Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Preventing public scrutiny is essential because the . . .



. . . “details would outrage Americans and spook Congress from rubber-stamping it.” Who said that? A.) An al Qaeda leader? B.) Saddam Hussein? C.) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? D.) None of the above?
The answer is D; the speaker was Ron Kirk, President Obama’s trade representative speaking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration’s latest gift to multi-national corporations. The T-PP is an attempt to disguise a corporate giveaway as a trade agreement.
The T-PP would require all countries who sign it – including the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Viet Nam, and eventually China, Indonesia and Russia - to pass no laws or enact policies of any kind that infringe upon trade with or production within any of the other countries in the Partnership.
So far the Obama Administration has refused to allow any members of Congress to view the 29 chapters of the agreement, of which only five have anything to do with trade.
So what does all this mean? Here are just a few examples of the effect it would have for the U.S.
A state would not be allowed to pass say, clean water legislation, if one of the Partners wants to sell a pesticide that poisons the groundwater.
Food labeling laws could be challenged as being in restraint of trade.
Patents on pharmaceuticals could be extended indefinitely by the Partners, thus practically eliminating generic medicines.
Bankers get a special break: governments must either repeal banking regulation laws, or compensate banks for “losses” they suffered because of such laws from taxpayer money.
Internet service providers would be allowed to censor and take down any content they don’t like. As I said, there are 29 sections, each of which deals with a different activity.
Well, if you are harmed by any of this, you could go to court and seek redress, right? Actually, no you couldn’t. If you happen to be a corporation, you would be allowed to sue T-PP partners under an “Investor-State Dispute Resolution” system. Cases would be decided behind closed doors by three-person tribunals of private attorneys, and you don’t get to choose them. Even if you know they are biased, you can do nothing about it. So much for the fairness of the courts.
If approved, this agreement would take away Congress’ right “to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” as the Constitution puts it.
Fortunately for us common citizens, this deal will have to be approved by Congress, and it doesn’t have much support at the present time. However, things can change as fast as money changes hands, and contacting your Congressperson, and letting him or her know how you feel would be a pretty good idea.
No wonder Ron Kirk considers it essential to keep the negotiations secret.
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 My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

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