Citizen Action Monitor

TPP advocates promise balanced common good versus corporate interests. Really?

Beware — The promise doesn’t hold up under scrutiny of past trade agreements such as NAFTA

No 1583 Posted by fw, January 31, 2016

sorscher“In simple terms, trade agreements are about trade — exports and imports. However, these trade agreements also serve as political, social, cultural and moral documents, which set political and social standards for countries and communities. These trade agreements regulate countries in the same way that our Constitution regulates Congress, our courts, the president, and our state governments. However, the substance — the values — in our Constitution are very different from values expressed in trade agreements…. In contrast, trade agreements look like a corporate Bill of Rights, full of protections for investors and global corporations, enforced by special courts or tribunals. NAFTA, TTP and TTIP offer lip service and vague promises to people and communities. The shadowy trade tribunals are fundamentally different from courts and legal principles…”Stan Sorscher, Huffington Post

Trade agreements are about so much more than trade. They also serve as political, social, cultural and moral documents, which set political and social standards for countries and communities.

Scientist Stan Sorscher, PhD in physics, member of the Executive Board of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, puts to the acid test claims that the TPP offers balanced public versus corporate interests, “that countries would always have the final say in their democratic governments and courts.” Drawing on empirical evidence, Sorscher pin-points a sample of the harmful decisions rendered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) agreed to in 1994 by the US, Canada and Mexico.

The destructive impact of NAFTA is all around us. Don’t let diplomats, politicians and corporate controlled media convince you that the TPP will be good for Canadians, politically, socially, culturally, or morally.

We could have good trade policies, says Sorscher: policies that raise living standards; balance investor interests with public interests; respect the social and political interests of workers, communities, social stability, and the planet; reflect the democratic traditions we built over 200 years in America and Europe. The TPP offers none of these benefits.

Below is a repost of Sorscher’s evidence-based article, with added subheadings and text highlighting. To read his original piece, click on the following linked title. And don’t miss the link at the end of this post to an embedded, 28-minute video-recorded interview with Stan and Selden Prentice. of 350Seattle.org, about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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Trade Agreements Reveal How Life Will be Organized in 2050 by Stan Sorscher, Huffington Post, January 23, 2014

Sorscher favors good trade policies, opposes bad ones

The U.S. is negotiating two huge problematic trade agreements — one with Europe (TTIP), and another with countries around the Pacific (TTP). Both dramatically extend the NAFTA model.

First, I am 100 percent in favor of trade. Everyone I know wants good trade policies that raise living standards around the world. Equally, I oppose bad trade policies that weaken civil society and harm communities.

Trade agreements are also political, social, cultural and moral documents, setting political and social standards

In simple terms, trade agreements are about trade — exports and imports. However, these trade agreements also serve as political, social, cultural and moral documents, which set political and social standards for countries and communities.

The values reflected by government policies and legislation are very different from values in trade agreements

These trade agreements regulate countries in the same way that our Constitution regulates Congress, our courts, the president, and our state governments. However, the substance — the values — in our Constitution are very different from values expressed in trade agreements.

Our Constitution grants extensive political rights and social protections to people and communities. Our Constitution never mentions corporations — not once.

The shadowy 5600-page TPP reads like a corporate Bill of Rights, enforced by corporate-dominated tribunals

In contrast, trade agreements look like a corporate Bill of Rights, full of protections for investors and global corporations, enforced by special courts or tribunals. NAFTA, TTP and TTIP offer lip service and vague promises to people and communities.

The shadowy trade tribunals are fundamentally different from courts and legal principles we are familiar with in America and Europe.

Our courts balance public interests with private property interests

Our Constitution balances political power, and our courts balance public interests with private property interests. In contrast, NAFTA-style agreements grant formidable unchecked rights to corporations. Trade tribunals translate those unchecked investor rights and corporate values into action.

Trade tribunals are blind to public good or public interest

Trade tribunals seek maximum possible trade and maximum opportunities for investors. They are blind to public good or public interest.

Under NAFTA, TPP and TTIP, global corporations who are unhappy with some court decision — even one from our Supreme Court — can take that issue to a sympathetic corporate-dominated trade tribunal.

Consider an example from history: The East India Company administered a century of corporate rule in India during an earlier age of globalization. The East India Company ran its own courts under its own authority, for its own interests. This was great for British colonialists. Not so good for India.

The TPP, TTIP “will set the Gold Standard for global governance” claimed one EU trade negotiator, ensuring respect for the public interest

The other day, I heard a trade negotiator from the European Union speak about TTP and TTIP. He said TTP and TTIP would set the Gold Standard for global governance. They would facilitate the life of global business for a generation. These agreements would determine the way life is organized in 2050.

He assured the audience that public interest would be respected. Neither Europe nor America would compromise rights we had earned over centuries of democratic tradition. He sounded sincere.

Let’s test this diplomatic assurance about balanced corporate versus public interests

The trade negotiator is diplomat. I am a scientist. To me, his diplomatic assurance about balanced interests is a testable hypothesis.

Has NAFTA-style global governance delivered balanced corporate versus public interests?

Let’s test this hypothesis: In NAFTA-style global governance, will investor rights have top priority, at the expense of the environment, human rights, labor rights, public health, immigration, and prudent financial regulation?

Consider decisions already rendered by NAFTA

The testing is easy enough. Look at decisions already rendered by NAFTA-style trade tribunals. Under existing language in trade agreements –

  • tribunals can block Quebec from regulating fracking under Canada’s principal waterway.
  • A tribunal can grant Chevron immunity to pollute the Amazon in Ecuador,
  • or stop Australia from discouraging cigarette smoking as a public health measure.
  • Tribunals overturned country-of-origin-labeling, preferences for local producers, voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling, and manufacturing strategies to develop new products in America.
  • We can see where this is going. Corporate rights will deny life-saving medicine to millions of people in Africa and Asia.
  • Currency manipulation will continue to put American workers at risk,
  • while global companies move manufacturing to low-wage countries with weak social protections.

The diplomat also maintained member countries would have the final say. Really?

The diplomat defended the agreements, saying that countries would always have the final say in their democratic governments and courts. Really?

All of the following democratically-formed policies are subject to review by corporate-dominated international trade tribunals. When a trade tribunal over-rules a domestic policy it can impose enormous economic penalties that put an unbearable price tag on national or local policies designed to serve public interest.

  • Australia’s High Court (their equivalent to our Supreme Court) had legitimately approved the regulations for cigarette packages.
  • Ecuador’s legitimate environmental process had run its full course.
  • Canada’s environmental concerns are also legitimate and prudent.

All of these democratically-formed policies are subject to review by corporate-dominated international trade tribunals.

In practice, trade tribunals have the final say.

Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, calls this “global governance without global government”

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank, calls this “global governance without global government.” It’s a 21st century version of what the East India Company did, centuries ago.

Here’s the TPP deal – You get access to members’ markets; in exchange, you follow TPP trade management rules

Here is a basic fact about trade policy: “The deal” in a trade agreement is, “You can have access to our markets, and in exchange, you will agree to certain rules for managing trade.”

Oh, and by the way, you can’t change the rules

Once we make that deal, other countries will have access to our markets. We can’t come back and say, “Wait! We meant to include the environment, human rights, labor rights, public health, immigration, and prudent financial regulation.” It’s done.

These agreements will, indeed, determine how we organize life in 2050.

TPP is much more than an economic decision about tariffs, exports, imports; it’s a political, social, cultural and moral decision about our place in the world.

What good trade policies would do for us —

We could have good trade policies that raise living standards, and balance investor interests with public interests. Trade agreements could respect the social and political interests of workers, communities, social stability, and the planet. Our trade policy could reflect the democratic traditions we built over 200 years in America and Europe.

Of course that would be a very different trade policy from the NAFTA model we have, now.

This is much more than an economic decision about tariffs or exports or imports. This is a political, social, cultural and moral decision about our place in the world.

Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher

SEE ALSO

Stan Sorcher & Selden Prentice – The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), by talkingsticktv, December 13, 2015

 

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