Two Huge New Fake Trade Agreements to Skirt, Stomp Democratic Sovereignty

December 30th, 2013
Corporoo Stomps Justice (Public Citizen)
During the "Progressive Era" of the early 20th century, many states passed laws – up to a complete ban with penalties against officers – to keep corporations from meddling in politics. Today, big corporations warp politics in ways that go beyond meddling. One way is corporate spending for elections. Another way is the legal bribery system of lobbying at political fundraisers and the revolving door between government and corporate lobbies or boardrooms. A third way is through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate agents hand their ready-to-pass bills to Republican lawmakers. And a fourth way is through the "free trade agreement," which might better be called "fake trade agreement" (FTA), because it is less about trade than about skirting and stomping democratic sovereignty. Since NAFTA, the U.S. has signed on to twelve more FTA's, and is now driving talks to wrap up two huge new FTA's, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The way TAFTA and the TPP would skirt democratic sovereignty is by investor-state enforcement. That mechanism lets a foreign corporation skip a member country's courts and sue at an international tribunal for acts by the country's legislature or executive that might have hampered the corporation's planned profits. From such suits under U.S. FTA's, countries have so far paid corporations $400M, much of it for public health and other public interest policies. For instance, S.D. Myers, Inc., got $5.6M from Canada for its ban on exporting PCB's, which the company planned to treat in Ohio. The ban was to comply with the world-wide Basel Convention to control and reduce production of hazardous waste. Today, 15 claims for $14B, all leveled against public health and other public interest policies, are pending. For instance, Lone Pine Resources, Inc., wants $241M from Canada, for Quebec's moratorium on fracking, a gas drilling process that poisons and injects into the ground millions of gallons of water. Lone Pine had permits to frack on 30,000 acres directly beneath the St. Lawrence River. TAFTA and the TPP would offer investor-state enforcement to some 75,000 corporations, and surely bring many more such cases.

The way these two huge FTA's would stomp democratic sovereignty is by overriding certain current, or banning certain future laws. According to released corporate wish-lists and leaked secret documents, corporate agents seek to stuff these pacts with such goodies as:
  • a rollback of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial law limiting use of federally-insured funds for speculation (the Volcker Rule) (TAFTA-1),
  • a ban on keeping commercial and investment banking separate (like the Glass-Steagall Act did) (TAFTA-1 & TPP-1),
  • a ban on tougher regulations for too-big-to-fail foreign banks (TAFTA-1 & TPP-1),
  • a ban on a financial transaction tax (TAFTA-1),
  • rollbacks of food safety standards (U.S. corps want to push chlorinated chicken, muscle-enhancing drugs in pork, and more pesticide residue; European corps want to push more uncooked meat, less-than-grade A milk, and more tolerance for contaminated food.) (TAFTA-2),
  • a ban on legal fuel efficiency standards for cars (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on buy-green rules in government contracts (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on energy efficiency labels, like "Energy Star" (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on reporting greenhouse gas emissions during fuel production (Such reporting reflects badly on tar sands oil.) (TAFTA-3),
  • overriding car standards, such as for tailpipe emissions, with those made by treaty negotiators (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on including hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in greenhouse gas limits (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on requiring airlines to pay for their carbon emissions (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on tax credits for more climate-friendly fuels (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on limiting GMO seeds and cultivation, and on labeling GMO products, until actually proven harmful (TAFTA-4),
  • a ban on buy-local rules for governments (TAFTA-5 & TPP-3),
  • a limit on governments negotiating lower drug prices for their health care programs (TAFTA-5),
  • a lowering of patentability standards for medicines, and for surgical and treatment methods (TPP-4),
  • a extension of copyright limits, such as out to 120 years after creation for corporate owned works (TPP-2),
  • a rollback of fair use of copyrighted material for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research (TPP-2), and
  • a mandate that ISP's become copyright enforcers that cut off Internet access (TPP-2).
While the Obama administration does not support all of the corporate goodies, it does reportedly support and insist on many of them, and is pushing for rapid conclusion to these treaties. Resistance has come from Congress, as 151 Democratic and 23 Republican congressmen have signed letters against re-instating the fast-track rule, which would enable ramming-through these FTA's without Congressional debate. And steady resistance comes from freedom and public interest organizations such as Public Citizen, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Progressive Democrats of America.

Sources

many states passed laws "Fixing Corporations: The Legacy of the Founding Parents" by Jane Anne Morris

complete ban "Old Law Could Stop Corporate Dinosaurs" - The Paragraph, 2010-01-24

big corporations warp politics "End Corporate Rule" by Stephen Spitz, Progressive Democrats of America

corporate spending for elections "Corporate 'Dark Money' To Get Free Pass After SEC Drops Disclosure Proposal" by Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post, 2013-12-02

lobbying at political fundraisers "What Happened When I Gatecrashed Dozens of Capitol Hill Fundraising Parties" by Harry Hanbury, AlterNet

Fundraising parties seem to be proliferating--possibly as an unintended consequence of the otherwise laudable post-Abramoff reforms of 2007, which banned gifts from lobbyists to members of Congress, restricted the use of corporate jets by members, and curbed junkets like Abramoff's notorious Scottish golfing trip. In his new book, So Damn Much Money , Robert Kaiser quotes the prominent lobbyist Lawrence O'Brien III, who says the latest reforms "have shifted the emphasis over to political fundraising. Now writing checks and raising money is the simplest pathway to completely legal personal face time with members and their senior staff."

revolving "Post-Election, Beware the Revolving Door" by David Sirota, Salon, 11/14/2012

door "Revolving Door" - OpenSecrets.org

Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers.

ALEC ALEC Exposed

FTA "GLOBALIZATION & TRADE" - Public Citizen

twelve more FTA's "United States free trade agreements - Free trade agreements in force" - Wikipedia

TAFTA "The Trans-Atlantic “Free Trade” Agreement (TAFTA): U.S. and European Corporations’ Latest Venue to Attack Consumer and Environmental Safeguards?" - Public Citizen

TPP "Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Job Loss, Lower Wages and Higher Drug Prices" - Public Citizen

investor-state enforcement "Investor-State Attacks: Empowering Foreign Corporations to Bypass our Courts, Challenge Basic Protections" - Public Citizen

paid corporations $400M 'TABLE OF FOREIGN INVESTOR - STATE CASES AND CLAIMS UNDER NAFTA AND OTHER U.S. “TRADE” DEALS' - August 2013, Public Citizen

ban was to comply "Canada (Attorney General) v. S. D. Myers Inc." - 2001-04-11

[8] In March, 1989, a number of countries including Canada signed the Basel Convention which dealt with the international traffic of PCBs and other hazardous waste. Though the U.S.A. signed the Basel Convention, it had not been ratified at the time of these events. The Basel Convention, among other things, prohibited the export-import of hazardous waste from and to states that were not party to the convention (Article 4(5)), unless such movement is subject to bilateral, multilateral or regional agreements or arrangements whose provisions are not less stringent than those of the Basel Convention.

[9] The Convention also required that appropriate measures be taken within a signatory country to ensure availability of adequate disposal facilities for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste that were located within its boundaries. It also required that the transboundary movement of hazardous waste be reduced to a minimum, consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such waste and be conducted in a manner that would protect human health and the environment.

Basel Convention Wikipedia

wants $241M from Canada 'TABLE OF FOREIGN INVESTOR - STATE CASES AND CLAIMS UNDER NAFTA AND OTHER U.S. “TRADE” DEALS' - August 2013, Public Citizen

poisons and injects "Fracking and water pollution" - SourceWatch

According to the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: Wastewater from fracking contains potentially toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid, as well as natural contaminants from deep underground, including total dissolved solids (e.g., salts, barium, strontium), organic pollutants (e.g., benzene, toluene) and normally occurring radioactive material (NORM) such as Radium 226.[1]

An estimated 30% to 70% of the fluid used in fracking will resurface, requiring treatment. Fracking also releases "produced water" from underground that also rises to the surface, and can be anywhere from two to 200 times as much water, depending on the oil/gas/water concentrations in the shale formation.[2]

A 2004 EPA study concluded fracking did not pose a risk to drinking water, helping lead to its exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The study was later criticized as limited and compromised by oil/gas industry influence. A 2009 ProPublica investigation found that contamination was far more prevalent than indicated in the report, citing more than 1,000 cases tied to drilling and fracking that had been documented by courts and state and local governments.[3]

some 75,000 corporations "TAFTA Corporate Empowerment Map - The 75,000 Companies that Could Attack Clean Water Safeguards, Green Energy Policies and Wall Street Reforms" - Public Citizen

TAFTA-1 "TAFTA: Bankers’ Backdoor Plan to Roll Back Wall Street Reform" - Public Citizen

TPP-1 "Trade Agreements Cannot be Allowed to Undermine Financial Reregulation" - Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

TAFTA-2 "TAFTA Could Make You Sick: A Backdoor for Food Contamination" - Public Citizen

TAFTA-3 "TAFTA: A Backdoor Plan to Roll Back Clean Energy Policies" - Public Citizen

hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants "CFC, HCFC or HFC...?" - Batecool

TAFTA-4 "TAFTA as Monsanto’s Plan B: A Backdoor to Genetically Modified Food" - Public Citizen

TAFTA-5 "Top 10 Threats of the Trans-Atlantic ‘Trade’ Deal to Americans’ Daily Lives" - Public Citizen

TPP-3 "Bye Buy America and Jobs: Under TPP, Buy America and other buy-local preferences are banned" - Public Citizen

TPP-4 "How the TPP Endangers Access to Affordable Medicines" - Public Citizen

TPP-2 "How the TPP Endangers Access to Knowledge, Technology and Information

does not support all "U.S. Wants Financial Services Off Table in EU Trade Talks" By Jamila Trindle And Tom Fairless, The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2013
NOTE: This article is now behind the pay-wall. It began, "U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew poured cold water on a push by the European Union's top financial markets regulator to include negotiations over financial services regulation in EU-U.S. trade talks." I believe it indicated that the U.S. in TAFTA was trying to protect the Volcker rule of the Dodd-Frank law. However, according to leaked memos (see next note), the Obama administration in the TPP does support some some financial corporate goodies.

does reportedly support and insist on many "Obama Faces Backlash Over New Corporate Powers In Secret Trade Deal" By Zach Carter, The Huffington Post, 12/08/2013

pushing for rapid conclusion "Get Ready for the 2014 Trade Tsunami" by Lori Wallach, Public Citizen

151 Democratic "DeLauro, Miller Lead 151 House Dems Telling President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership"

23 Republican Letter to President Barack Obama, November 12, 2013

Public Citizen

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Progressive Democrats of America

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By Quinn Hungeski, TheParagraph.com, Copyright (CC BY-ND) 2013

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3 Responses to “Two Huge New Fake Trade Agreements to Skirt, Stomp Democratic Sovereignty”

  1. Barbara Says:

    What I think I understand you’re saying is that our laws now allow corporations all over the world to file – and win – lawsuits against us (and other countries) in which they claim our protective laws have prevented them from doing what we forbid and making a profit at it.

    I’m still reeling.

  2. Quinn Hungeski Says:

    That’s about it. These FTA laws are treaties, made by the executive and approved by two thirds of the Senate. We need treaties for things like controlling nuclear weapons, carbon emissions and brutal dictators (by joining the International Criminal Court). But these FTA treaties let corporations sue against higher standards set by democratic legislatures, fueling the race to the bottom. And they would aim to boost corporate profits at the expense of public health and well-being. I think that anyone with an active financial interest in the outcome of these treaties — like corporate agents — should be banned from negotiations.

  3. Barbara Says:

    Do you think that following the protective practice applied in medical research would help? In that situation, any author of an article reporting on or recommending some medicine or treatment approach is required to disclose any connection at all that could be considered to constitute a potential conflict of interest (e.g., a pharmaceutical company paid for the research). Would it help to have authors of treaties disclose their corporate connections?

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