The past couple of decades of globalization have been a disaster for planetary ecosystems, indigenous peoples, and most middle-class citizens, but a gravy train for big investors, investment bankers, and managers of transnational corporations. This unprecedented expansion of international trade was driven by the convergence of key resources, developments, and inventions: cheap oil, satellite communications, container ships, computerized monitoring of inventories, the flourishing of multinational corporations, the proliferation of liberal trade treaties (including NAFTA), and the emergence of transnational bodies such as the World Trade Organization.
"Want to label GM foods? Sorry, that’s a barrier to trade. Want local schools to buy healthy food from local farmers? Nope, that might violate the rights of Big Ag. Want to protect a forest? Stand aside, you’re in the way of profits."
Economists said everyone would eventually benefit, but casualties quickly mounted. Inflation-adjusted wages for American workers stagnated. Manufacturing towns throughout the Northeast and Midwest withered. Meanwhile, China began burning immense amounts of coal to make mountains of toys, furniture, clothing, tools, appliances, and consumer electronics, cloaking its cities in a pall of toxic fumes and driving its greenhouse gas emissions to world record-setting levels. In effect, the United States has been importing cheap consumer goods while exporting jobs and polluting industries. In both China and the US, levels of economic inequality have soared.
Now comes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new trade deal negotiated in secret (only corporations get to contribute to, and look at, the draft language). The point of the Treaty: to double down on globalization at precisely the moment in time when the entire enterprise is beginning to fail as a result of stubbornly high oil prices, worsening climate change impacts (floods, droughts, wildfires), debt deflation, and middle-class fears of losing even more ground.