Transnational Corporatism: Multilateralism of the Future?

Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks give some detail into the framework of his strategic outlook. His governance style may be intentionally arbitrary, but his picks for top posts provide a glimpse into how he will use the power of the presidency. Trump’s Cabinet is set to be the wealthiest in modern American history with a combined net worth of approximately $9.5 billion. The wealth of this future presidential cabinet is stated to be greater than the 43 million least wealthy in the U.S. Big wigs such as Elon Musk, executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and CEO of JPMorgan Chase Jamie Dimon have been tapped to be a part of Trump’s advisory council. Wall Street native and Goldman Sachs trader Steven Mnuchin is slated to be Treasury secretary as private equity investor Wilbur Ross has been named to be Secretary of Commerce. These are big name business tycoons who traditionally favor financial deregulation and monetized politics that skew wealth flow to the top 1% at the expense of middle class livelihood.

Recent additions to the incoming Trump team are Peter Navarro and Carl Icahn. Navarro is set to lead a Trump created bureaucratic organ called the National Trade Council that will combine the powers of national security and economic policy. High on the agenda will be disseminating a strategic overhaul on trade policy with China and implementing a new framework for how globalization affects American jobs. Carl Icahn is a successful billionaire hedge fund investor (mainly dealing with the fossil fuel industry) who will also fill a nontraditional role in Trump’s Cabinet. He is stated to serve as special advisor overseeing regulatory reform whose duties will not be officiated in a government capacity. This means Icahn’s ill-defined role will not be beholden to lawful oversight by appropriate government agencies. This can cause major conflict of interest due to the fact that Icahn owns two oil refineries that owe more than $200 million due to a government program promoting the use of blended ethanol and gasoline while his new non-government government role will give him the power to help pick the next administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Being able to control federal regulatory environmental policy can give Icahn unparalleled power to protect his personal investments while seeking to dismantle EPA accords that regulate the fossil fuel industry.

Most intriguing of Trump’s picks is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whom is likely to chair the most influential (and coveted) chair as Secretary of State. Tillerson has spent his entire career at ExxonMobil and has never held a government position. Although he has no official diplomatic credentials, he has wielded power over a global corporation that has more influence and wealth than most small countries. Exxon’s international reach is so massive that it perceives itself as operating as a de facto sovereign. Tillerson has a lifetime experience in extracting dividends for his shareholder’s bottom line, operating a corporatized foreign policy outside the traditional realm of nation-to-nation affairs. There is no doubt that Tillerson encompasses strategic foresight in operating negotiations and procuring deals in the complex domain of international relations (with both private and public actors) but what is yet to be determined is if he will operate in the old world national interest or that of a new world, etching out the beginning of a corporate super-state that aligns its interests with those of other transnational businesses.

The nation-state may still be the most powerful organizing principle behind the collection of peoples, but it is not a suitable entity for creating globalized infrastructure for economic growth. Our political rights may be granted by the state and protected by the traditions of historical narratives in nationhood, but economic progress has typically been encumbered by politics (war over resources and land). Globalization has provided the foundation for the emergence of a future corporate super-state where innovation is power. Whether resources and political rights would be collectivized is a daunting question for future times.

Can this be the beginning of a new formulation for the future architecture of international relations? The current overlay of globalization may be politically unpopular to the middle-classes of the Western world, but future trends are leaning toward a more integrated world. This means an uptick in investments for new infrastructure in sectors such as energy and trade in order to build a more stabilized environment for capital flow. In the new age political shakeup that is taking place across the world, the current makeup of the nation-state is seemingly unviable as an engine for expanding capital. Nations are bound by peoples and are not equipped with foundational mechanisms for unlimited growth. If the election of Donald Trump and Brexit showcased people’s assumptions about economic insecurity, it should also be noted that underneath the consciousness of economic grief is the re-making of political identity and organization.

If globalization in its most basic form is interconnectivity, it must also be understood as a form of economic expansion that imparts goods and services as a vehicle for the unlimited capacity of man to improve his material environment. The only thing in the way of unlimited economic growth is politics and the limited powers of national institutions to impart strong economic models for unbridled wealth. There exists no supranational entity (outside of treaties and loose international institutions) that allows the private class of modern-day bourgeoisie to capitalize on future investments that would speed up global economic growth. With Trump’s Cabinet picks we might be seeing the future buildup of such a venture.

In order for this to occur, regionalism will come first. States will begin to build new models for economic interconnectivity based on regional alliances. The rules and regulations of this emerging order will provide the basis for free trade pacts and other projects that merge state based infrastructure with those of other states. A current example of the emergence of a new economic architecture is the linking of Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. In 2014, both countries signed a natural gas agreement with aims to develop infrastructure that can impart deft economic opportunities and benefits. Russia and China are negotiating to help build an economic model for identifying investment projects that can help reduce restrictions on free trade and establish an interconnected zone for more fluid commerce.

The emergence of an economic corridor that connects infrastructure between China and Central Asia can eventually widen access to the goods, services, and capital of Middle East markets while maintaining a keen key on developing propositions toward European markets. Recently, the heads of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia have approved measures to initiate a free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran, Egypt, India and Singapore. This can help to reform barriers that hinder access the energy markets. Localizing norms on trade relations between these countries can help forge a viable union of states that operate on the basis of negotiated economic principles that conform to the realities of regional politics.

China is leading this path forward by combining economic cooperation with strategic depth by attempting to align the principles set out in its One Belt, One Road initiative with that of calculated political objectives. China is seeking to work with Pakistan on a number of energy related projects in order to help stabilize conflict zones in Pakistan’s North- West Frontier, a strategic laneway that can either help or hinder China’s path Westward. Investing in the construction of oil and gas pipelines with Pakistan can help strengthen its overall economic output and increase standard of living for the broader public by helping to attract further foreign investment. If this proves successful, investing in multilateral economic pacts that unify regional ambitions will become the language for a new type of balance of power arrangement.

In the near future, the economic model of the European Union will be deemed inefficient and eventually defunct due to the politically destabilizing factor of organizationally different sovereign states attempting to centralize policy and act as one. A unified currency without a unified sovereignty has shown that it cannot bring a unified economic platform or financial stability. China is attempting to de-centralize economic norms in order to create a malleable pathway where financial cooperation will build the calculus toward a new framework that can help shape political uncertainties. Political stability can be imparted by a linking up of economic interests tailor made to increase mutual benefits. If this sounds like our current form of globalization, it is, on steroids and with the ability to diffuse state based power by replacing it with transnational economic alignments.

Without coherent rules governing the spurning of a new economic order there will exist an asymmetry of power that has the potential to cause global crises. Political order will be redefined with the possible emergence of a corporate super-state as balance of power issues can become testier due to a reorganization of the identity of the state. Geography will still play a vital role in the calculus of those who wield power, quite possibly as a maximal force due to the way resources and infrastructure can sharpen the tools of soft power.

As the new American president, Donald Trump will reign over an era unprecedented in its speed of change and depth of volatility. Further economic integration is unavoidable. What matters is if the Trump Administration will invest in sharpening U.S leverage over how regional alliances are remade or if it will purse a policy where we retreat from the global landscape while trying to economically punish those who don’t adhere to Trump’s envisaged protectionist policies. If pursuing the latter, not only would we lose political leverage to protect our interests abroad, we would miss out on the unparalleled opportunity to be a leader in the future network of economic supranational integration.

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