My guests today are Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers, both activists with PopularResistance.org. You are currently leading protests outside the Capitol regarding TPP, the notoriously opaque trade agreement being pushed by the president and many members of Congress. There's been a lot of talk but I, for one, haven't seen any of the details. How do we really know the agreement is so bad?
Kevin: Thanks for covering this issue as you are right, people do not know a lot about the TPP and the two other agreements being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration. We do know a lot even though they have tried to keep all of this secret. For each agreement we know what countries are involved and what the major topics are. The largest agreement, and probably the one that will have the biggest impact is the Trade In Services Agreement (TiSA). Services make up 80% of the US economy and include things like the Postal Service, Financial Services, Health Services, Accounting Services and similar activities. TISA involves 50 countries including all of the European Union. It does not include any of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) so it is an agreement of the western countries who are most corporate dominated. We know from a recent leak that it is pushing toward privatization of everything and de-regulation of business. It is a neo-liberal economic and political model for the world. See WikiLeaks Releases Documents Related To Controversial TISA .
Similarly with the TPP and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) there have been numerous leaks that let the public know a great deal about these agreements. Wikileaks has been the main source of leaks, but not the only source. In addition, some members of Congress have read the drafts (although they are heavily redacted) and one senator, Jim Sessions (R-AL) sent a Dear Colleague letter to all the members of the Senate. This letter was heavily reported on in Breitbart News, see Senator Sessions Takes a Bold Step: Tells the Truth about TPP .
Essentially, what these leaks show is these deals are not really trade deals but treaties that will impact all aspects of our lives from the water we drink, access to healthcare, the safety of food, financial regulation, energy extraction like frackng and tar sands, climate change . . . it's hard not to think of an area impacted. Essentially, they are corporate power grabs that shift power to corporations from people and put in place deregulation and privatization. They seek to commodify whatever they can so that profits can be made. Sometimes rather than deregulation they are putting in place laws for corporations, e.g. when it comes to intellectual property, they broaden copyright and patents.
We only need to look back at NAFTA and CAFTA to realize that bad trade deals, or faux trade deals, are bad for America. Those agreements were pushed as vital to American interests and yet so many jobs were lost. This looks like NAFTA on steroids. So, why would President Obama and so many member of Congress favor this? Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes?
Kevin: That is one of the most common questions we are asked: Why does Obama support this? Well, not only does he support it but Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says that he has never seen Obama work so hard on any piece of legislation his entire time in office. It is bizarre to people because it undermines everything Obama claimshe supports.
First, you are right -- these trade agreements lose jobs, increase the trade deficit and expand the wealth divide. Those are the consistent outcomes, all are well documented. I see three reasons why President Obama is working so hard to pass these rigged corporate trade deals.
President Obama has always been a Wall Street Democrat. He believes in capitalist markets dominated by big finance. Wall Street was the key to him winning his first presidential election and he has been loyal to them despite their crashing of the economy. He has surrounded himself with Wall Street advisers and has never sent a leader of a Wall Street bank or investment firm to jail. You could see these Wall Street market tendencies in his healthcare law, the ACA. It is an investor-driven law that is built on the market approach to healthcare rather than the social good or human rights approach. It benefits investors in for-profit hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry. As we are already seeing for people, it means higher premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs and less coverage making health care often too expensive to use even if you have insurance.
Wall Street and most big business interests want these trade agreements. Not only will it mean trillions in profits over the next decade but they greatly expand corporate power globally and inside the United States. The US will be required to harmonize all its laws and regulations (at every level of government) with the provisions of the treaties. This will allow big business interests to get through the back door what they could not get through the front door of Congress. And, as corrupt as Congress is, most things can easily get through the front door. Globally, it means a web of trade laws designed for transnational corporations that will rule the world economy and make corporations more powerful than nations.
The Asian Pivot is the center of Obama's foreign policy. This is the shift of 65% of Navy resources to the Asia Pacific, encircling China militarily. It involves expanding military ties with most of the governments in the region and conducting massive war games focused on China and North Korea. It also involves encouraging conflicts between China and her neighbors over disputed Islands and other territories. This will force China to spend more money on its military and embroil it in conflicts throughout the region. Let's hope the Pentagon planners are not foolish enough to be planning a war with China.
The TPP is the economic portion of the Asian Pivot. It surrounds China economically and leaves them out of the agreement. It puts China is a tough position as the US pushed treaties greatly oppose "state supported enterprises" and much of China's economic philosophy is based on the state playing a role in building the economy. Similarly the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) involves 50 nations but does not include any of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. TISA is the corporate-dominated western countries putting in place trade policies that benefit western transnational corporations.
In the end, these approaches will backfire against the United States and we would be much smarter if we worked together with China and other countries rather than tried to dominate them militarily and economically but the US is the largest Empire in world history, really an Empire of government and transnational corporations, and hegemony is the only policy government officials can imagine. The Pentagon calls it Full Spectrum Dominance -- and that includes not only military domination but political and economic domination as well. These trade agreements are central to US foreign policy as well as the goals of transnational corporate powers.
There are also personal considerations, perhaps this is why President Obama has reacted so personally often in the trade debate. President Obama's retirement from public office is in the not-too-distant future. He is planning on building not one, but three Obama Presidential Centers, in Chicago, New York and Hawaii. It has been reported that he intends to raise $500 million for these three centers. It may end up being even more as these kinds of projects tend to cost more than planned. Where is that money going to come from? It is not going to come from $25 donations but from big corporate donations. So, he needs a lot of wealthy corporations to recognize he is their ally and has contributed to their wealth. Throughout the Obama presidency, he has aided the wealthy first as more than 90% of the income from the so-called recovery has gone to the top 1 percent. It is a pitiful record. Obama will also want six figure speaking engagements to corporations, big book deals and donations to the non-profit he will be creating. He needs wealth friends so he is doing them a big favor -- at our expense.
None of these reasons are persuasive, in fact they are all misguided. We should be putting in place trade agreements that put the lifting up of people and protection of the planet before corporate profits. These agreements should be negotiated transparently so the people and Congress can weigh in on them so they are better agreements. The US has been negotiating trade wrongly for many years, especially since Clinton's NAFTA and WTO. The nation keeps repeating the same mistakes despite results that show record trade deficits, shrinking US jobs, shrinking worker income and an expanding wealth divide along with environmental destruction. The failure to face these well documented realities shows the deep corruption of the US government and economy.
Well, Kevin, everything you've just said is quite damning. It's hard to find anything attractive about the deal, not to mention the tip-off, that it's been cloaked in secrecy.
But, there's another aspect, I understand, that has ramifications on our health care going forward. Margaret, would you like to speak about that?
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