Posts Tagged ‘national sovereignty’

Who said Obama isn’t a strong leader?

June 11, 2015

Anybody who said that Barack Obama is a weak leader must eat their words in the light of the way he is pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement through Congress.

Likewise those who said he is incapable of working with the Republican leaders in Congress.

Barack ObamaI think people mistook his character because they mistook his priorities.  The President is a tough fighter for things that matter to him.

It is just that issues such as closing Guantanamo Bay or defending Social Security were not among his top priorities.  The TPP and the Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track, are.

The TPP is supposedly a trade agreement, but based on what’s been leaked out about it so far, that’s not what it is.

It creates new international law that limits the power of sovereign governments to enact laws and regulations to protect public health, the environment and the well-being of their citizens/

And it sets up a mechanism by which corporations can have governments penalized if a tribunal rules that laws and regulations deny them their just profits.

Corporate executives say they will invest more confidently in countries if they have assurance that they won’t be subject to onerous laws and regulations and if they can have recourse to a special tribunal if national governments impose laws and regulations they think are unfair.  No doubt!

That doesn’t mean that no investment will take place if they don’t get all these special protections.

My idea of a free trade agreement is an agreement among nations to lower tariffs and import quotas so that people within those countries can freely exchange goods and services.  Most such barriers were eliminated years ago.  That’s why almost everything you pick up in an American department store is labeled “Made in Vietnam” or “Made in Korea” or “Made in Bangladesh”.

Eliminating restrictions on currency manipulation, or demanding privatization of public services, is very different.   This is a way of shifting governance from national governments to international corporations.

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WTO overrules U.S. country of origin law

May 20, 2015

The World Trade Organization has overruled a U.S. law requiring that imported meat be labeled as to its country of origin.

The law gives an unfair advantage to domestic livestock breeders and meat processors, the WTO said.

Now the WTO is in the process of deciding what retaliatory tariffs can be imposed by Canada and Mexico if the United States does not repeal the law.

This is a sample of what can be expected if Congress approves the Trans Pacific Partnership or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreements.

The mechanism is different in the TPP and TTIP, but the purpose is the same.  Under the investor-state dispute settlement processes in these agreements, a panel of arbitrators could fine a government whose laws supposedly treated a foreign investor unfairly.  The government would have the choice of paying the fine or repealing the law.

It might be good to have a trade agreement that set minimum standards for inspection of imported meat.  But the existing and proposed trade agreements go the other way.  They restrict the power of democratically-elected governments to protect their citizens.

LINKS

WTO Rejects U.S. Appeal of COOL Ruling by Lydia Zuraw of Food Safety News.

If Fast Track Passes, Anything Attached to a “Trade” Treaty Will Pass by Gaius Publius for Down With Tyranny!  [Hat tip to naked capitalism]

Mercenary armies and the fate of nations

February 10, 2015

Kelly Vlahos wrote a disturbing article in The American Conservative about the Pentagon’s growing dependence on mercenary troops and about how mercenary companies are becoming just as important as regular troops worldwide.

Use of military contractors offers many short-term conveniences for governments and long-term dangers for the public.

authoritarianism9fd18cHiring mercenaries frees a government from the difficulties of recruitment or a military draft.   Mercenary companies are usually willing to do whatever they’re paid to do, without concern for such things as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Constitution, the Geneva convention or a sense of military honor.  Their activities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The long-term danger is having your country’s national defense dependent on people whose services are for sale to the highest bidder.   That was the situation in the city-states of Renaissance Italy during the time of Machiavelli, and Sean McFate, a writer and former mercenary himself, thinks the world could be returning to that situation.  Very convenient—for the government in power.

The great sociologist Max Weber defined a sovereign government as the institution that had a monopoly on the legitimate use of lethal force within a given area.  But there is nothing that limits a military contractor to selling its services to a government.

Mercenaries can sell their services to anybody that can pay them, be they corporations, political parties, fanatic religious movements or international institutions.

Corporations nowadays operate like private governments and sometimes have the power to bend actual governments to their will, as the big banks are doing in Greece and Ukraine.  But while they have their own security forces, they as yet lack full-fledged armies.  If Vlahos and McFate are right, they might acquire them, too.

LINKS

A Blackwater World Order by Kelley Vlahos for The American Conservative.

Book Review: Sean McFate’s The Modern Mercenary for Scholars and Rogues Literary Journal.

Blackwater Convictions Don’t Mean the End of Mercenary War by Sean McFate for The New Republic.

The nature of a corporation and how it changed in the 1980s by Matt Stoller for Ian Welsh.  About corporations as private governments.