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French councils and regions campaign against translantic free trade zone Posted by revoltingeurope ⋅ April 22, 2014 ⋅
A movement against the US-EU free trade zone is gaining momentum in France with fifteen local governments, including the Parisian and four other regions raising the alarm about the proposed transatlantic market that is being negotiated in secret.
France has traditionally been one of the strongest opponents of free trade in the EU and now more and more municipalities are demanding to be declared transatlantic trade and investment partnership or TIFF ‘free zones’.
The idea was originally adopted by Ile de France upon the suggestion of the radical Front de Gauche. Auvergne, Limousin, Picardy and Provence -Alpes- Côte d’ Azur are now also among the regional governments who are worried about the TIFF negotiating mandate given to European Commission by EU states in June 2013.
“Negotiated in secret, and initiated by employers including large multinationals, the US administration and the liberal and social liberal European leaders, this project involves the dismantling of all the “obstacles” to the free movement of capital, goods, services and people between the European Union and the United States,” declares Ile-de- France, a region with 12 million inhabitants.
Three regions (Burgundy , Brittany, Rhône-Alpes ) want a moratorium or a debate about the negotiations. Burgundy has asked the Association of French Regions (ARF), a representative body of regional authorities, to start a national debate with the participation of local authorities, parliamentarians, trade unions and associations.
In Rhône-Alpes, a motion filed by the Front de Gauche and green EELV party declaring the transatlantic market area off limits in the region was rejected by the Socialists and Front National, and instead a demand for a moratorium was called. A similar decision was made in Brittany.
Two smaller administrative units known as departments – Saint- Denis and Tarn – and seven towns – Besançon , Briançon , Crévoux Grande Synthe, Niort, Saint- Denis and Sevran – have declared themselves TIFF free zones.
France’s local governments fear the agreement will involve “all levels of government,” as outlined in the negotiating mandate of the European Commission. Once adopted, the agreement applies “not only to EU Member States , but also all the components of these States: in France, regions , departments, municipalities; in Belgium, communities, regions, provinces, municipalities; in Germany, the Länder and municipalities, etc.
The Agreement “would be a way for multinationals to eliminate all public decisions that constitute obstacles to the expansion of their market share, leading to the domination of U.S. and European multinationals, and the dominance of the United States. We dare not imagine the impact on local authorities forced to open public services up to the private sector. This project could bring in a private “investor-state” arbitration mechanism, which would replace the existing courts,” notes department of Seine-Saint- Denis.
MARYLAND NEO-LIBERALS THINK TPP HAS ALREADY BEEN PASSED---IT IS THESE NEO-LIBERALS THAT NEED TO BE SENT PACKING!
Please know that Congress has nothing but neo-liberal leaders that intend to pass TPP. Peloi, Hoyer, Lewis----Reid, Durbin, and Schumer are all neo-liberals who voted with Clinton to break Glass Steagall and pass NAFTA to give us these global corporations---they will continue with TPP. You need to make sure to have a governor in place that will fight TPP and fill the HOUSE with labor and justice democrats!
As Obama prepares for a trip to the Asia Pacific later this month, Senator Ron Wyden is beginning to spread the word about a new version of Fast Track. Join the spring campaign to save the world -- and stop the TPP! View this email in your browser Thousands have protested the TPP across the Asia Pacific, including during Biden's visit to Japan last year.
Spring is here, and with it comes a new campaign to hold the U.S. government accountable for its support of corporate colonialism. We’re joining allies across the U.S. and elsewhere as they work to change the narrative around Obama’s upcoming trip to the Asia Pacific, during which he’ll work to finalize the TPP. Meanwhile, Senator Ron Wyden's recent speech on a supposed "smart track" bill proves that politicians haven't run out of ideas for sneaking dangerous policies through Congress. Help keep up the momentum to stop Fast Track -- no matter what it's called -- and to stop the TPP! Check out the details of the call to action, and make plans to join in any way that works for you. If you decide to hold a local rally or event, be sure to let us know at email@example.com!
With thanks for all you do, The Flush the TPP Team
P.S. Do you live in Oregon? If so, there are lots of upcoming opportunities to speak out against Fast Track during Senator Wyden's public town hall meetings this month. To learn more about locations and timing, get in touch with the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.
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Flush the TPP on Twitter, @FlushTheTPP
It would be far more useful for the AFL-CIO to take these TPP deals to court as illegal and a COUP against the US Constitution and the American people. Which they are. So, if unions would head to court to take these issues to the top right now, they will not be able to advance. Without this, unions know these neo-liberals are going to move forward.
WE NEED UNIONS TAKING THESE TRADE DEALS TO COURT AS ILLEGAL. THEY TAKE WE THE PEOPLE AS CITIZEN LEGISLATORS AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS OUT.
Talking about this at the Center for American Progress....a Clinton/neo-liberal think tank writing these TPP policies
CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS (CAP) 1333 "H" Street NW - 10th Floor
- Think tank headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta
- Helped launch Media Matters For America in 2004
- Has extremely close ties to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, and George Soros
- Helps formulate many Obama administration policies and talking points
Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014, 6:23 pm
Rejecting TPP, AFL-CIO’s Trumka Calls for ‘Global New Deal’
BY Bruce Vail Email Print At a March 25
Center for American Progress event, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had sharp words about backroom trade deals such as the TPP. (CAP)
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today called for a “Global New Deal” to fundamentally rethink U.S. foreign trade policies, especially so-called “free trade agreements” such as the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
These treaties in the works are examples of “a failed model of global economic policies” based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of the mid-1990s, Trumka said. “We cannot enact new trade agreements modeled on NAFTA. ... NAFTA put corporations in charge of America’s economic strategy with the goal of shipping jobs off shore to lower labor costs,” he told an audience at the Washington, D.C., offices of the Center for America Progress, an advocacy group closely associated with the Democratic Party. Echoing common progressive criticisms of the trade deals, Trumka called NAFTA, TPP and TTIP “thinly disguised tools to increase corporate profits by poisoning workers, polluting the environment and hiding information from consumers.”
“The NAFTA model is not inevitable,” Trumka continued. “We have a choice, and we will choose between the world economy of today—with slow growth, high unemployment and obscene levels of inequality—and the world of tomorrow, of broadly shared prosperity. We will choose between a world of wealth for the 1%, with poverty for the rest of us, and a world in which all of us who work hard can enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
Taking a global view, Trumka made the broad point that workers in the United States and elsewhere “need new policies to spark a virtuous cycle where rising wages fuel demand, not flimsy debt-driven demand, but healthy demand, which would in turn spark business investment and more jobs and higher wages in a strong cycle of global growth that works for all our families, for the environment and our communities. We need a global New Deal: a worldwide program to bring the basic infrastructure of modern society—electricity, water, schools, roads, Internet access— to everyone on Earth,” he said. Renegotiated trade deals could be a means for establishing such a system, he suggested, but that would require an entirely new approach by government officials.
Speaking to a Democratic Party-friendly audience, Trumka avoided any direct attacks of President Barack Obama, although some criticism was implied in his remarks. He conceded that “TPP and TTIP are products of the Obama Administration,” and “our hope was that we would see a new template” from trade agreements negotiated by Obama appointees, but that has not come to pass. “So far, we see the same corporate-dominated processes, and, in too many respects, the same fundamental outdated framework for both agreements,” Trumka said. The TTIP and TPP have been negotiated behind closed doors by the governments of the participating countries and multinational corporations. Even Congress members have not been privy to the treaty drafts, though pieces have been leaked. Trumka added, however, that AFL-CIO would be willing to work with Obama to pass a revised version of TPP if such a major revision adequately addressed the complaints of organized labor and its progressive allies.
The AFL-CIO chief’s criticisms of the TTP and TIPP did not break new ground for labor, as a number of other union leaders have already spoken out forcefully against the proposed treaties. International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) President Tom Buffenbarger, for example, denounced TPP in a December 2013 speech at the National Press Club. Likewise, Teamsters President James Hoffa has been publicly criticizing the treaties for months, specifically linking them to U.S. jobs lost as a result of NAFTA. And leaders of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have been actively campaigning against TPP for more than a year.
Most recently, these labor organizations, including AFL-CIO, were among those lobbying to kill an Obama-endorsed proposal to place TPP on a “fast-track” to quick approval in the U.S. Senate. Unions and other opponents counted it as a victory when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his opposition to fast track in late January, a development that will slow, or possibly kill, any chances that Congress will approve TPP this year.
As for specific changes in TPP and TIPP sought by AFL-CIO, Trumka said: “We know what we’re looking for in these agreements. We want trade agreements to contribute to democratic global economic governance and to promote good jobs, full employment and rising wages. A key element, of course, is strong labor rights protections so that every worker in every country can exercise fundamental human rights on the job—without fear. So we are looking for every trade agreement to require nations to adopt, maintain and enforce the core labor rights—as agreed by the International Labor Organization—and as set out in the ILO core conventions and their related jurisprudence. These include freedom of association and the right to organize, and bans on child labor, forced labor, and discrimination in employment.” Leaked portions of the TPP and TTIP have not included any mention of these rights.
But labor union rights are not the sole interest of AFL-CIO, Trumka continued. Environmental protection and consumer rights also need full consideration: “We live in a globalized economic environment, and one where the need for rules that protect people and the planet is growing. We simply cannot afford trade rules that push in the other direction, that make the global economy a free fire zone for corporate power, or make it impossible to act effectively to address profound challenges like climate change,” he said.
The AFL-CIO leader concluded by demanding that the United States “put our democratic rights at the center of our economic policies and our trade agreements.”
Here is a good assessment of TPP from an establishment economist. Stiglitz puts things mildly but does highlight the overall necessity to fight these deals and bring the process to the light of day. My favorite comment sums up the entire problem with public policy from the Federal level, down to state and local level. We have people in office who are there not because of skill in administration or planning and implementation of public policy-----they are there because they signed on to the lying, cheating, stealing that goes with neo-liberalism and rose from the ranks.
'Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization'.
The Great Divide----Trans Pacific Trade Pact (TPP)
March 15, 2014, 5:06 pm
On the Wrong Side of Globalization
By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ
Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.
The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.
Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a bill this year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.
Controversy has erupted, and justifiably so. Based on the leaks — and the history of arrangements in past trade pacts — it is easy to infer the shape of the whole TPP, and it doesn’t look good. There is a real risk that it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else. The fact that such a plan is under consideration at all is testament to how deeply inequality reverberates through our economic policies.
Worse, agreements like the TPP are only one aspect of a larger problem: our gross mismanagement of globalization.
Let’s tackle the history first. In general, trade deals today are markedly different from those made in the decades following World War II, when negotiations focused on lowering tariffs. As tariffs came down on all sides, trade expanded, and each country could develop the sectors in which it had strengths and as a result, standards of living would rise. Some jobs would be lost, but new jobs would be created.
Today, the purpose of trade agreements is different. Tariffs around the world are already low. The focus has shifted to “nontariff barriers,” and the most important of these — for the corporate interests pushing agreements — are regulations. Huge multinational corporations complain that inconsistent regulations make business costly. But most of the regulations, even if they are imperfect, are there for a reason: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment.
What’s more, those regulations were often put in place by governments responding to the democratic demands of their citizens. Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a clean-sounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency. One could, of course, get regulatory harmonization by strengthening regulations to the highest standards everywhere. But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom.
When agreements like the TPP govern international trade — when every country has agreed to similarly minimal regulations — multinational corporations can return to the practices that were common before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts became law (in 1970 and 1972, respectively) and before the latest financial crisis hit. Corporations everywhere may well agree that getting rid of regulations would be good for corporate profits. Trade negotiators might be persuaded that these trade agreements would be good for trade and corporate profits. But there would be some big losers — namely, the rest of us.
These high stakes are why it is especially risky to let trade negotiations proceed in secret. All over the world, trade ministries are captured by corporate and financial interests. And when negotiations are secret, there is no way that the democratic process can exert the checks and balances required to put limits on the negative effects of these agreements.
The secrecy might be enough to cause significant controversy for the TPP. What we know of its particulars only makes it more unpalatable. One of the worst is that it allows corporations to seek restitution in an international tribunal, not only for unjust expropriation, but also for alleged diminution of their potential profits as a result of regulation. This is not a theoretical problem. Philip Morris has already tried this tactic against Uruguay, claiming that its antismoking regulations, which have won accolades from the World Health Organization, unfairly hurt profits, violating a bilateral trade treaty between Switzerland and Uruguay. In this sense, recent trade agreements are reminiscent of the Opium Wars, in which Western powers successfully demanded that China keep itself open to opium because they saw it as vital in correcting what otherwise would be a large trade imbalance.
Provisions already incorporated in other trade agreements are being used elsewhere to undermine environmental and other regulations. Developing countries pay a high price for signing on to these provisions, but the evidence that they get more investment in return is scant and controversial. And though these countries are the most obvious victims, the same issue could become a problem for the United States, as well. American corporations could conceivably create a subsidiary in some Pacific Rim country, invest in the United States through that subsidiary, and then take action against the United States government — getting rights as a “foreign” company that they would not have had as an American company. Again, this is not just a theoretical possibility: There is already some evidence that companies are choosing how to funnel their money into different countries on the basis of where their legal position in relation to the government is strongest.
There are other noxious provisions. America has been fighting to lower the cost of health care. But the TPP would make the introduction of generic drugs more difficult, and thus raise the price of medicines. In the poorest countries, this is not just about moving money into corporate coffers: thousands would die unnecessarily. Of course, those who do research have to be compensated. That’s why we have a patent system. But the patent system is supposed to carefully balance the benefits of intellectual protection with another worthy goal: making access to knowledge more available. I’ve written before about how the system has been abused by those seeking patents for the genes that predispose women to breast cancer. The Supreme Court ended up rejecting those patents, but not before many women suffered unnecessarily. Trade agreements provide even more opportunities for patent abuse.
The worries mount. One way of reading the leaked negotiation documents suggests that the TPP would make it easier for American banks to sell risky derivatives around the world, perhaps setting us up for the same kind of crisis that led to the Great Recession.
In spite of all this, there are those who passionately support the TPP and agreements like it, including many economists. What makes this support possible is bogus, debunked economic theory, which has remained in circulation mostly because it serves the interests of the wealthiest.
Free trade was a central tenet of economics in the discipline’s early years. Yes, there are winners and losers, the theory went, but the winners can always compensate the losers, so that free trade (or even freer trade) is a win-win. This conclusion, unfortunately, is based on numerous assumptions, many of which are simply wrong.
The older theories, for instance, simply ignored risk, and assumed that workers could move seamlessly between jobs. It was assumed that the economy was at full employment, so that workers displaced by globalization would quickly move from low-productivity sectors (which had thrived simply because foreign competition was kept at bay through tariffs and other trade restrictions) to high-productivity sectors. But when there is a high level of unemployment, and especially when a large percentage of the unemployed have been out of work long-term (as is the case now), there can’t be such complacency.
Today, there are 20 million Americans who would like a full-time job but can’t get one. Millions have stopped looking. So there is a real risk that individuals moved from low productivity-employment in a protected sector will end up zero-productivity members of the vast ranks of the unemployed. This hurts even those who keep their jobs, as higher unemployment puts downward pressure on wages.
We can argue over why our economy isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to — whether it’s because of a lack of aggregate demand, or because our banks, more interested in speculation and market manipulation than lending, are not providing adequate funds to small and medium-size enterprises. But whatever the reasons, the reality is that these trade agreements do risk increasing unemployment.
One of the reasons that we are in such bad shape is that we have mismanaged globalization. Our economic policies encourage the outsourcing of jobs: Goods produced abroad with cheap labor can be cheaply brought back into the United States. So American workers understand that they have to compete with those abroad, and their bargaining power is weakened. This is one of the reasons that the real median income of full-time male workers is lower than it was 40 years ago.
American politics today compounds these problems. Even in the best of circumstances, the old free trade theory said only that the winners could compensate the losers, not that they would. And they haven’t — quite the opposite. Advocates of trade agreements often say that for America to be competitive, not only will wages have to be cut, but so will taxes and expenditures, especially on programs that are of benefit to ordinary citizens. We should accept the short-term pain, they say, because in the long run, all will benefit. But as John Maynard Keynes famously said in another context, “in the long run we are all dead.” In this case, there is little evidence that the trade agreements will lead to faster or more profound growth.
Critics of the TPP are so numerous because both the process and the theory that undergird it are bankrupt. Opposition has blossomed not just in the United States, but also in Asia, where the talks have stalled.
By leading a full-on rejection of fast-track authority for the TPP, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, seems to have given us all a little respite. Those who see trade agreements as enriching corporations at the expense of the 99 percent seem to have won this skirmish. But there is a broader war to ensure that trade policy — and globalization more generally — is designed so as to increase the standards of living of most Americans. The outcome of that war remains uncertain.
In this series, I have repeatedly made two points: The first is that the high level of inequality in the United States today, and its enormous increase during the past 30 years, is the cumulative result of an array of policies, programs and laws. Given that the president himself has emphasized that inequality should be the country’s top priority, every new policy, program or law should be examined from the perspective of its impact on inequality. Agreements like the TPP have contributed in important ways to this inequality. Corporations may profit, and it is even possible, though far from assured, that gross domestic product as conventionally measured will increase. But the well-being of ordinary citizens is likely to take a hit.
And this brings me to the second point that I have repeatedly emphasized: Trickle-down economics is a myth. Enriching corporations — as the TPP would — will not necessarily help those in the middle, let alone those at the bottom.
We thank the labor unions for fighting and shouting against what will make the US a third world nation. Do you hear justice organizations doing this?
Believe me, there is a world of difference in being poor in a second world nation like the US now and a third world nation that TPP will create.
Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Roundup
Leaders from Local 1103 take the "no fast track" message to a meeting with members of the NYS Senate and Assembly.
Below: Standing up against TPP, from left: Jen Metzger, town council of Rosendale; Susan Zimet, town supervisor of New Paltz; John T. O'Malley, LPAT activist, CWA Local 1120; Congressman Chris Gibson; James Gesheidle, executive vice president Local 1120 and Rob Pinto, LPAT leader, Local 1120.
CWA President Larry Cohen talks about the results of the Business Roundtable's poll on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with radio and MSNBC host Ed Schultz, stressing that it matters how you ask the questions.
If you haven't seen the bipartisan poll by CWA, Sierra Club and the Business & Industry Council, a small business group, check it out at www.cwa-union.org/tpp.
Take time to listen to this audio------the Ed Show is the only media outlet speaking about a policy that re-writes the US Constitution taking WE THE PEOPLE AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS OUT.
TPP and the Need to Stop Fast Track CWA President Cohen talks TPP and the need to stop fast track on The Ed Schultz Radio show.
Download This Audio File
No More Silence on TPP Tell ABC, CBS and NBC that the Trans Pacific Partnership--and the opposition to it--should be news.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has drawn heavy criticism. Over 500 labor, environmental and farm groups oppose granting the White House "fast track" authority to speed the pact through Congress. The deal, still being negotiated in secret, has spawned protests around the world. Even some Democrats are pushing back against the White House.
But there's one thing that TPP hasn't generated: news.
Critics say TPP will enshrine corporate control of decisions previously subject to democratic processes--decisions over intellectual property, the environment, labor rights, food, telecommunications, finance and more.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has called it "the largest corporate power grab you never heard of." He's right. Over 14 months--from January 2013 through February 2014--TPP was never covered in any detail by ABC, CBS or NBC.
It's time to let the news networks know that a big, secret trade deal that has mobilized thousands of activists is a story that needs to be covered.
Sign FAIR's petition now. Tell ABC, CBS and NBC that the Trans-Pacific Partnership--and the opposition to it--should be news.
Here is why Americans do not know anything about TPP from mainstream media.....
Outrageous! Media Companies lobbying on the Trans-Pacific
It is outrageous that major news outlets refuse to inform the American public
about the Trans-Pacific Partnership while their parent companies dispatch
high-paid lobbyists to influence this proposed trade deal. News outlets should
be a trusted source of information for the American people, not another
corporate interest trying to profit from a major trade deal. It's time that
the parent companies of major news outlets stop trying to profit from a flawed
trade deal and start informing the American public.
Comcast, Disney, and Time Warner are all part of TPP
THIS IS A TPP BLOG
Regarding corporate NPR/APM and the COCA COLA ad:
DON'T YOU JUST LOVE WHEN NEO-LIBERAL NPR COMMENTATORS CALL THE 95% OF US 'HATERS'?
Progressives in America need to shout out about the propaganda neo-liberals are deliberately creating to cause derision amongst the justice democrats. That's what neo-liberals do best! That is indeed what this Super Bowl singing of a national song sponsored by Coca Cola represents. Remember when Michael Jackson did his 'WE ARE THE WORLD' song that was embraced by the world? So, what is the difference now?
As NPR neo-liberals and neo-cons know-----it is TPP and global corporate tribunals. TIMES THEY HAVE CHANGED! Remember, neo-cons and neo-liberals are the global corporate gang and US media is now controlled by corporations...ergo, corporate NPR/APM. While they call themselves 'CENTER' as in Maryland's newest media 'Center Maryland', the O'Malley campaign media outlet......they are not moderate as we know totalitarianism is never progressive or moderate and certainly not 'center'.
You noticed not once did this corporate NPR report ever mention TPP and global corporate tribunals when talking of the social media backlash on this commercial. It also centered on the republican side of the aisle where race is really the issue. Yet, Tea Party conservatives are not only shouting out on these issues because of race......and I know progressive labor and justice are not doing that either. Tea Party are against global corporate naked capitalism and tend towards protecting small business with real free trade.....and TPP does not do that. Progressive labor and justice does not want the US labor market flooded with immigrants who are being allowed to be exploited in all industries at a time when unemployment in America averages 35-45%. No xenophobia happening by progressives....only the reality that immigrants are not being brought to America for a better life for the most part. The high-skilled immigrant workers will find that as well. The small group that are getting the good life in America are the wealthy foreign investors in American real estate and industry.
Remember, TPP re-writes the US Constitution and ends WE THE PEOPLE and THE BILL OF RIGHTS by eliminating sovereignty and the American people's rights to write and change policy.
THIS IS ON PAR WITH MAKING THE US A COLONIAL ENTITY TO THIS GLOBAL CORPORATE TRIBUNAL AND IS A HUGE THING THAT NEVER IS DISCUSSED ON AMERICAN MEDIA.
So, as republicans do go wild over who speaks English, they are mad as heck over Wall Street's stealing of tens of trillions of dollars and taking all American wealth and global corporations becoming welfare mothers ruining any sense of free markets. IT IS NOT XENOPHOBIC TO HATE THE INTENT TO MAKE THE US A COLONIAL ARM OF GLOBAL CORPORATE TRIBUNALS. The same outrage is happening around the world as other nations have no desire to lose their sovereignty and rights as citizens and are protesting by the millions to get rid of leaders tying their countries to TPP.
IT IS NOT XENOPHOBIC TO BE AGAINST HAVING THE US LABOR MARKET FLOODED WITH IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE THEN EXPLOITED WITH WAGE AND WORKPLACE ABUSES JUST FOR PROFITS AS TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICAN WORKERS ARE UNEMPLOYED/UNDER-EMPLOYED. Progressives need to ignore attempts by neo-liberals to make this a 'haters' issue.
The best way to stop the flooding of the US market with immigrant labor during a recession is to fight for immigrant rights to protection in the workplace. Immigrants should get the same pay and work under the same labor laws as domestic workers and RULE OF LAW NEEDS TO BE REINSTATED TO ENFORCE THESE WORKPLACE CONDITIONS FOR IMMIGRANTS.
So, the international American song sponsored by COCA COLA was a shout out for TPP and global corporate tribunals of which COCA COLA would be Minister of global Fresh Water along with Nestles. The world does not want to be part of American global colonialism and Americans do not want to be made colonial.
THAT IS THE MESSAGE PUBLIC MEDIA AND SOCIAL MEDIA ARE SHOUTING.
Below you see MSNBC listed as having the most coverage of TPP but notice it is because of one program.....MSNBC is a neo-liberal media outlet.
Published on Thursday, February 6, 2014
by Common Dreams.org
As TPP Opposition Soars, Corporate Media Blackout Deafening
Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership—dubbed 'NAFTA on steroids'—is receiving unprecedented popular opposition and nearly no news coverage by major outlets
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Last week, more than 550 groups, representing tens of millions of individual members, signed a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote against a push by President Obama for 'fast track' authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a so-called "free trade" now under negotation between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific rim nations.
The week before that, another 50 groups launched an energized online campaign called StopFastTrack.com in order to kill the TPP agreement—dubbed "NAFTA on steroids"—that they say "threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet."
But if you watch the evening cable or broadcast news shows, you might not know anything about the TPP—not what it is, not why Obama says it would be good for the country, and certainly not why these hundreds of public interest groups, environmentalists, economists, and labor organizations say trade agreements like this are the source of economic and labor woes, not the solution to them.
According to a new study by Media Matters, over the last sixth months the network evening news shows—including ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS—have ignored the TPP almost completely.
After reviewing transcripts of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelly, ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer, and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams from August 1, 2013 through January 31, 2014, Media Matters found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not a single one.
The PBS Newshour did only slight better by having one guest mention the TPP on exactly one occassion when a representative for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argued on the show "that approving the TPP would improve relations with Asian nations."
And the evening cable news shows did little better, with just one show on MSNBC—The Ed Show—offering any routine coverage of the issue while CNN mentioned the TPP only once during the six-month period, and FOX News making no mention of it at all.
Though the nations involved in the talks, as Media Matters notes, "account for nearly 40 percent of the world's GDP and 26 percent of the world's trade," it seems odd that the pending trade deal is receiving so little corporate media coverage even as the amount of opposition it's receiving is so widespread among those trying to promote a more democratic, progressive, and more visionary trade paradigm.
Then again, perhaps it's not odd at all.
If you look at the comments on this Baltimore Sun piece that again....never mentions TPP, the issue again is use of English in America. Maryland has no coverage of TPP or the intent of global tribunals and lost US sovereignty so many readers in Maryland do not know the reference COCA COLA was making with this colonialism anthem.
We must remember, the US has always been an immigrant melting pot so having immigrants coming to the US is not the problem. I assure you Coca Cola was not using this world event to spotlight this....
IT WAS TIED TO US GLOBAL CORPORATIONS LIKE COCA COLA AND COLONIALISM.
Coca-Cola and white outrage
February 04, 2014|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun
I'd sooner book passage on a norovirus cruise than watch the Super Bowl, but I have become aware of a Coca-Cola commercial that aired during the event.
In the commercial, as Language Log points out, ethnically diverse images are displayed while "America the Beautiful" is sung in "languages including English, Spanish, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, and Hebrew."
Not that anyone should be surprised, this display of diversity during one of the most sacred of the national rites touched off an outburst of anger and resentment from the yahoo population. Deadspin is one of the sites that collected a few choice specimens from Twitter. They display in equal proportions nativism ("This is America. We speak English here"), racism, and ignorance ("America the Beautiful" is not the national anthem).
You, knowing that I am a bolshie running dog of the East Coast liberal media establishment, probably expect me to go into full-deplore mode, but I am afraid I must disappoint. I find this ugly nativist/racist/ignorant display quite encouraging.
I understand Coca-Cola. I grew up in Kentucky and had by attaining the age of majority consumed so many hogsheads of it that the medicos at Johns Hopkins should be examining me to determine why I am not diabetic. I understand that in the pursuit of flogging unhealthy sugary beverages to as many customers as possible, Coca-Cola has no shame. It previously hijacked Santa Claus for its advertisements, and brags about having done so.
What this ethnically and linguistically diverse commercial tells me is that Coca-Cola has made a hard-headed calculation that diversity is where the customers are and will be. The corollary to that is that nativist white racists are not a significantly large component of the actual and potential customer base that Coke has to worry about truckling to them.
This implied message, that intolerant white people are on the losing side of demographics, is precisely the thing that whips them into a frenzy every time they are reminded of it. They are exceedingly noisy on the Internet, but on the decline nevertheless. That's encouraging news.
Below you see a good comment in the Baltimore Sun. This commenter understands the meaning. The US media paints this Coke ad as showing this global corporation is being sensitive when we all know Coke is a brutal global corporation making a product that is killing the earth and people. Think to yourself......how does this comment fit with my thoughts on this ad? THAT'S RIGHT....THAT'S WHAT US GLOBAL CORPORATIONS DO! SELL THEMSELVES GLOBALLY.
'The irony of this entire, ridiculous episode is that Coke is a monster. They are a voracious and oppressive multi-national corporation that has bought up water rights in many countries, most of them poor, and subjected the people to buying water, a natural resource which should be kept free. Not to mention that Coke is essentially poison and has killed millions of people from cancer and diabetes and other ailments. To see liberals defend this BS ad, designed only to extract more $ from ignorant, poor, ethnic consumers and somehow align drinking Coke with being American or patriotic is fucking hilarious. Don't buy the shit'.
THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! INDEED, THIS IS COCA COLA SAYING US GLOBAL MARKETS RULE. IT IS NOT ABOUT AMERICAN DIVERSITY....IT IS ABOUT GLOBAL MARKETS!
David Correy’s ‘The World Is Ours’ Is Coca-Cola’s 2014 World Cup Anthem (Exclusive)
“The World is Ours,” performed by singer David Correy and Brazilian percussion troupe Monobloco, is Coca-Cola’s global 2014 FIFA World Cup anthem, Coca-Cola sources have revealed exclusively to Billboard.
Correy, best known as a 2012 “X-Factor” finalist who re-connected with his Brazilian birth mother after appearing on the reality show, will debut the song live Thursday (Sept. 12) on Corcovado Mountain above Rio de Janeiro. The event will mark the opening of the Coke-sponsored World Cup Trophy tour, which takes the tournament trophy to 88 countries.
“The World is Ours” will be available for streaming on Coca-Cola partner Spotify and on some of the brand’s international sites, and will later be distributed to digital retailers and used in Coke’s “World’s Cup” campaign.
“Everything we produce, from TV advertisements to online film to digital and mobile activations, the song will be embedded and used throughout that,” says Joe Belliotti, director of global entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola. “We’re releasing the song and starting to seed it now. As the campaign rolls out and we get closer to the games it will be supported by more media and it will grow. In this environment, to achieve a truly global hit it takes this amount of time to really achieve success in over 180 countries.”
Coca-Cola, which has been an official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup since 1978, set a precedent for such success in 2010 with their campaign theme “Wavin’ Flag,” which made the Somalia-born MC and singer/songwriter K’NAAN’s name known around the world. Coke used a “Celebration Mix” of the song as its promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA South Africa World Cup, and “Wavin’ Flag” was recorded in almost 30 multilingual versions by K’NAAN together with international artists. “Wavin’ Flag” went to No. 1 in 18 countries. It sold 918,000 downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“The World is Ours,” whose inspirational lyrics readymade for stadium sing-alongs are set to a pumped up pop melody tethered by the Brazilian roots rhythms commonly identified with carnival, was written by song-writing team Rock Mafia (Miley Cyrus, Selena ). Brazilian-born Mario Caldato Jr., who has worked with the Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson, and Brazilian artists including Seu Jorge and Bebel Gilberto, produced the song.
“We always try to bring to light our campaign ideas through music and in 2014 we’re talking about the World Cup and bringing the world together,” Belliotti says. “That is what the song was meant to do from a lyric perspective. From a music perspective, we wanted the music to stay very authentic to Brazil, but in an original way that would resonate with an audience internationally … we’re taking that rhythm of Brazil and pairing it with just a great mainstream song.”
Correy and Monobloco will perform the anthem at select stops on the Trophy Tour, where fans’ voices will be recorded and added to future mixes. Artists from different countries will also collaborate with Correy on recordings of the song in different languages. A Portuguese version called “Tu Mundo,” with vocals by Brazilian singer Gaby Amarantos was released in June in Brazil. That song did not include Correy’s vocals.
“Sometimes when the trophy comes to a market we’ll build a moment around the music or if there’s something happening around the national team in that country we’ll build a moment around that,” Belliotti explains. “It’s a combination of global and local releases.”
Correy, 27, grew up in Maryland, the son of adoptive parents who encouraged his early talent for singing. He went on to win a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music.
On his first appearance on “X-Factor,” he had judge Britney Spears in tears as he sang Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” Correy announced at the audition that he was searching for his birth mother, who gave him up for adoption when she was a teenager in Recife, the city in Northern Brazil where Correy was born. The quest reached a Brazilian newspaper, which succeeded in connecting mother and son. Correy made it to the finals before being eliminated on “X-Factor,” but as a result of his participation in the TV show he experienced the moment he describes as “the ultimate high:” performing in Recife with both his birth family and adoptive family sitting in the front row.
“We met dozens of artists but I don’t think anyone’s story resonated as powerfully as David’s.” Belliotti says of the choice of Correy to interpret the 2014 song and thus make his voice known around the world. “Not just his personal journey and what he has gone through in his life, but the way he has remained so optimistic, so encouraging to people to follow your dream and achieve what you can achieve.” Belliotti adds that Correy’s association with X-Factor, which is sponsored by rival Pepsi, did not weigh into the decision.
“Now the world gets to see not only David Correy the guy that was on a TV show,” the singer says of the opportunity. “It’s David Correy the artist, that gets a chance to represent this incredible brand.”
“The World of Ours” is the first global anthem to be unveiled for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, which opens in Sao Paulo on June 12.
THIS IS A TPP BLOG
This indeed is meant to move the US worker and families to the level of developing world standards. Whether wages and workplace protections, environmental protections, civil liberties and rights, Rule of Law and community control of public policy.....ALL OF THIS WILL BE GONE WITH TPP. So, why have elections? Well, that is what makes a democracy say the 1%....
TPP...fast track to poverty in America?
Submitted by Thom Hartmann A... on 14. January 2014 - 8:39
SEE MY BLOGS FOR THE LAST WEEK IN JANUARY FOR A LOOK AT HOW TPP IS TIED TO ALL CONGRESSIONAL LEGISLATION PASSED BY NEO-LIBERALS!
Obama’s Free-Trade Conundrum
By DAVID E. BONIORJAN. 29, 2014
WASHINGTON — IN his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama focused on reversing the growth of economic inequality in the United States and restoring the American dream. At the same time, he also announced his support for fast track authority that would limit Congress’s role in determining the content of trade agreements.
The president’s call follows on legislation introduced earlier this month to grant him fast-track authority as a way of forcing Congress to speed up its consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation pact with Latin American and Asian nations.
But Mr. Obama’s desire for fast-track authority on the T.P.P. and other agreements clashes with another priority in his speech: reducing income inequality.
This month is the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which significantly eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers across the continent and has been used as a model for the T.P.P. Anyone looking for evidence on what this new agreement will do to income inequality in America needs to consider Nafta’s 20-year record.
While many analysts focus on the number of jobs lost from Nafta and similar pacts — and some estimates say upward of a million — the most significant effect has been a fundamental change in the composition of jobs available to the 63 percent of American workers without a college degree.
At Nafta’s core — and proposed for the T.P.P. — are investor rights and privileges that eliminate many of the risks that make firms think twice about moving production to low-wage countries. Today, goods once made here are being produced in Mexico and exported here for sale. Indeed, American manufacturing exports to Mexico and Canada grew at less than half the rate after Nafta than in the years before it.
As a result, our trade deficit has ballooned. In 1993, before Nafta, the United States had a $2.5 billion trade surplus with Mexico and a $29 billion deficit with Canada. In 2012, the combined Nafta trade deficit was $181 billion, even as the share of that deficit made up of oil imports dropped 22 percent. The average annual growth of our trade deficit has been 45 percent higher with Mexico and Canada than with countries that are not party to a Nafta-style pact. The companies that took the most advantage of Nafta — big manufacturers like G.E., Caterpillar and Chrysler — promised they would create more jobs at their American factories if Nafta passed. Instead, they fired American workers and shifted production to Mexico.
The Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which documents this trend, reads like a funeral program for the middle class. More than 845,000 workers have been certified under this one narrow and hard-to-qualify-for program as having lost their jobs because of offshoring of factories to, and growing imports from, Mexico and Canada since Nafta.
The result is downward pressure on middle-class wages as manufacturing workers are forced to compete with imports made by poorly paid workers abroad. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two out of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 saw wage reductions, most losing more than 20 percent.
The shift in employment from high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-paying service jobs has contributed to overall wage stagnation. The average American wage has grown less than 1 percent annually in real terms since Nafta, even as productivity grew three times faster.
But the decline in the wages of workers who lost a job to Nafta is only part of the story. They joined the glut of workers competing for low-skill jobs that cannot be done offshore in industries like hospitality and food service, forcing down real wages in these sectors as well.
And, for America’s remaining manufacturing workers, Nafta put downward pressure on wages by enabling employers to threaten to move jobs offshore during wage bargaining. A 1997 Cornell University study ordered by the Nafta Commission for Labor Cooperation found that as many as 62 percent of union drives faced employer threats to relocate abroad, and the factory shutdown rate following successful union certifications tripled after Nafta.
This is hardly news; in the early 1990s a spate of studies resulted in an academic consensus that trade flows contributed to between 10 and 40 percent of inequality increases. Indeed, since Nafta’s implementation, the share of national income collected by the richest 10 percent has risen by 24 percent, while the top 1 percent’s share has shot up by 58 percent.
Some advocates of Nafta-style pacts acknowledge that they will cause the loss of some jobs, but argue that workers will win over all by being able to purchase cheaper imported goods.
But when the Center for Economic and Policy Research applied the data to the theory, they found that reductions in consumer prices had not been sufficient to offset losses in wage levels. They found that American workers without college degrees had most likely lost more than 12 percent of their wages to Nafta-style trade, even accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods. This means a loss of more than $3,300 per year for a worker earning the median annual wage of $27,500.
The Nafta data poses a significant challenge for President Obama. As he said on Tuesday, he wants to battle the plague of income inequality and he wants to expand the Nafta model with T.P.P. But he cannot have it both ways.
PROFIT OVER PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS ELIMINATE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE!!!!!! THIS IS WHAT THE TPP WILL PLACE ON STEROIDS!!!!!
Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade
By CORAL DAVENPORTJAN. 15, 2014
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is retreating from previous demands of strong international environmental protections in order to reach agreement on a sweeping Pacific trade deal that is a pillar of President Obama’s strategic shift to Asia, according to documents obtained by WikiLeaks, environmentalists and people close to the contentious trade talks.
The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be one of the world’s biggest trade agreements, have exposed deep rifts over environmental policy between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. As it stands now, the documents, viewed by The New York Times, show that the disputes could undo key global environmental protections.
The environmental chapter of the trade deal has been among the most highly disputed elements of negotiations in the pact. Participants in the talks, which have dragged on for three years, had hoped to complete the deal by the end of 2013.
Environmentalists said that the draft appears to signal that the United States will retreat on a variety of environmental protections — including legally binding pollution control requirements and logging regulations and a ban on harvesting sharks’ fins — to advance a trade deal that is a top priority for Mr. Obama.
Launch media viewer Michael Froman, the United States trade representative, said, “We’re pushing hard.” Stephen Crowley/The New York Times Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, said the draft omits crucial language ensuring that increased trade will not lead to further environmental destruction.
“It rolls back key standards set by Congress to ensure that the environment chapters are legally enforceable, in the same way the commercial parts of free-trade agreements are,” Ms. Solomon said. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund have been following the negotiations closely and are expected to release a report on Wednesday criticizing the draft.
American officials countered that they had put forward strong environmental proposals in the pact.
“It is an uphill battle, but we’re pushing hard,” said Michael Froman, the United States trade representative. “We have worked closely with the environmental community from the start and have made our commitment clear.” Mr. Froman said he continued to pursue a robust, enforceable environmental standard that he said would be stronger than those in previous free-trade agreements.
The draft documents are dated Nov. 24 and there has been one meeting since then.
The documents consist of the environmental chapter as well as a “Report from the Chairs,” which offers an unusual behind-the-scenes look into the divisive trade negotiations, until now shrouded in secrecy. The report indicates that the United States has been pushing for tough environmental provisions, particularly legally binding language that would provide for sanctions against participating countries for environmental violations. The United States is also insisting that the nations follow existing global environmental treaties.
But many of those proposals are opposed by most or all of the other Pacific Rim nations working on the deal, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Peru. Developing Asian countries, in particular, have long resisted outside efforts to enforce strong environmental controls, arguing that they could hurt their growing economies.
The report appears to indicate that the United States is losing many of those fights, and bluntly notes the rifts: “While the chair sought to accommodate all the concerns and red lines that were identified by parties regarding the issues in the text, many of the red lines for some parties were in direct opposition to the red lines expressed by other parties.”
As of now, the draft environmental chapter does not require the nations to follow legally binding environmental provisions or other global environmental treaties. The text notes only, for example, that pollution controls could vary depending on a country’s “domestic circumstances and capabilities.”
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In addition, the draft does not contain clear requirements for a ban on shark finning, which is the practice of capturing sharks and cutting off their fins — commonly used in shark-fin soup — and throwing back the sharks to die. The dish is a delicacy in many of the Asian negotiating countries. At this point the draft says that the countries “may include” bans “as appropriate” on such practices.
Earlier pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement included only appendices, which called for cooperation on environmental issues but not legally binding terms or requirements. Environmentalists derided them as “green window dressing.”
But in May 2007, President George W. Bush struck an environmental deal with Democrats in the Senate and the House as he sought to move a free-trade agreement with Peru through Congress. In what became known as the May 10 Agreement, Democrats got Mr. Bush to agree that all American free-trade deals would include a chapter with environmental provisions, phrased in the same legally binding language as chapters on labor, agriculture and intellectual property. The Democrats also insisted that the chapter require nations to recognize existing global environmental treaties.
Since then, every American free-trade deal has included that strong language, although all have been between the United States and only one other country. It appears to be much tougher to negotiate environmental provisions in a 12-nation agreement.
“Bilateral negotiations are a very different thing,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, the former head of the United States trade representative’s environmental office. “Here, if the U.S. is the only one pushing for this, it’s a real uphill battle to get others to agree if they don’t like it.”
But business groups say the deal may need to ease up. “There are some governments with developing economies that will need more time and leeway,” said Cal Cohen, president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, a group of about 100 executives and trade associations that lobbies the United States trade negotiator on the deal. “When you think about the evolution of labor provisions, you realize how many centuries the development of high standards took.”
Since the trade talks began, lawmakers and advocacy groups have assailed the negotiators for keeping the process secret, and WikiLeaks has been among the most critical voices. The environment chapter is the third in a series of Trans-Pacific Partnership documents released by WikiLeaks. In November, the group posted the draft chapter on intellectual property. In December, the site posted documents detailing disagreements between the negotiating parties on other issues. The site is expected to release more documents as the negotiations unfold.
This is a good article even if a bit technical of what the state of the state on this Fast Track bill is about. Below you see the Finance committee with Baucus at the head. Harry Reid appoints these heads and as you see the entire committee are neo-liberals and very conservative democrats. THAT'S WHAT HAVING A NEO-LIBERAL LEADERSHIP DOES AT ANY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT. So, if you read....all of these politicians obviously have ongoing knowledge of TPP and how it is written so the idea that your incumbent knows nothing about these is ridiculous. Note that Ben Cardin is on this committee. In Maryland his re-election was so threatened that the 1% had a media blackout of his primary race just so he would be in office to vote for TPP! I call it election fraud when challengers are completely blacklisted from a primary. The important thing shown in this article is that they intend to move forward regardless of the outcry from the public and even if we stop Fast Track these neo-liberals will have it running through Congress soon enough. Also, people calling Sherrod Brown progressive....I hear him supporting TPP!
PLEASE SHOUT THAT THESE TRADE AGREEMENTS ARE ILLEGAL AND A COUP AGAINST THE US CONSTITUTION====WE CAN MAKE THIS ALL NULL AND VOID BECAUSE OF THIS!
Members, 113th Congress Majority Senate Finance Committee
- Max Baucus, Montana, Chairman
- Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia
- Ron Wyden, Oregon
- Chuck Schumer, New York
- Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
- Maria Cantwell, Washington
- Bill Nelson, Florida
- Bob Menendez, New Jersey
- Tom Carper, Delaware
- Ben Cardin, Maryland
- Sherrod Brown, Ohio
- Michael Bennet, Colorado
- Bob Casey, Pennsylvania
Washington | 1/13/2014 @ 11:41AM
Fast Track Bill Presented But Progress On Trade Requires The President Stand Up To Detroit
Last Thursday, legislation to restore “fast track” trade promotion authority was introduced in Congress. The grant of that authority is widely considered necessary to complete and ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific-bordering nations, as well as other prospective trade agreements. But this vehicle, which conveys congressional negotiating objectives to the president in exchange for the promise of a timely, up-or-down vote, pulled out of the driveway on a flat tire – and the spare is buried in the president’s trunk. What was intended to be a bicameral, bipartisan package sponsored by the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees lacked the support of Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), ranking member of Ways and Means. Levin – who considers protecting incumbent domestic firms from the inconvenience of foreign competition the abiding purpose of trade policy – finds the fast track legislation insufficiently deferential to the demands of the “Detroit” automakers. After benefiting from taxpayer bailouts, production subsidies, tax credits, the administration’s relaxation of the rule of law, and exhortations by President Obama that people buy “American” cars, the Detroit Three remain at the trough. But why they feel entitled to special consideration in the formulation of U.S. trade policy is a real mystery. After all, General Motors produces more vehicles in China than in the United States, over two-thirds of Ford’s manufacturing and assembly plants (52 of 77) are in foreign countries, and Chrysler is an Italian company. There is nothing to begrudge about globalized, multinational corporations pursuing profits on behalf of shareholders. They just shouldn’t hold the keys to the policy kingdom. With respect to the TPP, Rep. Levin has proposed that U.S. duties on motor vehicles imported from Japan be subjected to the longest possible phase-out period and that, if the auto import penetration rates in Japan do not increase to some benchmark percentage of domestic sales, the U.S. duties (2.5% on cars and 25.0% on pick-up trucks) should remain in place. In other words, the question of whether and how much U.S. consumers are taxed on purchases of imported vehicles from Japan should be determined by whether, and to what extent, the U.S. automakers attempt to succeed in Japan – a market they’ve put very little effort into cultivating, judging from the relative success of European automakers there. In a statement released just hours after the fast track bill was introduced, Levin indicated that any legislation that he might consider supporting must include provisions to allow the United States to impose countervailing duties on imports from countries where the currency is intentionally undervalued to secure a trade advantage. Of course that dismisses the fact that economists disagree widely on how to determine whether a currency is undervalued, let alone how to measure the extent of undervaluation or to ascertain whether it derives from a deliberate policy to secure a trade advantage. Without that knowledge, the cure is likely to be more distorting than the conditions it is presumed to treat. Coincidentally, on Thursday the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents the interests of GM, Ford, and Chrysler in Washington and works closely with Levin, unveiled its own “plan for strong, enforceable currency provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.” The AAPC has been raising accusations about Japanese currency manipulation since Tokyo expressed interest in joining the TPP. But there have been no interventions in currency exchange markets to corroborate such allegations. Sure, the Yen’s been depreciating as a result of Japanese monetary expansion, much like the dollar has depreciated alongside the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing. When the AAPC attempted to differentiate the two experiences by claiming – without any evidence – that the intent of Japan’s loose monetary policy was to secure an unfair trade advantage through a weaker yen, Fed Chairman Bernanke interjected: “They’re not manipulating their exchange rate. They’re not directly trying to set their exchange rate at a given level. Japan is trying to expand its overall economy.” Moreover, if policy-induced currency depreciation with evidence of intent to secure an unfair trade advantage is the offense, the United States with its official policy goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 – as compared to the base year of 2009 – looks pretty guilty (see the National Export Initiative). Pursuing policies that depress the value of the dollar in the midst of an official effort to prime exports is more than a smoking gun. AAPC apparently grasped the weakness of its argument and changed tack. Rather than define “actionable” currency manipulation in a manner that leaves the United States vulnerable, the AAPC’s proposal carefully defines a set of conditions which, if found to exist, would warrant a finding of “currency manipulation for the purpose of securing an unfair trade advantage.” That is: If a trade agreement partner accumulates foreign currency reserves over a six month period that amount to more than three months-worth of “normal” imports, and if the member has a current account surplus during the entire six month period, it is manipulating its currency to secure an unfair trade advantage. Such a finding would lead to suspension of the TPP tariff benefits enjoyed by the offending member’s exporters for a period of at least one year. The first point to note is that the United States would never be captured by this definition. As the issuer of the world’s primary reserve currency, the United States has little need to accumulate reserves. Likewise, the United States hasn’t had a current account surplus in decades and, barring a complete collapse in demand and a massive increase in savings rates, shouldn’t be expected to anytime soon. Thus, under the AAPC’s definition, the United States would have carte blanche to depress the value of the dollar in order to pursue a variety of ill-considered policy objectives that Rep. Levin might support, such as doubling exports, halving imports, or achieving trade account balance without meeting the triggering criteria of the provision, as long as its current account remains in deficit. Meanwhile, countries that tend to run current account surpluses – such as Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei among TPP countries – are already half-way toward losing their tariff benefits. Second, there will be collateral damage. Governments engage in foreign reserve accumulation for a variety of reasons – as insurance against capital outflows, to attract foreign investment, to prepare for leaner economic conditions, to share today’s exhaustible bounty (in the case of commodity-dependent economies) with future generations, etc. Reserve accumulation in excess of “three-times imports” is not uncommon. Governments that accumulate reserves also tend to run current account surpluses. By targeting conditions that may also reflect benign intentions, these rules would impose de facto limitations on the policy options available to foreign governments to exercise their domestic sovereignty. As such, it is certain to be opposed by the other TPP negotiating partners. Yet, despite all of its flaws, the AAPC proposal is arguably less onerous than Levin’s, which suggests it will be set up as a compromise between the current, relatively subdued currency language in the fast track bill and Levin’s countervailing duty approach. Pitching it as a compromise may make sense tactically, but the fact is that the idea is a solution in search of a problem. As the overwhelming majority of trade flows today are intermediate goods, the effect of currency values on final prices cuts in different directions. That’s why, despite a 38 percent appreciation of the Chinese Renminbi vis-à-vis the dollar since 2005, the bilateral U.S. trade deficit with China has increased by 46 percent. For U.S. negotiators to single out currency manipulation as a primary concern for remediation, the United States should have clean hands. But the U.S. government engages in all sorts of market-distorting behavior, the consequences of which cut in many different directions: the Federal Reserve’s open market operations are distinct interventions that affect the supply and demand of money and credit; tax credits and other government subsidies to, say, green energy production are interventions into goods markets; “Buy American” and other buy local laws, minimum wage laws, and government-administered bankruptcy proceedings are interventions into labor and goods markets. The purchasing, production, and investment decisions of state-owned enterprises, nationalized industries, sovereign wealth funds, and other government-influenced actors all affect markets in ways that skew outcomes away from their optimums. So the argument that currency manipulation is somehow more odious or problematic than these other interventions, which all spill over into the real economy, is not all that compelling. Given the need for support from House Democrats and Levin’s refusal to play a constructive role in that process, President Obama must finally engage meaningfully and sincerely in the discussion and make a compelling case for why he needs Trade Promotion Authority and why the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is good for the United States. Until now, he has avoided taking firm positions that might offend his traditional constituencies, who tend to be skeptical of trade, if not hostile to it. But the time for equivocation is over. To bring to fruition the trade liberalizing agenda his administration has pursued, the president must show some courage and lead on trade. He should start this week by telling Detroit “enough!”
People can see more and more how all of the legislation placed forward and all of the approach to Rule of Law these 5 years of Obama's Administration all deal with what the US needs to do to meet these International Trade Deals. It is why the Farm Bill was delayed because TPP wants to reduce government subsidies to agriculture and the attachment to the FARM BILL the social program Food Stamps. The Immigration Bill is all about global corporations coming into the US and bringing their own people to work at a wage set by the Global Tribunals. So, minimum wage laws being considered now in the US will mean nothing if TPP moves forward. You either work for the conditions wanted by that global corporation or they will bring people from a third world country to do it. THIS IS THE GOAL OF THE IMMIGRATION BILL. The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT dismantles public health and builds state structures that will end Medicare and Medicaid as Federal programs because the TPP seeks to end public subsidy of health care around the world to maximize health industry profits. RACE TO THE TOP privatizes all K-12 and turns them into business chains that will grow into global corporations as these education businesses writing Race to the TOP already have.
So, Obama's entire time in office has been about ending all public programs, public access to legislation, and rewriting the US Constitution from WE THE PEOPLE WITH A BILL OF RIGHTS to 'we the people ruled by global tribunals'.
Administration Peddling Increasing Blatant Canards on Proposed "Trade" Deals Sunday, 12 January 2014 12:32 By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism | Op-Ed
President Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 9, 2014. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times) We’ve both written and spoken about the wildly mislabeled “trade” deals that the Obama Administration is still trying hard to conclude, despite its abject failure to meet an arbitrary deadline of year end 2013.
The two pending deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, have perilous little to do with trade. But invoking the magic incantation “free trade” seems to neutralize the reasoning ability of economists and the media. As we wrote last year:
By way of background, the Administration is taking the unusual step of trying to negotiate two major trade deals in the same timeframe. Apparently Obama wants to make sure his corporate masters get as many goodies as possible before he leaves office. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both inaccurately depicted as being helpful to ordinary Americans by virtue of liberalizing trade. Instead, the have perilous little to do with trade. They are both intended to make the world more lucrative for major corporations by weakening regulations and by strengthening intellectual property laws. The TPP has an additional wrinkle of being an “everybody but China” deal, intended to strengthen ties among nations who will then be presumed allies of America in its efforts to contain China…
Baker describes in scathing terms why these types of deals are bad policy:
…these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers..
These deals will also lead to more upward redistribution of income. The more money that people in the developing world pay to Pfizer for drugs and Microsoft for software, the less money they will pay for the products that we export, as opposed to “intellectual property rights”….
This is yet another case where the government is working for a tiny elite against the interests of the bulk of the population.
If that isn’t bad enough, there’s another side of these planned pacts that is often simply ignored. These “trade” deals are Trojan horses to erode or eliminate national regulations. Baker anticipates that these deals will include sections that would limit government regulation (including at the state and local level) on fracking and could revive much of the internet surveillance that reared its ugly head in the failed SOPA [notice this was written in the innocent pre-Snowden era].
And this sort of erosion of the right to regulate will most assuredly extend to financial services. Dodd Frank? The Brown-Vitter bill that some see as a great new hope for tougher financial regulation? They are already unworkable under existing trade agreements.
In a sign that the Financial Times is gaining more influence in the US, a piece about these that was on the front page last night looks to be a clear media plant. The pink paper is dutifully falling in with the official line.
One of the tricks of dealmaking and legislating is to try to create the impression that the negotiations/vote herding are going well, even when they aren’t. That tactic was fully on display with the Administration’s failed effort to get Congressional approval for intervention in Syria. The White House kept messaging that it was getting support lined up even when whip counts showed that putting the measure to a vote would result in an overwhelming rejection.
Now while things are not as clear cut on the trade deals, they were already in trouble last year. Foreign news reports indicated that various proposed signatories to the TransPacific Partnership simply weren’t on board with provisions that the Americans regarded as critical. A State Department press conference after talks in Bali was so out of tune and arrogant that the press representatives there were openly skeptical. And that was before the Wikileaks disclosure of the text of one of the draft chapters, on intellectual property. It both showed how extreme the American position is and how much opposition it was getting from the other supposed “partners”. We don’t know as much about where the European deal stands, but there’s reason to believe that those potential signatories have much less reason to make the world safer for US IT companies in the wake of ongoing revelations about NSA snooping.
So what line is the Administration, via the Financial Times, pushing? (Note my surmise is this article comes directly or from sources close to the US Trade Representative’s office; it very mildly complains that Obama hasn’t spoken forcefully enough about trade, as if that’s going to make any difference).
In the article, Obama challenge on selling trade deals to resurgent left, there is astonishingly no mention of the issues the prospective partners have with the deal or how the Wikileaks publication showed that the critics if anything had understated how bad the deal is. And the headline pretty accurately reflects the spin of the article: Obama’s is supposedly those damned pinkos, as opposed to his lame duck status and the increasingly obvious outrageousness of the deal. But to an uninformed reader, it’s easy to sell the prejudice that only Luddite lefties are against the motherhood and apple pie of economists and the business community, “free trade”.
Look at the canards:
From the days of the North American Free Trade Agreement, launched 20 years ago, trade has always been a tough sell politically in the US – and, for a Democratic president, it means taking on allies among labour, environmental and consumer groups who are often staunchly opposed to the agreements.
Their scepticism about trade boils down to a belief that the US too often negotiates trade deals for the benefit of its multinational corporations, rather than ordinary workers, exacerbating wage stagnation and income inequality.
Mr Obama – and his top administration officials – do not see it that way by any stretch…They acknowledge that US trade policy has had problems in the past, but have vowed to do things differently this time, by insisting on tougher standards on workers’ rights, environmental regulations, the role of state-owned enterprises and intellectual property protections.
They say these will help “level the playing field” in the global economy in a way that can be squared with what the president has described as his “north star” of improving the lives of middle-class Americans.
Puhleeze. First, these “allies” that the Administration must manfully contend with are wusses. They make a show of opposition and let Team Dem carry on catering to powerful monied interests as usual.
Second, the notice how opposition to the deals are subtly presented as uninformed, as mere prejudice? The resistance is based on mere “belief”. In fact, NAFTA led to nearly a million lost jobs, and as we recounted in a weekend post, also wrecked much of the agricultural sector in Mexico. Tell me exactly how that helped regular people? And further notice the subtle bias in “ordinary workers”. To an FT reader, those are not part of their cohort, which are those directly connected to capital and the technocratic elite (executives, senior managers, policy wonks).
Third, the resistance extends well beyond the usual toothless leftie suspects. Over 200 Representatives, including some Republicans, have signed letters or otherwise voiced reservations about the trade deals. and another 30 to 40 are believed to be concerned. The opposition goes well beyond the small cohort of “progressives”.
Fourth, the Financial Times, rather than doing actual journalism (as in investigating) runs the blatant lie that the Administration is working to get tougher regulations via these deals. The most fundamental provisions of both pacts involve gutting regulations via strengthening the rights of foreign investors to sue governments at all level for anticipated losses (mind you, they don’t even have to prove they’d occurred) before secret international tribunals. As the group Public Citizen has documented in considerable detail, these panels are corrupt and bend over backwards to issue pro-investor rulings. Consider this description from a July presentation by Public Citizen:
What is different with TAFTA [pending Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement] (and TPP) is the extent of “behind the border” agenda
• Typical boilerplate: “Each Member shall ensure the conformity of its laws, regulations and administrative procedures with its obligations as provided in the annexed Agreements.” …
• These rules are enforced by binding dispute resolution via foreign tribunals with ruling enforced by trade indefinite sanctions; No due process; No outside appeal. Countries must gut laws ruled against. Trade sanctions imposed…U.S. taxpayers must compensate foreign corporations.
• Permanence – no changes w/o consensus of all signatory countries. So, no room for progress, responses to emerging problems
• Starkly different from past of international trade between countries. This is diplomatic legislating of behind the border policies – but with trade negotiators not legislators or those who will live with results making the decisions.
• 3 private sector attorneys, unaccountable to any electorate, many of whom rotate between being “judges” & bringing cases for corps. against govts…Creates inherent conflicts of interest….
• Tribunals operate behind closed doors – lack basic due process
• Absolute tribunal discretion to set damages, compound interest, allocate costs
• No limit to amount of money tribunals can order govts to pay corps/investors
• Compound interest starting date if violation new norm ( compound interest ordered by tribunal doubles Occidental v. Ecuador $1.7B award to $3B plus
• Rulings not bound by precedent. No outside appeal. Annulment for limited errors.
And it’s even worse than you imagine once you understand how these panels work. Recall how Public Citizen mentioned the role of the panelists who go between working for the companies and serving on the panels? A small and tight-knit group has disproportionate influence (click here to enlarge):
Here you have nations all over the world protesting en masse against what they know will be a COUP against their country's sovereignty and an attack on public health.....US media simply reported citizens were protesting an administration they did not like.
TPP threatens public health, advocate says
BANGKOK: -- Health advocates yesterday expressed concerns over the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free-trade agreement that seeks to deepen economic ties and liberalise trade among a group of Asia-Pacific nations.
"It is very worrisome and a matter of life and death for the country," said Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Thailand Health Promotion Institute of the National Foundation. "The agreement is so secretive. I want to bring awareness of this deal to the public, as I believe it will threaten our economy as well as the health of citizens."
Hatai said the deal is of concern to health advocates because by opening up the tobacco sector it could lead to increased levels of smoking.
On a purely economic level, meanwhile, it poses a potential threat to Thai tobacco farmers, Hatai said.
The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (TTM) would not be able to compete against international tobacco firms because the reduction of tariffs would boost competition between foreign and domestic industries, Hatai said.
Chitanondh warned the TPP would not only heavily affect the TTM and Thai tobacco farmers, but also prevent free implementation of regulations. "All our legislative measures and regulations will be put aside. Anyone can come in to Thailand and do what they want… We'd have to abide by their rules."
The TPP is under negotiation by the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan will take part in the next round of free-trade talks to be held later this month in Kuala Lumpur. Due to the secrecy of the agreement, the TPP has drawn much criticism from the public.
In April, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said the US government has provided data to the Thai government about the TPP so that it could make a decision soon. Thailand, however, has not hinted at a decision, and it remains unclear if it will discuss the matter.
As we see below, the ACA was simply a policy preparing the US market for these TPP treaties.....and as you see the US is criss-crossing the world pressuring other nations to shed their public health because, after all, the US now sees health care as purely market driven.....as it does education. GOOD BYE PUBLIC HEALTH !
If Obama and neo-liberals are working so hard overseas to end public health and create these TPP treaties that super-size corporate control of all public policy especially health care......DO YOU REALLY THINK THEY ARE SITTING ON CAPITOL HILL FIGHTING REPUBLICANS IN OUR BEHALF?????
IN MARYLAND, WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT JOHNS HOPKINS PUBLIC HEALTH? YOU KNOW IT RUNS ALL OF BALTIMORE AND MUCH OF MARYLAND PUBLIC HEALTH----AND IT IS A CORPORATION FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
Public Health Advocates Must Derail the TranPacific Partnership
December 29, 2013Kris Alman, Assistant Secretary of Health for Data Privacy
Without public input, fast-track passage of this treaty could jeopardize their important work with the threat of costly lawsuits that put profits over people.
The mainstream media should be ashamed of its minimal attempts at informing the American people about the TranPacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiated in secret, the TPP is NAFTA on steroids. It’s urgent we demand that Congress oppose a “fast track” of this treaty.
You may be muttering, “Why pay attention to this irrelevant issue?” After all, we’re too busy working long hours to buy cheap Nike shoes, iPads and apparel from retailers like Walmart to celebrate the Christmas® holidays.
Indeed, we are so busy buying stuff destined for landfills that we don’t realize we are disposable too. The wizards behind the curtain of the TPP are 600 corporate “advisors” for rich multi-national corporations that don’t care about public health, the environment and human rights. They care about profits—period.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a front-page story, “Tobacco Firms’ Strategy Limits Poorer Nations’ Smoking Laws.” While the Times pointed out that the U.S. is among twelve Pacific Rim Countries completing talks on a major new trade treaty that will be a “model for the rules of international commerce,” they made no mention of the TPP. “Fast tracking” the TPP requires a complicit mainstream media—one that eliminates enough dots so citizens can’t connect them.
The Oregonian is no different. As a scribe for Nike, the Oregonian reports that the TPP would eliminate tariffs on sneakers (outsourced to manufacturers who pay low wages overseas) and magically, we'll have more high-paying jobs here! Money needs to circulate for a society to thrive. Since the 2008 recession, we’ve learned that money is heading in just one direction: upwards. Global trade agreements will further concentrate money and power when corporate boardrooms reward their executives—including Nike CEO Mark Parker.
A Nixon innovation, fast track limits Congress to a no-amendments, no-filibuster, simple majority vote on complex trade agreements—even though the rare Congressman or Senator has read the TPP. Fast track expired in 2007. A midterm election compels the most do-nothing Congress to make amends to their corporate donors. Passing fast track in early 2014 is a bipartisan agenda.
The TPP is much more than tariffs. There are twenty-nine chapters and only five chapters deal with traditional trade issues. In mid-November, Wikileaks released draft text of the TPP Intelligential Property Rights chapter. This text includes an investor-state protection clause that gives multi-national corporations the right to sue communities, states and nations enacting laws that might compromise future profits.
The TPP singles out tobacco as a health concern, but the Chamber of Commerce says this “would leave the door open for other products, like soda or sugar, to be heavily regulated in other countries.” The Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, opposing the “last-minute inclusion of a product-specific reference to tobacco or any other product.” They claimed “the TPP nor any prior U.S. trade agreement prevents American officials from regulating in the public interest—period. Trade agreements only require that such measures be based in sound science…”
Like the “sound science” performed by Monsanto that “proves” GMOs are safe and labeling is a costly regulatory burden? One of the lobbyists that co-signed the letter is the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The Grocery Manufacturers Association amassed $7.2 million (of over $22 million in the opposition coffers) to successfully oppose GMO labeling in Washington State. PepsiCo, Nestle USA and Coca-Cola each donated over $1 million to that Grocery Manufacturers Association slush fund.
Corporations are tribal when they collectively fight public health campaigns because it’s costly for corporations to also fight “sin taxes.” In 2010, these same corporations helped to raise over $16 million to pass Initiative 1107 which repealed a tax on candy and soda in Washington. This discouraged Upstream Health, a nonprofit in Oregon, to mount a similar campaign to tax sugary sodas in 2013, especially since they couldn’t get a hearing for the same bill in 2011. Yet there is no question that sugar-sweetened beverages promote obesity.
Since the mainstream media protects corporate interests, WikiLeaks came to the rescue in publishing the Intellectual Property chapter of the TPP. If you can't stomach Julian Assange, turn to Joseph Stiglitz, (Columbia professor and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 2001), who wrote an open letter to the TPP negotiators. Sadly, we must look to blogs for this publication. Stiglitz concludes, "The investor state dispute resolution mechanisms should not be shrouded in mystery to the general public, while the same provisions are routinely discussed with advisors to big corporations.
The invisible hand of “free” market forces is what Milton Friedman calls “the possibility of cooperation without coercion.” In the current era of mass communication and micro-targeted advertising, corporations have the upper hand when they defend their ability to obfuscate harms, laying blame on people that should take “personal responsibility” for their consumer choices.
More than three-quarters of the world’s smokers now live in the developing world, too poor to fight corporate lawsuits that might arise if they try to place limits on advertising, packaging and sale of tobacco products. With deep pockets, corporations squelch the voice of public health advocates while they belittle consumer protections as the “nanny state.”
The TPP subordinates public health, the environment and human rights to corporate profits. As global citizens, we must take time to learn more about the TPP. Call Congress and demand NO FAST TRACK.
~ Kris Alman serves as Assistant Secretary of Health for Data Privacy in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.
World Condemns Obama Surveillance, MSNBC=Democrats & Fair Trade for People and Planet
by KevinZeese Clearing the Fog
INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF OBAMA’S SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
“The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has compared the uproar in the international community caused by revelations of mass surveillance with the collective response that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa,” begins a piece at The Guardian, this morning.
There you have it, President Obama’s surveillance program is being compared by a South African of Color, and the highest human rights official in the world, to South Africa’s apartheid regime for its perception in the international community. This after a federal judge has ruled the program to be probably unconstitutional. And after Obama’s own hand-picked panel condemned it.
GREENWALD KICKS WELKER’S BUTT
Kristen Welker questioned Glenn Greenwald’s objectivity as a journalist yesterday, asking him to respond to critics who have called him a spokesperson for Edward Snowden. Without hesitating Greenwald responded, “We’re on MSNBC now, where close to 24 hours a day, the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party is promoted, defended, glorified.”
As a young man I met several people who had worked for super gangster, Al Capone. Capone provided good jobs driving trucks to bring booze down from Canada when jobs were scarce, and Capone had enabled them to feed their families in those hard times, earning their loyalty. None of them knew anything about Capone’s criminal activity, other than running illegal liquor, they told me.
Capone was never found guilty of murder or other serious crimes, but if he’d killed millions of people he wouldn’t have killed as many as our transnational corporations kill each year around the world from known unsafe workplaces, known unsafe products, and the aftermath of preventable environmental pollution.
Even as we warn our members and other readers about the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership, our extremely corrupt government also negotiates in secret the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Al Capone, who said “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class,” never conceived of a more heinous plot to subvert the public interest –Jack Balkwill
Transatlantic Trade Agreement Threatens Environment and Health in US and Europe
by Erich Pica and Magda Stoczkiewicz
Negotiations between the United States and European Union for a free trade agreement, which resumed this week in Washington, represent one of the biggest threats we have seen in our lifetimes to an environmentally sustainable and socially just world.
The deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is billed as the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history. It is being touted as a means to boost trade and create jobs, but in reality the United States already has free trade with Europe, and vice versa. Tariffs are already low and the exchange of goods and services is robust.
Friends of the Earth U.S. and Friends of the Earth Europe are deeply concerned that the negotiating objectives for an agreement have little to do with free trade and everything to do with corporate power. TTIP risks being a partnership of those who seek to prevent and roll back democratically agreed safeguards in areas such as food and chemical safety, agriculture and energy.
What we fear the negotiations really aim for is a massive weakening of standards and regulations for the protection of people and our environment. Such rules are branded “trade irritants,” making them seem like an annoying itch for the corporations that have to adhere to them. These companies would therefore like to see them removed, irrespective of the fact that the very reason for these rules’ creation is to protect citizens, consumers and nature.
Friends of the Earth U.S. and Friends of the Earth Europe know what it is to be partners. We believe our governments should be partners, too, in building a more equitable and sustainable future. But our common analysis is that the TTIP is unlikely to do this. For the time being we see corporations and financiers as the only partners. And we certainly don’t see citizens as partners when the details of the negotiations are being kept secret from the public.
This week’s talks, like the previous rounds, will happen behind closed doors. The negotiating texts will be kept secret from the public, but not from the approximately 600 corporate representatives who have been named “cleared advisors” for the United States.
More reason for our fear that this is a partnership for profits, not people or planet, is the provision of an “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanism — perhaps the most dangerous TTIP negotiating objective. This would enable corporations to claim potentially unlimited damages in secret courts or arbitration panels if their profits are adversely affected by environmental or consumer regulations. These investment suits are tried before business-friendly tribunals composed of corporate lawyers, bypass domestic courts and override the will of parliaments. Even expected future profits are compensable.
Under other existing investor-state agreements, challenges to environmental policy are already being brought by oil and gas companies, mining operations, the nuclear industry, and pharmaceutical giants that deem that their investment potential and related profits are being damaged by regulatory or policy changes.
We believe there is much for American and European citizens to be concerned about in these trade talks — not least the investor-state dispute settlement provision. Also at stake are regulations on genetically engineered products, food safety, toxic chemicals, highly polluting fuels, and many others. The EU’s fuel quality directive, which disadvantages tar sands oil and other fuels with a high carbon footprint, is on U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman’s hit list. And food safety measures have been targeted as trade barriers, including restrictions on imports of beef treated with growth hormones, chicken washed in chlorine and meat produced with growth stimulants.
Friends of the Earth in Europe and the United States are determined to alert policymakers and the people about the deception and danger in the current course of the TTIP negotiations. We are calling for an end to the secrecy. People, not corporations, should determine the future of the transatlantic economy, including what kind of future we want for our children.
_Second release of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement documents
Monday 9 December 2013, 2:40 GMT On 13 November 2013
WikiLeaks released the draft text of the crucial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter during the lead-up to a TPP chief negotiators’ meeting in Salt Lake City on 19-24 November 2013. Today, 9 December 2013, WikiLeaks has released two more secret TPP documents that show the state of negotiations as the twelve TPP countries began supposedly final negotiations at a trade ministers’ meeting in Singapore this week.
One document describes deep divisions between the United States and other nations, and “great pressure” being exerted by the US negotiators to move other nations to their position. The other document lists, country-by-country, the many areas of disagreement remaining. It covers intellectual property and thirteen other chapters of the draft agreement. This suggests that the TPP negotiations can only be concluded if the Asia-Pacific countries back down on key national interest issues, otherwise the treaty will fail altogether.
TPP Salt Lake Extracts TPP Salt Lake Positions
November 13, 2013
151 House Democrats, Bloc of GOP Announce Opposition to ‘Fast Track’ Trade Authority Mounting Concerns About Possible Trans-Pacific Partnership Unite Members Across Party Lines Against Abdicating Congressional Authority Over Trade
A letter sent today to President Barack Obama opposing Fast Track authority, signed by 151 House Democrats, signals the end of a controversial Nixon-era procedure used to railroad contentious trade pacts through Congress. Obama has asked Congress to delegate to him its constitutional trade authority via Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other pacts.
The signers of the letter show the breadth and depth of Democratic House opposition to Fast Track. Signers include:
- 18 of 21 full committee ranking members and 72 subcommittee ranking members;
- Leadership members including Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn; Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel; Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chairs Rosa DeLauro and Rob Andrews; and 35 of 48 Democratic Steering and Policy Committee members;
- 19 of the short list of Democrats who voted for the 2011 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement;
- 26 of the 51 members of the New Democrat Coalition, and 8 of the 14 members of the Blue Dog Coalition; and
- 36 of 42 House members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and 13 of 19 House members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
“These letters make clear that Fast Track is history,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “When Nixon cooked up this scheme 40 years ago, trade pacts covered only tariffs. Now, deals like the TPP could rewrite wide swaths of U.S. policy, currently under the control of Congress, from food safety and financial regulation to Buy American procurement to energy policy.”
Fast Track delegated to the executive branch authorities the Constitution explicitly gives Congress. Fast Track let the executive branch unilaterally select trade partners, set agreements’ terms and sign them before Congress even voted. Then the executive branch could write implementing legislation, skirting committee review and amendment. This legislation could be directly submitted for votes, with congressional leaders’ control of House and Senate floor schedules overridden. Votes could be forced within 60 days in the House and an additional 30 days in the Senate. Normal voting rules were waived, with all amendments banned and only 20 hours of debate. Unlike all past trade authorities, which covered only tariffs, Fast Track allowed the executive branch to “diplomatically legislate,” using trade agreements to set policy on non-trade matters.
“Polls show that opposition to more-of-the same trade deals is one of the few issues that uniteAmericans across party lines,” said Wallach. “It’s not really surprising that there is bipartisan congressional opposition to Fast Track.”
Fast Track has been used only 16 times, although hundreds of U.S. trade agreements have been implemented since the mid-1970s. These have included the most controversial pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the agreement that created the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. has a large and growing trade deficit with countries involved in past U.S. fast-tracked Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). U.S. export growth is 38 percent higher with countries with which we do not have FTAs relative to those with which we have FTAs.
Also fueling congressional opposition to Fast Track is the abysmal outcome of the Obama administration’s only major trade pact to date, the U.S.-Korea FTA, which is the template for the TPP. In contrast to Obama’s promises that the Korea deal would boost exports, in the agreement’s first year, U.S. exports to Korea fell 10 percent, imports from Korea rose and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea exploded by 37 percent. This equates to a net loss of approximately 40,000 U.S. jobs.
Opposition to Fast Track has been growing in Congress since the time of NAFTA and the WTO. The 1991 Fast Track grant passed in the House by a 27-vote margin. President Bill Clinton never was able to obtain Fast Track again after that grant expired. Clinton had Fast Track authority for only two of his eight years in office, and in 1998, the House explicitly rejected his request, with 171 Democratic and 71 GOP opposing Fast Track. President George W. Bush then spent two years and enormous political capital to pass Fast Track in 2002 by two votes. That delegation of Fast Track expired in 2007, and Congress rebuffed Bush’s request for an extension.
In 2008, candidate Obama promised to replace Fast Track with a more inclusive process. Historically, a new system of trade authority delegation has been created every few decades since 1890. But in recent months, Obama has ramped up his demand that Congress once again cede its constitutional trade authority via Fast Track.
“Fast Track is outdated 1970s technology being applied to 21st century realities, which is causing serious damage,” said Wallach. “It enables agreements that offshore U.S. jobs and expose our consumer and environmental laws to attack and rollback.”
Already a decade ago, one of Congress’ most ardent free traders, the late U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), who led the Democratic House effort to pass NAFTA, described why Fast Track was unacceptable:
“Trade is no longer primarily about tariffs and quotas. It’s about changing domestic laws. The constitutional authority to make law is at the heart of our role as a Congress and of our sovereignty as a nation. When international trade negotiators sit down to hammer out agreements, they are talking about harmonizing ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’ that may include everything from antitrust laws to food safety. I believe the President and the USTR should be able to negotiate trade deals as efficiently as possible … But that does not mean that Congress must concede to the Executive Branch its constitutional authority over foreign commerce and domestic law without adequate assurances that Congress will be an active participant in the process. Congress should be a partner, not a mere spectator or occasional consultant to the process. … Think about what may be bargained away at the negotiating table: our own domestic environmental protections ... food safety laws ... competition policies. That’s the air we breathe, the food our children eat, and the way Americans do business… The nature of trade has changed, and Fast Track authority must change with it. I ardently believe in the principles of free trade. But I will not put my constitutional authority over domestic law and my responsibility to my own constituents on a fast track to the executive branch.” (Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), Congressional Record, 147, 12/6/01, at H9025.
Prior to Fast Track and starting with Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, Congress gave Tariff Proclamation Authority to presidents. But it covered only tariffs, not the broad subject matter included under Fast Track. The mechanism allowed the executive branch to implement reciprocal tariff cuts only within bounds set by Congress. Prior to that, trade agreements were often approved as treaties by the Senate, with both chambers later also required to pass implementing legislation. Public Citizen’s 2013 book, “The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority,” provides an in-depth history of U.S. trade authority.
Do you want your doctor worried about being sued for using a patented surgical method to save your life?
Help stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership: http://bit.ly/1e7WPwA
Read the leaked text here: http://bit.ly/Iklmmw
Read the leaked text analysis here: http://bit.ly/1i29RRp
Trans-National Investor Sovereignty November 14th, 2013
The TPP, if Passed, Spells the End of Popular Sovereignty for The United States
by Lambert Strether
Reposted from Naked Capitalism (10 November 2013)
You've heard of popular sovereignty, right? It's embodied in the Preamble of the United States Constitution. I'll quote it for the sheer majesty of the language, archaic though it may seem in these "innovative" days:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
A popular website ("We Speak Student") explains in its Constitution FAQ:
What is the principle of popular sovereignty?
The principle of popular sovereignty is the idea that a government's power derives only from the consent of the people being governed. The Constitution's first three words-"We the People..."-establish from the very start that the United States government draws its authority and legitimacy directly from the people. The concept of popular sovereignty differs from the old monarchical belief in the divine right of kings (in which the monarch was said to draw his right to rule directly from God) and also from the British principle of parliamentary sovereignty (in which ultimate authority rested with Parliament rather than with the people directly).
Making it all the more remarkable, or not, that our political class - Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch, a bipartisan caucus, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Editorial Board of The New York Times, to name a few of the usual suspects - would pursue an agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that sells out popular sovereignty to transnational investors, and allows them to rule us. I know your friends think this sounds like nutty black helicopter stuff, but it's true! It's true! (Tell them to watch Yves on Bill Moyers, in a really sharp transcript.) So bear with me, please, as I work through the thesis. First, I'll look at how TPP replaces popular sovereignty with transnational investor rule, in two ways. Next, I'll take a very quick look at the state of play. Finally, I'll suggest that all is not lost, and in fact the TPP can be defeated.
First, TPP undermines popular sovereignty because it's being written in secret. I'll give a few quotes here, mostly to illustrate that the farther away you get from K Street, the more precise the language becomes. First, Campaign for America's Future:
The next "trade" treaty will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a huge treaty with only a small part covering trade. Most of the agreement (according to leaks) sets down a new kind of regulatory structure [what does that mean?] for the giant corporations that would supersede the ability of any country to rein them in. The treaty is being negotiated in secret with only business interests "at the table." Representatives of others with a stake in the outcome are not part of the process. Groups representing the interests of consumers, labor, human rights, the environment, democracy or even smaller and innovative companies that might want to compete with the giant multinationals are not part of the negotiations.
To bad about the verticals, not to mention the American people, or their elected representatives. CEPR:
Of course the TPP is not about free trade, in most cases the formal trade barriers between the countries negotiating the pact are relatively low. The main thrust of the negotiations is to impose a regulator[y] structure in a wide range of areas - health, safety, environmental - which will override national and sub-national rules. This has little to do with trade and in some cases, such as the increased patent protection for prescription drugs being pushed as part of the deal (which is noted in the article), will actually involve increased barriers to trade.
And now Expose the TPP, which makes "regulatory structure" just a wee bit more precise while, again, agreeing on the secrecy:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership n. 1. A "free trade" agreement that would set rules on non-trade matters such as food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, financial regulation, and the environment. 2. A binding international governance system that would require the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and any other country that signs on to conform their domestic policies to its rules. 3. A secret trade negotiation that has included over 600 official corporate "trade advisors" while hiding the text from Members of Congress, governors, state legislators, the press, civil society, and the public.
Fortunately, and bringing me to the second and more important reason the TPP undermines popular sovereignty, the investment chapter for the TPP was leaked, and the excellent Public Citizen published it (link to the PDF). Their summary in relevant part describes the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions:
These provisions are so extreme that many people unfamiliar with them tend to dismiss description of them or their implications...
Procedural rights that are not available to domestic investors to sue governments outside of national court systems, unconstrained by the rights and obligations of countries' constitutions, laws and domestic court procedures (Section B). There is simply no reason for foreign investors to pursue claims against a nation outside of that nation's judicial system, unless it is in an attempt to obtain greater rights than those provided under national law. Moreover, many of the TPP partners have strong domestic legal systems . For example, TPP partners New Zealand, Australia and Singapore are all ranked by the World Bank as performing at least as well as the United States with regard to control of corruption and adherence to rule of law. Yet in a manner that would enrage right and left alike, the private "investor-state" enforcement system included in the leaked TPP text would empower foreign investors and corporations to skirt domestic courts and laws and sue governments in foreign tribunals. There, they can demand cash compensation from domestic treasuries over domestic policies that they claim undermine their new investor rights and expected future profits. This establishes an alarming two-track system of justice that privileges foreign corporations in myriad ways relative to governments or domestic businesses. It also exposes signatory countries to vast liabilities, as foreign firms use foreign tribunals to raid public treasuries.
So that explains the "new kind of" "regulatory structure," the "binding international governance system" a lot better than I can. Because this new "governance system" is literally, and not metaphorically, revolutionary, I took a look at the actual text of the Investment Chapter, made some screen shots, and added some (really sloppy) yellow magic marker highlighting. I should say that I am by no stretch of the imagination a subject matter expert in the language of international trade treaties, though I do know a "shall" when I see it; my purpose in highlighting the text is simply to show passages that the cynical would characterize as "weasel wording," or subject to "lawyerly parsing," or containing, in the vulgate, "loopholes that you could drive a truck through." Also, you may wish to contrast the majesty of the language of the U.S. Constitution with the fluorescent-lit, Orwellian bureaucratese of the Investment Chapter. Also, too, you've really got to read this stuff to believe it. So herewith, all from Section 12 and following:
The goal: Equal treatment for investment capital, globally. Does anybody think that's going to be a race to the top for anybody but the global investor class?
Note that the expectation of profit is one of the characteristics of an investment. And what better judge of those expectations could there be than the investor?
Can "expropriation" include state actions that damage an investor's expectation of profit? You betcha! Here's how that "direct or indirect" wording gets teased out:
Get a load of those loopholes! "Intangible property rights" and "indirect expropriation" are to be determined on a "case-by-case, fact-based inquiry" as to whether "distinct" (sez who) and "reasonable" (sez who) "expectations" (sea who) were "interfered with." But don't worry, little governments! Only in "rare circumstances" will your "legitimate" (sez who) "public welfare objectives" be considered expropriations. And never mind that one "rare circumstance," if the "expectations" were large enough - say, the expectations of the health insurance companies that ObamaCare would never be repealed? - could sink a sovereign state entirely.
I really like the part where the writ of your government runs "where applicable."
So the proceedings of the tribunal are "open," unless one of the parties decides it should be closed.
This is the part where, after its open except when randomly closed hearing, the tribunal can order your government to pay an investor for damages to their investment which may, as we saw in the definition of investment, include expectations of a return. (And just in case you think it can't happen here, here's one example, and here's another of the same sort of tribunal, though not yet the TPP.)
Second, and briefly, the state of play. Via AEI:
[T]he potential impact of the president's no-show at TPP negotiations [a positive result of the government shutdown] is a likewise negative development but not necessarily a fatal one to the successful conclusion of the agreement. With or without Obama's presence, the situation with regards to the negotiations stands as follows. Since 2010, when serious bargaining began, there have been 19 negotiating sessions. At this point, most if not all of the technical underbrush has been cleared away by the trade bureaucrats from the 12 member states. What is left is a group of at least a dozen highly sensitive political questions and judgments that must be settled by political leaders. Among the issues outstanding are rules and commitments related to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the environment, labor, market access and rules of origin, intellectual property (IP), government procurement, services and investment, regulatory coherence and coordination, and data flows and protection, among others. (The list will vary from observer to observer and cannot be conclusive since no actual potential text has been made public).
No potential for conflict there! But to get the TPP passed, Obama needs "fast track" trade promotion authority (TPA) that he doesn't have. Can he get it? Politico:
As the administration is trying to wrap up talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of the year, "they have handicapped themselves by not having trade promotion authority," said a former U.S. trade official who asked not to be identified. "You cannot strike the right balance of ambition in the agreement [whatever that means] if you have one hand tied behind your back."
Leaders of the 12 TPP countries wound up announcing the goal of finishing the talks by the end of the year, but some think if Obama had been there, they would have declared the deal virtually complete, creating the impetus for key committees in Congress to take up the trade promotion authority bill. Instead, it waits in the wings, assembly required, with no agreement yet on how to put it together.
Good. Let's hope it rots there.
Finally, all is not lost, for at least four reasons:
- Obama is a lame duck. A guy who can't launch a website for his signature domestic initiative shouldn't be let anywhere near an international agreement that creates a "binding international governance system." Yikes! Bad idea!
- Fast track is on the rocks because of yet another "strange bedfellows" alliance. FT: The Obama administration's efforts to secure "fast track" authority deemed vital to seal trade deals with Europe and Asia have run into resistance from "an unholy alliance" of Democrats and conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill.
- Lots of resistance back in the district. Here's a handy map that states and localities can look at if they want to see who can sue them; and here's a letter state legislators wrote.
- Other democracies don't like the TPP any better than we do. Here's one view from Japan.
194 Members of Congress Go Public with Concerns about TPP Trade Deal
At least 194 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress have publicly raised concerns with President Obama about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The latest: a letter signed by 151 Democratic House members who laid out their concerns about the lack of consultation during the TPP negotiations and their opposition to "fast tracking" the deal without any meaningful congressional input.
Representatives Rosa DeLauro and George Miller lead the effort to spotlight the serious shortcomings of the TPP negotiating process and to take a stand against Trade Promotion Authority, also known as "fast track" consideration, which would bring the agreement before the Congress for an up-or-down vote with no opportunities for amendment.
This massive trade deal could have detrimental consequences for manufacturing and service sector jobs, workers' rights, wages, environmental regulation, food safety, health care, consumer protections, government procurement policies and more. Some 600 corporate advisors have access to the secret draft texts, but the public, many members of Congress, journalists, unions, environmental and public health groups and others have been excluded.
"Our 20 years of experience in trade deals, going back to North American Free Trade Agreement, has proven that we lose far more jobs than we gain, and that our pay and benefits are pushed down with global competition as the excuse," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "That's not the future we want for ourselves or our children. We must pursue economic and trade policies that are best for American workers – not multinational corporations."
In their letter to the president, House Democrats vowed to oppose fast track.
"Twentieth Century 'Fast Track' is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced," the letter said. "The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better."
Raise your hand if your democratic Congress person has been shouting loudly and strongly against TPP for these few years. NO ONE. Do we really think they know nothing about it? REALLY???? This is a neo-liberal policy for goodness sake straight from the Brookings Institution!!!
TPP Disclosure Shows It Will Kill People and Internet; House Opposition Is Widespread
Friday, 15 November 2013 11:27 By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism | Report
(Photo: Caelie_Frampton / Flickr)We posted on the New York Times news story that opposition in the House to authorization of "fast track" authority to the Administration on its pending Pacific and Atlantic trade deals was stiffening right just before a related story broke: that Wikileaks had disclosed the end of August draft of one of the critical chapters of one of the deals.
We wrote yesterday that this deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, already looked to be in trouble given both Congressional and foreign opposition. The Administration has conducted the talks with an unheard-of degree of secrecy, with Congressional staffers in most cases denied access to the text and even Congressmen themselves facing unheard-of obstacles (Alan Grayson reported that the US Trade Representative created an absurd six weeks of dubious delays in his case). But perversely, 700 corporate representatives got privileged access so they could influence negotiations. It's not hard to see whose interests are really being served in these deals.
The Wikileaks disclosure could well have struck the fatal blow to this toxic pact. As we'll see below, it may have been dead anyhow. Obama's relationship with his own party is already on the rocks as a result of Obamacare (not just the rollout but the increasing recognition that the program has more fundamental flaws), so he has limited political capital available to whip Democratic Congressmen back into line. The opposition is more deep-seated and broad-based than I had realized (for instance, 18 of the 21 ranking full committee members in the House are against it). So the TPP looked to be on the Syria incursion path.
But it's hard not to believe that the Wikileaks revelations will galvanize opposition among the other prospective members of the pact. It's hard for democratic countries to agree to a deal that has been revealed will kill their citizens in order to enrich America's Big Pharma incumbents. And that statement is not an exaggeration. Wikileaks disclosed the end of August version (apparently two drafts behind current text) of the intellectual property chapter, which includes the section on drugs and surgical procedures.
The intent is to strengthen America's aggressive patent regime and require foreign countries to comply with it. For instance, the FDA considers minor changes in existing drugs, such as developing an extended release version so that a medication need be taking only once a day, to be a "new drug application" and will extend patents based on that. The draft also would severely limit the use of generics. Higher prices will restrict drug use and is certain to have adverse health consequences for some, potentially many, citizens. And although people overseas will suffer the greatest consequences, Americans will be affected as well. As Public Citizen wrote, "The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed measures harmful to access to aﬀordable medicines that have not been seen before in U.S. trade agreements," and elaborated:
Another medical-industrial complex rent-extraction technique is by covering surgical methods . No, I am not making that up. See this section of an excellent discussion by Knowledge Ecology International:
An interesting example of how the US seeks to change national and global norms are the provisions in the TPP over patents on surgical methods. The WTO permits countries to exclude "diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals." The US wants to flip this provision, so that "may also exclude from patentability" becomes "shall make patents available." However, when a version of the IP Chapter was leaked in 2011, the US trade negotiators were criticized for ignoring the provisions in 28 USC 287 that eliminated remedies for infringement involving the "medical activity" of a "medical practitioner." The exception in US law covered "the performance of a medical or surgical procedure on a body." The US trade negotiators then proposed adding language that would permit an exception for surgery, but only "if they cover a method of using a machine, manufacture, or composition of matter." The US proposal, crafted in consultation with the medical devices lobby, but secret from the general public, was similar, but different from the U.S. statute, which narrowed the exception in cases involving "the use of a patented machine, manufacture, or composition of matter in violation of such patent." How different? As Public Citizen's Burcu Kilic puts it, under the US proposal in the TPP, the exception would only apply to "surgical methods you can perform with your bare hands."
I'm not sure how this would work in practice, but I imagine it would be ugly. For instance, Johnson & Johnson dominates the market for replacement hips and knees. They also provide tools used to perform the surgeries on those hips and knees which surgeons need to buy (as in no one had the incentive beside J&J to make these implements, and surgeons would be unlikely to scrimp on a secondary cost when it gets billed back to the patient anyhow). So it looks as if J&J would also somehow be able to charge additional fees on each operation, say if it introduced a new hip replacement which required some change in how the hip was installed (a new surgical method). How this would be enforced is over my pay grade.
The pact in its end of August form would also, as we had discussed based on concerned raised by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, interfere with basic Internet operations. The International Business Times summarized the EFF's concerns:
Here's the text of the relevant section of the TPP's intellectual property chapter leaked Wednesday:
Each Party shall provide that authors, performers, and producers of phonograms have the right to authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms, in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).
The EFF wrote in a July analysis of the language — which has not been amended in the intervening months — that the provision "reveals a profound disconnect with the reality of the modern computer," which relies on temporary copies to perform routine operations, during which it must create temporary copies of programs and files in order to carry out basic functions. This is particularly so while a computer is connected to the Internet, when it will use temporary copies to buffer videos, store cache files to ensure websites load quickly and more.
"Since it's technically necessary to download a temporary version of everything we see on our devices, does that mean—under the US proposed language—that anyone who ever views content on their device could potentially be found liable of infringement?" the EFF wrote. "For other countries signing on to the TPP, the answer would be most likely yes."
Another way the TPP will harm the Internet is, similar to SOPA and PIPA, is to obligate internet service providers to act as copyright police. Now, as Dean Baker explained on Bill Moyers, if a website posts material improperly, the site owner and the host are obligated to remove it as soon as the publisher is notified (in practice, if the publisher does not comply pronto, a nastygram to the webhost will get the entire site taken down). ISPs are extremely low margin businesses. Forcing high-cost monitoring on them would lead them to increase their staffing considerably. The resulting hosting increases would force the closure of most small independent sites. The increased oversight of ordinary users (they'd be required to monitor ongoing communications for piracy, which sounds like an NSA wet dream) would also likely lead to higher access charges for consumers.
I attempted to read the draft, which was largely over my head (as in you need to know extant intellectual property provisions in order to be able to see how this treaty language stands relative to it). However, even a casual reading shows that much of the language is still under negotiation, with many passages having numerous TPP parties on each side of an issue. So the negotiations looked to be fraught even before the Wikileaks disclosure.
On the US side, Rosa DeLauro and George Miller are leading the opposition to the use of fast track authority altogether. This is the key section of their letter, which already has 151 signatures:
Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade. For instance, an agreement that does not specifically meet congressional negotiating objectives must not receive preferential consideration in Congress. A new trade agreement negotiation and approval process that restores a robust role for Congress is essential to achieving U.S. trade agreements that can secure prosperity for the greatest number of Americans, while preserving the vital tenets of American democracy in the era of globalization.
Twentieth Century "Fast Track" is simply not appropriate for 21st Century agreements and must be replaced. The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better.
Let's hope that lame duck Obama overplaying his hand on the "trade" front will indeed rouse Congress to pull back authority that it has over the years allowed the Executive to abrogate. If so, this will be an unexpected and welcome important side benefit of blocking these toxic trade deals.
We thank media personalities for coming forward but why are they doing it now-----just before it is due to it Congress? We have been shouting against TPP for several years through two election cycles with not a word. Would you have voted differently if you knew your neo-liberal created this mess and intends to end democracy with TPP?
In Maryland, that would have meant all of Maryland's democrats would be gone and labor and justice would have regained control of the democratic party. Rather, we are still watching as neo-liberals controlling the party dismantle democracy and create an autocratic plutocracy.
Bill Moyers on why the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is death for democracy
11/5/2013 10:05am by Gaius Publius
Many of you know I’ve been covering TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement) for a while now — for example, here. Obama and the rest of the neoliberal (“free-trade”) Democrats are dying to implement it, and the Republican servants of the same fine CEOs are not far behind.
But the TPP is complicated — at least in appearances — and the public is having a hard time bottom-lining it, in between taking kids to soccer and paying bills in the evening. By comparison, characterizing Keystone is easy — “Want to drink goo from your faucet and watch the earth cook? Support Keystone.”
It’s not really hard to understand TPP though, once you see the pattern — TPP puts the ruling class (and the corporations they control) in charge of most aspects of our economic and regulatory life. It rewrites the laws of every nation that signs it, all to increase the wealth of our pathological betters. We just need more people saying that.
Now comes Bill Moyers with an excellent, listenable primer on what TPP is and why it spells death to democracy (literally) and breathes even more life into the predator 1% of the 1%.
Governments involved with our betters in implementing the TPP “corporate-rule” agreement. These are the perps.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Moyers’ great introduction, then to the discussion with Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism and Dean Baker of CEPR. This is one of the best ways to come up to speed on TPP I’ve found — very tight, very clear:
From the video’s introduction at Vimeo:
A US-led trade deal is currently being negotiated that could increase the price of prescription drugs, weaken financial regulations and even allow partner countries to challenge American laws. But few know its substance.
The pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is deliberately shrouded in secrecy, a trade deal powerful people, including President Obama, don’t want you to know about. Over 130 Members of Congress have asked the White House for more transparency about the negotiations and were essentially told to go fly a kite. While most of us are in the dark about the contents of the deal, which Obama aims to seal by year end, corporate lobbyists are in the know about what it contains.
And some vigilant independent watchdogs are tracking the negotiations with sources they trust, including Dean Baker and Yves Smith, who join Moyers & Company this week. Both have written extensively about the TPP and tell Bill the pact actually has very little to do with free trade.
Instead, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “This really is a deal that’s being negotiated by corporations for corporations and any benefit it provides to the bulk of the population of this country will be purely incidental.” Yves Smith, an investment banking expert who runs the Naked Capitalism blog adds: “There would be no reason to keep it so secret if it was in the interest of the public.”
Suitable for sharing with your friends and online associates. Seriously; help to make TPP a household name ahead of the Senate hearings on it and the Fast-Track legislation that will introduce it.
We’ll be following this closely as well. At some point soon, we’ll all need concerted and raucous citizen opposition. As Moyers and company show, this is as big a deal as stopping Big Carbon in its tracks. If we don’t prevent this, TPP will rewrite constitutions across the globe, including here at home.
And believe me, our poor Constitution has taken on a lot of rewriting lately. Save the Constitution. Help kill the TPP “corporate-rule” agreement. (More information here.)
November 7, 2013 | By Maira Sutton
How Can the New York Times Endorse an Agreement the Public Can't Read?
The New York Times' editorial board has made a disappointing endorsement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), even as the actual text of the agreement remains secret. That raises two distressing possibilities: either in an act of extraordinary subservience, the Times has endorsed an agreement that neither the public nor its editors have the ability to read. Or, in an act of extraordinary cowardice, it has obtained a copy of the secret text and hasn't yet fulfilled its duty to the public interest to publish it.
Without a publicly available agreement, readers are forced into the uncomfortable position of taking official government statements at face value. That's reflected in the endorsement, which fails to note the myriad ways in which TPP has been negotiated undemocratically, shutting out public oversight while permitting corporate interests to drive the agenda. Given these glaring issues, it is disconcerting that the Times would take such a supportive stance on an agreement that is likely to threaten innovation and users' digital rights well into the 21st century.
That situation leaves unanswered questions. Does the editorial board, for example, support the TPP provisions that would give private corporations new tools to undermine national sovereignty and democratic processes? Because “investor-state dispute settlement,” slated for inclusion in both the TPP and the EU-US trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), would give multinational companies the power to sue countries over laws that might cut into expected future profits. This could allow corporations to unravel any policy designed to protect users against violations of their right to privacy or free speech online. The paper's endorsement notes that copyright enforcement could be expanded to suit legacy media companies, but provides no explanation of why a trade agreement is an acceptable venue for deciding such issues.
Does the New York Times also endorse an initiative to scrap democratic oversight of TPP by elected lawmakers? After all, Senate Finance committee leaders, Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. Orrin Hatch have renewed their call to pass fast-track, which would hand over Congress' constitutional mandate over US trade policy to the Obama administration. Fast-track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, would restrict lawmakers from having any proper hearings on its provisions, limiting them to an up-or-down vote on the entire 29 chapter treaty.
The paper's statement emphasizes how the Obama administration strives to make TPP's policies “an example for the rest of the world to follow.” But if that's the case, then it's all the more important that the agreement be published immediately. Such a significant body of international law regulating digital policy must not be negotiated without proper, informed public debate. The secrecy of the process itself ensures that only some private interests will be represented at the expense of others. In addition, the U.S. Trade Representative's history of pushing forth extreme copyright enforcement policies through other trade agreements gives little assurance that users' rights will be considered in the TPP.
Trade representatives are working to finalize TPP negotiations by the end of the year. Negotiators are scheduled to meet in Salt Lake City next week to negotiate outstanding issues in this agreement, including provisions on liability for Internet Service Providers and anti-circumvention measures over DRM. Following that, trade delegates are seeking to finalize and sign this agreement in December in a ministerial meeting in Singapore.
It's unfortunate that news outlets are giving little coverage to TPP, when media attention could have a major impact on how the US and the other 11 nations draft digital policy. But public media coverage is precisely the sort of accountability that official secrecy thwarts. Instead of endorsing an agreement the public can't read, a responsible paper would condemn the secrecy involved. And if the Times has seen the text and knows what's contained in the TPP, then they have a responsibility to publish the text immediately and expose the US government's back room dealings.
In either case, it is deeply disappointing that the New York Times would even support the TPP when the public remains in the dark. An endorsement of TPP at this stage is an endorsement of opaque, corporate-driven policymaking.
We need to demand that our lawmakers oppose fast track, ask them to call for a hearing, and exercise their authority to oversee the U.S. trade office’s secret copyright agenda.
LET'S BE CLEAR.....WE HAVE A STAGNANT ECONOMY BECAUSE ALL WEALTH IS AT THE TOP OF THE INCOME LADDER AND AMERICANS CAN NO LONGER CONSUME.....THAT IS THE PROBLEM. REVERSING WEALTH INEQUITY BY ELIMINATING GLOBAL CORPORATIONS AND REESTABLISHING MIDDLE-CLASS WEALTH...WAGES AND BENEFITS.... IS THE SOLUTION
Trans Pacific Pact (TPP)
A Corporate Coup of a Different Order: The Growing Resistance to the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Thursday, 26 September 2013 14:36 Arthur Phillips
Transparency was supposed to be a White House priority from the very start. In his first inaugural address, when the world celebrated an historic and improbable election, Barack Obama made the case for how an open government was necessary to earn the trust of the people. The next day, he issued a memo that asserted his commitment to creating an “unprecedented level of openness.” And in February, more than four years later, President Obama claimed his to be “the most transparent administration in history.”
Perhaps the least publicized example of that statement’s dishonesty is the White House’s efforts to negotiate the biggest trade agreement since the mid 1990s in near-total secrecy.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has been in negotiations since 2007. In November 2009 the Obama administration made it a centerpiece of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) work. The 12 countries currently negotiating the deal, which include Australia, Chile, Japan, and Singapore, account for nearly 40% of the global economy and one-third of international trade. Yet to characterize the TPP as a trade deal is imprecise, if not disingenuous. The agreement has less to do with the exchange of goods than with altering regulations covering medicine, agriculture, finance, intellectual property, and labor and environmental standards. For example, under the TPP, if a U.S. law conflicted with the pact’s mandates, foreign investors could sue through an independent tribunal to re-coup their so-called “expected future profits.” The TPP stands as a threat to sovereignty at the federal, state and local level.
Prying at the Text
Despite its claims to the contrary, the Obama administration has been far less transparent on trade-related deals than its predecessors. In 2001, during negotiations over the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), George W. Bush’s trade representative made the deal’s working text public, with some redactions so as to preserve anonymity. The current administration has so far refused demands to release the text. What little is known about the deal is based on the generalized testimony of those who have seen the text and on portions that have been anonymously leaked.
Frustration and outrage have been building. In March of this year, 400 civil society groups, including the Sierra Club and Global Exchange, signed a letter deploring the administration’s secrecy and demanding a public debate around the deal. Even members of Congress have been denied access to the text, and those who have seen parts of it have been unable to share it with their assistants because of its classified status. In June, two-thirds of Democratic freshmen in the House of Representatives signed a letter to party leadership about the lack of debate. Shortly thereafter, in response to a wave of citizen comments, the USTR gave Representative Alan Grayson access to the TPP’s text. In an email to supporters, he wrote that the TPP “hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.”
Around the same time, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to then-nominee for Trade Representative Michael Froman, challenging the rationale for keeping the agreement private. “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States," Warren wrote. Less than a week later, Warren voted against Froman’s confirmation.
A Boon for Workers?
In the absence of public debate, the administration has sought to drum up political support for the TPP by making grand projections for economic growth and job creation. American labor groups have apparently not been impressed. At the AFL-CIO’s 2013 convention, held September 8th to 11th, the nation’s largest labor federation reached a resolution that, in a nod to the Occupy movement, read, “So long as the TPP appears poised to promote the rights of the 1%—rather than shared gains from trade—we, along with our international labor movement and civil society partners, will oppose its adoption and implementation.” On September 10 the Center for Economic and Policy Research published an analysis that found the overall economic gains from the deal would be negligible, while only the highest-paid workers would gain if it became law.
Given that the TPP follows in the model of previous treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and various bilateral trade pacts, its projected effects on employment and inequality are unsurprising. President Clinton, who championed the model of corporate globalization, had famously promised that NAFTA would bring 200,000 new high-wage jobs to the U.S. What actually happened was the opposite. The year before NAFTA was signed, the U.S. trade balance with Mexico was a $1.6 billion surplus. In 2011, it had become a $64.5 billion deficit, representing hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
More recently, in October 2011, President Obama signed bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. The administration’s main promotional pitch was, again, the promise of jobs. According to the White House, the deal with Korea would support 70,000 jobs in the U.S. and boost economic growth by $11 billion. Yet after just one year, the Economic Policy Institute found that the U.S. trade deficit with Korea increased by nearly $6 billion, representing a net loss of more than 40,000 U.S. jobs, many of them in manufacturing.
Resisting a Threat
If the TPP only concerned trade—imports tariffs and exports quotas, for example—perhaps citizens and elected officials would not be so alarmed by the lack of transparency. But as Sharon Treat, a member of Maine’s House of Representatives, explains to Toward Freedom, “These agreements cover soup to nuts: you’re talking about everything from financial regulations to environmental regulations to labor policies to, well, everything.” Treat is a member of one of 28 committees that are granted access to portions of the TPP’s negotiating text, ostensibly as a way for officials to receive public input; however, the vast majority of those who sit on the committees, more than 600 individuals, are corporate executives and lobbyists. She went on, saying, “I know more about this sort of thing than the average person, yet I’ve been taken aback by some of what I’ve learned in terms of how these agreements reach into everything and could potentially overturn many of the laws and regulations that protect public health and the environment.”
On Saturday, September 21nd, while TPP negotiators were wrapping up meetings in Washington D.C., people from environmental and social justice groups including Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, and Earth First! were busy planning demonstrations against the deal. Two days later, protesters successfully scaled the Office of the USTR and dropped a series of yellow banners that read, in red and black text, “Transparency: Release the Text” and “Corporate Coup against the People and the Planet.” The next day, activists formed a train they called a “Fast Track Express” which they rode through the streets of the capital, ending at the Chamber of Congress. Their aim was to bring attention to Obama’s request to have Congress grant him Trade Promotion Authority, more commonly referred to as “fast track.” This provision would allow White House negotiators to agree to a deal before presenting it to Congress, which would then hold an up or down vote, without the opportunity to alter or substantively debate the agreement.
Bill Moyer, a musician and activist who leads the Washington state-based Backbone Campaign and who helped organize the actions as part of a campaign called Flush the TPP, explains: “If the progressive story is one of expanding a sense of rights and dignity and stewardship, this is the direct threat to that.” He also recognizes the difficulty of organizing against something that is not only incredibly secretive, but also convoluted and dry. “I think people are disempowered by a culture that makes them feel like they have to be an expert before they have the authority to say anything,” Moyer says. “It’s really important that we get to the underlying values of the issue. I think social movements are built around the things we love, the things we can connect to on an intimate basis.”
According to one organizer of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s two-year anniversary actions, it was relatively easy to agree to focus on the TPP and the economic model it embodies. “The TPP has been described as the anti-Occupy bill,” says Adam Weissman, a member of the Occupy Wall Street Trade Justice working group. “If you can find an issue that Occupy is working on, the TPP is going to undermine that work. It really is a 1% power grab,” Weissman adds.
Actions on September 17th included a rally in Washington Square Park, a street theater performance in Times Square, and a march through the financial district. Reflecting on the events, Weissman says that, on the day that also marked the 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, “it seemed entirely appropriate to stand on the steps of Federal Hall, the birthplace of the Bill of Rights, directly across the street form the Stock Exchange, and talk about how we want to defend the Constitution.”
As the Obama administration ramps up its negotiations and its pursuit of “fast-track” authority, opposition from lawmakers and activists has similarly escalated. Representative Treat, whose state legislature this year unanimously passed a joint resolution opposing “fast-track,” sees potential for a broad coalition to challenge the TPP. “One of the things about this issue that has been kind of remarkable is that it is completely bipartisan,” she says. One group involved in planning the actions in Washington points to 14 trade agreements that have been stopped in past years due to public pressure, including the FTAA and the U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement. Moyer offers his own rationale for resisting the TPP: “The illusion of inevitability is a weapon of our opponent. When our opponent says we’re almost done, this is a done deal—that’s bullshit. Now is the time to engage.”
We were told several weeks ago that the Obama Administration had cut the USDA inspection of poultry so severely that one inspector would be responsible for inspecting a processing line of chicken carcasses passing by at the speed of light. Basically, inspections are not happening at all with US meat processors. That is happening because in order for global meat sellers to COMPETE with other global third world meat sellers the US must end all first world public protections.
THIS IS DONE AS PART OF THE TPP----PUBLIC HEALTH IS A DRAG ON CORPORATE PROFIT AND MUST GO SAY NEO-LIBERALS.
October 9, 2013
USDA Wants to Eliminate Poultry Inspectors for Factory Birds 6
Health Impact News Editor Comments:
Besides the obvious food safety concerns expressed by Ken Ward below, there is quite possibly a far greater risk here in this new USDA plan to privatize poultry inspection. This rule change may exclude small pastured poultry producers from being able to comply and market their products.
Currently, it is very difficult for small-scale poultry producers to find processors that have a USDA inspector present when processing chicken. Several states do not have a single USDA certified processing plant available for smaller producers to process their high end free-range and pastured organic chickens. This is due to the fact that the large factory poultry operations, who do all of their processing in-house, have driven most other processing plants out of business.
Under current regulations, chicken processed without a USDA inspector present has a very limited market. Most farmers who are not growing factory birds sold to the main poultry operations that control all the chicken sold in the U.S., but instead raise pastured chickens outdoors that they market directly to health-conscious consumers, have to process their birds on their farm, due to the lack of processing facilities. In all states, there are limits as to how many chickens you are allowed to process on your farm, and the restrictions on selling those chickens vary greatly from state to state. Some states only allow one to sell these chickens on the farm where they were processed, which often is very far away from urban areas where most of the farmer’s customers would be.
In order to ship high quality chickens directly to customers in another state (as Tropical Traditions currently does through their Grass-fed line of meats produced by small family farms in Wisconsin), the FDA requires that the chickens have to be processed in a facility with a USDA inspector present. There are very few of these left in the United States, and if this new rule that USDA is proposing goes through, even those that are present will probably be eliminated. No one will be able to order chicken over the Internet anymore, greatly restricting your current food choices if you do not want to order factory chickens, and do not live close enough to a farm to drive somewhere to purchase a chicken raised outdoors on pasture.
Given this USDA plan, and the recent FDA plans for egg laying birds that would effectively eliminate eggs from pastured chickens, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a concerted effort to squeeze free range and pastured poultry farmers out of the market in favor of factory birds? Factory chickens make up a multi-billion dollar industry that often gets its way with government officials, as was seen recently in Maryland where they convinced the government to delay action at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay from chicken manure run-off because it would have hurt their sales too much.
Stop the USDA’s plan for unsafe chicken Hi, I’m Ken. I want to tell you about the USDA’s outrageous plan to fleece consumers by handing over our food safety to the very corporations that produce our food.
I can tell you first-hand what a bad idea this is: I’m a retired USDA poultry inspector, with 30 years of experience on the packing house floors, and I was directly involved with this project from the very beginning. From what I’ve seen, this new inspection system is more like a “no inspection” system.
It’s very simple. Who do you want inspecting the poultry that you eat? Trained USDA employees? Or the companies that run factory farms?
When I was an inspector, we went bird by bird to assure that plants were producing clean, wholesome products. But that won’t be the case if this plan goes forward! I worked with the pilot phase of this plan to privatize the inspection of our poultry, but it could soon be approved for broader use… and it turns the “inspection” of our food into a sham.
Privatizing inspection means shifting the actual hands-on inspection of the birds from highly trained, taxpayer-funded, unbiased, Federal employees to plant employees who have no requirement of any training at all — and in doing so, the USDA had to change the name of these employees to ‘sorters’ in lieu of inspectors, because what they’re doing is not inspection.
The USDA needs to hear from you. Tell them that privatizing our food safety is unacceptable!
It is a sad state of affairs when our government is more concerned about saving money than it is about people’s health, but that’s what we’ve got here: a money-saving system that makes it impossible to do adequate inspection of our poultry. A properly trained inspector utilizes ALL of their senses to make a decision about the wholesomeness of the bird. I have no idea of how checking carcasses flying by at unregulated speeds of 3 per second, without any authority to touch, turn or do anything else, can be called “inspection.”
To put it simply, if this plan is approved, there would effectively be no inspection of our poultry. That means no one to make sure that the chicken we eat isn’t contaminated with dirt, feces, or… well, you get the idea. I’ll spare you the gross details.
The USDA should be getting the message about what a bad idea this is. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have had serious food safety problems tied to their privatized meat inspection programs. And just this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office put out a report that strongly condemned the pilot project being used to justify the plan. But the USDA needs to hear from consumers like you, too. Tell the USDA that privatized poultry inspection is like no inspection at all — and that’s not okay.
As a 30-year veteran in the fight of assuring food safety, and now as a consumer who relies on those unbiased federal inspectors to be my eyes, nose and hands in making sure I get wholesome chicken to eat, I’m urging the USDA not to implement this “no inspection” system — and I hope you will, too.
Economic Policy Institute
No Jobs from Trade PactsThe Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Be Much Worse than the Over-Hyped Korea Deal
By Robert E. Scott | July 18, 2013
President Obama and his predecessors have frequently claimed that free trade agreements (FTAs) and other trade deals will lead to growing exports and domestic job creation. The president is currently negotiating two massive new FTAs that are likely to result in increased outsourcing and growing job losses, especially in the manufacturing sector. This paper reviews recent data on trade with South Korea after the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) took effect, and on trade flows after other free trade agreements. It concludes:
- Claims that trade deals increase exports and create jobs are based on flawed trade models, and on distorted and one-sided interpretations of the findings of those models.
- More: Interactive Infographic: Free Trade Agreements Have Hurt American Workers
The flaws in trade models are exemplified in the U.S. International Trade Commission’s estimate that KORUS would increase U.S. goods exports by roughly $10 billion to $11 billion after fully phased in. This estimate focused solely on the impact of tariff cuts on exports, leaving out the effect of changes in foreign direct investment, outsourcing, and all of the other outcomes from trade deals provisions that impact trade flows.
- The USITC also estimated that imports from Korea would increase by about $6 billion to $7 billion, and that the U.S. trade balance with South Korea would improve by about $4 billion to $5 billion. In the year after KORUS took effect, U.S. domestic exports to South Korea actually fell $3.5 billion. Projections for 2013 suggest no reversal of this trend.
- The tendency to distort trade model results was evident in the Obama administration’s insistence that increasing exports under KORUS would support 70,000 U.S. jobs. The administration neglected to consider jobs lost from the increasing imports and a growing bilateral trade deficit. In the year after KORUS took effect, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea increased by $5.8 billion, costing more than 40,000 U.S. jobs. Most of the 40,000 jobs lost were good jobs in manufacturing.
- There was also a big gap between predictions and outcomes for the North American Free Trade Agreement enacted in 1994: NAFTA was supposed to create 200,000 new jobs through increased exports to Mexico but, by 2010, growing trade deficits with Mexico had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs, with job losses in every U.S. state and congressional district.
- Given the big gaps between promised and actual outcomes, the United States should stop negotiating trade deals and fix the ones we have.
- Meanwhile, officials should insist that the U.S. International Trade Commission develop trade and investment models that more accurately estimate the effects of FTAs on trade, foreign investment, employment, wages, and the distribution of income, and that they fairly consider the effects of FTAs on both exports and imports, and their impacts on the economy. It is time to shatter once and for all the illusion that FTAs are only about exports.
Things are not turning out the way the president predicted. KORUS took effect March 15, 2012. In the year after the agreement took effect (April 2012 to March 2013), U.S. domestic exports to South Korea (of goods made in the United States) fell $3.5 billion, compared with the same period in the previous year, a decline of 8.3 percent. In the same 12-month period, imports from South Korea (which the administration consistently declines to discuss) increased $2.3 billion, an increase of 4.0 percent, and the bilateral U.S. trade deficit with South Korea increased $5.8 billion, a whopping 39.8 percent. Estimates for 2013 suggest no reversal in these trends, as discussed later in this paper.
The administration is now negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that could include more than a dozen nations in the Asia-Pacific region (Office of the United States Trade Representative 2013d) including Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea (Hyun, Yeon-cheol and Jeong-hun 2013).2 Recently, China said that it was studying the possibility of joining the TPP talks (Bankok Post 2013). Many members of the proposed agreement have long histories of currency manipulation (Scott 2013b), dumping, and other unfair trade practices that have dramatically increased U.S. trade deficits and job losses, and the agreement could sharply curtail the ability of the United States to challenge these practices.3 The TPP would significantly increase the threat that rapidly growing trade deficits and job losses in the United States would be locked in if the TPP is completed.
When it comes to trade, the issue is simple: Increased exports support U.S. jobs and increased imports cost U.S. jobs (Scott 2013c). Thus, it is trade balances—the net of exports and imports—that determine the number of jobs created or displaced by trade agreements. Unless trade agreements promise to reduce our too-high trade deficit, they will not have a net positive effect on U.S. employment. Rather than reducing trade deficits, past trade agreements have actually been followed by larger trade deficits.
This is not some radical stance on trade—it is textbook economics.
Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman responded to claims that KORUS could fuel a recovery by noting that trade agreements are on average “a wash” (Krugman 2010). Specifically, in macroeconomic terms the United States had too little spending on domestically-produced goods and services, with total spending (Y) defined as:
Y = C + I + G + X – M
Where C is consumer spending, I is investment spending, G is government purchases of goods and services, X is exports, and M is imports.
While trade agreements lead to higher X, they also lead to higher M, Krugman wrote. Exports support demand for domestically produced goods, so higher X increases employment. However, the growth of imports reduces demand for domestically produced goods, which reduces domestic employment.
Using the president’s own formula relating changes in trade to jobs, the growth in the trade deficit with South Korea in the first year since KORUS took effect likely cost more than 40,000 U.S. jobs, most of them good jobs in the manufacturing sector because most traded goods are made by manufacturing industries.4 These losses are small when compared with the effects of the sequester, repeal of the payroll tax cuts, and other spending cuts that Congress allowed to take effect in 2013; these cuts have probably reduced GDP growth by about 1.5 percentage points this year (Bivens 2013a). But, taken together, austerity policies and the growing U.S. trade deficit with South Korea help explain why GDP and employment growth have slowed dramatically in 2013, and why manufacturing employment has declined steadily from a peak in February, falling through June 2013—a decline of 24,000 jobs in that period (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013).
No sign of an impending turnaround in U.S.-South Korea trade There is no evidence of a turnaround ahead in U.S.-South Korea trade. Looking ahead to projected full-year trade for 2013 (based on year-to-date trade through May) the trends so far get even worse, as shown in Figure A. U.S. exports to South Korea are projected to decline 7.3 percent ($2.9 billion) in 2013, while imports are expected to rise 7.7 percent ($4.5 billion), and the trade deficit is on pace to increase this year by nearly half (up 41.3 percent, or $7.4 billion).5 Unless the domestic economy suddenly improves, growing trade deficits with South Korea and other countries (such as China and Japan) will put additional downward pressure on U.S. manufacturing employment throughout 2013.
Show table Copy data to Excel Macroeconomics does not explain the divergent trends in exports and imports shown in this figure. GDP growth slowed in both the United States and South Korea in 2011–2012, but the slowdown was steeper in the United States. In 2013, GDP growth is forecast to reach 2.8 percent in South Korea, but only 1.9 percent in the United States according to the International Monetary Fund (2013). Holding everything else constant, faster growth in South Korea should, theoretically, result in rising, and not falling, U.S. exports to that country, and a falling trade deficit.6
Why do forecasters keep getting it wrong? For more than two decades, presidents of both parties have claimed that new trade deals would result in rising U.S. exports and new job creation. Bill Clinton (1993) and his supporters claimed in the early 1990s that the North American Free Trade Agreement would create 200,000 new jobs through increased exports to Mexico.7 In fact, by 2010, growing trade deficits with Mexico had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs, with job losses in every U.S. state and congressional district (Scott 2011).
The Obama administration claimed that “tariff cuts alone” in KORUS would increase U.S. exports to that country, but it isn’t working out as expected (The White House 2010). The White House cited research by the U.S. International Trade Commission (2010) to back up this claim. The USITC used a sophisticated Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model to predict the impacts of tariff cuts on U.S. trade in 54 industries (U.S. International Trade Commission 2010, 2-1), and considered the impacts of the agreement on U.S. trade with both South Korea and the world as a whole. But this model focused primarily on projecting the impacts of tariff cuts on trade flows. Since U.S. tariffs are lower than those of most other countries (before FTAs), the model predicted that U.S. exports and at least bilateral trade balances would improve after FTAs take effect. But FTAs cover a lot more than just tariffs.
The White House also seemingly cherry picked export numbers from the USITC study. The USITC report estimated that exports to South Korea would rise in the range of $9.7 billion to $10.9 billion, and Obama, as cited earlier, said KORUS would increase U.S. goods exports by “$10 billion to $11 billion.” But the administration ignored the projected impact of KORUS on imports, specifically, leaving out the USITC prediction that KORUS would increase imports in the range of $6.4 billion to $6.9 billion, producing an improvement of the bilateral trade balance ranging from $2.8 billion to $4.5 billion, not $10 billion to $11 billion as implied by Obama’s comment (U.S. International Trade Commission 2010, Table 2.1 at 2-9). The White House has refused to discuss the negative impacts of imports on the U.S. economy, and some officials at the Office of the United States Trade Representative have claimed before Congress that imports benefit the domestic economy—a highly suspect claim that will be addressed in a future EPI report.
Evaluating trade deals by talking only about their impact on exports and ignoring imports is like trying to keep score in a baseball game by counting only runs scored by the home team. It engenders positive feelings but reveals nothing about how well a team is really doing. Talking only about trade deals and exports hides increased imports’ potential damaging effects on the national economy.8
The ‘lamppost problem,’ or, looking for answers where they cannot be found Both FTAs and the China-WTO accession agreement included numerous clauses designed to make those countries safe for U.S. and other foreign investors, to open markets for services and other traditionally nontraded goods, and to secure intellectual property and other investor rights (Scott 2012). But as Lori Wallach of Public Citizen has noted, agreements like KORUS “facilitate offshoring, ban Buy American provisions and erode manufacturing jobs, utterly contradicting the president’s domestic agenda” (Public Citizen 2013).
There are a number of problems with the way the USITC studies the effects of such multifaceted agreements, and the way the USITC studies have been used by President Obama and his predecessors (similar USITC studies were done for most of the 17 other free trade agreements negotiated since NAFTA).9 A USITC study done for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (U.S. International Trade Commission 1999) contained spectacularly unrealistic forecasts of the impacts of that agreement.10
The fundamental problem with the USITC model referenced in the president’s support for KORUS is that it is designed to evaluate the effects of tariff changes on trade flows. The structure of this model reflects most economists’ view that tariff cuts are the most important policy changes in FTAs—hence the USITC’s use of its CGE model as its lamppost to forecast the most important “economic effects” of these deals. Tariff-based trade models are the economic equivalent of a lamppost highlighting the ground far from where an inebriated man actually lost his wallet11—they shine light on the relationship between tariffs and trade, but they cannot be used to predict the impacts of FTAs on offshoring, on foreign and domestic investment in factories making products for export to the United State and other countries, on other factors affecting trade, investment, and wages that are unrelated to tariff changes.
In the real world, the most important impacts of FTAs, as suggested by Wallach, are on outsourcing. This is reflected in data on foreign direct investment (FDI), a measure of the investment in factories and corporations by U.S. and other foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) to make goods for export from Mexico and China to the United States.12 Tariff-based CGE models have no ability to forecast the effects of trade agreements on FDI, or the operations of MNCs, including their trade flows. The USITC’s CGE lamppost can shine no light on such questions because it is not designed to evaluate the effects of trade agreements on FDI and MNC operations.
FDI in Mexico nearly tripled, as a share of GDP, in the decade after NAFTA took effect, relative to a similar period before NAFTA, resulting in a huge increase in U.S. imports from Mexico (Scott 2011, Table 1 and Figure B). China is the largest recipient of FDI of all developing countries (Xing 2010) and is the third-largest recipient of FDI over the past three decades, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom. Foreign-invested enterprises (both joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries) were responsible for 52.4 percent of China’s exports and 84.1 percent of its trade surplus in 2011 (Ministry of Commerce, China 2012). Outsourcing—through foreign direct investment in factories that make goods for export to the United States—has played a key role in the shift of manufacturing production and jobs from the United States to China since it entered the WTO in 2001. Foreign-invested enterprises were responsible for the vast majority of China’s global trade surplus in 2011. The United States lost 2.7 million jobs due to growing trade deficits with China between 2001 (when that country joined the WTO) and 2011, 76 percent of them in manufacturing industries (Scott 2012).
KORUS is unique in that the results appear to be influenced, in part, by the effects of South Korean MNCs. In the first year under the agreement the U.S. has experienced rapidly rising imports of semiconductors, auto parts and ships from South Korea. These are all products of South Korean conglomerates (chaebol), large family–controlled firms with strong ties to government agencies (Watkins 2013). In 2013, U.S. exports of industrial machinery to South Korea have also fallen sharply, which may reflect competition from Korean firms. These changes help explain growing bilateral trade deficits and job losses.
No thank you to another poorly evaluated FTA Despite the preponderance of evidence that FTAs and other trade deals do not work as expected, and have been harmful to the overall U.S. economy and to manufacturing in particular, President Obama has announced his intention to negotiate two massive new FTAs. The first is the TPP, a pact that could include a dozen countries in the Asia Pacific Region, as described earlier.
In March, the president notified Congress that he intends to negotiate a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union (Office of the United States Trade Representative, 2013c). These negotiations began on July 8, 2008 (Office of the United States Trade Representative, 2013b). Although the core of the EU consists of high-income countries with many similarities to the United States, the 27-nation EU also contains many poorer countries from Eastern Europe such as Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Candidates for EU membership include Serbia and Turkey (European Union 2013), the latter of which is a large exporter and frequent violator of U.S. fair trade laws, especially in steel trade.
If the United States negotiates an FTA with the EU, it could open up Eastern Europe and its Eurasian periphery to FDI, rapidly growing exports to the United States and growing U.S. job losses from trade with those regions. Nonetheless, the EU has confidently predicted that the TTIP will generate gains of 119 billion euros per year for the European Union (545 euros per average household per year) and 95 billion euros per year for the United States (655 euros per average household per year) (European Commission 2013). A much more likely outcome, based on North American experience under NAFTA, is that production workers in all the member countries will suffer falling wages and job losses (Scott et al. 2006), while U.S. and EU investors will profit handsomely, reinforcing the rapidly rising share of profits in corporate and national income that has taken place over the last decade in the United States (Mishel 2013).
Bivens (2007, 2013b) has shown that while the nation as a whole may gain from trade, the benefits are concentrated among college-educated and nonproduction and supervisory workers, and in rising returns to capital. To the extent that the proliferation of FTAs has contributed to the growth in trade, especially with low-wage developing countries, as a share of the economy, FTAs have also contributed to the observed growth in U.S. wage and income inequality. The United States has experienced rapidly growing wage and income inequality over the past three decades (Mishel et al. 2012). As Bivens has shown, structural changes in the U.S. economy, including rapidly growing trade with low-wage less-developed countries are responsible for the rapid rise in wage and income inequality. These changes have not been accidental; rather they reflect a clear pattern of what Bivens (2011) flags as a “Failure by Design” in his book of the same name.
The common thread FTAs and other trade agreements make it enormously profitable to outsource production to countries such as South Korea and China that use currency manipulation, dumping, and other unfair trade practices to undercut production and wages in the United States. U.S. MNCs, including Apple, Boeing, Dell, Ford, GE, GM, and Intel have also profited enormously from outsourcing to Mexico, China, and other low-wage trade partners under the protection of FTAs and the WTO. The end result is a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions for most members of these agreements (Inequality.is 2013). The United States should stop negotiating FTAs and trade deals and fix the ones we have.
At a minimum, all new FTAs should include labor and environmental standards that are enforceable in the core of the agreements, along with provisions to outlaw currency manipulation. New trade agreements should clearly define currency manipulation and suspend all benefits of membership for any country that manipulates its currency (Scott 2013a). Meanwhile, we should insist that the USITC develop trade and investment models that more accurately estimate the effects of FTAs on trade, FDI, employment, wages, and the distribution of income, and that they fairly consider the effects of FTAs on both exports and imports, and on the economy. It is time to shatter once and for all the illusion that FTAs are only about exports.
—The author thanks Robert Blecker, Celeste Drake, and Ross Eisenbrey for comments and Nicholas Buffie for research assistance.
Robert E. Scott is director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute. He joined EPI as an international economist in 1996. Before that, he was an assistant professor with the College of Business and Management of the University of Maryland at College Park. His areas of research include international economics and trade agreements and their impacts on working people in the U.S. and other countries, the economic impacts of foreign investment, and the macroeconomic effects of trade and capital flows. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California-Berkeley.
Endnotes 1. Nearly all (98 percent of South Korean tariff cuts and 99 percent of U.S. tariff cuts) would be fully phased in with 10 years (U.S. International Trade Commission 2010, xix), while complete elimination of all tariffs and other trade restraints is phased in over a period of up to 20 years (U.S. International Trade Commission 2010, note 4 at 1).
2. Ten countries have been negotiating terms of the TPP with the United States: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam (Office of the United States Trade Representative 2013d). On April 24, 2013, the U.S. Trade Representative notified Congress of its intent to include Japan in the TPP negotiations (Office of the United States Trade Representative 2013d), and it has invited South Korea to participate as well (Hyun, Yeon-cheol and Jeong-hun 2013).
3. It has been shown that the formation of an FTA tends to result in a reduction in antidumping filings, “regardless of facing more imports from FTA partners” (Ahn and Shin 2010).
4. It is important to note that bilateral trade deals can either increase or reduce total U.S. trade with the world as a whole (exports plus imports). If U.S. imports from South Korea were to increase while imports from the rest of the world declined, then the agreement would be “trade diverting,” with no net loss of U.S. jobs. However, that is not the case with U.S.-South Korea trade, as explained later.
5. The U.S. trade deficit with the world as a whole in non-oil goods is on pace to increase by $22.2 billion or 3.5 percent in 2013, based on year-to-date data through May, relative to 2012 (U.S. International Trade Commission 2013). The U.S. trade deficit with South Korea in non-oil goods is projected to increase $10.6 billion (68.2 percent). Thus, the U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world in these products, which are dominated by manufactured goods, is projected to increase by $11.6 billion, and KORUS does not appear to be trade diverting, although it will be responsible for nearly half of the growth of the U.S. non-oil goods trade deficit. The U.S. trade deficit in petroleum products is projected to decline sharply in 2013, pulling down the overall goods trade deficit, but oil products do not constitute a significant proportion of U.S.-South Korea trade.
6. Likewise, slower growth in the United States should reduce the rate of growth of imports from South Korea in 2013.
7. See also, Hufbauer and Schott (1993).
8. The U.S. International Trade Commission (2010, Table 2-3 at 2-14) also projected that U.S. exports to the world would increase, on average, by $5.0 billion and that U.S. imports from the world would rise by $5.4 billion, resulting in an increase in the U.S. trade deficit. This result was first noted in a Public Citizen memo in 2011 (Public Citizen 2011).
9. The United States currently has 20 active free trade agreements in place (Office of the U.S. Trade Representative 2013a). FTAs with Israel (1985) and Canada (1989) were negotiated prior to NAFTA, which took effect January 1, 1994. The rest were negotiated since that date.
10. Scott (2010) examines economists’ and USITC’s forecasts of the projected impacts of NAFTA on Mexico trade, and of China’s entry into the WTO, and compares these forecasts with actual outcomes. It uses the results to project expected outcomes of the KORUS agreement five years after it was implemented. It projects the U.S.-South Korea trade deficit would increase by $16.7 billion within five years.
11. Among researchers, the “lamppost problem” refers to the phenomenon of looking for answers where it is convenient to look, rather than where answers can actually be found. It derives from an old joke about an inebriated man who “loses his watch in a dark place but decides to search for it somewhere else where there is a lamppost because the light is better there” (King 2011).
12. FDI also includes taking ownership positions of 10 percent or more in new or existing businesses. Large amounts of FDI in Mexico and China take place in industries such as banking and retail trade which are not trade related. Nonetheless, rapid growth in FDI is associated with rapidly growing exports to and trade surpluses with the United States for these two countries.
THAT'S WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT....BUT WHY ARE WE HEARING IT NOW AND WHY ARE UNION LEADERSHIPS BACKING WHAT THEY KNOW IS BAD FOR DOMESTIC AND IMMIGRANT LABOR?
The proposed immigration reform bill will only add to the criminalization of immigrants and the militarization of the border - and put citizenship out of reach for up to two-thirds of undocumented people.
The New Global Capitalism and the War on Immigrants
Friday, 13 September 2013 00:00 By William I Robinson, Truthout | News Analysis
A police officer takes a member of the immigration reform group We Belong Together into custody after a sit-in on Independence and New Jersey Avenues on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 12, 2013. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)
When the US congress reconvenes this fall, it is expected to resume deliberations on immigration reform legislation. The House will continue to debate S.744, the bill that was passed by the Senate in June and that pundits have referred to as the "most monumental overhaul" of US immigration laws in a generation.
But immigrant rights organizations are deeply divided. Some groups have given critical support to the proposed legislation as the "best bill possible" under current conditions for the estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to normalize their status. Many others, however, have rejected what they see as a punitive Faustian bargain. They condemn the bill as an attempt to deny rights, codify repression, legitimate the criminalization of immigrants, further the militarized control of their communities and reproduce a system of de facto labor peonage.
To understand the immigration reform debate, we need to go beyond the headlines and see the big picture of the role that immigrants play in the new global capitalism system. There is more here than meets the eye. The battle over reform legislation reflects the changing patterns of domination over the "wretched of the earth," a world increasingly under the dictatorship of corporate and military power, and the challenges and pitfalls that popular movements face in their struggles for social justice.
Global Capitalism and Immigrant Labor
The larger story behind immigration reform is capitalist globalization and the worldwide reorganization of the system for supplying labor to the global economy. Over the past few decades, there has been an upsurge in transnational migration as every country and region has become integrated, often violently, into global capitalism through foreign invasions and occupations, free-trade agreements, neoliberal social and economic policies, and financial crises. Hundreds of millions have been displaced from the countryside in the Global South and turned into internal and transnational migrants, providing a vast new pool of exploitable labor for the global economy as national labor markets have increasingly merged into a global labor market.
The creation of immigrant labor pools is a worldwide phenomenon in which growth poles in the global economy attract immigrant labor from their peripheries. Thus, to name a few of the major 21st century transnational labor flows, Turkish and Eastern European workers supply labor to Western Europe, Central Africans to South Africa, Nicaraguans to Costa Rica, Sri Lankas and other South Asians to the Middle East oil producing countries, Asians to Australia, Thais to Japan, Indonesians to Malaysia, and so on.
These transnational immigrant labor flows are a mechanism that has replaced colonialism in the mobilization around the world of labor pools, often drawn from ethnically and racially oppressed groups. States assume a gatekeeper function to regulate the flow of labor for the capitalist economy. For example, US immigration enforcement agencies, as do their counterparts around the world, undertake "revolving-door" practices - opening and shutting the flow of immigration in accordance with needs of capital accumulation during distinct periods. Immigrants are sucked up when their labor is needed and then spit out when they become superfluous or potentially destabilizing to the system.
During the 1980s, 8 million Latin American emigrants arrived in the United States as globalization induced a wave of outmigration. This was nearly equal to the total figure of European immigrants who arrived on US shores during the first decades of the 20th century and made Latin America the principal origin of migration into the United States. Some 36 million immigrant workers were in the United States in 2010, at least 20 million of them from Latin America, some 11 million of which are undocumented.
The US economy has become increasingly dependent on immigrant labor. Although immigrant labor sustains US and Canadian agriculture, by the 1990s the majority of Latino/a immigrants were absorbed by industry, construction and services as part of a general "Latinization" of the economy. Latino immigrants have massively swelled the lower rungs of the US workforce. They provide almost all of the farm labor and much of the labor for hotels, restaurants, construction, janitorial and house cleaning, child care, domestic service, gardening and landscaping, hairdressing, delivery, meat and poultry packing, food processing, light manufacturing, retail and so on.
This dependence of the United States and the global economy on immigrant labor, presents a contradictory situation. From the viewpoint of the dominant groups, the dilemma is how to super-exploit an immigrant labor force, such as Latinos in the United States, yet how to simultaneously assure it is super controllable and super-controlled. The state must play a balancing act by finding a formula for a stable supply of cheap labor to employers, and at the same time, a viable system of state control over immigrants. The push in the United States and elsewhere has been toward heightened criminalization of immigrant communities, the militarized control of these communities, and the establishment of an immigrant detention and deportation complex.
New Axis of Inequality Worldwide
As borders have come down for capital and goods, they have been reinforced for human beings. While global capitalism creates immigrant workers, these workers do not enjoy citizenship rights in their host countries. Stripped either de facto or de jure of the political, civic and labor rights afforded to citizens, immigrant workers are forced into the underground, made vulnerable to employers, whether large private or state employers or affluent families, and subject to hostile cultural and ideological environments.
The super-exploitation of an immigrant workforce would not be possible if that workforce had the same rights as citizens, if it did not face the insecurities and vulnerabilities of being undocumented or "illegal." Granting full citizenship rights to the tens of millions of immigrants in the United States would undermine the division of the United States - and by extension, the global - working class into immigrants and citizens. That division is a central component of the new class relations of global capitalism, predicated on a "flexible" mass of workers who can be hired and fired at will, are de-unionized, and face precarious work conditions, job instability, a rollback of benefits and downward pressure on wages.
Immigrant workers are not only flexible, but are disposable through deportation, and therefore, controllable. The condition of deportable must be created and then reproduced - periodically refreshed with new waves of "illegal" immigrants - since that condition assures the ability to super-exploit with impunity and to dispose of without consequence, should this labor become unruly or unnecessary.
Driving immigrant labor underground and absolving the state and employers of any commitment to the social reproduction of this labor allows for its maximum exploitation, together with its disposal, when necessary. The punitive features of immigration policy in the United States in recent decades have been combined with reforms to federal welfare law that denied immigrants - documented or not - access to such social wages as unemployment insurance, food stamps and certain welfare benefits. In this way, the immigrant labor force becomes responsible for its own maintenance and reproduction and also - through remittances - for family members abroad. This makes immigrant labor low cost and flexible for capital and also costless for the state compared to native-born labor. Immigrant workers become the archetype of these new global class relations; the quintessential workforce of global capitalism.
Hence, sustaining a reserve army of immigrant labor involves reproducing the division of workers into immigrants and citizens, which requires contradictory practices on the part of states. The state must lift national borders for capital but must reinforce these same national boundaries in its immigrant policies, and in its ideological activities, it must generate a nationalist hysteria by propagating such images as "out-of-control borders" and "invasions of illegal immigrants."
In sum, the division of the global working class into citizen and immigrant is a major new axis of inequality worldwide. Borders and nationality are used by transnational capital, the powerful and the privileged, to sustain new methods of control and domination over the global working class.
The Immigrant Military-Prison-Industrial-Detention Complex
There is a broad social and political base, therefore, for the maintenance of a flexible, super-controlled and super-exploited Latino immigrant workforce. The system cannot function without it. But immigrant labor is extremely profitable for the corporate economy in double sense. First, it is labor that is highly vulnerable, forced to exist semi-underground, and deportable, and therefore super-exploitable. Second, the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and the militarization of their control not only reproduce these conditions of vulnerability, but also in themselves, generate vast new opportunities for profit-making.
The immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex is one of the fastest growing sectors of the US economy. There has been a boom in new private prison construction to house immigrants detained during deportation proceedings. In 2007, nearly one million undocumented immigrants were apprehended and 311,000 deported. The Obama administration presents itself as a friend of Latinos (and immigrants more generally), yet Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president in the past half a century - some 400,000 per year since he took office in 2009.
The private immigrant detention complex is a boom industry. Undocumented immigrants constitute the fastest growing sector of the US prison population and are detained in private detention centers and deported by private companies contracted out by the United States. As of 2010, there were 270 immigration detention centers that caged on any given day over 30,000 immigrants. Since detainment facilities and deportation logistics are subcontracted to private companies, capital has a vested interest in the criminalization of immigrants and in the militarization of control over immigrants - and more broadly, therefore, a vested interest in contributing to the neofascist, anti-immigrant movement.
It is no surprise that William Andrews, the CEO of the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, the largest private US contractor for immigrant detention centers, declared in 2008 that "the demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts . . . or through decriminalization [of immigrants]." A month after the anti-immigrant bill in Arizona, SB1070, became law, Wayne Callabres, the president of Geo Group, another private prison contractor, held a conference call with investors and explained his company's aspirations. "Opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what's happening," he said, referring to the Arizona law. "Those people coming across the border being caught are going to have to be detained and that, to me at least, suggests there's going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."
Containing the Immigrant Rights Movement
The "war on terror" paved the way for an undeclared war on immigrants by fusing "national security/anti-terrorism" with immigration law enforcement, involving designation of borders and immigrant flows as "terrorism threats," the approval of vast new funding and the passage of a slew of policies and laws to undertake the new war. This war has further escalated in response to the spread worldwide of an immigrant rights movement to fight back against repression, exploitation, exclusion, cultural degradation and racism. A major turning point in this struggle in the United States came in spring 2006 with a series of unparalleled strikes and demonstrations that swept the country.
The immediate trigger for these mass protests was the introduction in the US Congress of a bill, known as the Sensenbrenner bill, which called for criminalizing undocumented immigrants by making it a felony to be in the United States without proper documentation. It also stipulated construction of a militarized wall between Mexico and the United States and the application of criminal sanctions against anyone who provided assistance to undocumented immigrants, including churches, humanitarian groups and social service agencies.
In one "day of national protest" on March 25, 2006, between one and two million people demonstrated in Los Angeles - the single biggest public protest in the city's history - and millions more followed suit in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Tucson, Denver and dozens of other cities. Then, on May Day, 2006, trade unionists and social justice activists joined immigrants in "The Great American Boycott 2006/A Day Without an Immigrant." Millions - perhaps tens of millions - in over 200 cities across the country skipped work and school, commercial activity, and daily routines to participate in a national boycott, general strike, rallies and symbolic actions. Hundreds of local communities in the South, Midwest, Northwest and elsewhere, far away from the "gateway cities" where Latino populations are concentrated, experienced mass public mobilizations that placed them on the political map.
These protests defeated the Sensenbrenner bill, and at the same time, frightened the ruling class, sparking an escalation of state repression and racist nativism and fueling the neofascist anti-immigrant movement. The backlash involved, among other things, stepped-up raids on immigrant workplaces and communities, mass deportations, an increase in the number of federal immigration enforcement agents, the deputizing of local police forces as enforcement agents, the further militarization of the US-Mexico border, anti-immigrant hysteria in the mass media and the introduction at local, state and federal levels of a slew of discriminatory anti-immigrant legislative initiatives.
Blatantly racist public discourse that only a few years earlier would have been considered extreme became increasingly mainstream and aired on the mass media. The paramilitary organization Minutemen, a modern day, Latino-hating version of the Ku Klux Klan, spread in the first decade of the 21st century from its place of origin along the US-Mexican border in Arizona and California to other parts of the country. Minutemen claimed they must "secure the border" in the face of inadequate state-sponsored control. Their discourse, as well as that of the Tea Party and other such groups, beyond racist, was neo-fascist.
Such racist hostility toward Latinos and other immigrants may be intentionally generated by right-wing politicians, law-enforcement agents and neofascist anti-immigrant movements. They may be the effect of the structural and legal-institutional subordination of immigrant workers and their communities, or simply an unintended (although not necessarily unwelcomed) byproduct of the state's coercive policies.
White middle- and working-class sectors in the United States have faced downward mobility and heightened insecurities as the welfare state and job stability have been dismantled in the face of capitalist globalization. These sectors have been particularly prone to being organized into racist anti-immigrant politics by conservative political groups housed inside and outside of the Republican Party. Anti-immigrant forces have tried to draw in white workers with appeals to racial solidarity and to xenophobia and scapegoating of immigrant communities.
The scapegoating of these communities reached a zenith in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse and the onset of crisis. The crisis intensified anti-immigrant hysteria, fueled by a right-wing, racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant movement. Dozens of state and local governments around the country passed repressive anti-immigrant legislation, among them, Arizona's SB1070 and Alabama's HB56, both of which institutionalized racial profiling and the terrorization of immigrant communities.
The magazine Mother Jones built a database of hundreds of repressive local and state level anti-immigrant laws introduced around the United States in the wake of SB1070, including 164 such laws passed by state legislatures in 2010 and 2011 alone. The database uncovered as well the extensive interlocking of far-right organizations comprising the anti-immigrant movement, other neofascist organizations in civil society, government agencies and elected officials (local and federal), politicians, and corporate and foundation funders, lobbies and activists.
Obama and the Democrats: Demobilization and Cooptation
The state's repression of the mass immigrant uprising of 2006 resulted in a significant split in the immigrant rights movement. In broad strokes, the Latino middle class and professional establishment found that their class interests were threatened by an uncontrolled self-mobilization of immigrant masses. Clustered in well-funded NGOs and in local, state and federal elected and appointed government positions, the Latino Establishment has attempted to wrest leadership from the grassroots base, achieve its hegemony over the movement, direct protest toward lobbying for legislative reform and align with the Democratic Party.
The Obama presidential campaign of 2008 effectively combined with the political aspirations of the Latino Establishment and the state's repression to co-opt and neutralize, at least momentarily, the mass movement. The radical grassroots camp was not against lobbying or attempting to penetrate the halls of power, but insisted on prioritizing a permanent mass movement from below that subordinates alliances with liberals to the interests of the disenfranchised majority of immigrant workers and their families. This camp has also insisted on the need to link the immigrant rights movement more openly and closely with other popular, labor and resistance struggles around the world for global justice.
These distinct strategies are now being played out in the debate on immigrant reform legislation. They represent, in the broader analysis, two different class projects within the multi-class community of immigrants and their supporters: the former, those of the middle-class strata who aspire to remove racist and legal impediments to their own class and political aspirations; the latter, a mass immigrant working class that faces not just racism and legal discrimination, but also the acute labor exploitation and survival struggles imposed on them by a rapacious global capitalism.
It is widely recognized that Obama's 2012 reelection hinged heavily on the Latino vote, and that this voting bloc is expanding rapidly - something that has caused important sectors of the Republican Party to reconsider immigration reform. It may be that the 2012 vote gave the necessary impetus to bringing together a critical mass around the reformation of the strategy and methods for reproducing and controlling a reserve army of immigrant labor.
Reform Legislation that Meets Corporate, Military and Elite Interests
Although S.744 supposedly provides a "pathway to citizenship" for immigrants, the conditions under which undocumented immigrants can legalize their status are so onerous that it is estimated that between one-third and two-thirds of the undocumented will be unable meet the criteria. This criteria include having an income of 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which would make millions of immigrants who now work for minimum wage or less ineligible; as well as no lapses of employment for more than 60 days during a decade of provisional status; paying hefty fees and fines; passing a criminal background check; and learning English, US civics and history.
The bill denies immigrants access to public services. It does not lift the repressive "Secure Communities" and "287g" government programs. These two federal programs establish broad collaboration between the federal government and local and state law enforcement in policing immigrant communities in raids, detentions and deportations.
The bill would mandate a universal "E-verify" system, by which workers must prove they are eligible for employment before being hired; introduce biometric ID for immigrant workers; stipulate unprecedented collaboration between local and state police agencies and the Department of Homeland Security for database sharing, detention, and transfer of detainees; and set up a "guest worker" program that amounts to little more than indentured servitude.
The current guest worker program, known as the H2A program, was established in 1986 to allow US agribusiness to hire workers in other countries. The US government provides visas that allow them to work only for this employer, and only for a set period of time - less than a year - after which they must return to their home country. If they're fired or lose their job before the contract is over, they must leave immediately. As David Bacon shows, the use of guest worker programs would expand rapidly if the reform bill passed, with its expanded guest worker provisions, and that would result in driving wage levels and bargaining power down even further, not only for agricultural workers, but for those in industries and services heavily dependent on immigrant labor.
More ominous, the bill hinges on so-called "border security." It proposes to increase spending by nearly $50 billion on the militarization of the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border, doubling the number of Border Patrol agents to some 40,000 (one agent for every 88 yards), adding 700 miles of fencing, deploying drones, Blackhawk helicopters, surveillance towers, sensors and former army soldiers to the border.
The bill meets the interests of the immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex. Military contractors, Silicon Valley, law enforcement, construction and private prison companies stand to earn billions in profits. Agribusiness and the corporate sector will continue to exploit a largely captive labor force, racialized and relegated to second-class status, especially among the millions of immigrants who will be unable to legalize their status and among new immigrants and those brought in as "guest workers." It is no wonder that along with corporate lobbyists, staunch anti-immigrant conservatives such as Arizona governor Jan Brewer, FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly, and Tea Party icon Rand Paul have endorsed the bill.
As National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights board member Hamid Khan observed, the bill is a model for the "surveillance industrial complex." Under the guise of public safety and security, "the bill is a political investment in the further strengthening and legitimization of the police state."
The Obama strategy may prove to be quite successful in establishing the conditions for a reformulation of strategies and methods of immigrant social control and political co-optation. In the wake of the 2006 mass immigrant rights protests and the fierce state repression that ensued, Washington DC-based foundations broadly funded the more moderate and mainstream of the Latino and immigrant rights organizations, while the Democratic Party set about to separate the "establishment" Latino leadership from the radical organizers at the mass grassroots base and to recruit this leadership for the Obama project.
These diverse developments - state repression, anti-immigrant politics, Latino Establishment and Democratic co-optation - all came together in recent years and paid off by throwing the grassroots movement onto the defensive, bolstering Democratic Party hegemony among immigrants, and generating a critical mass for exactly the kind of conservative and repressive immigration reform legislation now in Congress. It is only the revitalization of a mass worker-based immigrant rights movement that can redirect the reform process to one that achieves a modicum of social justice.
(Trans-Pacific Pact)--the 1% Solution to Democracy--Government by Corporate Dictates
TPP...the most dangerous trade contract you never heard of...
Chances are that you've never heard of the Trans-Pacific-Pact/Free Trade Agreement, aka the TPP-FTA, and that is exactly the way the Obama administration (and its corporate bosses)-- would like to keep things. The mainstream (read: corporate), media has utterly left the American public in the dark on this skunk of a deal which surrenders our national, state and local sovereignty to corporate interests. The TPP as it is known in secretive corporate circles represents the most anti-democracy assault devised by trade representatives from some 600 corporations, including Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
The secrecy factor...hiding TPP's anti-democracy powers behind 'national security'...
The TPP-FTA (Trans-Pacific-Pact Free Trade Agreement) is the latest brainchild of the 1%. Negotiations for each round have been so secretely guarded that paramilitary teams surrounded each locale with weaponized helicopters looming overhead.
A 'weapon of mass deception' specifically engineered to surrender our representative democracy to corporate rule; the TPP has been negotiated in secret since 2008 and is now nearing completion in its 17th round.
President Obama has allowed both of his US Trade Representative(s) (first Ron Kirk and now Mike Froman); to use the illegitimate veil of 'national security', and the accompanying overclassification of information, to shut out the public and Congress from 'negotiations.'
No amount of public relations salesmanship from Obama can sell this stinker of a trade deal--once the facts hit the light of day. Ironically, the facts only surfaced--because of a leak--another whistleblower.
Leaked official documents clearly show that parties involved agreed to keep all draft and contributing documents secret, until four years after the final ratification of the agreement ( or when negotiations collapse);-- EXCEPT for the final text.
During the entire length of ongoing negotiations--now in it's 17th round, Congress was locked out of any meaningful discussion or investigation, while over 600 corporate chieftains and advisors have all but scripted the entire document down to the last punctuation mark.
Congress locked out....
Congress was not only 'locked out'--it was never invited to the party. (While it's true that the USTR 'permitted' limited viewing of the texts by members of Congress--none were allowed to have expert staffers in various negotiated areas of concern, present. Furthermore, recording devices were expressly forbidden.
The deal which would surrender national, state and local sovereignty to a secret tribunal of three corporate attorneys,--excluding all but corporate interests, was blessed with impunity on the profane altar of 'national security.' Leakers would be punished as 'enemies of the state'--with a real possibility of jail time--and that threat included members of congress.
Congressional leaders questioning this 'corporate coup' though few--were refreshingly forthright. Senator Ron Wyden (D) Oregon led the charge, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Mass. and Congressman Alan Grayson (D) Fla.
Senator Ron Wyden denied access...blew the whistle on secrecy....
Senator Ron Wyden is the reigning Chair of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, the very committee assigned jurisdiction of treaties like the TPP went on record from the floor of Congress stating how ...
...."the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations--like Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America--are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement."
Senator Wyden further reiterated the duty of Congress to review, regulate and ratify international trade negotiations. Wyden also countered the specious claim made by the US Trade Representative that providing access to negotiation documents would...'endanger national security,' by instructing his staff to cooperate with security needs. To quote Senator Wyden;
..."As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations. To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps confidential and secret. This is material that fully describes what the USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Congress. More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing."
Senator Wyden further reminded the president the authority granted Congress on the regulation of international trade.
..."It may be the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) current job to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress – not the USTR or any other member of the Executive Branch – the responsibility of regulating foreign commerce. It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few."
And yet to date, only a few members of Congress have gained access to the very treaty they are constitutionally assigned to regulate. Consistent with Senator Wyden's criticism--the privileged few (namely corporate lobbyists) are granted unfettered input to the very treaty which would deliver a final death blow to our economy and surrender our democracy to the whims of corporate heads.
Why the secrecy?...
If the TPP-FTA is a legitimate deal--why this unprecedented level of secrecy? Why is the US Trade Representative refusing to answer congressional inquiries? Why are US Congressmen such as Darrell Issa and Alan Grayson or Senator Ron Wyden being locked out of negotiations? As usual with this president--the facts are buried in legal jargon and double-talk. Additionally, the now historic abuse of the national security 'classification system' has reached ludicrous levels which would make Karl Rove--blush like a schoolgirl in a whorehouse.
Congressman Grayson spoke to the secrecy and the most egregious elements in the TPP itself, in a telephone interview with this reporter.
..."They (USTR) set out to do it this way, knowing full well that if they shed any light on what they were doing there would be a lot of hell to pay." (phone interview 06/21/13)
Grayson was allowed 'limited' access after some six weeks of official requests--access to negotiation texts that any member of Congress by law--had a right to review. After reviewing some very limited text Grayson spoke to the outrageous and unlawful giveaways in the TPP, and the cover-up maintained by the USTR.
..."..."I've seen an element of the current rounds..they are binding ...I will tell you that they have every reason to be concerned about them...the backlash...there would be a public backlash"..."what they said uh.. indicated was classified and they stick to appear to----the classification system by calling the shots in secret, and by threatening people with every nightmare discomfort ...including imprisonment...except for the 500 corporate lobbyists.."
Alan Grayson may be blunt--but he's honest. When asked about the effects of the TPP on our country if pushed into law--he stated frankly that
..."TPP establishes what are called ... procedures that are essentially" abrogating our democracy'...
Grayson explained further that...
"...they (TPP international tribunal) replace our five step established court systems for claims against the government with an alternative system that is wired for the benefit of multinational corporations"
Grayson added that the TPP extends into matters which are not under the purview of trade relations. He added that the TPP ..."goes far beyond anything even remotely resembling trade and systematically interferes in areas such as finance, that most people would regard as having no connection ....to matters of trade." The agreement...." extends well beyond trade in a manner that systematically benefits multinational corporations to the detriment of health, safety, the right to organize, and other fundamental human rights and progressive values. " Ironically, Grayson and the others couldn't explain why the TPP poses these dangers, as this information has been 'classified' by the USTR.
In spite of Grayson's fair and rational argument--the USTR under President Obama remains unmoved. In fact, the administration wants to finalize the TPP 'agreement' this October, pushing Congress to a simple up and down vote, consistent with corporate demands.
The rush to finalize this surrender of sovereignty...
In addition to this transfer of power from nations to corporations; the TPP negotiating teams are rushing to finalize the document before any meaningful discussion or review.
...".The TPP is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in U.S. history. The twelve countries currently involved — the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — already cover approximately 40% of the global economy, and the TPP also includes a “docking mechanism” that could enable other countries to join over time. The TPP’s seventeenth major round of negotiations concluded in Lima, Peru last month, and negotiators are racing to complete their work by an October deadline set by President Barack Obama and others."
Fast Track ...and a news blackout by the corporate owned media....
The sheer fact that the SEVENTEENTH round of negotiations has been completed with no coverage in the mainstream corporate media only deepens the suspicion. President Obama is pushing Fast Track authority specifically engineered to ram through Congress a simple up or down vote on the entire finished document minus any substantive investigation or debate. 'Fast Track' dating back to the Nixon administration, denies Congress the right to study, debate or otherwise amend any piece of legislation pushed and signed off by any president. In essence, the Obama administration is abusing the Fast Track idea to demand a blank check from Congress. So, what specific powers does the proposed TPP take away from our democratically elected government and grant to an international corporate tribunal?
Powers granted to corporations via the TPP....
The TPP, if approved by the Senate and signed by Obama will nullify multiple areas of US law. It is the concrete realization of 'corporate personhood', providing the 'corporate person' in discussion--is an absolute monarch or emperor.
The TPP, negotiated by corporate lobbyists and minus any substantive congressional and public oversight, grants multinational corporations a final veto over a country's laws, in multiple areas not necessarily limited to trade issues. No country, including the US will be able to enforce laws or regulations in many areas that 'impede' corporate rights. This is 'corporate personhood' writ large, abusive and sociopathic.
The highlights of the leaked TPP drafts include a triad of powers that collectively enslave any nation or state. The triad begins with the alleged corporate 'right' to challenge any law and demand taxpayer compensation for any policy which hypothetically could undermine estimated or expected future profits. This could extend to any area of law, environmental, labor, public health, food sovereignty, currency standards, financial regulations, consumer standards and even civil liberties.
Leaked draft texts further describe 'investor protections' that incentivizes additional offshoring of jobs with undisclosed 'benefits.' Any regulation of finance capital (aka Wall Street) such as banning derivatives, currency manipulation, and other 'financial weapons of mass destruction'; would be prohibited. Any member nation's ability to mitigate financial warfare via currency manipulation and deliver financial stability is neutered. 'Shock and awe' globalization is delivered to our door, in a plain, pornographic brown wrapper, courtesy of the TPP.
The TPP grants the rights of a conquering army to foreign investors and multinational corporations. The leaked text contains 26 chapters, yet only two chapters cover actual 'trade' issues, such as tariffs and quotas.
The US would be conquered, minus a single fired shot, as the USTR and Obama sign away our rights. The TPP text obligates the federal government to serve as the bully club, forcing states and local communities into conforming with this unmitigated surrender of our sovereignty.
The thousand plus page document of detailed restraints forced on federal, state and local governments is not restricted to trade. Everything from intellectual property rights, to labor issues, to public health, to environmental regulations is forced into subjugation under this legal excuse for corporate rule. Our own federal government is reduced to a mercenary force, pointing the gun to our heads. Nothing is safe. This includes public lands and resources. TPP... a tool for stealing ever decreasing public resources....
Once again, leaked documents of the draft TPP texts reveal US property rights protections eradicated in favor of international standards (which have yet to be articulated). These mysterious international standards would be relegated to the whims of the unelected international tribunal, for which there is no right of appeal. In theory, public lands in the US could be summarily handed over to international corporate interests.
This could translate into foreign interests using the unelected tribunal to 'legally' steal US public resources such as potable water, reducing the US to a colony or vassal state. Natural resource battles over resources like water have begun in Michigan, thanks to the predecessor 'Emergency Manager' law.
Nestle vs. Ice Mountain...
Mecosta, Michigan won a ten year battle against Nestle/Ice Mountain in 2009. Concerned with excessive water diversion by the corporate titan; a grassroots group named Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) defeated Nestle in court. Nestle appealed and the appeals court ruled that MCWC won on concerns of environmental harm, but the corporate water interests of Nestle had to balance with the landowner's interests.'
This was the beginning of the end, as corporate forces realized they needed a stacked deck in the face of growing citizen grassroots/netroots mobilization. Not content to abide by a legitimate process; corporate forces pushed the Emergency Manager Act.
Michigan's 'Emergency Manager Law' the predecessor to TPP...
In March of 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the 'Emergency Manager Law.' Written by corporations and corporate funded non-profits under the tutelage of the Mackinac Center; the Emergency Manager Law authorized the shredding of labor contracts, privatization of public services and the consolidation and DISSOLUTION of locally elected governments. It has been touted as 'financial martial law.'
It does not escape my attention that this 'law' would have serviced Nestle's needs quite handily. Though several thousand protesters marched against this bill; the corporate owned media ignored the uprising. The Michigan 'Emergency Manager Law' is a mini-me version of the TPP. It is ...'democracy under siege.'
Government by international corporate tribunal...
At the core of this despicable 'agreement' is the international corporate tribunal designated to be the final authority over any future disputes--at least on paper. The tribunal is to be staffed by the same corporate attorneys who service the multinational corporations. Conflict of interest is not only obvious---TPP makes it... a way of life. No right of appeal exists and deliberations are...once again...secret.
In theory, any and all laws a foreign corporation finds irritating are taken to the tribunal. The most egregious crimes against humanity---forced or slave labor, child labor, massive dumping of toxic pollutants, murders committed by subcontractors, police abuse, censorship, and the criminalization of dissent--are subjugated to a tribunal of three corporate attorneys. The 'economic royalists' would be in the driver's seat.
TPP grants the tribunal the right to set aside previous court decisions or the results of public elections. Corporate personhood is elevated to emperor and the concept of ..."consent of the governed" is reduced to a trite joke.
According to Lori Wallach at Public Citizen, these same foreign tribunals..."would be staffed by private sector lawyers who rotate between acting as "judges" and representative corporations, suing governments, posing major conflicts of interest."
Citizens Trade Campaign has legitimate solutions...
In March of 2013, watchdog group, Citizens Trade Campaign sent a letter to every member of Congress which was co-signed by over 400 additional activist groups. The letter was a stinging rebuke of the TPP and the mechanisms used by the Obama administration to ram this illegitimate treaty through--namely the abuse of the national security classification system and the Nixonian, Fast Track Authority. The letter also outlined conditions, which must be remediated and the mechanism used. It was a clarion call for accountability and transparency, which respected the right to self-govern.
Groups signing on this letter ranged from unions such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters--to environmental groups such as Food and Water Watch--to religious groups such as the Holy Cross International Justice Office. Opponents may scream foul and claim these are 'special interest groups,' but unlike the 'special interest' corporate groups pushing the TPP--these groups are collectively fighting to reverse the global 'race to the bottom.'
Citizens Trade Campaign has identified 8 criterion which must be addressed and a separate section dealing with the eradication of Fast Track and the reform of the trade agreement negotiation and approval process.
8 Reform Measures to Ensure a Fair Negotiation and Approval Process for Future Trade Policies...
1.) ..."Prioritization of human and labor rights." Trade agreements must protect human and labor rights (including free speech, assembly, press), above the rights of investors. There should no tolerance for forced or slave labor, child labor, dangerous 'sweatshop' working conditions, or political violence used by corporate or subcontractors to suppress collective bargaining. Environmental degradation in an era of strained resources leading to resource wars should be banned. The rights of indigenous peoples to self-determined governance is to be respected.
2.) ..."Respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them." Trade agreements should never impede or nullify the rights of local governments to promote development, which benefits and reflects the needs and preferences of environmental, social or political goals. Furthermore, all trade agreements must respect and maintain prevailing requirements for wages, environmental, labor and human rights standards, and provide policies addressing long-standing inequalities worldwide. In terms of the USA, such trade procurement policies must maintain existing "Buy American" clauses.
3.) ..."Protect food sovereignty." Farmers of each nation or local area are to receive fair compensation. Consumers have a right to access foods which are affordable and safe. Read between the lines--no GMO's cross-polluting organic crops. Any GMO's 'gracing' grocery shelves must be clearly labeled in terms of health risks, ie.-- Monsanto is out of luck. Nations have a right to restrict the dumping of crops at below market prices, or any other unfair trade practices which force family farmers off their land.
4.) ..."Access to affordable medicine." Generic drugs and treatments allow critical access to lifesaving medicine. Extending drug patents with statistically insignificant formulary tweaks, via trade agreements is a clear violation of the standards articulated in the Doha Declaration regarding access to medicine. Translation: the Doha Declaration should be respected in spirit, and the tweaking of formularies in minor cosmetic ways (which do not change the drug in any substantive and proven manner), as a vehicle to extend an existing patent or create a new one-- should be deemed fraudulent and thus forbidden.
5.) ..."Safeguards against currency manipulation." The US and other signatory governments have the right to implement measures which reverse 'trade-distorting' currency manipulation. Trade agreements must include rigorous 'rule of origin' provisions, to ensure that only nations complying with the trade agreement's rules--benefit from said agreement.
6.) ..."Space for robust financial regulations and public services." "Trade pacts should set floors, not ceilings, when it comes to the regulation of banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial service providers." Translation : No language in any agreement which could be 'interpreted' as mandating deregulation or privatization of any service--public or private. Language must be 'clear and specific' on the terms of any trade agreement. No tortuous arguments using vague language which justifies the nullification of public elections. In other words, laws like the 'Emergency Manager Act', promoted by the privatizers at the Mackinac Center--would be rejected as treasonous and anti-democratic.
7.) ..."Improved consumer and environmental standards." ..."Trade agreements should set floors, rather than ceilings, when it comes to environmental, food and product safety and consumer right-to-know measures." To use the vernacular of the street---DUH.
8.) ..."No elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments." Trade agreements should never provide corporations or investors 'special powers' engineered to circumvent and nullify the domestic judiciary. Corporate challenges of domestic laws or court decisions through the use of nuisance SLAPP suits and tortuous arguments exploiting vague contract language must be outlawed.
The 'investor-state' tribunal which empowers rotating teams of three corporate attorneys to demand ..."unlimited taxpayer compensation for foreign firms" claiming a signatory nation's laws ..."undermine their expected future profits must be eliminated." Legal terms including 'investment,' 'expropriation,' and 'minimum standard of treatment,' must be more narrowly and clearly defined to ensure the rights of governments to legislate in the public interest.
This demand is key. It is a clear repudiation of the 'investor-state' and the 'investor-state' tribunal. No wiggle room here--the very core of the TPP is denounced in this simple statement. The legally concocted concept of an 'investor-state' and the mediation tribunal of corporate attorneys--is the head of the TPP snake.
This single element surrenders any nation's sovereignty and reduces it to a vassal colony.
This 'investor-state' device-- is PLANTATION POLITICS in all its ugliness. The only difference between the Nazi brown-shirted enforcers and the mediation tribunal--is the fact that the attorneys for the tribunal--probably wear Brooks Brothers.
Citizens Trade...on preventing future 'abrogations of democracy,'..
Citizens Trade Campaign and the allied 400 groups signing on to this appeal are demanding the following rigorous levels of accountability and transparency with regards to the negotiation of trade agreements.
First, all TPP draft texts must be made public. No president, including Obama should possess sole trade policymaking authority.
Secondly, Fast-Track authority must be permanently eradicated. (Fast-Track is a Nixonian relic which relinquishes Congress' 'exclusive constitutional authority' to ..."regulate commerce with foreign nations" and transfers this power to executive branch and the USTR). Under Fast-Track the executive can sign the bill or treaty in question and then force a single up-down vote on the issue.
Fast-Track strips Congress of its right to investigate, debate and amend any of the agreement's provisions. In terms of the TPP--Fast-Track is being pushed to deceive Congress into--signing away our sovereignty.
To quote Congressman Grayson...
..."there is no other area that is done this way......"I'm not only referring to negotiations but ..."no fast-track immigration bill, no fast-track for other legislation ..."we don't fast-track appropriations bills, we don't fast-track anything else...why should we fast-track the sovereignty
.."the reason why they do it in secret is because our 'sell-out trade-representatives" met with other 'sell-out trade representatives" from other countries "
(Source : Phone interview 06/21/13)
Any trade agreement process must contain...
*Requirements that the USTR (US Trade Representative).." consult with all interested stakeholders," on all potential areas theoretically impacted by the proposed agreement, including (but not limited to) : pharmaceutical access, food sovereignty, currency manipulation, balance of trade, job creation or loss, expansion opportunities, environmental stewardship and human and labor rights;
* Expansion of the engagement process beginning with the TPP immediately;
*Creation of an unbiased and public process which verifies that objectives negotiated by Congress are actually present and achieved in the final document; and
*Creation of a verification process publicly certifying that any proposed agreement or provisions of the agreement, actually reflects the public interest. A congressional majority is required to certify that the agreement is in the public interest of the US.
*Finally, negotiated objectives must have been publicly witnessed and met, BEFORE the executive is granted authority to sign the agreement, binding the US to its terms.
Freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren stated the argument for transparency and public discussion, including the right of dissent-- most clearly.
"I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States." - Sen. Elizabeth Warren
LET'S BE CLEAR.....WE HAVE A STAGNANT ECONOMY BECAUSE ALL WEALTH IS AT THE TOP OF THE INCOME LADDER AND AMERICANS CAN NO LONGER CONSUME.....THAT IS THE PROBLEM. REVERSING WEALTH INEQUITY BY ELIMINATING GLOBAL CORPORATIONS AND REESTABLISHING MIDDLE-CLASS WEALTH...WAGES AND BENEFITS.... IS THE SOLUTION
Imagine if the media and politicians talked about this years ago when we all knew it was happening rather than months before it will hit Congress. Are your political pundits working for labor and justice?
Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides 'Assault On Democratic Government'
Posted: 06/18/2013 11:24 am EDT | Updated: 06/18/2013 5:20 pm EDT Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.
The only publicly available information on the terms of the deal has come from leaks, some of which have alarmed public health experts, environmentalist groups and consumer advocates. According to a document leaked in the summer of 2012, the deal would allow corporations to directly challenge government laws and regulations in international courts.
Members of Congress have been provided with only limited access to the negotiation documents. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks. The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the full negotiation text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters. Staffers on some committees are granted access to portions of the text under their committee's jurisdiction.
"This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system," Grayson told HuffPost. "They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I'm a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don't want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I'd be releasing classified information."
How and why the administration decides to make information classified has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, after the Associated Press learned that the Department of Justice had been monitoring the records of more than 20 phone numbers -- including the personal phones of reporters and editors -- as part of a government leak investigation. Edward Snowden's recent disclosures of two broad National Security Agency surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post have sparked a heated debate over what kinds of leaks should be prosecuted as criminal.
"What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it," Grayson said, referring to the draft Trans-Pacific deal. "It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it's alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away."
The Trans-Pacific deal would be one of the largest trade deals in U.S. history, with 11 nations including Japan, Mexico, Vietnam and Australia involved in the talks. The Obama administration has been leading negotiations on the deal for roughly three years.
When the intellectual property chapter of the deal leaked online more than a year ago, internet freedom advocates criticized the provisions as problematic for tech companies and free speech, while public health experts said it would dramatically restrict access to lifesaving medicines in poor countries. It is not clear if those terms have changed over time.
"Having seen what I've seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty," Grayson told HuffPost. "And I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that's fair to say from what I've seen so far. But I'm not allowed to tell you why!"
Unelected corporate officials are given access to negotiation documents by virtue of their positions on U.S. Trade Representative advisory panels. Corporate representatives account for about 500 of the "cleared advisors" on those panels, while representatives of organized labor, environmental and other groups account for about 100 others. These cleared advisers are not permitted to discuss provisions with the press or the public. On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Michael Froman, Obama's nominee to head USTR, asking the agency to release negotiation documents to the public. In the letter, Warren noted that the head labor advisory committee had complained of "severe restrictions" USTR had imposed on the panel's access to negotiation information.
USTR spokeswoman Carol Guthrie told The Huffington Post that her office is discussing Warren's request with the senator.
Guthrie said that the text reviewed by such members of Congress, "does not indicate which countries have proposed which text" a process that is "consistent with negotiating practice."
"When Members view text, USTR officials, often negotiators themselves, have always been provided to discuss the details and to answer their questions," she said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "Our bottom line is to negotiate the best deal for American workers and businesses. As with virtually any negotiation, a certain degree of confidentiality is necessary in order to allow frank, substantive, and productive conversations with other countries on sensitive issues and to work strategically to advance U.S. interests."
Grayson told HuffPost that the agreement would be very appealing to multinational corporations, but had very negative implications for the public interest on a variety of fronts.
"It's all about tying the hands of democratically elected governments, and shunting authority over to the nonelected for the benefit of multinational corporations," Grayson said. "It's an assault on democratic government."