military partnership that does little more than perpetuate a policy of global corporate governance for the 1%.