Posts Tagged ‘Transpacific Partnership’

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.


TTP trade deal would override American law

April 1, 2013

Right-wing opponents of President Obama say that his policies are a threat to American democracy.  I think that’s true—but not in the way they think.   He claims the right to sign death warrants based on secret criteria.  He has brought government secrecy to unprecedented levels.  His administration protects wrongdoers and prosecutes whistle-blowers.   But all these things will be possible for a future President to roll back.

Not so the TransPacific Partnership agreement, a treaty now being negotiated in secret.  The TPP treaty will be submitted to the Senate under the Fast Track system under which it can be voted up or down but not modified.   It is very possible that it will be enacted before the majority of the American public has a chance to learn what it is all about.

The full extent of the TPP is not known, but some provisions have been leaked.  They are all favorable to global corporations and unfavorable to the public.  The worst provision is the agreement to submit to special courts with authority to overrule U.S. law and U.S. court decisions when they are deemed unfair to “investors.”

Investors will be the only class of people protected by the TPP.   They will be allowed to ask for damages not only loss of business due to labor, health or environmental laws, but for hypothetical losses of future profits.

One purpose of the TPP is to create an 11-nation Pacific bloc in which there are no national boundaries for global corporations, but China is locked out.  But there is no minimum number of nations that have to sign for the TPP to go into effect.  Even if only a handful of nations besides the United States sign on, it will have achieved another purpose, which is to create a body with power to override U.S. laws that are objectionable to corporations.

Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, treaties are the supreme law of the land.  That is a necessary provision.  If it were otherwise, treaties would not be binding.  Unfortunately, this opens the door to treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which set up courts superior to national courts, to which corporations can appeal to overturn national and local laws.  For example, a NAFTA court recently ordered the Province of Ontario to pay damages to a national gas company for future profits lost because of Ontario’s restrictions on hydraulic fracturing.  TPP is NAFTA on steroids.

There are many other pernicious provisions in the TPP.  Click on TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations for details.

Click on US secretly negotiating NAFTA-like TPP treaty for an earlier post of mine on TPP.

Click on Trans-Pacific Partnership: NAFTA on Steroids for another earlier post.

Click on Barack Obama’s economic legacy: His four must-have items for comment on how TPP fits in with Obama’s overall economic agenda.

Pacific trade deal vs. democratic decision-making

December 8, 2012

The secret Transpacific Partnership Agreement negotiations aren’t being covered by the mainstream U.S. press, that I know of, so I have to rely on Al Jazeera English for in-depth coverage.

U.S. secretly negotiating NAFTA-like TPP treaty

December 6, 2012


Representatives of 11 Pacific nations are currently meeting in secret in Auckland, New Zealand, from Dec. 3 through Dec. 12 to negotiate a new “free trade” treaty called the Transpacific Partnership.

hulk-tppLeaked information, including documents obtained through Wikileaks (thank you, Julian Assange), indicate that the TPP would set up an international organization with power to override national governments in environmental, health and labor regulation, and in copyright and patent law.  If private businesses don’t like the laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate, they would be able to file suits claiming these laws violate the TPP.  If they win, they could collect damages from taxpayers of those countries.

Congress has been denied information as to what is being proposed or the U.S. negotiating position, but roughly 600 business representatives have been allowed in as so-called consultants.   The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other public interest organizations sent representatives to the meeting, but they were barred, except to deliver brief statements of their views.

One nation that is not invited to participate is China.  This may backfire.  Forced to choose, Japan and other Pacific nations might prefer to join a Chinese-supported trade grouping called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

For background, click on Will the RCEP Kill the TPP? And Why You Never Heart of Either One and  Will China Kill the TPP (the secret fair trade treaty you never heard of)? for a two-part series on the Corrente web log,

Click on Digital Rights Groups Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations for a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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.