Putting Corporations above People and their Governments and their LawsPosted: June 16, 2012
There is a leaked “trade” document that needs to be on every one’s reading list. I know it’s a big request to ask you to follow what seems like a fairly complex negotiation riddled with legalese. However, we’re fortunate it was leaked. No one knows what’s been going on in negotiations for ongoing US trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations. This includes Senator Ron Wyden who is responsible for oversight who is trying to draft legislation to get access.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade Customs and Global Competitiveness, introduced legislation clarifying USTR’s obligation to share information on trade agreements with Members of Congress. Legislation is necessitated by administration’s refusal to share information with Congress broadly, and specifically with Wyden’s office.
So much for Obama’s pledge of transparency.
The document in question is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This document shows evidence that the agreement would “drastically undermine Obama’s proposed domestic agenda and give unprecedented political authority to multinational corporations”.
The TPP negotiations have gone on for two years between the Obama administration and several Pacific nations under conditions of ‘extreme secrecy’ without press, public or policymaker oversight, says Public Citizen who posted the leaked document on their website today.
“The top U.S. trade official effectively has said that the administration must keep TPP secret because otherwise it won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
The leaked document, according to the Huffington Post, reveals ‘extreme provisions’ that have been agreed upon in secret negotiations that “bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations” in global trade and contradict key promises made to the US public about such deals.
According to Public Citizen, the leaked text now confirms that the terms of the TPP would:
- Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
- Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
- Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
- Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
“The airing of this one TPP chapter,” said Wallach, “which greatly favors foreign corporations over domestic businesses and the public interest and exposes us to significant financial liabilities, shows that the whole draft text must be released immediately so it can be reviewed and debated. Absent that, these negotiations must be ended now.”
I first learned the details of the leak document from listening to the daily podcast at Democracy Now. Juan Gonzalez interviewed Wallach who is running around with her hair on fire trying to explain the ramifications to our country and others should this pass.
There are so many items in just this one chapter of the leaked document to fear that it’s hard to cover it all in one short Saturday Post. Basically, multinational corporations will be able to sue governments should they be hurt by labor laws, environmental laws, or any kind of regulation and seek damages. Their case will be heard by a tribunal made up of corporate lawyers. So, laws that apply to us that get tried in our courts will not apply to these multinationals. The tribunal panel gets to decide their fate.
Upon reading this latest document and the previously leaked document on intellectual property, and regarding what they mean for our access to life-saving medication, Judit Rius, the U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicine Campaign said that “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”
In response to the widespread criticism of the leaded document, USTR spokesman Nkenge Harmon said “This administration is committed to ensuring strong environmental, public health, and safety laws. Nothing in our TPP investment proposal could impair our government’s ability to ensure legitimate non-discriminatory public interest regulation, including measures to protect public health, public safety and the environment.”
It would be up to the international tribunals, however, to interpret “legitimate,” and “non-discriminatory.”
“Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy,” said Margrete Strand Rangnes, director of Labor and Trade for the the environmental group the Sierra Club.
The impact of this would be incredible. I’m going to be watching this carefully and I’d like to suggest you watch it too. Urge your Senators to support Wyden’s attempt to gain access to oversight of the trade negotiation process.