What trade agreements have done to us


It is true that democracy and national sovereignty are threatened by proposed international agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement.

What I’m coming to realize is how much democracy and national sovereignty have already been compromised by the North American Free Trade Agreement and other existing so-called trade agreements.

They all have investor-state dispute settlement provisions that allow corporate-friendly special tribunals to override national laws and regulations.  And they all go far beyond setting terms and conditions for imports and exports.

Since almost anything can affect international trade, almost anything can go into an international trade agreement.  As David Dayen documents in a coming issue of the American Prospect, lobbyists have learned to bypass Congress and persuade the U.S. International Trade Representative—typically a former or future lobbyist himself—to enact their wish lists through trade agreements.

Rejecting the TPP, TTIP and TISA will not be enough.  The next step will be to renegotiate or cancel the existing toxic trade agreements.


free-tradeThe attack on democracy and national sovereignty has been going on for a long time.  Dayen reported that repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, one of the causes of the financial crash of 2009, was the result of a requirement by the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services.  I have long advocated restoration of Glass-Steagall, without realizing what I was up against.

I have long complained that the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been claiming the powers of a world government, but I did not realize the extend to which this is true.  Similarly I wrote newspaper articles about NAFTA in the 1990s, without understanding how NAFTA’s Investor State Dispute Settlement system could overturn national laws..

To pick just one example, the U.S.-based Ethyl Corp. successfully overturned Canada’s ban on MMT, a gasoline additive that contains a known neuro-toxin, and received $13 million in compensation.  MMT is banned in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Presumably some foreign company could overturn the ban here as well.

I used to scoff at conspiracy theorists on talk radio, ranting about the WTO and NAFTA, but they had a better instinct for what was wrong than I did.


Fast Track to the Corporate Wish List by David Dayen for the American Prospect.  How lobbyists shape American trade policy.

Case Studies: Investor-State Attacks on Public Policies by Public Citize

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