Lenin wrote his path-breaking book Imperialism- the Highest Stage of Capitalism in 1915. This epoch has advanced considerably for 100 years to the point where today NZ is torn between the two major imperialist blocs led by the US and by China. The US has been in decline since the end of the post-war boom and the onset of a structural by sis of falling profits in the 1970s. Its response to that was to embark on neo-liberalism to gain access to cheap labour and raw materials in the semi-colonial world and pursue its cold war with Russia and China until those countries collapsed and opened up to Western imperialism.
What the US and other Western powers did not foresee however, is that Russia and China while opening up new opportunities for massive profits to rescue the ailing capitalist system, maintained their independence and developed as new rival imperialist powers. China in particular was able to emerge as the main rival to the US, driving growth in the global economy on the back of its rapid expansion.
This has brought a major confrontation between the two blocs to a head in the Asia Pacific region contesting control over all the other Asia Pacific countries. This contest takes the immediate form of rival economic zones based on the US led TPPA and the China led FTAAP.
The TPPA is a continuation of neo-liberalism – the US policy dating from the 1970s to break down national barriers to US corporations to buy up cheaply what is left of scarce global resources needed to restore profits. That policy included ‘structural adjustment’ that imposed punitive deregulation on semi-colonies including removal of tariff protection. Many of those countries, including NZ were forced to eliminate tariffs to allow the penetration of foreign capital, while the US and other big imperialist powers maintained their protectionist barriers.
So is the TPPA now about the US reciprocating by suddenly reducing its own tariff barriers? Not at all, the US is now demanding that its ‘partners’ eliminate any political barriers to US corporations dictating trade and investment rules at the expense of the social needs of the populations and the destruction of the environment of these countries.
That is why the TPPA takes the form of US bullying the weaker states in its bloc to remove all sovereign barriers to US corporations buying up all sorts of property from state assets to IP and re-colonise these weaker states as sources of cheap labour and raw materials. This prevents these states from giving equal preference to China via FTAs with China, at the same time allowing the US corporates to ‘piggy back’ into China on these FTAs.
This is what is happening to NZ today. Unlike redline that says that NZ is an imperialist country, NZ has gone from a settler colony with limited self-governing independence from imperialist Britain before WW2, to a servile client state of the USA, and now in the 21st century, also a neo-colony of Chinese imperialism. The FTA with China is mainly about trade, although it also allows access to Chinese capital buying up NZ land, assets and IP. The US hopes to steal a march of China by taking direct control of the NZ economy.
Therefore, the TPPA has nothing to do with ‘comparative advantage’ (the basis of the theory of free trade) and everything to do with US state monopoly capitalism. Were Marx alive today he would recognise that imperialism arose once the limits of market competition to develop the forces of production had been reached. In its place giant monopolies backed by their states set about destroying the forces of production, producing waste, creating a global surplus of labour, and threatening the end of human civilisation and most of the living species on earth.
Anything that mobilises the federation of international freedom fighters against this destructive death star would be actively supported by Marx.