TPP: A Trade Deal from Hell
by Stephen Lendman
Obama and political Washington support an alphabet soup of repressive police state laws, other freedom destroying measures, and hellish trade deals.
SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA threaten online freedom. Free speech and civil protections are endangered species. So are other inviolable rule of law provisions. With bipartisan support, they're heading for the trash bin of history.
Obama officials secretly negotiated and adopted ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). It established unrestricted supranational global trade rules. Its provisions trample on national sovereignty, privacy and personal freedoms.
In October 2011, Obama lawlessly circumvented Congress. He signed ACTA. He falsely claimed it's not a treaty. He usurped diktat authority. He claimed he acted by "executive agreement." He strong-armed other nations to go along.
TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) is ACTA 2.0. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) calls it "a secretive, multi-nation agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe."
Ten nations negotiated it secretly plus Japan without formal status. They include America, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Canada, and Mexico.
They want it adopted quietly out of public view. Since March 2010, multiple negotiating rounds were held. They continue. Other nations may come aboard. Mexico is the latest.
At issue is agreeing on unrestricted trade in goods, services, rules of origin, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers, government procurement and competition policies, and intellectual property (IP).
IP includes copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related considerations. One-sided pro-business structuring harms ordinary popular rights. At stake is a free and open Internet, its global infrastructure, and worldwide innovation under level playing field rules.
Power brokers want secretive provisions established with no public knowledge of their destructive harm. TPP aims to rewrite global IP enforcement rules. It also includes numerous other anti-populist mandates.
National sovereignty is at stake. Signatory countries will have to change domestic laws, regulations, and other policies to comply.
Leaked provisions subvert US laws. Congress is powerless to enforce them. Supranational TPP authority overrides national sovereignty. Investor rights are prioritized over public ones.
Corporate giants already rule the world. Imagine giving them more power. Imagine having no way to stop them. Imagine a president trashing personal freedoms for his own self-interest.
In 1995, Lori Wallach founded Global Trade Watch. It's a Public Citizen division. It monitors destructive trade deals.
Its "mission is to ensure that in this era of globalization, a majority have the opportunity to enjoy economic security, a clean environment, safe food, medicines and products, access to quality affordable services such as health care and the exercise of democratic decision-making about the matters that affect their lives."
Working closely with environmental, labor, and other allied groups, Wallach supports the public interest in Congress, foreign parliaments, the courts, government agencies, and the media.
A National Journal profile called her "the trade debate's guerrilla warrior.' The Institute for International Economics says she's the "madame Defarge of Seattle."
On June 13, Public Citizen headlined "Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda."
"After Two Years of Closed-Door Negotiations, Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Replicates Alarming Bush Trade Pact Terms That Obama Opposed as Candidate, and Worse."
US officials secretly agreed to controversial provisions. According to Wallach:
"The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations."
"Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do."
Outrageous TPP Investment Chapter provisions:
(1) prohibit federal, state, and local governments from regulating foreign companies operating in America. They'll have greater rights than US firms.
(2) incentivize corporate America to invest abroad and offshore more jobs to low wage countries.
(3) establish a two-track legal system. Foreign firms will be exempt from US laws. They'll be able to sue federal, state and local governments in foreign courts. At issue is demanding compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use, and other laws they claim undermine their rights.
(4) let foreign corporations demand and receive compensation for costs incurred in complying with US financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to all companies globally.
Hundreds of US corporate officials have access to TPP provisions. They're advising US negotiators on what they want. Except for leaks, the public is entirely shut out.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk defended TPP secrecy despite having no leg to stand on. According to Wallach:
He "effectively has said that the administration must keep TPP secret because otherwise it won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress."
"The airing of this one TPP chapter, which greatly favors foreign corporations over domestic businesses and the public interest and exposes us to significant financial liabilities, shows that the whole draft text must be released immediately so it can be reviewed and debated."
"Absent that, these negotiations must be ended now."
Obama wants negotiations completed by fall. Other countries are free to join in later. Information Public Citizen obtained shows how TPP tramples on individual freedom and national sovereignty.
US negotiators want extrajudicial enforcement rights. They want corporate investors freed to do what they please without regulatory oversight.
On June 14, Public Citizen said TPP "could undermine Medicare, Medicaid," and veterans' health benefits. Seniors, military families, and America's least advantaged will be harmed most.
That the whole idea. TPP prioritizes corporate interests at the expense of public ones. For example, affordable medicines will be lost. Price containment will be subverted. Leaked texts reveal it.
On June 18, Public Citizen said Mexico became the tenth negotiating country. China reportedly is seeking entry. Expect others to follow.
Wallach again stressed that TPP's "model is fundamentally flawed: It’s hard to imagine who in this country would support it if they knew that it banned 'Buy American' procurements, limited Internet freedom a la SOPA (the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act) or created a two-track judicial system privileging corporations with a new ticket to raid our tax dollars."
"Adding more countries just expands the potential threats of corporate attacks that the TPP poses to people here and now also poses to Mexicans."
Congressional opposition exists. Sixty-nine members wrote Obama after learning that TPP bans "Buy American" procurement rules.
The entire Congress can hang its hat on that issue. Whether it will is another matter entirely.
US politics are too corrupt to fix. Big money controls it. What corporate funders want they get.
Public rage alone can change things. Expect nothing else to work. It's high time people understood the buck stops with them. There is no alternative.
It's their choice and burden to bear otherwise. Hopefully they'll stand up for what they should have demanded long ago.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" http://www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour