The little-known trade deal that threatens your rights
Most of you are asking yourselves what is this TPP?
This latest outrage, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is the latest so-called “free-trade” agreement negotiated on our behalf — in virtual secrecy — by an unelected bureaucracy that answers to the lobbyists from our biggest corporations and banks.
It would be the largest trade agreement in history, involving many countries, almost 800 million people, and about 40 percent of the world’s economy.
Except it isn’t really about trade. Tariffs are already low. Since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994, these trade negotiations and agreements have increasingly involved such things as intellectual property, financial regulations, labor laws, and rules for health, safety and environmental protection.
And what the corpocracy has worked for in these secret negotiations is the strengthening of protection for their patents and weakening of national legislation and regulations protecting environmental, consumer and worker safety.
Back in 1994 almost no one in Congress actually read the 900-page text of the treaty creating the WTO. Members just knew it was supposed to be about achieving greater world prosperity by freeing up global trade and, most importantly, they knew their big corporate campaign contributors wanted it very much.
This WTO is an international agency with a dispute resolution system replete with tribunals whose rulings are binding on all signatory countries. The tribunals consist of unelected international bureaucrats who owe their positions to the political influence of global corporations and who do their work in a comfortable privacy tantamount to secrecy.
Adding to this secrecy is the pressure for Congress to “fast-track” approval of this latest TPP monstrosity with essentially no debate. “Fast-track” is just a form of pulling a fast one on the vast majority of the American people, whose interests and rights will be trampled.
In general, the TPP, like earlier such “free-trade” agreements, limits the ability of member nations to determine their own policies in all sorts of areas. Just a few of these:
• Member countries may not limit the size of financial corporations and may not restrict new financial products, such as risky derivatives.
• The rights of member states to protect consumers, workers and the environment are destroyed. Already the WTO has ruled against U.S. requirements for country-of-origin meat labels, “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling and restrictions on candy-flavored cigarettes.
• The rights of member states to subsidize desired industries, such as green industries, is restricted.
• The rights of member states to restrict capital flows are overthrown.
To my mind, these trade agreements are completely unconstitutional, if the U.S. Constitution is worth the paper it is written on. These WTO rules limit what we the voters and taxpayers can do to further our own interests. And I don’t see how Congress can allow our trade negotiators to give away the sovereignty of U.S. voters to tribunals of unelected international bureaucrats.
Furthermore, this worship of so-called “free” trade is a scam. The bible of this free-trade religion is David Ricardo’s economic theory of comparative advantage, published in 1817. He wrote that free trade advances the public good under three conditions. His conditions were that capital is not allowed to cross national borders from high-wage to low-wage countries, trade between participants is balanced and each country has full employment.
Obviously none of these conditions exist today, and ironically the agreements negotiated since the formation of the WTO are designed by the corpocracy to make sure these conditions never exist.
The agreements foster the movement of capital from high-wage countries with strong consumer, worker and environmental protections to low-wage countries with few such protections. And the agreements prevent member states from enacting laws and regulations to promote balanced trade and full employment.
In the words of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the “TPP is another Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.”
We should all be writing and calling the president and Congress in outrage.
Mary Boland’s column appears on the third Saturday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.
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