Sunday, September 1, 2013

NAFTA on Steroids

Maybe you’ve heard of the Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s a supersized trade pact that includes the US, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Chile. It probably doesn’t get much play in the corporate media. The negotiations have been in secret with the expectation that a finished product will be dealt to the participating countries who will be expected to ratify the treaty very quickly and without amendments – referred to as fast-tracking. Makes sense in a way, if everybody were allowed to offer lots of amendments, the negotiations might take forever.
Fast-tracking wouldn’t be quite as bad if the citizenry knew what was going on and had a voice in the preparation of the treaty. The only way we the people have caught a glimpse of the negotiations is through a leaker. The talks are so secret not even the US congress has been privy to their directions except for a few individual cases. The only people allowed at the table are the trade representatives from each country and 600 corporate lobbyists. Labor? Environment? Civil Society? No, impossible, just get in the way.
The main thrust of the talks is not lower tariffs, they’re already very low, it’s protection of corporate profits; that is, the ability to sue governments when its rules or regulations impact corporate profit potential. If the government where you decide to put your toxic waste dump says no way, you sue them and they either let you go ahead with your plans or they pay for your lost profits. That’s exactly what happened to a Mexican town near the border. It cost them $28 million to keep Metalclad corporation’s hazardous waste dump out of their town.
The tribunal that decides on these matters meets in secret and is made up entirely of corporate hacks; they decided against the environment the first 48 times such a matter was brought before them. In essence, in theory, I’m in favor of free trade, but what we usually get is unfair trade. For instance, when NAFTA came into effect Mexico was flooded with subsidized US corn which resulted in millions of poor Mexican farmers being driven off their land. Might’ve been acceptable in my mind had the US corn not been subsidized, but that’s not how it works.
Obama campaigned on a promise to renegotiate NAFTA; he is, in fact, renegotiating except it’s designed to make it worse for you and I, even smoother sailing for the corps.

The following is quoted from an article in

“For corporations, the TPP is a convenient back-door means of undermining public interest policies that they oppose but are not able to undermine through domestic legislation. If enacted, all existing and future US law would have to comply with the treaty, or the US could face trade sanctions. Environmental, health, food safety, human rights and Internet freedom protections could all be limited by the TPP. The deal could derail attempts to rein in Wall Street, making it impossible to regulate risky financial products, implement a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions or enforce size limits on big banks and capital controls.
Corporations, meanwhile, would gain vastly expanded privileges over federal, state and local government. A draft chapter leaked last year detailed the inclusion of a legal structure, called an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, that would essentially allow multinationals to sue a government if they believe a policy infringes on their rights. A tribunal unaccountable to any electorate would decide the case and the damages owed, with no option for appeal. Similar investor-state rules have been included in a number of other free-trade deals, including NAFTA, and cases are surging, as are the damages awarded. Last year corporations won 70 percent of disputes.”

Without the brave actions of another leaker, we would have no idea what’s being discussed. A recent article about the TPP in our local newspaper here in Cambodia, reprinted from a Japanese paper makes no mention of the disastrous impact the TPP could have on participating countries. Just another trade pact. Not to worry. Trust us, we have your best interest at heart.