We’ve been covering news about the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) for quite some time. While it has created wide-spread outrage in New Zealand, it’s almost as if that the concerns surrounding the secret agreement are just starting to appear in north America. We look at some of the recent reports that have been circulating over the weekend.
We may very well be one of the leaders in exposing the TPP as of late. We were amongst the first to report that a new chapter in the TPP leaked just last week. The contents of the latest leak show that you don’t have to be in to copyright, file-sharing or even technology to find some of the provisions in the agreement disturbing (although the copyright provisions are pretty scary in and of itself as it is). We decided to tune in again to see if others have been raising similar concerns in the wake of the newest leak.
Salon ran a piece about the recent leak, saying that the revelations that came out of it were disturbing:
President Obama campaigned in 2008 as a strong pro-labor candidate, and this year he will again. But for union activists who’ll be working hard for his reelection, a newly leaked document represents yet another bitter disappointment.
“The leaked document,” says Todd Tucker, the research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, “shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against.” Public Citizen warns that the provisions of the agreement would allow other countries to join in the future, giving it the potential to become a new global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.
Consumer groups and unions are particularly outraged over the Obama administration’s plan that would allow corporations from TPP countries to bring suit before a multinational tribunal when laws or regulations in another member country harm their profits.
Tucker warns that such language means that an individual company “that’s not necessarily pursuing the national interest as a whole can attack environmental regulations without first having to go through any kind of diplomatic process.” He notes that “We’ve seen over $300 million paid out to investors as a result of NAFTA cases” challenging environmental and financial regulation. Tucker gave the example of a Mexican municipality forced to pay $15 million to a U.S. investor who had bought a landfill that was being subjected to regulation. Tucker said companies are also “using it preemptively to cast a chill on regulation that might be coming down the pike.”
So, it has become a political issue in the US – even if it is smaller compared to other issues that are flying around right now.
Meanwhile, Democracy Now! ran a 45 minute video, interviewing a spokesperson for the organization that leaked the document in the first place which I say is certainly worth watching. From the description:
A U.S. proposal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact between the United States and eight Pacific nations would allow foreign corporations operating in the U.S. to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its ruling. We speak to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a fair trade group that posted the leaked documents on its website. “This isn’t just a bad trade agreement,” Wallach says. “This is a ‘one-percenter’ power tool that could rip up our basic needs and rights.
These new trade agreements will place domestic U.S. firms that do not do business overseas at a competitive disadvantage. Based on these leaked documents, foreign firms under this trade pact could conceivably appeal federal regulatory and court rulings against them to an international tribunal with the apparent authority to overrule our sovereignty. If foreign companies want to do business in America, they should have to follow the same rules as everyone else. No special favors.
“It is telling that the only apparent way these Pacific nations will enter a free trade agreement with the U.S. is if they are exempt from our onerous environmental and financial regulations that make it cost-ineffective to do business here. Instead of making these foreign firms exempt from these burdensome rules, they should just repeal the regulations and make it cheaper to do business here.
“This poses an even wider problem, though. Obama is negotiating a trade pact that would constitute a judicial authority higher than even the U.S. Supreme Court that could overrule federal court rulings applying U.S. law to foreign companies. That is unconstitutional. The U.S. cannot be allowed to enter a treaty that would abrogate our Constitution.
Personally, I think what’s significant is that although there are very real political implications for this leak in the US, all of the above shows that both sides of the political spectrum have very good reasons to not like the TPP. It’s ultimately not just a concern for Liberal minded or Conservative minded people, but rather, it’s a bi-partisan issue. More Liberal-minded people might not like it because it’s a massive power grab for multi-national corporations. Conservative-minded people might not like it because it gives foreign corporations a seemingly unfair advantage over domestic businesses because foreign companies wouldn’t have to play by the same rule-book while conducting business on American soil under the agreement.
What is very creepy is knowing that we are only aware of what is in two chapters of this agreement. If the copyright provisions are terrifying and the investment chapter is so absolutely outrageous, what else is in this agreement anyway? Already, I’ve gotten just minor peaks at this agreement and, already, I’m of the opinion that this is more than just some bland agreement, this is beyond just a flawed and ill-advised agreement, this is evil. I’m no fan of putting such absolute statements. I like to decode things and disagree with specific points on various topics, but I’m comfortable with making an exception to this rule and saying that the TPP is evil.