Friday, September 6, 2013

All Praise the Exalted 1%: The Trans-Pacific Partnership



Thanks to a leak by the group, Public Citizen, we now have access to some of the contents of the next international trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This deal is being reviewed and commented on by 600 some corporations with the usual representation of environmental, labor and social-justice concerns – zero. This corporate wet-dream is so secret that even the few U.S. senators who’ve had a peek are not allowed to publically discuss its provisions.

And provisions it has. The three emphasized in the Public Citizen leak are pretty scary. They limit regulation of corporations; incentivize out-sourcing of U.S. jobs; create an alternative legal system to circumvent domestic law, such as the Clean Air Act. Corporations could be exempted from federal, state and local law designed to protect health and environment, with no recourse, no appeal. Today a tiny percentage of food is inspected and even then contamination is often found. Under TPP there would be exemptions where imported food could not be inspected at all. This is the 1% run amok. Their obsession with secrecy is natural for if the public had an unbiased view of the TPP then there could be, they fear, a reaction that would threaten the position of power that corporations have cultivated and carefully hidden over many years - hidden behind a mask of patriotism and the profusion of “free market” propaganda delivered by the corporate(!) media.

The Right Wing domination of media discourse in the United States is no accident. Telling is their silence in the face of what is usually shrilly decried, the threat of loss of national sovereignty. It used to be the U.N. spearheading an international communist world government conspiracy that most worried the Right but now that there is an actual international conspiracy to do just that, they seem unconcerned. One could be forgiven for suspecting that the former fear of communism was a bit of a fraud, that the fear wasn’t loss of freedom represented by communism but of the aspect of that ideology that enshrined cooperation and sharing. It made no pretense, however, of freeing us from hierarchy except in a distant, hazy, future utopia.

The following two TPP statements could hardly be more divergent, the first by the Obama Administration and the second by the group Public Citizen:

Obama: INCREASING AMERICAN EXPORTS, SUPPORTING AMERICAN JOBS

President Obama announced in November 2009 the United States’ intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to conclude an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. economic priorities and values. Through this agreement, the Obama Administration is seeking to boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality American jobs by increasing exports in a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies and that represents more than 40 percent of global trade. The Obama Administration, working in close partnership with Congress and with a wide range of stakeholders, is seeking to conclude a strong agreement that addresses the issues that U.S. businesses and workers are facing in the 21st century.”

Public Citizen: TPP - Corporate Power Tool of the 1%

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement is a stealthy policy being pressed by corporate America, a dream of the 1 percent, that in one blow could:
offshore millions of American jobs,
free the banksters from oversight,
ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy,
decrease access to medicine,
flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products,
and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.
Closed-door talks are on-going between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam; with other countries, including China, and Japan potentially joining later. 600 corporate advisors have access to and in-put on the text, while the public, Members of Congress, journalists, and civil society are excluded. And so far what we know about what's in there is very scary!”

So, who are we to believe? Maybe we should look at what was said promoting other trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It was claimed, for both treaties, that U.S. jobs would be created and other benefits would be lavished on the citizenry (essentially as in the pro-TPP statement above). The AFL-CIO claims that anti-investment actions taken by states to oppose apartheid in South Africa would, under these trade agreements, be illegal. So attempts to pressure brutal dictatorships with sanctions could be disallowed by corporate courts that lie beyond and can over-rule representative government. Treaty wording which leaves production methods off-limits would make it illegal to sanction countries who engage in child-labor, even slave-labor practices. U.S. law protecting dolphins by restricting fishing practices have already been ruled against. U.S. corporations have filed suit, under these agreements, that call for overturning citizen initiatives to protect the environment. The demand is for government reimbursement to corporations for profits that these initiatives prevent. Quebec, for example has banned fracking… and is being sued, under article 11. of NAFTA, by a mining company who claims $250 million in lost profits.

It is expected that Obama will call for TPP fast-tracking, as Clinton did with NAFTA, to reduce debate and scrutiny. Under pressure from environmentalists and Labor, Clinton called for “side agreements” on labor and environment, toothless verbal d├ęcor aimed to placate constituents of these issues. That they are “side” agreements without enforcement mechanisms reveal the corporate agenda, to return us to the good ol’ days where rivers, oceans and air were handy and inexpensive dumping grounds for the by-products of profit-chasing. Implications for our health and life system, accelerated climate change, severely diminished if not disappeared democracy, toxified air, soil, water… all grave and devestating consequences, though profitable to the few, should TPP be enacted.

Let me close with a quote: Naomi Klein, addressing the founding convention of UNIFOR, a new mega union created by several Canadian unions, had this to say about climate change: It’s not an “issue” for you to add to the list of things to worry about. It is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms and droughts -- telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability. It’s telling us that when you take you must also give, that there are limits past which we cannot push, that our future health lies not in digging ever deeper holes but in digging deeper inside ourselves – to understand how ALL our fates are interconnected.

Oh, and one last thing. We need to make this transition, like, yesterday. Because our emissions are going in exactly the wrong direction and there’s very little time left.

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