Posts Tagged ‘Trade Treaties’

Can Trump make U.S. industry great again?

December 1, 2016

Donald Trump in his campaign promised to reverse the decline of American manufacturing.

Can he do it?  I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised, but I don’t think so.

President-elect Trump’s proposed economic policies are the same as what most Republicans and many Democrats have been advocating for 30 years or more—lower taxes, less regulation, fewer public services.

None of these things has stopped the increase in U.S. trade deficits or the increase in economic insecurity of American workers.

Trump did speak against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, promised to renegotiate other trade agreements and threatened to impose punishing tariffs on China and Mexico in retaliation for their unfair trade policies.

I myself am in favor of rejecting the TPP and renegotiating trade treaties.  This would be a step forward.  But it would take more than this to rebuild the hollowed-out U.S. manufacturing economy.

China, Japan, South Korea and most nations with flourishing industrial economies use trade policy as a means of strengthening their economies.

Their leaders, like Alexander Hamilton in the early days of the United States, seek to build up their nations’ “infant industries” under those industries are strong enough to stand on their own feet.

When foreign companies seek to sell these nations their products, their governments demand that the foreign companies not only set up factories in their countries, but that they employ native workers and transfer their industrial know-how to the host countries.  The USA does nothing like this.

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The passing scene: January 7, 2015

January 7, 2015

enhanced-buzz-wide-25305-1389933990-1160 Words and a War Without End: The Untold Story of the Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History by Gregory D. Johnson for BuzzFeed.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President George W. Bush the authority to hunt down the terrorists who plotted the 9/11 attacks.  But President Bush and President Obama after him have used it as justification for any kind of covert or military action anywhere in the world that they deem necessary for national security.  This article tells how AUMF was enacted, and the debate over its meaning.

Nonviolent Conflicts in 2014 You May Have Missed Because They Were Not Violent by Erica Chenoweth for Political Violence @ A Glance.

Violent methods of struggle have more credibility than non-violent methods.  When mass defiance fails, it is seen as a reason to shift to violent struggle.  When violent struggle fails, it is seen as a reason to double down on violence.

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places by David Kravets for ars technica.

The FBI has erected fake cell phone towers which it uses to intercept and listen in on cell phone conversations.

Bernie Sanders Brutal Letter on Obama’s Trade Pact Foreshadows 2016 Democratic Clash by Zach Carter for Huffington Post.

Why the Tech Elite Is Getting Behind Universal Basic Income by Nathan Schneider for Vice News.

 

Obama-GOP compromise? I hope not

November 14, 2014

All ways in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress could reach agreement are bad for the American people.

All of President Obama’s initiatives that are good for the American people are unacceptable to the Republicans.

Bad for Americans, acceptable to Republicans

Pro-Business Trade Treaties

free-tradePresident Obama has pushed for new trade treaties that give foreign corporations the right to appeal for damages if countries pass laws that unjustly deprive them of profits.  Similar provisions in existing trade treaties have been used against environmental regulation, subsidies for renewable energy and financial regulation.  Proposed new treaties are believed to go further.

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement appears doomed, but the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (aka the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the Trade in Services Agreement might sneak in under the public’s radar.   Corporate American favors these treaties, so the GOP might go for them.

Weakening Social Security and Medicare

obama_cutsPresident Obama repeatedly proposed changing the formula for Social Security benefits and raising the age for Medicare, in exchange for modest tax increases on upper income brackets.  Even though the tax increases are off the table, Republicans might go for such a “grand bargain” on other issues.

Starting New Wars

Obama-and-DronesIf President Obama discovers some new threat that he says requires military intervention in a foreign country, the Republicans in Congress are sure to support him—short of actually voting authorization, which he says he doesn’t need anyway.  Likewise for new authority for surveillance, preventive detention, drone strikes, prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.

Tar Sands Pipeline  [Added 11/15/14].

The Canadian government and Trans Canada corporation want to bring corrosive tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to oil refineries in the United States.  Republicans in Congress are strongly in favor of this.  President Obama’s stand on the Keystone XL pipeline is uncertain, but federal regulators have already quietly approved the alternative Alberta Clipper pipeline.  Overall the President is a strong promoter of energy development, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Good for Americans, unacceptable to Republicans

Climate Change

waronglobalwarming63-300x0President Obama says that he wants laws and regulations that limit the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  A larger segment of the Republicans deny that human-caused climate change is even taking place, let alone that something should be done about it.

Immigration Reform

The only feasible immigration reform, as I see it, is some provision providing a path to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already in this country.  I admit this is not good, but the alternatives are worse.

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Pushing back against pro-corporate treaties

May 6, 2013

investor.treaty.pushback.conference

Last month representative of 12 Latin American governments met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to talk about what to do about trade treaties that give private business the right to appeal to international tribunals to overturn laws and court decisions for the protection of workers, consumers and the public interest.

Such provisions are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement and of numerous bilateral agreements between the United States and foreign governments.   These treaties not only give them the right to appeal to a tribunal of foreigners to overturn a nation’s laws, but to collect damages for loss of “expected profits.”   Only investors have the right of appeal under these treaties.  Labor unions and citizens groups do not.  As Public Citizen reported:

Many of the other countries present have also faced a taxing litany of investor-state cases in recent years:  Mexico (e.g. losing $170 million in a NAFTA-created tribunal to the same U.S. agribusinesses that, under the same NAFTA, displaced over two million farmers), Argentina (e.g. losing a slew of cases to foreign financial firms for using financial regulations to mitigate the country’s 2001 financial crisis), Guatemala (e.g. losing $13 million to a railroad company that failed to build a railroad because the tribunal thought that the government had failed to fulfill the company’s expectations), etc.

via Eyes on Trade.

These “investor-state” provisions are being used more and more.   Recently a company appealed Quebec’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas to a NAFTA court.   Lone Pine Resources, a company incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, has asked for $250 million to compensate for its time and expense in obtaining necessary permits and approvals for hydrofracking.  Under the treaty, the appeal must go to binding arbitration to a three-person panel of professional arbitrators in a hearing closed to the public.   If Lone Pine wins, this would have grave implications for the ability of New York state or any other North American government to regulate hydrofracking.

Red bar is cases before International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.  Grey bar is other cases.  Source; UNCTAD

ICSID is the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Barack Obama in his 2008 Presidential campaign promised to renegotiate NAFTA so as to give better protections for labor and the public interest, but as President, he did not make even a token effort to do so.   Instead his administration is embarked on negotiations for a new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and a new agreement with the European Union which would lock in investor rights to appeal national laws.

I don’t think global corporations need the benefit of special protection under international law.   If corporate executives feel their company is treated unfairly by a government, they have the power to simply cease doing business there.  Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch organization quoted reports that there is no evidence that investor-state treaties increase the amount of foreign investment in a country.

As a result of the Guayaquil meeting:

At the end of the day, seven of the governments present signed a declaration to coordinate efforts in seeking to replace the investor-state regime with an alternative investment framework that respects sovereignty, democracy, and public well-being.  They announced the launch of an International Observatory, a intergovernmental commission based in Latin America to audit investor-state tribunals, draft alternative investment agreements, and collaborate in strategies for reform. … …  Representatives from the remaining five governments participated as observers and are now taking the declaration back to their capitals to discuss joining the emerging Latin American coalition.

via Eyes on Trade.

I hope something comes of this.   It is U.S.-based corporations and the corporate-influenced U.S. government that are pushing for unequal trade treaties.  They do not benefit the American people.

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