Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership: International Investors 1, Everyone Else 0

Here's the worst part of Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership:  it will tilt the playing field even further — much much further — in favor of the world's wealthiest investors.  This New Yorker article, Trade Agreement Troubles, sums it up perfectly.  The bureaucratic term for these global of, by and for the Investing Class regulations is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (or I.S.D.S.) provisions. Don't be put off guard by such a bland sleep-inducing term like “Investor-State Dispute Settlement.”  This is fuckin' Scary.

These provisions have been around for fifty years already, as the global corporations and their PR puppets keep telling us.  Technically, yes.  But as the linked article says:

“I.S.D.S. lawsuits used to be rare, but they’re becoming a growth industry. Nearly a hundred have been filed in the past two years, as against some five hundred in the quarter century before that. Investor protection, previously a sideshow in corporate law, is now a regular part of law-school curricula...This mission creep has been abetted by the fact that the language of I.S.D.S. provisions is often vague.”

A law professor who specializes in international-investment law said:  “The rights given to investors are so open-ended and ambiguous that they allow for a lot of creative lawyering.”

One current example — not mentioned in the linked article — is Congress' recent vote to repeal the requirement for Country of Origin labeling on imported food products.  Country of Origin labels have been required for the past thirty years, but Congress' stated reason for repealing the requirement was that some billionaire in Europe or Asia might sue the United States for jeopardizing his/her investment profits.  Or something.

Another example:  Philip Morris Asia is suing Australia, using a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong — where Philip Morris Asia is based — because Australia's recent anti-smoking campaign has violated the investor-protection provisions contained in the trade agreement.  Philip Morris Asia not only wants Australia to cease and desist from their anti-smoking drive; the company is also demanding billions of dollars in compensation.

The case is still pending, but this is the exact type of international lawsuit — sort of like Goliath hitting David with a slingshot — that will become a lot more ubiquitous if the Trans-Pacific Partnership goes through.

From the linked article again:

“There’s nothing wrong with domestic courts reviewing government regulations, but outsourcing the responsibility to international tribunals is troubling. In effect, you’re giving these arbitrators the power of review over domestic law and regulation.”

The article points out that America used to be the 800-pound gorilla that intimidated other countries:

“In the old days, aggrieved American investors would call on the Navy to protect their interests—thus the phrase 'gunboat diplomacy.'  How much better that now they just call their lawyers...I.S.D.S.-style provisions may once have made sense. But they’re now outdated and unnecessary. And including them in trade agreements undermines the broader case for free trade, by making it look like exactly what people fear—a system designed to put corporate interests above public ones. If the Administration wants these deals to be seen as legitimate, it can start by excising the I.S.D.S. provisions. We no longer send out the gunboats. Let’s call back the lawyers, too.”

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Anonymous Catherine H. said...

As a lifetime Democrat, I feel personally betrayed by this legislation. It has been getting steadily worse for the middle class for the last five administrations -- really started to such under Reagan -- and I kept thinking we had hit bottom. Not hardly.

The TPP in itself is a lousy piece of work; add to that the "fast-track authority" and you have some very dangerous new stuff. This "fast tracking" sets a precedent we can in no way afford. The very foundation of democracy is that everything takes time as it goes through the process of public comment, thoughtful consideration, a vote, and then ratification. This is just the beginning of lots of nifty new things that will totally bypass any semblance of public opinion.

I'm ashamed of the Republicans, and I'm ashamed of the 28 Democrats who voted this thing into existence. Don't think we haven't noticed. We are not amused.

June 20, 2015 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

CH: I agree this is a betrayal by Democratic politicians. I realize political pressures aren't cut and dry; there are all kinds of nuances, and political alliances that change and move like shifting sands. But just from a political standpoint -- labor unions and environmentalists are 2 of the Democratic Party's largest and most reliable constituencies. Labor groups and environmentalists often clash with each other over differing goals and priorities; but in this case both of these groups are united and have drawn a line in the sand. Even aside from the moral and ethical standpoint, it'll be political suicide for a prominent Democrat to shit on both of these groups.

June 21, 2015 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

Interesting you should say that Tom. I just emailed our House democrat prior to the passage of the latest part of this dog of legislation informing him what NAFDA AND CAFDA did to our jobs and what the TPP would mean. He voted for the bill anyway. I won't be voting for him come next election.

And here's something to consider. If this deal was so good then why should we need a worker assistance part (TAA) when they lose their jobs? And what would you retrain workers for anyway, greeters at Walmart?

June 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: Same with our congressional "representative." This issue is too important for too many voters for DINO politicians to make a few soothing soundbites and then bend over for CEOs and investors. This two-faced behavior will not be rewarded in the next election.

"Greeters at Walmart" -- LOL. At least that's an international job skill that's marketable anywhere there's a Walmart.

June 22, 2015 at 4:42 PM  

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