KONOLA: Threats to American sovereignty | PostIndependent.com

KONOLA: Threats to American sovereignty

Claudette Konola
VOICE OF THE PROGRESSIVE
Free Press Opinion Columnist

Apologies to the Agenda 21 Conspiracy theorists. They are right to have their hair on fire about America losing its sovereignty. They are wrong about the source; it isn’t Agenda 21 taking our democratic power to choose our own laws. Our threat is coming from international trade agreements.

I recently met Lori Wallach, the director of Global Trade Watch for Public Citizen. She’s also an attorney who pays attention to trade agreements defining international rules of trade. Lori recently co-authored an opinion piece titled, “Obama’s Covert Trade Deal,” published in the New York Times. The column has been making the rounds of some self-described Tea Party websites.

The U.S. has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement, since 2008. TPP would set policy, regulations and rules for about 12 trading partners around the Pacific Rim. It would reach deeper into taxpayer pockets and public policy than any trade deal negotiated to date.

Although our Constitution gives the right to govern trade to Congress, nobody in Congress has even been given a copy of the draft by the Obama administration. TPP negotiations have been held in secret. Call Scott Tipton and ask him if he’s seen this agreement. We only have an idea what is in TTP because some of the 600 corporate executives involved in negotiations have spilled the beans.

For some reason, through Fast Track authority, Congress gave away this right to govern international trade 16 times. If Congress gives Obama Fast Track authority, which he wants, Tipton’s vote will be “under rules limiting debate, banning all amendments, and forcing a quick vote.” Obama wants this vote in October.

While you are calling Tipton’s office, you may want to give him some idea of things to look at in TPP. According to Wallach, “(TTP) would set new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and internet freedom.” Unlike laws passed under a Democratic administration, then amended, repealed or challenged by Republicans in later administrations, trade agreements don’t sunset once signed and ratified by the participating nations.

If American laws don’t agree with the content of trade agreements on any issues, then our laws must be changed to bring us into compliance. Failure to rewrite our own laws exposes American exports to trade sanctions. In short, foreign businesses will be able to challenge any law that they believe violates their ability to enjoy “free trade,” and their recourse will be a fine against the U.S.

So who decides what these fines (or other sanctions) should be? The decision is made by an international tribunal, made up of 15 men who sometimes sit as judges and sometimes sue on behalf of their corporate clients. Can you say “conflict of interest?” The decision might also be made by a foreign company.

There is a concept called “investor-state” enforcement. This allows foreign companies to sue the U.S. in UN or WTO tribunals without the case ever seeing a U.S. court. If one of these 15 men, who are owned by large corporations, wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, the taxpayers’ pockets can be drained. According to Public Citizen, “Over $365 million in compensation has already been paid out to foreign investors in a series of ‘investor-state’ cases under NAFTA-style deals. This includes attacks on natural resource policies, environmental protection, health and safety measures, and more. In fact, of the over $13.1 billion in the 16 pending claims under NAFTA-style deals, all relate to environmental, energy, land use, public health and transportation policies — not traditional trade issues.”

One of the “investor-state” cases involved Ethyl Corp., a U.S. company, v. Canada. The suit was filed in the middle of Parliamentary debates about whether to ban a gasoline additive in Canada because of unwanted health impacts on Canadians. As a result of the case, debate was halted and the Canadian government paid Ethyl Corporation $13 million. Ethyl Corp. still sells their toxins in Canada. There are no appeals in investor-state cases. Believe it or not, tribunals can rule that U.S. Supreme Court decisions violate international law and are therefore invalid.

Call Tipton today, and tell him to vote no on TTP and Fast Track. Protect U.S sovereignty.

Claudette Konola never questioned trade agreements before talking to Lori Wallach; now her hair is on fire. She blogs at http://www.konola4colorado.com and can be reached at ckonola@optimum.net.


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