By The Prophet of Life
What would you say if your boss asked you to sign a paper but wouldn’t tell you what was on it and wouldn’t allow you to read it? That’s exactly what the Obama administration is doing with the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade (TPP) Agreement. This week, Congress is voting on a trade agreement that has been drawn up behind closed doors, and drafted by a team of CEO’s and corporate lawyers. Does this sound like an agreement which will benefit any one other than large corporations?
The agreement is purposely kept secret from the public. Congress members themselves can only see if they go to a secreted room and look at the pages of the document. No electronic devices are allowed in the room. Senators and House members are not allowed to take notes. They are also not allowed to disclose its provisions publicly.
The TPP will allow Genetically modified food, radiated foods, lower standards on toxins, (like toxic dog food and lead in toys), accelerate the killing of dolphins for tuna & eliminate nation of origin labels on beef (Mad Cow Disease with that burger?). It will allow corporations under an Investor Rights Clause, to sue governments for environmental protection laws that affect their profits. Phillip Morris Tobacco, for example successfully sued a government which passed a non smoking law. That government had to rescind that law.
One recent example is Chevron Oil suing a Latin American nation (and winning) under this clause to cancel a decision in that nation’s national court for a 1 billion dollar compensation for ruining the ground water of an entire community. Had this agreement been signed a few years ago, If BP were from a member nation it could have sued the U.S. Government and never paid a penny for a clean up or to any of the Gulf Coast States or any of their inhabitants for the underwater oil spill that devastated that region.
One clause contained in the agreement, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision, or ISDS, allows corporations to sue governments (national State and Local) not in a court but in front of an arbitration counsel made up of corporate lawyers. These Corporate Lawyers almost always rule against the sovereign rights of governments in favor of the desires of corporations.
Proponents of TPP will tell you that America needs to pass it to maintain a competitive edge in a global economy. While its true that trade agreements are necessary to eliminate barriers to free trade, not all barriers to free trade are bad. Economic barriers like tariffs can be bad but barriers like environmental and consumer safety laws are good. No sovereign nation should sign a deal that takes away its right to protect its citizens for the possibility of increased trade.
So why, do politicians and governments across the globe bring us predatory and destructive trade agreements dictated by corporations? Why do they forsake their national sovereignty and international responsibilities? I believe its because its easier to let corporations write the agreements than to actually do the work involved in fully responsible governance.
Instead of pushing for corporate autonomy over national sovereignty, the signatory governments of TPP The U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan should be pushing for uniform environmental, health and safety and fair wage labor standards that will create barriers to import and export of unhealthful and hazardous products and of products made by slave labor.
Trade agreements should be transparent, not secretive. They should remove economic barriers to trade but not barriers to human and environmental exploitation and endangerment. They should be created in a global environment of uniform health and safety standards where human rights and dignity are upheld and the environment is protected. This monstrosity that U.S. Congress is voting on is far from anything even remotely resembling that.
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