(UPDATED-with statement from Congressman Grayson’s Office)
Chances are that you’ve never heard of the Trans-Pacific-Pact/Free Trade Agreement, aka the TPP-FTA, and that is exactly the way the Obama administration (and its corporate bosses)– would like to keep things. The mainstream (read: corporate), media has utterly left the American public in the dark on this skunk of a deal which surrenders our national, state and local sovereignity to corporate interests. The TPP as it is known in secretive corporate circles represents the most anti-democracy assault devised by trade representatives from some 600 corporations, including Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
The secrecy factor…hiding TPP’s anti-democracy powers behind ‘national security’…
The TPP-FTA (Trans-Pacific-Pact Free Trade Agreement) is the latest brainchild of the 1%. Negotiations for each round have been so secretely guarded that paramilitary teams surrounded each locale with weaponized helicopters looming overhead.
A ‘weapon of mass deception’ specifically engineered to surrender our representative democracy to corporate rule; the TPP has been negotiated in secret since 2008 and is now nearing completion in its 17th round.
President Obama has allowed both of his US Trade Representative(s) (first Ron Kirk and now Mike Froman); to use the illegitimate veil of ‘national security’, and the accompanying overclassification of information, to shut out the public and Congress from ‘negotiations.’
No amount of public relations salesmanship from Obama can sell this stinker of a trade deal–once the facts hit the light of day. Ironically, the facts only surfaced–because of a leak–another whistleblower.
Leaked official documents clearly show that parties involved agreed to keep all draft and contributing documents secret, until four years after the final ratification of the agreement (or when negotiations collapse);– EXCEPT for the final text.
During the entire length of ongoing negotiations–now in it’s 17th round, Congress was locked out of any meaningful discussion or investigation, while over 600 corporate chieftains and advisors have all but scripted the entire document down to the last punctuation mark.
Congress locked out….
Congress was not only ‘locked out’–it was never invited to the party. (While it’s true that the USTR ‘permitted’ limited viewing of the texts by members of Congress–none were allowed to have expert staffers in various negotiated areas of concern, present. Furthermore, recording devices were expressely forbidden.
The deal which would surrender national, state and local sovereignity to a secret tribunal of three corporate attorneys,–excluding all but corporate interests, was blessed with impunity on the profane altar of ‘national security.’ Leakers would be punished as ‘enemies of the state’–with a real possibility of jail time–and that threat included members of congress.
Congressional leaders questioning this ‘corporate coup’ though few–were refreshingly forthright. Senator Ron Wyden (D) Oregon led the charge, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Mass. and Congressman Alan Grayson (D) Fla.
Senator Ron Wyden denied access…blew the whistle on secrecy….
Senator Ron Wyden is the reigning Chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, the very committee assigned jurisdiction of treaties like the TPP went on record from the floor of Congress stating how …
….”the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations–like Halliburton, Chevron, PhaRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America–are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.”
Senator Wyden further reiterated the duty of Congress to review, regulate and ratify international trade negotiations. Wyden also countered the specious claim made by the US Trade Representative that providing access to negotiation documents would…’endanger national security,’ by instructing his staff to cooperate with security needs. To quote Senator Wyden;
…”As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations. To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps confidential and secret. This is material that fully describes what the USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and on behalf of Congress. More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing.”
Senator Wyden further reminded the president the authority granted Congress on the regulation of international trade.
…”It may be the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) current job to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress – not the USTR or any other member of the Executive Branch – the responsibility of regulating foreign commerce. It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few.”
And yet to date, only a few members of Congress have gained access to the very treaty they are constitutionally assigned to regulate. Consistent with Senator Wyden’s criticism–the privileged few (namely corporate lobbyists) are granted unfettered input to the very treaty which would deliver a final death blow to our economy and surrender our democracy to the whims of corporate heads.
Why the secrecy?…
If the TPP-FTA is a legitimate deal–why this unprecedented level of secrecy? Why is the US Trade Representative refusing to answer congressional inquiries? Why are US Congressmen such as Darrell Issa and Alan Grayson or Senator Ron Wyden being locked out of negotiations? As usual with this president–the facts are buried in legal jargon and double-talk. Additionally, the now historic abuse of the national security ‘classification system’ has reached ludicrous levels which would make Karl Rove–blush like a schoolgirl in a whorehouse.
Congressman Grayson spoke to the secrecy and the most egregious elements in the TPP itself, in a telephone interview with this reporter.
…”They (USTR) set out to do it this way, knowing full well that if they shed any light on what they were doing there would be a lot of hell to pay.” (phone interview 06/21/13)
Grayson was allowed ‘limited’ access after some six weeks of official requests–access to negotiation texts that any member of Congress by law–had a right to review. After reviewing some very limited text Grayson spoke to the outrageous and unlawful giveaways in the TPP, and the cover-up maintained by the USTR.
…”I’ve seen an element of the current rounds..they are binding …I will tell you that they have every reason to be concerned about them…the backlash…there would be a public backlash”…”what they said uh.. indicated was classified and they stick to appear to—-the classification system by calling the shots in secret, and by threatening people with every nightmare discomfort …including imprisonment…except for the 500 corporate lobbyists..”
Alan Grayson may be blunt–but he’s honest. When asked about the effects of the TPP on our country if pushed into law–he stated frankly that
…”TPP establishes what are called … procedures that are essentially” abrogating our democracy’…
Grayson explained further that…
“…they (TPP international tribunal) replace our five step established court systems for claims against the government with an alternative system that is wired for the benefit of multinational corporations”
Grayson added that the TPP extends into matters which are not under the purview of trade relations. He added that the TPP …”goes far beyond anything even remotely resembling trade and systematically interferes in areas such as finance, that most people would regard as having no connection ….to matters of trade.” The agreement….” extends well beyond trade in a manner that systematically benefits multinational corporations to the detriment of health, safety, the right to organize, and other fundamental human rights and progressive values. ”
Ironically, Grayson and the others couldn’t explain why the TPP poses these dangers, as this information has been ‘classified’ by the USTR.
In spite of Grayson’s fair and rational argument–the USTR under President Obama remains unmoved. In fact, the administration wants to finalize the TPP ‘agreement’ this October, pushing Congress to a simple up and down vote, consistent with corporate demands.
The rush to finalize this surrender of sovereignity…
In addition to this transfer of power from nations to corporations; the TPP negotiating teams are rushing to finalize the document before any meaningful discussion or review.
“…The TPP is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in U.S. history. The twelve countries currently involved — the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — already cover approximately 40% of the global economy, and the TPP also includes a “docking mechanism” that could enable other countries to join over time. The TPP’s seventeenth major round of negotiations concluded in Lima, Peru last month, and negotiators are racing to complete their work by an October deadline set by President Barack Obama and others.”
Fast Track …and a news blackout by the corporate owned media…
The sheer fact that the SEVENTEENTH round of negotiations has been completed with no coverage in the mainstream corporate media only deepens the suspicion. President Obama is pushing Fast Track authority specifically engineered to ram through Congress a simple up or down vote on the entire finished document minus any substantive investigation or debate. ‘Fast Track’ dating back to the Nixon administration, denies Congress the right to study, debate or otherwise amend any piece of legislation pushed and signed off by any president. In essence, the Obama administration is abusing the Fast Track idea to demand a blank check from Congress. So, what specific powers does the proposed TPP take away from our democratically elected government and grant to an international corporate tribunal?
Powers granted to corporations via the TPP….
The TPP, if approved by the Senate and signed by Obama will nullify multiple areas of US law. It is the concrete realization of ‘corporate personhood’, providing the ‘corporate person’ in discussion–is an absolute monarch or emperor.
The TPP, negotiated by corporate lobbyists and minus any substantive congressional and public oversight, grants multinational corporations a final veto over a country’s laws, in multiple areas not necessarily limited to trade issues. No country, including the US will be able to enforce laws or regulations in many areas that ‘impede’ corporate rights. This is ‘corporate personhood’ writ large, abusive and sociopathic.
The highlights of the leaked TPP drafts include a triad of powers that collectively enslave any nation or state. The triad begins with the alleged corporate ‘right’ to challenge any law and demand taxpayer compensation for any policy which hypothetically could undermine estimated or expected future profits. This could extend to any area of law, environmental, labor, public health, food sovereignity, currency standards, financial regulations, consumer standards and even civil liberties.
Leaked draft texts further describe ‘investor protections’ that incentivizes additional offshoring of jobs with undisclosed ‘benefits.’ Any regulation of finance capital (aka Wall Street) such as banning derivatives, currency manipulation, and other ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’; would be prohibited. Any member nation’s ability to mitigate financial warfare via currency manipulation and deliver financial stability is neutered. ‘Shock and awe’ globalization is delivered to our door, in a plain, pornographic brown wrapper, courtesy of the TPP.
The TPP grants the rights of a conquering army to foreign investors and multinational corporations. The leaked text contains 26 chapters, yet only two chapters cover actual ‘trade’ issues, such as tariffs and quotas.
The US would be conquered, minus a single fired shot, as the USTR and Obama sign away our rights. The TPP text obligates the federal government to serve as the bully club, forcing states and local communities into conforming with this unmitigated surrender of our sovereignity.
The thousand plus page document of detailed restraints forced on federal, state and local governments is not restricted to trade. Everything from intellectual property rights, to labor issues, to public health, to environmental regulations is forced into subjugation under this legal excuse for corporate rule. Our own federal government is reduced to a mercenary force, pointing the gun to our heads. Nothing is safe. This includes public lands and resources.
TPP… a tool for stealing ever decreasing public resources….
Once again, leaked documents of the draft TPP texts reveal US property rights protections eradicated in favor of international standards (which have yet to be articulated). These mysterious international standards would be relegated to the whims of the unelected international tribunal, for which there is no right of appeal. In theory, public lands in the US could be summarily handed over to international corporate interests.
This could translate into foreign interests using the unelected tribunal to ‘legally’ steal US public resources such as potable water, reducing the US to a colony or vassal state. Natural resource battles over resources like water have begun in Michigan, thanks to the predecessor ‘Emergency Manager’ law.
Nestle vs. Ice Mountain…
Mecosta, Michigan won a ten year battle against Nestle/Ice Mountain in 2009. Concerned with excessive water diversion by the corporate titan; a grassroots group named Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) defeated Nestle in court. Nestle appealed and the appeals court ruled that MCWC won on concerns of environmental harm, but the corporate water interests of Nestle had to balance with the landowner’s interests.
This was the beginning of the end, as corporate forces realized they needed a stacked deck in the face of growing citizen grassroots/netroots mobilization. Not content to abide by a legitimate process; corporate forces pushed the Emergency Manager Act.
Michigan’s ‘Emergency Manager Law’ the predecessor to TPP…
In March of 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the ‘Emergency Manager Law.’ Written by corporations and corporate funded non-profits under the tutelage of the Mackinac Center; the Emergency Manager Law authorized the shredding of labor contracts, privatization of public services and the consolidation and DISSOLUTION of locally elected governments. It has been touted as ‘financial martial law.’
It does not escape my attention that this ‘law’ would have serviced Nestle’s needs quite handily. Though several thousand protesters marched against this bill; the corporate owned media ignored the uprising. The Michigan ‘Emergency Manager Law’ is a mini-me version of the TPP. It is …’democracy under siege.’
Government by international corporate tribunal…
At the core of this despicable ‘agreement’ is the international corporate tribunal designated to be the final authority over any future disputes–at least on paper. The tribunal is to be staffed by the same corporate attorneys who service the multinational corporations. Conflict of interest is not only obvious—TPP makes it… a way of life. No right of appeal exists and deliberations are…once again…secret.
In theory, any and all laws a foreign corporation finds irritating are taken to the tribunal. The most egregious crimes against humanity—forced or slave labor, child labor, massive dumping of toxic pollutants, murders committed by subcontractors, police abuse, censorship, and the criminalization of dissent–are subjugated to a tribunal of three corporate attorneys. The ‘economic royalists’ would be in the driver’s seat.
TPP grants the tribunal the right to set aside previous court decisions or the results of public elections. Corporate personhood is elevated to emperor and the concept of …”consent of the governed” is reduced to a trite joke.
According to Lori Wallach at Public Citizen, these same foreign tribunals…”would be staffed by private sector lawyers who rotate between acting as “judges” and representative corporations, suing governments, posing major conflicts of interest.”
Citizens Trade Campaign has legitimate solutions…
In March of 2013, watchdog group, Citizens Trade Campaign sent a letter to every member of Congress which was co-signed by over 400 additional activist groups. The letter was a stinging rebuke of the TPP and the mechanisms used by the Obama administration to ram this illegitimate treaty through–namely the abuse of the national security classification system and the Nixonian,Fast Track Authority. The letter also outlined conditions which must be remediated and the mechanism used. It was a clarion call for accountability and transparency which respected the right to self-govern.
Groups signing on this letter ranged from unions such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters–to environmental groups such as Food and Water Watch–to religious groups such as the Holy Cross International Justice Office. Opponents may scream foul and claim these are ‘special interest groups,’ but unlike the ‘special interest’ corporate groups pushing the TPP–these groups are collectively fighting to reverse the global ‘race to the bottom.’
Citizens Trade Campaign has identified 8 criterion which must be addressed and a separate section dealing with the eradication of Fast Track and the reform of the trade agreement negotiation and approval process.
8 Reform Measures to Ensure a Fair Negotiation and Approval Process for Future Trade Policies…
1.) …”Prioritization of human and labor rights.” Trade agreements must protect human and labor rights (including free speech, assembly, press), above the rights of investors. There should no tolerance for forced or slave labor, child labor, dangerous ‘sweatshop’ working conditions, or political violence used by corporate or subcontractors to suppress collective bargaining. Environmental degradation in an era of strained resources leading to resource wars should be banned. The rights of indigenous peoples to self-determined governance is to be respected.
2.) …”Respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them.” Trade agreements should never impede or nullify the rights of local governments to promote development which benefits and reflects the needs and preferences of environmental, social or political goals. Furthermore, all trade agreements must respect and maintain prevailing requirements for wages, environmental, labor and human rights standards, and provide policies addressing long-standing inequalities worldwide. In terms of the USA, such trade procurement policies must maintain existing “Buy American” clauses.
3.) …”Protect food sovereignity.” Farmers of each nation or local area are to receive fair compensation. Consumers have a right to access foods which are affordable and safe. Read between the lines–no GMO’s cross-polluting organic crops. Any GMO’s ‘gracing’ grocery shelves must be clearly labeled in terms of health risks, ie.– Monsanto is out of luck. Nations have a right to restrict the dumping of crops at below market prices, or any other unfair trade practices which force family farmers off their land.
4.) …”Access to affordable medicine.” Generic drugs and treatments allow critical access to lifesaving medicine. Extending drug patents with statistically insignificant formulary tweaks, via trade agreements is a clear violation of the standards articulated in the Doha Declaration regarding access to medicine. Translation: the Doha Declaration should be respected in spirit, and the tweaking of formularies in minor cosmetic ways (which do not change the drug in any substantive and proven manner), as a vehicle to extend an existing patent or create a new one– should be deemed fraudulent and thus forbidden.
5.) …”Safeguards against currency manipulation.” The US and other signatory governments have the right to implement measures which reverse ‘trade-distorting’ currency manipulation. Trade agreements must include rigorous ‘rule of origin’ provisions, to ensure that only nations complying with the trade agreement’s rules–benefit from said agreement.
6.) …”Space for robust financial regulations and public services.” “Trade pacts should set floors, not ceilings, when it comes to the regulation of banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial service providers.” Translation : No language in any agreement which could be ‘interpreted’ as mandating deregulation or privatization of any service–public or private. Language must be ‘clear and specific’ on the terms of any trade agreement. No tortuous arguments using vague language which justifies the nullification of public elections. In other words, laws like the ‘Emergency Manager Act’, promoted by the privatizers at the Mackinac Center–would be rejected as treasonous and anti-democratic.
7.) …”Improved consumer and environmental standards.” …”Trade agreements should set floors, rather than ceilings, when it comes to environmental, food and product safety and consumer right-to-know measures.” To use the vernacular of the street—DUH.
8.) …”No elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments.” Trade agreements should never provide corporations or investors ‘special powers’ engineered to circumvent and nullify the domestic judiciary. Corporate challenges of domestic laws or court decisions through the use of nuisance SLAPP suits and tortuous arguments exploiting vague contract language must be outlawed.
The ‘investor-state’ tribunal which empowers rotating teams of three corporate attorneys to demand …”unlimited taxpayer compensation for foreign firms” claiming a signatory nation’s laws …”undermine their expected future profits must be eliminated.” Legal terms including ‘investment,’ ‘expropriation,’ and ‘minimum standard of treatment,’ must be more narrowly and clearly defined to ensure the rights of governments to legislate in the public interest.
This demand is key. It is a clear repudiation of the ‘investor-state’ and the ‘investor-state’ tribunal. No wiggle room here–the very core of the TPP is denounced in this simple statement. The legally concocted concept of an ‘investor-state’ and the mediation tribunal of corporate attorneys–is the head of the TPP snake.
This single element surrenders any nation’s sovereignity and reduces it to a vassal colony.
This ‘investor-state’ device– is PLANTATION POLITICS in all its ugliness. The only difference between the Nazi brown-shirted enforcers and the mediation tribunal–is the fact that the attorneys for the tribunal–probably wear Brooks Brothers.
Citizens Trade…on preventing future ‘abrogations of democracy,’…
Citizens Trade Campaign and the allied 400 groups signing on to this appeal are demanding the following rigorous levels of accountability and transparency with regards to the negotiation of trade agreements.
First, all TPP draft texts must be made public. No president, including Obama should possess sole trade policymaking authority.
Secondly, Fast-Track authority must be permanently eradicated. (Fast-Track is a Nixonian relic which relinquishes Congress’ ‘exclusive constitutional authority’ to …”regulate commerce with foreign nations” and transfers this power to executive branch and the USTR). Under Fast-Track the executive can sign the bill or treaty in question and then force a single up-down vote on the issue.
Fast-Track strips Congress of its right to investigate, debate and amend any of the agreement’s provisions. In terms of the TPP–Fast-Track is being pushed to deceive Congress into–signing away our sovereignity.
To quote Congressman Grayson…
…”there is no other area that is done this way……”I’m not only referring to negotiations but …”no fast-track immigration bill, no fast-track for other legislation …”we don’t fast-track appropriations bills, we don’t fast-track anything else…why should we fast-track the sovereignity
..”the reason why they do it in secret is because our ‘sell-out trade-representatives” met with other ‘sell-out trade representatives” from other countries “
Any trade agreement process must contain…
*Requirements that the USTR (US Trade Representative)..” consult with all interested stakeholders,” on all potential areas theoretically impacted by the proposed agreement, including (but not limited to) : pharmaceutical access, food sovereignity, currency manipulation, balance of trade, job creation or loss, expansion opportunities, environmental stewardship and human and labor rights;
* Expansion of the engagement process beginning with the TPP immediately;
*Creation of an unbiased and public process which verifies that objectives negotiated by Congress are actually present and achieved in the final document; and
*Creation of a verification process publicly certifying that any proposed agreement or provisions of the agreement, actually reflects the public interest. A congressional majority is required to certify that the agreement is in the public interest of the US.
*Finally, negotiated objectives must have been publicly witnessed and met, BEFORE the executive is granted authority to sign the agreement, binding the US to its terms.
Freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren stated the argument for transparency and public discussion, including the right of dissent– most clearly.
“I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren
When the Congressman was granted access to the TPP, he was viewing a classified document. So when he was speaking with the author about investor-state provisions/tribunals (…”TPP establishes what are called … procedures that are essentially” abrogating our democracy’…Grayson explained further that…“…they (TPP international tribunal) replace our five step established court systems for claims against the government with an alternative system that is wired for the benefit of multinational corporations”) He meant to convey the fact that this provision is in line with similar “free trade” agreements. He did not mean to state that this classified agreement included the exact same thing, because he cannot share actual details of the agreement with anyone.