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TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message David Swanson       (Page 2 of 4 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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ExposeTheTPP.org says: "Tribunals have already ordered governments to pay over $3.5 billion in investor-state cases under existing U.S. agreements.  This includes payments over toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more.  More than $14.7 billion remain in pending claims under U.S. agreements alone.  Even when governments win, they often must pay for the tribunals' costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case.  The TPP would expand the scope of policies that could be attacked.

"The proposed TPP foreign investor privileges would provide foreign firms greater 'rights' than those afforded to domestic firms. This includes a 'right' to not have expectations frustrated by a change in government policy. Claiming such radical privileges, foreign corporations have launched investor-state cases against a broad array of environmental, energy, consumer health, toxics, water, mining and other non-trade domestic policies that they allege undermine their 'expected future profits.'

"Some of the investor-state attacks now underway are: 

Chevron trying to evade liability for its Ecuadorian Amazon toxic contamination; 

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Phillip Morris attacking Australia's cigarette labeling policy; 

Eli Lilly attacking Canada's drug patent policy; and

European firms attacking Egypt's post-revolution minimum wage increase and South Africa's post-Apartheid affirmative action law."

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Corporate trade agreements like the TPP don't impose something as dangerous as corporate nationhood as part of the cost of some other benefit.  These agreements have no clear upside, unless it's inexpensive, poorly made products that poorly paid people can afford to buy.  Most destructive public policies are justified by jobs.  We'll chop down that forest for jobs.  We'll build a bigger military for jobs.  We'll mine coal for jobs.  We'll concentrate wealth beyond medieval levels for jobs.  But corporate trade agreements eliminate, or at least export, jobs. 

The United States had about 20 million manufacturing jobs before NAFTA, and lost about 5 million of them, including the closure of more than 60,000 facilities.  Imports have soared while the growth of exports has slowed.  Millions of service jobs have been offshored too, of course.  The TPP is referred to by those who have seen drafts of it (and you can read some draft chapters online) as NAFTA on steroids.  It expands on NAFTA's policies.  The TPP would provide special benefits to, and eliminate risks for, companies that offshore jobs.  Vietnam's wages are even lower than China's.  An average day's wage in China is $4.11.  In Vietnam it's $2.75. 

The TPP will push U.S. wages downward.  And if NAFTA's impact on Mexico is any guide, the TPP won't end up being seen as beneficial to Vietnam either, especially when some other country decides that it can pay workers even less than Vietnam does. 

The TPP will also move U.S. government contracting jobs to foreign companies by banning buy-American procurement policies.  The ability of U.S. firms to bid on government contracts in the other participating countries will not begin to balance this out.  And in every country involved, the foreign companies will be less accountable to the people whose money is being spent.  Also banned will be preferential treatment for sweat-free businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned, or environmentally-friendly businesses.  Not only does the TPP make corporations into governments, but it also makes governments into corporations, requiring that they work purely to maximize profits -- although the profits are for the corporations.

The TPP doesn't end there.  When it comes to food safety and workplace safety and other consumer or environmental protections, an agreement like this could require that all nations enforce a high standard, even the highest standard of any of the nations, or a higher standard than any nation now meets -- after all, the agreement would create an even playing field for all and ought to be seen as an opportunity to collectively raise the standards.  The TPP, as drafted, does just the opposite.  It would require the United States to import meat and poultry that doesn't meet U.S. safety standards.  Any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling, or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as an "illegal trade barrier."  Malaysia and Vietnam are big seafood exporters.  High levels of contaminants have been found in Vietnam's seafood.  (I can't imagine why!)  The FDA only inspects 1% of imported seafood now.  Local seafood producers struggle as it is.  The pollution involved in shipping seafood around the globe probably won't work wonders for future seafood either.  And don't imagine we'll all just buy local and "vote with our wallets."  The TPP will impose limits on labeling where food comes from, labeling GMO foods, labeling foods dolphin-safe, etc.  You won't know where your food comes from or how it was produced unless you grow it or buy it from a neighbor who grew it.  But the odds will be stacked even more heavily against the small farmer if the TPP is enacted.

Once everyone's gotten good and sick by eating TPP food, just wait to see what the TPP does to healthcare.  Corporations with national rights will be able to overturn domestic patent and drug-pricing laws.  The big drug companies will be able to raise prices with extended monopolies over drugs and over surgical procedures.  People in need of inexpensive generic drugs will be denied them, and many of those people will die.  The TPP, in the end, may turn out to be more deadly than any war.  The TPP would threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health programs to make medicines more affordable.  Foreign corporations will also be able to challenge laws on toxics, zoning, cigarettes, alcohol, public health, and the environment -- anything that they could claim might cost them profits.  NAFTA doesn't go as far as the TPP, but these things are already happening under it.  ExposeTheTPP.org says: "Canada lifted a ban on a gasoline additive already banned in the U.S. as a suspected carcinogen after an investor attack by Ethyl Corporation under NAFTA. It also paid the firm $13 million and published a formal statement that the chemical was not hazardous."

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Under the TPP, the United States could increase its exports of so-called natural gas, and that will mean more fracking.  And laws to protect the environment, including the human beings, where the fracking is done could be challenged by corporations as limiting their future profits.  The same problems arise with tar sands.  Even under existing corporate trade agreements, governments have already paid over $3 billion to foreign corporations, and over 85% of that has been the result of challenges to oil, mining, gas, and other environmental and natural resource policies.  This includes payments by the governments of Mexico and Canada to U.S. fossil fuel corporations.

The United States has been growing accustomed to secret laws.  The PATRIOT Act, for example, according to numerous members of Congress, has been secretly "reinterpreted" to mean things radically at odds with and worse than what the words of the bill -- horrible as they were -- meant.  The TPP could become public, and bits of it keep leaking out, but it outdoes the PATRIOT Act in size and breadth.  It would rewrite laws.  It would even put in place laws very intentionally rejected by Congress following a very public process. 

Last year there was a big struggle over SOPA, a bill that was marketed as copyright protection but ultimately rejected as internet censorship -- following a great deal of public, and even some corporate, pressure.  According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, the TPP would largely recreate SOPA while no one's watching.  Unless, of course, we start watching.  Under the TPP, internet service providers will be able to monitor user activity, remove internet content, and prevent certain people from accessing certain content.  Downloading a song could be treated the same as a large-scale for-profit copyright violation.  The TPP would impose copyright protections for 120 years for corporate-created content.  Breaking digital locks (and no, I don't really know what those are) for legitimate purposes, such as using Linux or accessing closed captioning for the deaf or audio-supported content for the blind could result in fines.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)

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