Self-serving American politicians cocooned in jacked-up, subsidised world.
Critics of the Trans Pacific Partnership should be rejoicing because it looks very much like it's dead in the water.
The Americans don't seem to like it.
Over the weekend they failed to pass what's called the Trade Adjustment Assistance Bill, a bill linked to the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority Bill. It not only didn't pass, it didn't come close. It lost 302 to 126 - it needs 217 to get through.
The fear now is unless they sort it out shortly, and there is no reason to believe they will, the TPP is finished until at least another presidency.
I watched Hilary Clinton this week, who is under some fire for not taking much of a stand on the TPP, especially given she was in part responsible for negotiating the deal when she was Secretary of State. What she did say was that there is no one tougher at negotiating on America's behalf than her.
Which I would read to mean, she's a lot more conservative on it than the current President, who must be feeling sick with humiliation now that virtually nothing he does actually turns into anything tangible.
If you believe the darkest of dark stories, we are going to get overtaken by corporate America, our government will be able to be taken to court, no one will be able to afford medicine, and the whole thing will be a monumental mistake the likes of which we should be very fearful of.
I have never believed this of course. The people who peddle this bollocks are anti-free trade and are simply out to scare us. Their main argument seems to have been that all of this has been negotiated in secret.
Just a small question - can anyone name any trade deal ever that's been negotiated in the open?
Free trade has been nothing but good news for this country. The China free trade deal has added literally billions of dollars to our economy. The TPP would be bigger again.
But here, fundamentally, is America's problem. They don't get it; they never have. Americans in their heart of hearts are not free traders.
A lot of the votes that went against the deal on the weekend will have been for reasons of self interest - politicians who're holding out for deals that'll help them get re-elected, or pay back those who got them to Washington in the first place.
The American system is just one enormous collection of self-interest pork barrel deals and arm twisting. The lobbying business is booming and what is good for the country as a whole rarely, if ever, comes to anything.
The unions are knee deep in this and they're claiming they have the support of the churches, of all things, as though somehow religion is connected to trade. Their great fear, and it's a real fear, is that if the US signs the TPP it will mean the loss of American jobs.
They're right, it will. Why? Because America isn't good or efficient at a lot of what it does.
America has always relied on their domestic market. Some 70 per cent of their economy is in the services sector. It relies, thrives, survives or otherwise, on Americans going out and spending their money on stuff other Americans have made.
That's why when the GFC arrived, America got so badly hurt and has taken so long to recover. They had all their eggs in one economic basket. Which is what's so good about the New Zealand story.
Worry all you want about milk, but milk will be back, and while we're waiting, as Bill English pointed out last week, we are only half as reliant on milk as Australia is on iron ore.
We trade with enough people to be resilient against a lot of stuff going wrong. America has never worked that out. So what they've ended up with are a lot of people employed not in the real world, but in the jacked-up, subsidised world created by Washington and led by the special interest groups.
They have every right to fear a TPP, because when the real world arrives on the doorstep, it will arrive with products and prices and efficiencies that will scare the bejesus out of them.
None of this is a reason not to do the deal.
The deal would be brilliant. Free trade, properly negotiated and willingly agreed to, is to the benefit of all those who sign. This country has never looked back once it worked out that the only way was the free trade way.
We should be immeasurably proud of the charge we have led, and be thankful to the likes of Sir Roger Douglas who took us kicking and screaming into a future most of us now take for granted.
But the pain our farmers felt back in the 80s is the pain some Americans will feel if this thing ever sees the light of day. By not signing they run the very real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant.
They are powerful almost by default because of the sheer size of their economy, but if they refuse to engage with the rest of us, they will be open to the charge Britain is increasingly facing - that of isolationism.
We laugh at Russia, but it's not a lot different. The Chinese have worked it out, they're looking out ... not in.
No TPP is a worrying sign that the biggest economy on the planet is looking the wrong way.
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