No 1582 Posted by fw, January 30, 2016
“The [US] Senate approved language saying that all countries in any new trade agreement must meet basic standards for human trafficking. As it happens, six of the 12 TPP countries have serious problems with human trafficking. Of the six, only Malaysia failed to meet the Senate’s standard for inclusion in TPP…. Two weeks after the Senate vote, shocking press reports from Malaysia described mass graves, bodies showing signs of torture and 28 camps where refugees were held in pens for human trafficking…. The USTR and Obama administration could have put meaning into the President’s lofty promise at Nike [about labor rights]. They could have said, ‘Malaysia is out of TPP. When Malaysia deals effectively with human trafficking, they can dock into TPP like any other country.’ …. Instead, on July 27, the official U.S. government upgraded its ranking of Malaysia regarding human trafficking, without explanation or justification. Presto! Malaysia is qualified to stay in the TPP.” —Stan Sorscher, Huffington Post
In a less than explicitly clear explanation in the reposted article below, Stan Sorscher relates that “skewed power relationships” enabled Malaysia to violate TPP rules regarding human trafficking. Regrettably, he fails to connect the “power relationship” dots among three events: 1) a May 8, 2015 speech by Obama; 2) a May 12 Senate vote approving language that set the standards for human trafficking for any new trade agreements; and 3) Sorscher’s undated statement that the US State Department inexplicably upgraded Malaysia’s human trafficking rank.
In his account, Sorscher missed this July 8, 2015 Reuters’s report which clarifies the “power relationship” links:
“The United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers, U.S. sources said on Wednesday, a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious U.S.-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries. The upgrade to so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” status removes a potential barrier to President Barack Obama’s signature global trade deal…. The State Department and the White House both declined comment.”
Clearly, the TPP failed an acid test as a moral standard — the human trafficking standard, if indeed the TPP has one. The standard was either ignored by the US or unenforced. In either case, this incident is a blatant display of moral laxity inherent in the document itself and in the behaviour of the those who used their power to shirt the rules.
So what does any of this have to do with Canada and the TPP? Two things, both related to the apparent moral laxity of the TPP’s standards when it comes to setting and enforcing rules.
First, consider this passage from then citizen, now trade minister, Chrystia Freeland’s concluding words from her 2012 book, Plutocrats:
“Trying to slant the rules of the game in your favour isn’t an aberration, it is what all businesses seek to do. The difference isn’t between having virtuous and villainous business people, it is about whether your society has the right rules and policing able to enforce them.”
As Stan Sorscher discusses in his TPP critique below, even if Canada has the “right domestic rules” and “policing able to enforce them”, the TPP sets up skewed power relationships that will enable member countries such as the US to ‘interpret’ the rules to their own and others’ advantage.
It appears, therefore, that Minster Freeland may have to live with an ethically and morally lax trade agreement that does not have the “right rules and policing mechanisms” to prevent powerful politicians and business elites from interpreting the TPP rules to their own ethically and morally corrupt favour. Moreover, supposedly, the TPP agreement cannot be modified.
Second, in my open letter to PM Trudeau last October, I asked him to cancel Canada’s secretive arms deal with Saudi Arabia; to put an end to a morally blind allegiance to a state guilty of barbarous human rights violations. In December, Trudeau said he will not cancel the multimillion contract, offering no explanation to support his decision. So, it seems Team Trudeau has set a troubling moral precedent:
The Saudi arms deal introduces a double standard in which moral, ethical and democratic principles must not compromise short-term corporate profits or Canadian jobs. It appears that business with dictatorships and countries with systemic corruption and discrimination, can, to some extent, be accepted if the profits are high enough.
If Canada ratifies the TPP, perhaps PM Trudeau will once again have to turn a blind eye to moral and ethical breaches of conduct such as those taking place between the US and Malaysia.
Below is a repost of Sorscher’s evidence-based article, partially abridged, with added subheadings and text highlighting. To read his original piece, click on the following linked title.
How do you tell if the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a good deal or a bad one?
TPP sets up skewed power relationships for dealing with climate change, inequality and more
TPP defines bad rules for globalization. It sets up skewed power relationships for dealing with climate change, inequality and many other important public policies.
Labor and environment show how power relationships work in trade deals.
In past trade deals, US Trade Representative set high labor and environmental standards; problem is they weren’t enforced
Going back to NAFTA, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) enforces labor and environmental provisions in trade deals. The U.S.-Peru trade agreement was a high point in language for environmental protections. However, the World Bank estimates that 80% of logging in Peru is Illegal. The USTR has never enforced environmental protections in Peru or anywhere else.
What about labor? First, what ARE the labor protections? No child labor, no forced labor, the right to form unions, no discrimination for religion, race, country of birth. By modern standards, we take these basic human rights for granted. Didn’t we win these fights generations ago?
We have trade deals with Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, where labor standards are at the level of life-and-death. Guatemala is arguably the most dangerous country in the world for labor leaders. Violence against workers in Colombia is still common.
Trust in the USTR fell close to zero in 2015
Last year, a jaw-dropping and sobering performance from our negotiators lowered trust in the USTR close to zero.
Obama’s lofty rhetoric about labor rights isn’t matched by action when trade partners violate those rights
On May 8, 2015, President Obama spoke at Nike in Oregon about labor rights. Irony aside, the speech was eloquent and inspiring.
Warnings of repercussions for rule breakers are delivered, but…
And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences. … If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards. If you don’t, you’re out. If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions.
… US Senate waters down “basic standards” making warning of “repercussions” a travesty
Four days later, the Senate approved language saying that all countries in any new trade agreement must meet basic standards for human trafficking. As it happens, six of the 12 TPP countries have serious problems with human trafficking. Of the six, only Malaysia failed to meet the Senate’s standard for inclusion in TPP.
TPP member Malaysia is guilty of official corruption, human trafficking, and mass murder
Two weeks after the Senate vote, shocking press reports from Malaysia described mass graves, bodies showing signs of torture and 28 camps where refugees were held in pens for human trafficking. This was the second large-scale discovery of mass graves on the Thai-Malaysia border that month. More reports followed.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia is suspected of corruption in a $700 million investigation in the U.S. and other countries. Official corruption extends into human trafficking and jungle camps.
The USTR and Obama administration could have put meaning into the President’s lofty promise at Nike. They could have said, “Malaysia is out of TPP. When Malaysia deals effectively with human trafficking, they can dock into TPP like any other country.”
Does US kick Malaysia out of the TPP? Of course not; instead it upgrades Malaysia’s trafficking rating
Instead, on July 27, the official U.S. government upgraded its ranking of Malaysia regarding human trafficking, without explanation or justification. Presto! Malaysia is qualified to stay in the TPP.
Power relationships take precedence over glowing US presidential promises for labor standards
President Obama’s eloquence at Nike will be cold comfort to Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and Thailand who are sold from one human trafficker to another. Similar glowing promises for labor standards, going back to Gerald Ford, are lost on the families of murdered labor leaders in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.
Ethically lax power relationships in TPP will abet forced labor conditions in Vietnam and Malaysia
The power relationships in TPP will be great for factories in Vietnam, where 90,000 workers make Nike’s shoes. TPP will be great for Hewlett-Packard, Intel, AMD, Dell, Apple and other electronics producers, who use components from Malaysia, where 28% of workers in the electronics industry are subject to forced labor. Producers of palm oil, textiles, and garments in Malaysia can continue to use child labor.
Reports of slave labor in Thailand and Indonesia probably won’t prevent them from eventually joining TPP
Obama administration has no interest in enforcing labor or environmental laws referred to in TPP agreement
It’s clear that the Obama administration has no real interest in enforcing labor or environmental laws. It’s shameful to promise 21st century standards, then accept conditions in Malaysia, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, and Brunei as global norms.
***** Small Section Omitted *****
As climate change and inequality are embraced as global causes, TPP locks members in immoral power relationships
As we take on climate change and income inequality as global issues, we see that TPP is worse than a step in the wrong direction. TPP locks in toxic power relationships that will block positive change for a generation or two.
TPP was negotiated in secret, keeping civil society at arms length. TPP clearly reflects interests of global investors, defining a version of globalization “of, by, and for the 1%.”
It’s past time for trade deals that do as much for workers and the environment as they do for global investors
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said we should start over with a new paradigm for trade policy. She and many others would support a deal that does as much for workers and the environment as it does for global investors. That’s exactly what we should do.
Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher
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