Rethinking the trade and investment agenda in turbulent times

Rethinking the trade and investment agenda in turbulent times ‘What an Alternative and Progressive Trade Strategy Should Look Like’, Fale Pasifika, 19-20 October 2018. Professor Jane Kelsey, introductory comments These days I feel depressed, cautiously optimistic, and frustrated at the same time. Depressed because the harm caused by four decades of capitalism unleashed, fostered by a neoliberal regime expanded and locked in through free trade and investment agreements. Poverty, inequality, precarious jobs, decaying infrastructure, social dis-ease surround us Governments and international institutions admit that reality at almost every international meeting I go to. They acknowledge there is a crisis of legitimacy in the current regime, and pepper their speeches with the buzzwords of social inclusion, empowering women and indigenous peoples, reversing inequality and embrace the economic, social and environmental pillars of the sustainable development goals – although they rarely go as far as mentioning climate change. Yet I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of change, because the forces of creative disruption are breaking the mould, with the caveat that the outcome is not always progressive. We can debate the pros and cons of the UK’s Brexit and Trump’s withdrawal from TPPA, the rewriting of NAFTA, Trump’s tariffs on traditional allies and China alike, but there is no denying or reversing the jolt that has given to the system. Separately from that, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been...

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