Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Benign Sounding Trans-Pacific Partnership Is NAFTA On Steroids


Obamabots sometimes waste their time sending me letters asking me to stop exposing negative crap about Obama. Why don't they just write to Obama and ask him to stop generating so much negative crap? When I was deciding the reasons why I wouldn't be voting for Obama in 2012-- which was a big deal to me since it was the first presidential election in my life in which I didn't vote for the Democrat-- one of the many bullet points was his anti-working family trade policies. There were at least a dozen other reasons on the list, but Obama's catastrophic trade policies-- basically the same as Clinton's and both Bushs'-- was enough of a reason to vote against him alone. Megan Wilson interviewed Alan Grayson this week for The Hill about one aspect of Obama's latest folly on trade. Obama's Wall Street allies kicked down $6,376,619 for 2012 (and $16,924,110 in 2008), so about $23 million towards his presidential campaigns. This newest proposal he's making is a big fat wet kiss to these special interests.
The proposed U.S.-EU trade deal includes an investor-state dispute resolution that would enable companies to directly sue foreign governments involved in a treaty. It has been standard fare in trade deals for decades and is intended to hold governments accountable for reneging on contracts or agreements and changing regulations.

“This is one of the tools you could use... to get bad governments to do what they've committed to do,” said William Reinsch, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a business trade group dedicated to trade and investment issues that boasts members such as Boeing and Caterpillar.

Opponents have long railed against the trade courts, arguing that giving multinational corporations the ability to directly challenge a foreign government in an international tribunal threatens public and environmental safeguards.

Laws and regulations “reflect the actions of democratic government,” Grayson told The Hill, calling the provision “an organized assault against middle-class Americans and against democracy.”

The cases in the tribunals created by these investor-state disagreements are decided by three attorneys, who public interest groups say shuffle from acting as judges and representing corporations.

Corporations should not “get the right to sue in front of a rigged system where the outcome is preordained,” Grayson said.

...In the letter, Grayson says the investor-state negotiation provisions “undermine sovereignty without significantly increasing trade.”

“These kinds of provisions have been used to undermine country-of-origin meat labels, dolphin-safe tuna labeling requirements, regulation of hydraulic fracking,” he said. “These are not fundamentally questions of trade; why are they governed by so-called ‘trade agreements?’”

...“The issues [Congress] addresses falls into two categories: High-profile issues and low-profile issues,” Grayson said. “Lobbyists are very effective at influencing lawmakers on low-profile issues, like isolating one provision out of a 600-page bill.”

He said he wants to “change the category” of the investor-state dispute resolution by sharing his views.

“If not for this kind of effort, members would be able to support a bill like this because the public wouldn't know about it. ... Lawmakers will know that people will be judging them on this issue.”
Yesterday Grayson wasn't the only one talking about our elite's economy-destroying trade policies. Curtis Ellis explained the significance of the U.S. selling off productive parts of our economy to China in return for cheap manufactured goods and 21st Century trinkets. Curtis used Smithfield's sale to China's Shuanghui Group as the example and he asserts it's even worse than just finding antifreeze and other toxins in our Christmas hams from now on.
Smithfield's sale to Shuanghui is a direct result of our trade deficit with China, which was $295 billion in 2011. We send boatloads of money to China every day in return for the cheap consumer merchandise filling our store shelves and shopping malls. Apologists say we should send China a thank you note for 'everyday low prices,' but we don't need to-- we send them the money they use to buy our productive enterprises.

As long as we continue to run persistent trade deficits with China we'll see more deals like Smithfield and Nexteer, the one-time GM and Delphi steering operation controlled by China's biggest aerospace company. And while the doctrine of shareholder value pretty much shredded the social contract between corporations and the communities in which they operate, the rise of absentee landlords like Shuanghui takes it to the next level, with even less commitment to an American workforce being paid a living wage.
Smithfield does more than pack meat-- it's a vertically integrated operation that raises 15 million pigs a year in industrial hog operations that feed its slaughterhouses. If, as analysts say, the Smithfield sale is about supplying pork to China, we can expect a hundred factory farms to bloom and a further crackdown on efforts to regulate them and the toxic waste they produce. Industrial ag sponsors gag laws to criminalize documenting what goes on inside its operations. Now, the hands holding the gag and paying the lobbyists will be Chinese, if that makes any difference.

We don't know if China's abysmal record in food safety will become the benchmark for Smithfield. But it's safe to say that top management is not steeped in a culture of high standards-- just two years ago, Shuanghui was accused of feeding a dangerous additive to pigs destined for human consumption. Don't expect Smithfield's new owners to champion higher standards in the industrial food chain.

The FDA and food safety regulators have been captured by industrial agribusiness (a complex which includes Big Pharma, since factory farms are the largest customers for antibiotics made in China). U.S. government regulators will now be getting their marching orders from Chinese bosses. You could argue this will make little difference considering the lack of patriotic identity in the corporate suites of American-in-name-only companies. But if there's a choice between supplying more hog carcasses to China or preserving the health of Americans, you can be sure the decision will be made in a Shanghai minute.

When government regulators answer to those they are tasked to oversee and those in control are of foreign agency, the situation bears more than a passing resemblance to a banana republic.

The pliant governments of the original banana republics served foreign corporations. Today, our elected representatives prostitute themselves to those who can finance their campaigns and provide lucrative employment upon retirement from public office.

We've been accustomed to the paymasters having American monikers. No more. Now, they could be a state-owned enterprise from Henan, China as well as a private equity firm from Manhattan (or both at the same time).

In this late stage of globalization, stateless corporations with no loyalty to any country call the shots the world over, all nations reduced to virtual banana republics. Arrangements such as the TransPacific Partnership make this understanding explicit as they seek to bring national representative governments to heel under global corporatist rule.

We may not be able to do anything about Smithfield, but to preserve the promise of representative self-government in the USA, we must stop the TransPacific Partnership.
So who in Congress is backing Obama's disastrous TransPacific Partnership scheme that will be so destructive to ordinary working families? Well, basically all the Republicans and the entire Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the New Dems). Actual Democrats-- not the "New," corrupt right-wing iteration-- are opposing the latest corporate bag of tricks.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) pointed out last week that "[a]t a time when our efforts should be focused on putting people back to work, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will send American resources and jobs overseas, forcing working families already hurt by the Great Recession to get by on less and less. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free trade agreement of unprecedented size and scope, easily dwarfing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Since the passage of NAFTA in 1994, U.S trade policy has relied almost exclusively on free-trade agreements to gain foreign access for American businesses. The result has devastated the wages of working Americans, as corporations flee the United States to employ low wage workers abroad. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is NAFTA on steroids. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5 million Americans have lost manufacturing jobs since the passage of NAFTA. Americans who are unable to go to college lose $3,300 of income every year due to NAFTA-induced trade and offshoring. TPP does not reverse this trend. It will export NAFTA’s failures across the Pacific and put more Americans out of work. There is a reason Washington wants to keep the Trans-Pacific Partnership secret from the American people. This agreement could be the biggest destroyer of American jobs coming out of Washington this year. We should encourage real fair trade, not the destruction of American jobs and communities.”

And last week, Jim McDermott, one of the clearest and strongest progressive voices advocating Fair Trade policies penned an OpEd for Roll Call on the subject of how Big Pharma and it's lobbyists have captured captured the Trans-Pacific Partnership for its own purposes. Those purposes don't bode well for... anyone else, and especially not for poor sick in need of medical care.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being negotiated right now. It includes 10 countries of the Pacific Rim, including developing countries such as Peru, Malaysia and Vietnam. If the TPP agreement is done right, it will encourage and support American exports and create needed jobs in the United States. The critical intellectual property provisions of the pact should protect inventors and developers of breakthrough innovations, but they cannot be so restrictive that they cost millions of lives in less developed countries.

At the beginning of TPP negotiations two years ago, for reasons that are unclear, the U.S. asked the other 10 countries to accept new and very rigid intellectual property measures that would greatly limit availability of the affordable generic medicines that the success of U.S.-supported global health programs require. For example, more than 98 percent of HIV/AIDS medicines used to fight AIDS in Africa are generics, mostly made in Asia.

The United States is currently party to many international agreements that include strong intellectual property protections. These agreements protect innovation, including 20-year patents on new drugs, but they also allow enough flexibility for poorer countries to respond to public health needs with accessible, low-cost drugs. We worked hard to get these rules in place and they are working well.

But the U.S.’ current TPP proposal on medicines upends the present well-structured balance by extending monopoly protections much further. It would force people in developing countries to wait longer for affordable medicines, if they can access them at all. It would extend patents beyond the current 20-year norm and block national regulators from using existing clinical trial data to approve the production of generic or “bio-similar” drugs.

Alarmingly, the proposal also outlaws “pre-grant opposition” that allows doctors and patients to provide information to their governments about patents they believe do not meet national rules, an important democratic safeguard. The proposal also requires the patenting of new versions of old medicines, even when the new versions offer no additional therapeutic benefits. It even requires patenting of surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic methods, which not only is unethical but also could increase medical liability and the cost of practice.

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At 5:31 PM, Anonymous me said...

asking me to stop exposing negative crap about Obama

Why, for God's sake?? That's as bad as Bush fans who don't like what he did, yet supported him anyway because he's a scumpublican.

Why don't they just write to Obama and ask him to stop generating so much negative crap?

Great response!

Of course, if they did write to Obama, it would do no good at all. But maybe some of his fans will wise up a little.

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous me said...

We send boatloads of money to China every day in return for the cheap consumer merchandise filling our store shelves and shopping malls.

With emphasis on the word "cheap". For the most part, and with a few exceptions, Chinese products are the lowest of the low on the quality scale. Especially regarding food.

I expect that in the hot dog business, the percentage of floor sweepings mixed in with pigs' assholes is about to take a big jump.


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