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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/11/16

"Free-trade" agreements promote a capitalist world government

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On Aug. 12 President Obama notified Congress that he will soon introduce legislation to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement signed last Feb. 4 by 12 Pacific-coast nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. A similar treaty--the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)--is under negotiation between the U.S. and the European Union.

Both agreements are part of a continuing effort by international corporations to impose a global economic system that weakens the ability of national governments to look out for public goods such as health, education and the environment. Although national governments sign these agreements, they are negotiated behind closed doors by teams that represent corporate interests, exclude elected legislators, and pay little heed to the concerns of labor and civic organizations.

While the TPP was still being negotiated, President Obama classified the document. To read the 5,544-page text, members of Congress had to go to a soundproof room and surrender their cellphones and mobile devices. They could not take notes, or share specific information with anyone else. They could be accompanied only by aides with national security clearances. A similar secrecy envelops negotiations on the TTIP, and has contributed to a growing hostility toward the agreement in France and among Germans of all parties (TIME, 5/1/16).

Obama will likely wait until the noise of the election is over before sending his TPP implementation bill to Congress in its lame-duck session. Unless both houses pass this bill, the TPP fails. Because Congress has granted the President fast-track authority for the TPP, it must now vote the bill up or down with no amendments allowed. Since Hillary Clinton, under pressure from Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of her party, has come out against the TPP, Obama wants to get it passed before she takes office.

The TPP will expand an international super court already operating through the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and numerous bilateral treaties negotiated by the U.S. This quasi-legal system is called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). It allows foreign investors to sue a host country's government for losses caused by policies and regulations in health, education and other areas of public interest.

For example, TransCanada Corporation, whose Keystone XL pipeline was rejected by President Obama, is using NAFTA's ISDS process to sue the U.S. for $15 billion in lost profits. As is standard in ISDS, this case will be decided in a court outside the American judicial system by a panel of three private investment attorneys. Their decision cannot be appealed in a U.S. court.

Bernie Sanders is right: "The idea that a major multi-national corporation can sue us for fifteen billion dollars because the president made the decision that he thought right tells you what trade agreements are all about. They are designed to protect corporate profits and to hell with the environment, human rights, health care, or the needs of the people. And that is why the TPP has got to be defeated."

As Public Citizen explains, the TPP is "NAFTA on steroids" because it expands incentives for corporations to locate in foreign countries with low wages, poor working conditions and little or no environmental regulation. Such incentives have harmed American workers in three ways:

1. They have contributed to "the net loss of more than 57,000 American manufacturing facilities and nearly 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs."
2. They enable corporations to threaten to relocate abroad if workers or unions press for better wages and benefits.
3. Displaced factory workers "must then compete for lower-paid non-offshoreable service sector jobs."

As the Economic Policy Institute noted in 2013: "The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power."

The global 1% and their political servants are promoting regional trade agreements such as the TPP and TTIP in a piecemeal strategy to impose a more aggressive version of the global capitalist regime that came into being in 1994 as the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO began with 128 member states, and is now at 164. It operates mostly by consensus, with each country having an equal vote.

Governments of poorer and less developed nations quickly discovered how WTO rules could interfere with their efforts to secure the well-being of their people. As Lori Wallach explains in her book Whose Trade Organization?, the WTO could force changes in "countries' domestic food safety standards, environmental and product safety rules, service-sector regulation, investment and development policy, intellectual property standards, government procurement rules, and more."

Readers may recall the "Battle in Seattle," a 2007 film based on events leading to the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in 1999. A combination of street protests by over 40,000 demonstrators and resistance from delegates of poorer member states angered by American bullying forced the WTO director to suspend the meeting. Since 1999, poorer countries have used the WTO's democratic governance structure to block further increases in WTO control over their domestic laws and policies.

So now President Obama is leading the campaign to impose a global capitalist government on a reluctant community of nations. He is counting on most Republicans and enough Democrats in Congress to support him in the upcoming lame duck session. This final battle by his administration highlights the continuity between him and Bill Clinton. The first act of the Clinton administration was to get NAFTA through Congress in 1993 with more Republicans than Democrats voting for it in both houses.

In America today, there is one plutocratic Party, with two branches, Democrat and Republican, vying to serve one corporate agenda.

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Brian Cooney Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I'm a retired philosophy professor at Centre College. My last book was Posthumanity-Thinking Philosophically about the Future (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). I am an anti-capitalist.

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