You might think that the domain of trade agreements, treaties, and embargoes belongs to the government, and while that might have been true in the past when governments ran their part of the world, it is no longer the case now that we are in the era of multi-nationals. It used to be that the wealth and power of a company was largely dependent on the wealth and power of the country it belonged to, as the country regulated its trading rights and the treaties of the country determined where the company could trade and how much wealth and influence it could gain, but those days are long gone. Now we have companies with valuations in excess of dozens of countries. For example, only 25 countries have a GDP higher than Apple’s 500 Billion valuation.
We are now at a point where trade agreements are largely determined by the interests of large multi-national corporations. Consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is currently in negotiation between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This proposed agreement is stirring up angst in a number of the participating countries as global health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organized labor, advocacy groups, and elected officials have criticized and protested the negotiations, in large part because of the proceedings’ secrecy, the agreement’s expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked publicly. (Wikipedia) For example, StopTPP.org is claiming the TPP will turn the Pacific Ocean and its peoples into a giant privatized corporate lake characterized by non-union workers, Wal-Mart supply chain feeders, poisoned, landless agricultural labourers, a dying biodiversity, and rising, drowning sea levels. And Wikileaks, in a post earlier this year, says the TPP is Sacrificing the Environment for Corporate Interests because the current draft text of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter is forcing nations to change laws and to prosecute in defense of the biggest corporate interests in the field of IP rights. Furthermore, the Environment Chapter does not include any enforcement mechanisms serving the defense of the environment, simply enforcing the lowest common denominator of environmental interests as the standard.
The way things are going, large Corporations Will Soon Rule the World, or at least the economic world, and they will be the entities that create the major trade agreements and trade embargoes. And those agreements will not only determine their fates, but yours. They will, directly or indirectly, determine who you do or do not do business with. If non-compete supplier clauses, favoured by big mega-brands that dominate the market and go head to head with each other at every opportunity, that prevent a supplier from doing business with a company’s main competitor become commonplace (again), by doing business with one customer you will be preventing business relationships with a second and simultaneously determining who you target customer base will be. Similarly, if your competitor is doing business with a customer that insists in a protected supply chain, that competitor, given the opportunity, will attempt to lock up parts of the supply base and limit your options.
In other words, if you don’t learn the language, logistics, and consequences of trade, treaties, and embargoes, you might fall victim to their (un)intended consequences while your competitors prosper.