So the UK is now a member of the CPTPP, whose nearest member (Canada) is thousands of kilometres away across the Atlantic. Ironic that the announcement should have come on the same weekend that saw thousands of British holiday makers stranded for up to 12 hours in coaches waiting to cross the twenty-two miles of water that separates us from our nearest neighbour. However, our Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is busy promoting membership as hard as he can, on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and the rest. As far as LinkedIn is concerned, it seems that the best he could find to say was that “for example, British car producers would previously have paid tariffs of 30% to export their cars to Malaysia. From today, that goes down to 0%”.
Malaysia is, of course, far closer to the world’s greatest car exporters, in Japan, China and India, than it is to the UK. The prospect of our selling cars there in any significant numbers is negligible. Only our high-end luxury car makers have a chance. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover (a subsidiary of India’s Tata Motors) and Rolls Royce Motor Cars (a subsidiary of Germany’s BMW).
Ayn Rand, however, would doubtless have approved, because not only does the agreement remove tariffs between ourselves and a range of counties to whom we export very little and are hardly likely to export very much more, but it gives foreign and multinational companies (but not British ones, be it noted) the right to sue our government for introducing any legislation that they don’t like, with the cases heard in courts specifically set up for that purpose, where adjudication is in the hands of arbitrators whose backgrounds suggest inbuilt bias in favour of the corporate world. Paragraph 3(d) of the Annex to Article 9.22.6. of the ISDS Code of Conduct provides that
“Upon selection, an arbitrator shall refrain, for the duration of the proceeding, from acting as counsel or party-appointed expert or witness in any pending or new investment dispute under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other international agreement”
Supporters of CPTPP boast that this restriction is particularly broad since it covers other disputes, even those in which the claimant and respondent are not involved. In their eyes, no doubt, that makes it very draconian, but it applies only while that particular case is under consideration. It is very clear that there is nothing to prevent those arbitrators from going off and acting as council for one of the parties as soon as the dispute is over, and that they are exactly the sort of people who would be in positions to do just that.
The UK government also defends its participation on ISDS agreements by noting that it has never yet lost a case, but that ignores the costs of defence if such actions are initiated, and the chilling effect of the possibility of such actions. Does the UK government believe that the possibility of being prosecuted for theft has no deterrent effect? If it believes that it does, then it cannot reasonably deny that the possibility of being taken to court for introducing protections for workers or the environment also has a deterrent effect.
It is all very reminiscent of Judge Naragansett, who on the final page of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was described as penning a new amendment to the American constitution forbidding congress from passing any legislation that restricted the ability of companies to make profit. Which is, when one thinks of it, a remarkable example of Rand’s ability to hold two contradictory opinions at the same time. Her novels are full of badly run companies ruled by venal idiots. One has only to think of James Taggart, but there are plenty more, opposing, obstructing and robbing the god-like rugged individualists who alone make America work. But Narrangansett had no concern for individuals. It was companies he wanted to protect, no matter what they did, or how badly they were run.