Saturday, September 29, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #75 - Part 4

Trans-Pacific Partnership: NAFTA on steroids

One last thing to bring up on this part of the show: I won't go into a lot of detail; I expect I will be talking about this more over time as things develop, but I did want to give you a heads-up on it so that when I do come back to this in the future you'll have at least some awareness of it.

It is about something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, being negotiated between the US and eight Pacific Rim nations. It's claimed to be "oh, you know, just another one of those boring trade agreement thingies, nothing to see here, move along" deals - but it's being negotiated in extreme secrecy with almost no media attention. So extreme and with such inattention that it recently saw the thirteenth round of negotiations - and I bet you never heard of it.

TPP has been called, rightfully so, "NAFTA on steroids." For example, a text of the TPP investment chapter was leaked back in June. It revealed that US negotiators are pushing to include and expand NAFTA’s notorious corporate tribunals in TPP, tribunals which have been used to attack domestic public interest laws.

These tribunals, called Investor-State Dispute Resolution, empower corporations to sue governments - in these private tribunals, outside the countries' domestic court systems - over any action the corporations believe undermines their expected future profits or rights under the pact. Three-person international panels of attorneys from the private sector would hear these cases. The lawyers not only can serve as “judges” - empowered to order governments to pay corporations unlimited fines - they can turn around and represent the corporations that use this system to raid government treasuries.

Under TPP, all countries that are part of the pact would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules - which are designed for the very purpose of advancing the interests of corporations engaging in international trade. Put more bluntly, nations would be legally obliged to conform their laws to the interests of transnational corporations.

How far does that go? Proposed provisions include new investor safeguards to make it easier for corporations to offshore jobs and assert control over natural resources, plus severely limiting public regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more. "Sweatshop-free," human rights, or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. "Buy Local" government procurement preferences that invest in local economies would be banned.

And the US is pushing for even more.

There is some pushback: Australia is bucking against the international tribunal system and New Zealand is objecting to the effect the pact would have on its regulations that keep drugs affordable. Every country has rejected the US proposal to extend drug patent monopolies. Many countries have also rejected a US proposal to forbid countries from using capital controls, taxes, or other macro-prudential measures to control financial speculators. The pushback has been enough that this is not yet a done deal even though the hope was to get it done this year.

This pact is an attack on our ability as citizens to have some say over our economy and over health, worker safety, environmental, and other regulations. I really think it shouldn't be called the Trans-Pacific Partnership but the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership - because then it would be the TPTP - or TP twice over.

And we know what TP is often full of.


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