As it's covered in the media, free trade policy is somewhere below pit bull breeding as an interest to the American public. When I say the words free trade, I can hear people say, "That's nice" before their eyes begin to glaze over and they fall asleep. And yet everyone in America can find abandoned factories and people's lives who've been destroyed by outsourcing. In some cases, the factory equipment was literally packed up and shipped to China along with the jobs.
What you didn't know is that American governments have already had to pay foreign multinationals $350 million in damages for daring to disagree with a company on occupational safety, licensing fees, land use regulations, labor law,etc. What NAFTA has set up are international tribunals staffed by private attorneys who just happen to represent multinationals for the rest of their day jobs. Over $13 billion in potential claims against local, state, and US governmental authorities is pending with these NAFTA tribunals. But that's nothing if the Obama White House pushes Congress to adopt the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) as law.
Public Citizen, the group originally founded by Ralph Nader has just obtained and analyzed a political bombshell from a document leaked out of the office of Ron Kirk, President Obama's appointed US Trade Representative. Lori Wallach analyzed the secret final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and she found that the proposed legislation being crafted in America by over 600 corporations and the US Chamber of Commerce is the equivalent of NAFTA on steroids.
The TPP would promote multinational supremacy over US laws with a vengeance, striping local, state, and even the US government from having any say in how supposedly foreign corporations could conduct their businesses when they set up shop here. The TPP outline showed up unannounced at the website tinyurl.com/tppinvestment, and its authenticity was confirmed. And Public Citizen has rushed an outline and analysis of the proposal onto its website.
Even more shocking is that the US Trade Representative has classified TPP's framework up until now, even resisting Congressional legislation. There are eight other countries involved in TPP. They are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Australia has already refused to go along with TPP, saying that principles of national sovereignty were involved, and other countries have tried to put forward restrictions or modifications that might lessen TPP's impact. And yet, Mr. Kirk (in cooperation with 600 corporations and the US Chamber of Commerce working on TPP) have been the agents pushing for the most harsh and severe package that will be presented to Congress as a fait accompli by President Obama unless citizens of all political persuasions convince their elected representatives in Washington that TPP is a truly bad deal.
WHAT DOES TPP PROPOSE?
To make a long story short, TPP proposes to allow any foreign corporation coming into a conflict with any level of government to file a claim for an outside decision by an international tribunal set up identical to NAFTA tribunals. In her nine page analysis, Lori Wallach details how multinationals can flaunt any labor, health, environmental, or land use law that it feels conflicts with its operations. Once such a claim is made, any American governmental authority over the multinational is effectively eliminated in this area, or it is adjusted to the lowest common denominator of regulation that the corporation operates anywhere in the treaty zone.
Even more sinister in TPP are provisions allowing its modes of corporate behavior to be expanded willy nilly all over the world through enabling clauses within its legislation.
Take for example a Peruvian subsidiary of Coca-Cola wanting to come into America to set up a bottling plant. The Peruvian Coca-Cola company could state that it is receiving unfair treatment as it does not have the ability to bottle Coke under Peruvian standards. To make matters even more absurd, a Chinese coal mining company could establish a Peruvian subsidiary and then attempt to set up shop in America. Good bye to any health or safety standards in mining for that operation if a tribunal found that the lowest common denominator was operational!
The tribunals would have the power of assessing unlimited damages and no environmental, land use, health safety, labor, or consumer law in America would be safe from multinational raping and pillaging.
I could go on and give you more policy wonk issues, and they would all horrify you even more. I suggest that you go to tradewatch.org and click on the box that talks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.Then take action with your electeds in DC!