Archive for the ‘TPP’ Category

Stop Calling the TPP A Trade Agreement – It Isn’t

May 27, 2015
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Calling TPP a “trade” agreement lets the pro-TPP people argue that TPP is about trade instead of what it is really about.: corporate power. (Photo: four12/flickr/cc)

This is a message to activists trying to fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Stop calling the TPP a “trade” agreement. TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, not a “trade” agreement. “Trade” is a good thing; TPP is not. Every time you use the word “trade” in association with the TPP, you are helping the other side.

“Trade” is a propaganda word. It short-circuits thinking. People hear “trade” and the brain stops working. People think, “Of course, trade is good.” And that ends the discussion.

Calling TPP a “trade” agreement lets the pro-TPP people argue that TPP is about trade instead of what it is really about. It diverts attention from the real problem. It enables advocates to say things like, “95 percent of the world lives outside the U.S.” as if that has anything to do with TPP. It lets them say, “We know that exports support American jobs” to sell a corporate rights agreement. It enables them to say nonsense like this about a corporate rights agreement designed to send American jobs to Vietnam so a few “investors” can pocket the wage difference: “Exports of U.S. goods and services supported an estimated 9.8 million American jobs, including 25 percent of all manufacturing jobs … and those export-supported jobs pay 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average wage.”

Trade is good. Opening up the border so you can get bananas and they can get fertilizer is trade because they have a climate that lets them grow bananas and you already have a fertilizer plant. Enabling companies to move $30/hour jobs to countries with $.60/hour wages so a few billionaires can pocket the difference is not trade.

Calling TPP a “trade” agreement lets TPP supporters say people opposed to TPP are “anti-trade.”

TPP Is A Corporate/Investor Rights Agreement

TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, and that is the problem.

TPP extends patents, copyrights and other monopolies so investors can collect “rents.”

TPP elevates corporations and corporate profits to and above the level of governments. TPP lets corporations sue governments for laws and regulations that cause them to be less profitable. Enabling tobacco companies to sue governments because anti-smoking campaigns limit profits has nothing to do with trade. Enabling corporations to sue states that try to regulate fracking has nothing to do with trade.

While giving corporations a special channel to sue governments, labor, environmental, consumer and other “stakeholder” organizations do not get a channel for enforcement. This helps enable corporations to break unions, force wages down and pollute without cost.This increases the power of corporations over governments – and us.

Who Says?

Paul Krugman, “This Is Not A Trade Agreement“:

One thing that should be totally obvious, however, is that it’s off-point and insulting to offer an off-the-shelf lecture on how trade is good because of comparative advantage, and protectionists are dumb. For this is not a trade agreement. It’s about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharmaceutical companies and firms that want to sue governments.

Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in “No, the TPP Won’t Be Good for the Middle Class“:

…TPP (like nearly all trade agreements the U.S. signs) is not a “free trade agreement”—instead it’s a treaty that will specify just who will be protected from international competition and who will not. And the strongest and most comprehensive protections offered are by far those for U.S. corporate interests. Finally, there are international economic agreements that the United States could be negotiating to help the American middle class. They would look nothing like the TPP.

Jim Hightower, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It’s a corporate coup d’etat–against us!“:

TPP is a “trade deal” that mostly does not deal with trade. In fact, of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters!

The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish “partnership” for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new “rights” and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments… and to us.

On OurFuture.org,” Economist Jeffrey Sachs Says NO to the TPP and the TAFTA Trade Treaties“:

Without touching on the unpopular Fast-Track mechanism necessary to pass these two treaties, Sachs laid out five reasons why, on the substance, they should not be passed or ratified:

1. They are not trade treaties, but agreements aimed at protecting investors.

Josh Barro, “But What Does the Trade Deal Mean if You’re Not a Cheesemaker?

Much of the controversy is because the T.P.P. isn’t really (just) a trade agreement. (There’s a reason I called it an “economic agreement” at the top.) A lot of it is about labor, environmental standards, intellectual property and access to markets for services like banking and accounting. And in contrast with the tariff cuts, there’s a lot more reason to worry that some of the agreement’s non-trade provisions would hurt the world economy even as they benefited specific industries.

Techdirt, “If You Really Think TPP Is About ‘Trade’ Then Your Analysis Is Already Wrong“:

Instead, trade agreements have become a sort of secret playground for big corporations to abuse the process and force favorable regulations to be put in place around the globe.

… If you make the facile assumption that the TPP is actually about free trade, then you might be confused about all the hubbub about it. If you actually take the time to understand that much of what’s in there has nothing to do with free trade and, in fact, may be the opposite of free trade, you realize why there’s so much concern.

Timothy B. Lee at VOX, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is great for elites. Is it good for anyone else?“:

In the past, debates about trade deals have mostly been about trade. … In contrast, debates over the TPP mostly haven’t focused on its trade provisions.

[. . .] As the opportunities for trade liberalization have dwindled, the nature of trade agreements has shifted. They’re no longer just about removing barriers to trade. They’ve become a mechanism for setting global economic rules more generally.

… We expect the laws that govern our economic lives will be made in a transparent, representative, and accountable fashion. The TPP negotiation process is none of these — it’s secretive, it’s dominated by powerful insiders, and it provides little opportunity for public input.

Former IMF chief economist [Simon Johnson] on the problems with TPP:

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a notorious, secretly negotiated trade deal; from leaks we know that it continues “Investor State Resolution” clauses that allow foreign companies to sue to overturn national labor and environmental laws. Johnson’s analysis stresses that trade agreements can be good for countries, but they aren’t necessarily good — and when they’re negotiated in secret, they rarely go well.

Stop calling TPP a trade agreement. It is a corporate/investor rights agreement.

Dave Johnson is a contributing blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future.

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The TPP Is a Test of Democracy

May 26, 2015

Posted: 05/23/2015 7:54 pm EDT Updated: 05/24/2015 9:59 am EDT

Democracy is the problem with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiation. It’s the problem for TPP supporters because the trade deal has been secret so far — known to the public only through leaks and rumors — and because the Fast Track authorization that the Obama Administration wants would box Congress out of meaningful input on the treaty.

As Yale Law School international trade scholar David Grewal has pointed out, the TPP is about national regulation of domestic economies, issues like environmental, labor, and consumer safety law that are at the core of self-government. It’s outlandish that this sovereign power is being bargained away in secret, with the final deal dropped before Congress in a take-it-or-kill-it package. So TPP critics have found that democracy is by far their easiest argument. In fact, given how much of the negotiations remain secret, just about the only informed argument they can make is that thesecrecy itself is a problem. And it is a terrible problem. It should make the whole backroom arrangement illegitimate, at least until we all know what is in it.

But democracy is also a problem for TPP opponents, and in a subtler way. Consider: Who actually thinks the US Congress would be able to hold a reasoned debate on a complex trade agreement and deliver a sound judgment reflecting the will of the people? Who even believes that Congress holds reasoned debates, ever, or that there is such a thing as the will of the people, rather than fleeting gusts of public opinion and internet mobbing? If you think the TPP is a good thing, you definitely do not want to put it through the political process. TPP supporters don’t, by and large, believe they are trying to put one over on a wise but unwary public: they believe democracy is broken, the public is ignorant and renders irrational decisions, and that Congress is no better (though sometimes teachable, thanks to lobbyists).

And who, honestly, doesn’t believe something like this about US democracy today? Who really wants to submit their highest value, or the project they have worked on for decades, to this democracy? Really?

The press to fast-track TPP is a sellout of democracy, but it is also a symptom of a deeper collapse of faith in American self-government. Increasingly, people who want to get something done find ways around democratic lawmaking: private investment, nonprofit social mobilization, executive actions, lawsuits in the courts, anything but going to Congress. The TPP sellout of democracy has attracted so many supporters among well-intentioned, sophisticated, realistic people because, frankly, such people are used to disregarding democracy when they want to accomplish something important.

Acting like we have no democracy to protect — in fact, believing we have none — has vicious circular effects. The deep reason to be skeptical of the TPP isn’t just that it an unlabeled pill; it’s that once we swallow it, we surrender some of the power to shape our own economy to advance our own ideas of fairness, safety, solidarity, sustainability, and so forth. The life and aspirations of a democratic community should come before its economy, and give their shape to the economy — not the other way around. That was certainly FDR’s view during the New Deal, and LBJ’s when he proposed the Great Society. But who really believes it now? Who wants the regulatory laws that these guys, the politicians now in power, and the people they listen to, would make?

From what we know of the TPP, it works as an economic policy straitjacket, locking its members into a shared set of market rules. It even brings in “investor-state dispute settlement” — a fancy term for allowing foreign corporations to sue governments whose lawmaking interferes with their profits, outside the courts of law, in suits resolved by private arbitrators. All of that is fundamentally anti-democratic. It reverses the basic and proper relationship between a political community and its economy. But plenty of Americans are seeking just that reversal. Not all of them believe the market is perfect and magical; but they believe it works, more or less, and that democracy does not. They are more than half right that this democracy, “our democracy” (a phrase that’s hard to say without irony), does not work. And that is the reality that makes their anti-democratic agreement so plausible.

So the movement against the TPP has to be more than that. It has to be organically and explicitly linked to a pro-democracy movement: one that works against money in politics, for stronger antitrust laws to reduce concentrated economic power, against the economic inequality that pulls Americans apart and isolates them in their insecurity, and for access to good education and political empowerment for everyone in this country.

It needs to be said that, although this is easy to type on a laptop, it is obviously very hard to do. There are constitutional barriers — the current Supreme Court loves money in politics and seems to despise Congress — and big structural drivers of inequality. Strengthening democracy would mean building organizations of working people for mutual education and advocacy — unions, that is, but they are mostly too broken and hard-pressed to play that role today. It would mean finding ways to close the gap between US citizens and the millions of illegal immigrants who work in this economy with no protection, and to make citizenship itself less divided between black and white, insider and outsider. But most basically, it would mean finding ways to make self-government, including economic self-government, worth defending for ordinary people, and credible and muscular enough that elites would not congratulate themselves on their sophisticated realism while selling it out.

It’s one of the famous clichés of American life that Benjamin Franklin, asked what the Constitutional Convention had created, replied “A republic — if you can keep it.” Anyone asked what the TPP’s opponents are fighting for should reply, “A democracy — if we can build it.” Defeating the TPP would keep open the space for that building. Of course, then we would still have to build it.

Gouging the Sick

May 25, 2015

US-TRADE-PACIFIC-TPP-PROTEST

The current debate over the TPP is a secretly negotiated deal that is the complete opposite of “liberal” reform, even though it is trying to be passed off as such. We have got to stand together and get rid of this corrupt agenda.

Words can be discombobulating, especially when people twist them to fit concepts that mean the exact opposite of what you think is being said.

Consider the current debate in Washington over the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a controversial trade and investment pact between the United States and nearly a dozen Pacific Rim countries.

This secretly negotiated deal is the exact opposite of a “liberal” reform. It hands a major portion of our people’s democratic sovereignty to giant multinational corporations.

Yet, lawmakers and pundits fronting for the corporations have disingenuously dubbed this a “liberalization” of global policies.

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

For an example of the reactionary reality, look at a couple of little favors this deal would do for Big Pharma.

First, it would extend the number of years that a pharmaceutical giant can keep a patent on its brand-name drugs. Not only would this artificially dump more monopoly profits into the coffers of drugmakers, it would simultaneously postpone competition from the makers of cheaper generic drugs — an especially dangerous delay for low-income people who are ill.

A second provision would restrict public regulation of drug prices by any of the 12 countries that are forging the accord. This would nix the people’s sovereign right to remedy price gouging by corporate profiteers that hold monopolies on life-saving medicines.

The folks pushing this snake oil assert that we should not bother our little heads with worry about its details.

But it’s filled with gotchas like these gifts to Big Pharma. They have nothing to do with trade — and everything to do with global elites secretively, deceitfully, and immorally agreeing among themselves to steal power from us.

Don’t just worry about this problematic pact, fight it. Get the lowdown on how at www.StopTPP.org.

Authors

Bio: National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

How Trade Agreements Amount to a Secret Corporate Takeover

May 25, 2015

Posted: 05/18/2015 2:59 am EDT Updated: 05/23/2015 8:59 am EDT
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NEW YORK – The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called “free-trade agreements”; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as “partnerships,”as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals: the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America’s “partners” are becoming increasingly resistant.

It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

When I chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, anti-environmentalists tried to enact a similar provision, called “regulatory takings.” They knew that once enacted, regulations would be brought to a halt, simply because government could not afford to pay the compensation. Fortunately, we succeeded in beating back the initiative, both in the courts and in the US Congress.

But now the same groups are attempting an end run around democratic processes by inserting such provisions in trade bills, the contents of which are being kept largely secret from the public (but not from the corporations that are pushing for them). It is only from leaks, and from talking to government officials who seem more committed to democratic processes, that we know what is happening.

Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial publicjudiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.

The proceedings are so expensive that Uruguay has had to turn to Michael Bloomberg and other wealthy Americans committed to health to defend itself against Philip Morris. And, though corporations can bring suit, others cannot. If there is a violation of other commitments – on labor and environmental standards, for example – citizens, unions, and civil-society groups have no recourse.

If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. That is why I joined leading US legal experts, including from Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, in writing a letter to President Barack Obama explaining how damaging to our system of justice these agreements are.

American supporters of such agreements point out that the US has been sued only a few times so far, and has not lost a case. Corporations, however, are just learning how to use these agreements to their advantage.

And high-priced corporate lawyers in the US, Europe, and Japan will likely outmatch the underpaid government lawyers attempting to defend the public interest. Worse still, corporations in advanced countries can create subsidiaries in member countries through which to invest back home, and then sue, giving them a new channel to bloc regulations.

If there were a need for better property protection, and if this private, expensive dispute-resolution mechanism were superior to a public judiciary, we should be changing the law not just for well-heeled foreign companies, but also for our own citizens and small businesses. But there has been no suggestion that this is the case.

Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the US, Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

© Project Syndicate

The treason of the TPP.

May 24, 2015

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When NAFTA was being developed I was aghast that chapter 11 of it let a corporate tribunal extort “anticipated profits” from the treasuries of our country, states, counties, cities, etc. And those of other countries.

Sums in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

It also gave subsidized US corporate factory farms free rein to bankrupt small farmers in Mexico and other countries. Which led to desperate people migrating into our country, legally or not.

As Ross Perot warned, the act resulted in massive losses of factories and jobs from the USA.

 

The transfer of power from the US government to corporate tribunals is clearly in step with what president Bush I referred to as a “New World Order”. The elites are so contemptuous of us that they’ll state their treasonous intents openly.

Since NAFTA, there have been others. See Bernie Sanders article. And now there’s the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would form new corporate tribunals to overrule our republic.
Wars have been fought for less.

Clearly advocating these acts from the position of the President is not acting to “maintain and uphold the US Constitution” as he swore to do. Quite the contrary, it is treason. Which is grounds for impeachment.

Why are Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul and others not calling for the impeachment of Obama for treason?

If we call and advocate impeachment for Obomber, it might at least elevate the topic to a visible level. Certainly the TPP warrants it. Why not? I see it as a duty and have started.

 

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Who Is Writing the TPP?

May 24, 2015

Senator Elizabeth Warren. (photo: elizabethwarren.com)
Senator Elizabeth Warren. (photo: elizabethwarren.com)

By Elizabeth Warren and Rosa DeLauro, The Boston Globe

23 May 15

 

ALSO SEE: TPP Is in Trouble, Thanks to Public Interest

ongress is in an intense debate over trade bills that will shape the course of the US economy for decades. Much of this debate has been characterized as a fight over whether international trade itself creates or destroys American jobs. There is, however, another major concern — that modern “trade” agreements are often less about trade and more about giant multinational corporations finding new ways to rig the economic system to benefit themselves. Hillary Clinton has said that the “United States should be advocating a level and fair playing field, not special favors” for big business, in our trade deals. We agree with this blunt assessment – and believe every member of Congress should consider this carefully before voting to help advance these agreements.

Advocates of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 12-country agreement, sell this proposal as a free trade deal — but the United States already has free trade agreements with half of the countries at the negotiating table, and only five of the treaty’s 29 draft chapters reportedly deal with traditional trade issues. While reducing traditional barriers to trade with countries like Japan will facilitate some international commerce, the TPP is about more than reducing tariffs.

The president argues that the TPP is about who will “write the rules” for 40 percent of the world’s economy — the United States or China. But who is writing the TPP? The text has been classified and the public isn’t permitted to see it, but 28 trade advisory committees have been intimately involved in the negotiations. Of the 566 committee members, 480, or 85 percent, are senior corporate executives or representatives from industry lobbying groups. Many of the advisory committees are made up entirely of industry representatives.

A rigged process leads to a rigged outcome. For evidence of that tilt, look at a key TPP provision: Investor-State Dispute Settlement where big companies get the right to challenge laws they don’t like in front of industry-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside of any court system. Those panels can force taxpayers to write huge checks to big corporations — with no appeals. Workers, environmentalists, and human rights advocates don’t get that special right.

Most Americans don’t think of the minimum wage or antismoking regulations as trade barriers. But a foreign corporation has used ISDS to sue Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage. Phillip Morris has gone after Australia and Uruguay to stop them from implementing rules to cut smoking rates. Under the TPP, companies could use ISDS to challenge these kinds of government policy decisions — including food safety rules.

The president dismisses these concerns, but some of the nation’s top experts in law and economics are pushing to drop ISDS provisions from future trade agreements. Economist Joe Stiglitz, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, and others recently noted that “the threat and expense of ISDS proceedings have forced nations to abandon important public policies” and that “laws and regulations enacted by democratically elected officials are put at risk in a process insulated from democratic input.” That was exactly what Germany did in 2011 when it cut back on environmental protections after an ISDS lawsuit.

Congress will soon vote on whether to enact “fast-track” authority to grease the skids for the approval of the TPP and other upcoming trade deals. Clinton has called for trade agreements to “avoid some of the provisions sought by business interests, including our own,” such as ISDS. By definition, massive trade deals like the TPP override domestic laws written, debated, and passed by Congress. If fast-track passes, Congress will have given up its power to strip out any backroom arrangements and special favors like ISDS without tanking the whole deal that contains those giveaways.

We will have also given up our right to strip out whatever other special favors industry can bury in new trade agreements – not just in the TPP, but in potential trade deals for the next six years. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has testified before Congress that trade negotiations involve “pressure to lower standards” on financial regulations and other public interest laws, and that President Obama has resisted that pressure. But Obama will soon leave office, and he cannot bind a future president. We hope he is succeeded by a Democrat, but if not, this legislation risks giving a future president a powerful tool to undermine public interest regulations under the guise of promoting commerce.

Powerful corporate interests have spent a lot of time and money trying to bend Washington’s rules to benefit themselves, and now they want Congress to grease the skids for a TPP deal that corporations have helped write but the public can’t see — and for six years of future agreements that haven’t even been written. Congress should refuse to vote for any expedited procedures to approve the TPP before the trade agreement is made public. And Congress certainly shouldn’t vote for expedited procedures to enact trade deals that don’t yet even exist.

 

How Trade Agreements Amount to a Secret Corporate Takeover

May 24, 2015

Activists project messages about the Trans-Pacific Partnership onto the exterior of the Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City. (photo: Jerrick Romero/Backbone Campaign/Flickr)
Activists project messages about the Trans-Pacific Partnership onto the exterior of the Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City. (photo: Jerrick Romero/Backbone Campaign/Flickr)

By Joseph Stiglitz, Reader Supported News

23 May 15

 

he United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called “free-trade agreements”; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as “partnerships,”as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals: the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America’s “partners” are becoming increasingly resistant.

It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking.

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.

When I chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, anti-environmentalists tried to enact a similar provision, called “regulatory takings.” They knew that once enacted, regulations would be brought to a halt, simply because government could not afford to pay the compensation. Fortunately, we succeeded in beating back the initiative, both in the courts and in the US Congress.

But now the same groups are attempting an end run around democratic processes by inserting such provisions in trade bills, the contents of which are being kept largely secret from the public (but not from the corporations that are pushing for them). It is only from leaks, and from talking to government officials who seem more committed to democratic processes, that we know what is happening.

Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.

The proceedings are so expensive that Uruguay has had to turn to Michael Bloomberg and other wealthy Americans committed to health to defend itself against Philip Morris. And, though corporations can bring suit, others cannot. If there is a violation of other commitments – on labor and environmental standards, for example – citizens, unions, and civil-society groups have no recourse.

If there ever was a one-sided dispute-resolution mechanism that violates basic principles, this is it. That is why I joined leading US legal experts, including from Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, in writing a letter to President Barack Obama explaining how damaging to our system of justice these agreements are.

American supporters of such agreements point out that the US has been sued only a few times so far, and has not lost a case. Corporations, however, are just learning how to use these agreements to their advantage.

And high-priced corporate lawyers in the US, Europe, and Japan will likely outmatch the underpaid government lawyers attempting to defend the public interest. Worse still, corporations in advanced countries can create subsidiaries in member countries through which to invest back home, and then sue, giving them a new channel to bloc regulations.

If there were a need for better property protection, and if this private, expensive dispute-resolution mechanism were superior to a public judiciary, we should be changing the law not just for well-heeled foreign companies, but also for our own citizens and small businesses. But there has been no suggestion that this is the case.

Rules and regulations determine the kind of economy and society in which people live. They affect relative bargaining power, with important implications for inequality, a growing problem around the world. The question is whether we should allow rich corporations to use provisions hidden in so-called trade agreements to dictate how we will live in the twenty-first century. I hope citizens in the US, Europe, and the Pacific answer with a resounding no.

 

The TPP Must Be Defeated

May 23, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: AP)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: AP)

By Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

22 May 15

 

ongress is now debating fast track legislation that will pave the way for the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) unfettered free trade agreement. At a time when our middle class is disappearing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, this anti-worker legislation must be defeated. Here are four reasons why.

First, the TPP follows in the footsteps of failed trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, and the South Korea Free Trade agreement. Over and over again, supporters of these agreements told us that they would create jobs. Over and over again, they have been proven dead wrong.

Since 2001, nearly 60,000 manufacturing plants in this country have been shut down and we have lost over 4.7 million decent paying manufacturing jobs. NAFTA has led to the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs. PNTR with China has led to the loss of 2.7 million jobs. Our trade agreement with South Korea has led to the loss of about 75,000 jobs. While bad trade agreements are not the only reason why manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have declined, they are an important factor.

The TPP continues an approach towards trade which forces Americans to compete against workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour, independent labor unions are banned, and people are thrown in jail for expressing their political beliefs. This is not “free trade.” This is the race to the bottom. While we must help poor people around the world improve their standard of living, we can do that without destroying the American middle class.

Secondly, when we are talking about the TPP it’s important to know who is for it and who is against it.

Large, multi-national corporations that have outsourced millions of good paying American jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, India and other low-wage countries think the TPP is a great idea. They understand that this legislation will allow them to accelerate efforts to hire cheap labor abroad. The TPP is also strongly supported by Wall Street and large pharmaceutical companies who believe their global profits will increase if this agreement is passed.

On the other hand, every union in this country, representing millions of American workers, is in opposition to this agreement because they understand that the TPP will lead to the loss of decent-paying jobs and will depress wages. Virtually every major environmental organization, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and 350.org[350.org], among many others, also oppose this legislation. They understand that the TPP will make it easier for multi-national corporations to pollute and degrade the global environment. Major religious groups such as the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the United Methodist Church, also oppose this legislation because of what it could do to the poorest people on earth.

Whose views should we trust on this legislation? Wall Street and corporate America or organizations that represent working families, the environment and the religious community?

Third, the TPP would also undermine democracy by giving multi-national corporations the right to challenge any law that could reduce their “expected future profits” through what is known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. Under existing trade agreements, Phillip Morris is using this process to sue Australia and Uruguay for passing laws designed to prevent the children in those countries from smoking. These countries should be rewarded for taking action to protect the public health of their citizens. Instead, they are being taken to an international court because their laws are hurting the bottom line of one of the largest tobacco companies in the world.

Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, has used this process to sue Germany for $5 billion over its decision to phase out nuclear power. Should the people of Germany have the right to make energy choices on their own or should these decisions be left in the hands of an unelected international tribunal?

A French waste management firm, Veolia, used this process to sue Egypt for $110 million because Egypt increased its minimum wage and improved its labor laws. In other words, Egypt’s “crime” is trying to improve life for their low-wage workers.

Do we really want to tell governments all around the world, including the U.S., that if they pass legislation protecting the well-being of their citizens they could pay substantial fines to multi-national corporations because of the loss of future profits? What an incredible undermining of democracy! But that’s exactly what will happen if the TPP goes into effect.

Fourth, this legislation, strongly supported by the major drug companies, would substantially raise the prices of medicine in some of the poorest countries on earth. The drug companies are doing everything they can to prevent countries from moving to lower cost generics, even if it means that thousands will die because they cannot afford higher prices for the drugs they need. That is unacceptable. Doctors Without Borders has stated: “The TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

Enough is enough. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class and creating the millions of good paying jobs we desperately need, we must fundamentally rewrite our trade policies. NO to fast track, and NO to the TPP.

 

Gift to Multi-National Corporations as Senate Pushes Fast Track Forward

May 22, 2015
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A final vote on Fast Track trade authority could come as soon as Thursday afternoon

breakingnewsfasttrack.jpgAccording to the Huffington Post, “the measure nearly failed, and only advanced after about a dozen senators engaged in a tense discussion in the middle of the Senate floor while they were still several votes shy.” (Photo: Screenshot)

Thumbing its nose at the wide swath of constituencies and civil society groups that oppose corporate-friendly trade deals, the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to end debate on Fast Track trade legislation, handing a significant victory to President Barack Obama and moving the bill a step closer to passage.

Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, would allow the president to send the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as other so-called “free trade” pacts, to Congress for an up-or-down vote, preventing such deals from being amended by Congress. The authority would remain in place for six years.

According to news sources, a final vote on Fast Track could come as soon as Thursday afternoon if senators agree to limit the final 30 hours of debate allowed under Senate rules.

“The majority of our senators chose corporate polluters over the American people by voting to forfeit their input into trade negotiations.”
—Luísa Abbott Galvão, Friends of the Earth

The Huffington Post reports that “[t]he measure nearly failed, and only advanced after about a dozen senators engaged in a tense discussion in the middle of the Senate floor while they were still several votes shy.”

In the end, the bill passed 62-38; the full roll call can be viewed here.

According to The Hill, 12 Democrats voted to end debate: Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Tom Carper (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Chris Coons (Del.), Mark Warner, Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Environmental, labor, food safety, public health, and digital rights groups oppose Fast Track on the grounds that it forces Congress to abdicate its policy-making responsibility while greasing the skids for secretly negotiated, corporate-friendly, rights-trampling trade pacts like the TPP. They voiced that opposition on Thursday.

“The Senate just put the interests of powerful multi-national corporations, drug companies and Wall Street ahead of the needs of American workers.”
—Senator Bernie Sanders

In a statement following Thursday’s vote, Friends of the Earth climate and energy campaigner Luísa Abbott Galvão chastised the senators who “chose corporate polluters over the American people by voting to forfeit their input into trade negotiations. Fast Track eases approval of trade deals with provisions that would impede future action by Congress and states to act on climate. A vote for Fast Track is a vote to accelerate climate change in the name of corporate profits.”

And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of 38 senators to vote against the bill, declared: “The Senate just put the interests of powerful multi-national corporations, drug companies and Wall Street ahead of the needs of American workers. If this disastrous trade agreement is approved, it will throw Americans out of work while companies continue moving operations and good-paying jobs to low-wage countries overseas.”

The Washington Post reports that Fast Track “is now almost certain to pass the Senate, possibly over the weekend, and then heads for an uncertain fate in the House, where Democratic opposition to Obama’s trade agenda is more deeply ingrained.”

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Petition: Stop the TPP

May 22, 2015
The bill to allow the president to rush through the TPP is being debated right now. Take action and sign our petition today.

 

I wanted to be sure you saw Russ’s message on why we need to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the “fast-track” authority the Obama administration will use to rush this bad trade deal through Congress.

Unfortunately, too many members of BOTH parties haven’t learned the lessons of past trade agreements like NAFTA: They’re still ignoring the consequences for working families when American manufacturing jobs get shipped overseas.

That’s exactly why Russ is running for Senate: To take on the special interests in Washington and fight for working families who have experienced the disastrous results of bad trade agreements firsthand.

Show Russ you have his back by signing his petition against the TPP.

The Senate is considering the bill that gives the president “fast-track” authority on TPP right now, so we don’t have much time. Stand with Russ in the fight against TPP to‌day.

Thanks for all you do,

Cole Leystra
Deputy Campaign Manager

STOP THE TPP »

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Russ Feingold
Date: Tue, May 19, 2015
Subject: Wisconsinites won’t be fooled

Russ for WisconsinCole —

A dangerous mistake. That’s what Congress is poised to make — again — if they move forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the backs of American workers.

I’ve launched my campaign for Senate to be an independent voice for Wisconsin, especially when it means fighting back against the D.C. insiders and corporate interests. I wasn’t fooled by past trade agreements like NAFTA, and I don’t believe Wisconsinites are fooled by the TPP, either.

Wisconsin workers have already lost far too many jobs because of bad trade deals. Now, corporate interests and their multimillionaire Republican allies like Ron Johnson want to repeat history, negotiating the biggest trade deal in history in secret and maximizing corporate payoffs at the expense of Wisconsin jobs.

So I’m making a big push to say no to fast-track and stop the TPP in its tracks. But to win this one, we’re going to need broad grassroots support.

Join me as I make one BIG push against both fast-track authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. No deal is better than a raw deal for American workers.

Join Daily Kos and Russ Feingold and stop the TPP

Trade deals are written for the corporations who benefit from their negotiations and not the workers stuck with the raw deal. The TPP itself has been authored by just 12 countries, and while some large corporations have access to read the document, the American public does not. And though the TPP’s contents are under a cloak of secrecy, we know what it will mean for workers.

There are two main issues at hand in the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. First, Congress can authorize “fast-track authority,” or TPA, which would give President Obama the power to call for an up-or-down vote, without amendments, on any trade agreement. Second is the corporate profit-driven TPP itself, the text of which is effectively hidden from the eyes of the general public.

That’s why I oppose both fast-track authority and the TPP: I won’t stand idly by and allow Congress to rig the system against American workers.

Sign your name, and help me make the biggest push yet to stop the TPP in its tracks.

Together, we can fight to make sure Congress doesn’t give our workers a raw deal.

Thanks for all you do,

Russ Feingold

STOP THE TPP »

 

 

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