Posts Tagged ‘TPP Protests’

Anti-TPP movement growing in Japan

May 9, 2013

While few Americans know about the secret negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, there is a strong and growing anti-TPP movement in Japan, which isn’t even an official party to the negotiations, which include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Leaked information about the TPP indicates that it would set up tribunals which would have authority to override national laws and court decisions deemed unfair to “investors.”   U.S. opponents of TPP cite precedents where trade agreements have been used to override laws and court decisions protecting public health and the environment.

hulk-tppBut Nobuhiko Suto, a former member of the Japanese House of Representatives who is leading anti-TPP protests, told Real News that the TPP could destroy Japan’s successful health insurance system.  That is because, like all universal health insurance systems, it keeps average costs down by bringing rich, poor, healthy and unhealthy people into the same system.  He said the TPP would destroy this by forcing Japan to allow foreign health insurance companies to take the rich and healthy out of the system.  For Americans, this would mean that a single-payer health insurance system would be forever ruled out of consideration.

We don’t know for sure what is in the TPP—only that the negotiators fear an adverse public reaction if the draft agreement would be made public.  But Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, has the same concerns as Nobuhiko Suto.   He said these concerns are validated by agreements the United States has negotiated with individual countries such as Peru, and by statements of the Australian government.

Khor said the United States and Australian governments want a provision that requires any government service that duplicates private enterprise to operate on “strictly commercial considerations.”  He said they want to eliminate any inherent advantage that a government service might enjoy over private enterprise, including a requirement that the government service not merely break even, but earn a profit comparable to what a private company might demand.

Australia has … introduced the principle of “competitive neutrality” to discipline the SOEs [state-owned enterprises]. … …  This is based on the concept of a “government-owned business”.   The state-owned business enterprise which competes with private companies may obtain advantages, impeding the ability of the private sector to compete on equal terms.

… … These advantages include exemptions from taxes; cheaper debt financing (because of the low-risk classification or government guarantees); absence of need to make a commercial rate of return; and exemption from regulatory constraints or costs.

To offset these advantages, the Australian guidelines cover how government businesses should pay taxes in full; pay back to the central government the difference in their loan costs vis-à-vis private sector loan costs; pay license fees equivalent to the central government; and ensure that they obtain a commercial rate of return.

via TripleCrisis.

Of course these supposedly unfair advantages work to the benefit of the public.  The whole point of having government provide services is to do the things that private enterprise is unable or unwilling to do.   The Rural Electrification Administration extended electricity to farms that private utilities found unprofitable to service.  The U.S. Postal Service provides mail delivery to remote locations that the commercial carriers don’t serve directly (they use the USPS instead).   We have public trash pickup in Rochester because it means all the trash gets picked up, not just that trash of those who can afford a private service.

Now you may disagree that government does better than private business in these examples.  Reasonable people can differ about the role of government and business.  The problem with the TPP, unless all the information leaking out is completely wrong, is that decisions about this role would not be made by elected officials, but by an international body not accountable to the public.

Click on Serious Threat to Asian Economic Model for Martin Khor’s full analysis of the TPP.

Click on Trans Pacific Partnership: Background and Resources for background information from the Sierra Club New York City Group.

Hat tip to naked capitalism.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: NAFTA on steroids

September 15, 2012

This map shows how the TPP would link other trade blocs

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement so as to remove provisions that limited the ability of national governments to legislate for protection of workers, consumers and the environment.

Not only have Obama and Clinton not done this, they have signed on to negotiations begun in the last days of the George W. Bush administration to create a new agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with all the objectionable features of NAFTA raised to a new order of magnitude.  The talks being being conducted in secret, with doors closed to Congress but 600 corporate representatives taking part as advisers.  Fortunately some information has been leaked.  Lori Wallach wrote a good summary of what’s at stake for the Nation magazine back in July.

Think of the TPP as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny.  Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters.  The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation.  They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.

The stakes are extremely high, because the TPP may well be the last “trade” agreement Washington negotiates.  This is because if it’s completed, the TPP would remain open for any other country to join.  In May US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he “would love nothing more” than to have China join.  In June Mexico and Canada entered the process, creating a NAFTA on steroids, with most of Asia to boot.

Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état.  The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars.  Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged.  If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion.  And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date.

Failure to conform domestic laws to the rules would subject countries to lawsuits before TPP tribunals empowered to authorize trade sanctions against member countries.  The leaked investment chapter also shows that the TPP would expand the parallel legal system included in NAFTA.  Called Investor-State Dispute Resolution, it empowers corporations to sue governments—outside their domestic court systems—over any action the corporations believe undermines their expected future profits or rights under the pact.  Three-person international tribunals of attorneys from the private sector would hear these cases.  The lawyers rotate between serving as “judges”—empowered to order governments to pay corporations unlimited amounts in fines—and representing the corporations that use this system to raid government treasuries.  The NAFTA version of this scheme has forced governments to pay more than $350 million to corporations after suits against toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more.

TPP negotiators representing the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are now meeting in Leesburg, Va., through Sunday (tomorrow).  Representatives of Canada and Mexico will join the talks when they resume in December.

Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership began in 2005 among New Zealand, Vietnam and Chile, and Brunei joined in a few months later.  It seems odd that these four particular countries would find common cause.  I think it is likely that the Trans Pacific Partnership represents a corporate plan being pushed in many countries, and these four were the first to sign on.

President George W. Bush brought the United States into the TPP negotiations in mid-2008, and the other negotiating partners joined soon after.  My main objection to the TPP is not to the specifics of what is being discussed.  Reasonable people can differ as to how far copyright and drug patents should extend.  My objection is that these issues would be removed from the democratic process and given over to a body representing corporations with a vested interest.

Trade representative Ron Kirk said the reason for keeping secret the texts of the negotiating positions and the draft agreements is that revealing such information led to the defeat of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.  From the democratic perspective, that is precisely the information ought to be revealed.  As Lori Wallach said:

The goal was to complete the TPP this year. Thankfully, opposition by some countries to the most extreme corporate demands has slowed negotiations.  Australia has announced it will not submit to the parallel corporate court system, and it and New Zealand have rejected a US proposal to allow pharmaceutical companies to challenge their government medicine formularies’ pricing decisions, which have managed to keep their drug costs much lower than in the United States. Every country has rejected the US proposal to extend drug patent monopolies.  This text was leaked, allowing government health officials and activists in all the countries to fight back.  Many countries have also rejected a US proposal that would forbid countries from using capital controls, taxes or other macro-prudential measures to limit the destructive power of financial speculators.

However, we face a race against time—much of the TPP text has been agreed on. Will the banksters, Big Pharma, Big Oil, agribusiness, tobacco multinationals and the other usual suspects get away with this massive assault on democracy?  Will the public wake up to this threat and fight back, demanding either a fair deal or no deal?  The Doha Round of WTO expansion, the FTAA and other corporate attacks via “trade” agreements were successfully derailed when citizens around the world took action to hold their governments accountable. Certainly in an election year, we are well poised to turn around the TPP as well.

And, no, I don’t think Mitt Romney would be any better on the Trans-Pacific Partnership than Barack Obama is.  We Americans must look for redress to Congress and our constitutional system of checks and balances.

Click on NAFTA on Steroids for Lori Wallach’s complete article.

Click on Public Citizen Press Room for a report on the leaked provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.