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Just Say No to Corporate Rule

In May 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  agreement. “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is: Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me, ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.'”

In May 2012, Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, said: “Yet, the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.”

A May 2012 letter to the US Trade Representative from 30 law professors in a few of the countries that are involved with the TPP negotiations also pointed out that: “There is no representation on this committee for consumers, libraries, students, health advocacy or patient groups, or others users of intellectual property, and minimal representation of other affected businesses, such as generic drug manufacturers or internet service providers. We would never create US law or regulation through such a biased and closed process.”

If you aren’t already concerned about a deal being negotiated on behalf of giant corporations at the public’s expense, consider the following. One chapter in the deal, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, threatens democracy and the sovereignty of governments.

For example, Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank and recipient of the ‘Nobel Prize for Economics’ in 2001, addressed this issue regarding NAFTA in January 2004. He said: “But hidden in NAFTA was a new set of rights — for business — that potentially weakened democracy throughout North America. Under NAFTA, if foreign investors believe they are being harmed by regulations (no matter how well justified), they may sue for damages in special tribunals without the transparency afforded by normal judicial proceedings. If successful, they receive direct compensation from the federal government….

In an October 2015 article, Stiglitz and Adam Hersh added: “Imagine what would have happened if these provisions had been in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered. Rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens. Taxpayers would have been hit twice — first to pay for the health damage caused by asbestos, and then to compensate manufacturers for their lost profits when the government stepped in to regulate a dangerous product.”

According to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, the TPP ISDS “tribunals are staffed by private lawyers who are not accountable to any electorate, system of legal precedent or meaningful conflict of interest rules. Their rulings cannot be appealed on the merits. Many ISDS lawyers rotate between roles – serving both as “judges” and suing governments for corporations, creating an inherent conflict of interest.”

Allowing trade lawyers to have the final say on cases that threaten our health and well being as well as the health of the ecosystem and its ability to support all life forms is insane! This disastrous settlement process tramples democracy and sovereignty and prioritizes profit over our health and well being as well as our ecosystem and its ability to support life. An old Cree prophecy seems relevant:

Only after the last river has been poisoned,

Only after the last fish has been caught,

Only then will you find money cannot be eaten.

If this corporate-designed settlement process doesn’t convince you to oppose the TPP, consider its rules for financial services. According to Public Citizen, these rules were written under the advisement of giant banks and work to undercut legislation meant to re-regulate Wall Street. Thus the TPP would expand the reach of failed policies that played a major role in creating the disastrous 2008 financial crisis. The TPP rules would also prevent nations from protecting their currencies in time of crisis. It’s as if the 2008 crisis didn’t happen.

Paul Krugman, another ‘Nobel Prize winner in Economics’ and a supporter of NAFTA, said it well in his March 9th column. “But it’s also true that much of the elite defense of globalization is basically dishonest: false claims of inevitability, scare tactics (protectionism causes depressions!), vastly exaggerated claims for the benefits of trade liberalization and the costs of protection, hand-waving away the large distributional effects that are what standard models actually predict.”

Krugman concluded: “So the elite case for ever-freer trade is largely a scam, which voters probably sense even if they don’t know exactly what form it’s taking.”

The TPP and other deals such as the currently being negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will, if enacted, transfer more wealth to the top from the rest of us while further threatening our ecosystem. These deals must be stopped — our lives and the lives of future generations depend on us stopping it now!

More articles by:

Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics and former Green candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado.

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