Possibly the Most Important Video You Will Ever See — Just Say NO!

Pre-NAFTA trade deficits, 1962-1992

NAFTA related trade deficits, 1993-2012Read More:

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TPP: OF and FOR the sole benefit of Corporations—Definitely a Violation of the Public’s Trust

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  is facing increasing scrutiny for the extreme secrecy surrounding negotiations around this sweeping new trade deal that could rewrite OUR nation’s laws on everything from healthcare and internet freedom, to food safety and the financial markets. The latest negotiations over the TPP were recently held behind closed doors in Lima, Peru, but the Obama administration has rejected calls to release the current text. Even members of Congress have complained about being shut out of the negotiation process.  Regardless of all the Congressional whining about not having sufficient time to read and understand what’s in a bill, let along a treaty, a bill to “fast-track” approval of  TPP.  Fast-tracking would allow President Obama to sign the treaty (which is massively worse than NAFTA on some seriously wicked steroids) and once signed, Congress would have limited opportunity for debate and would be required to hold an up/down vote within 90 days of the president signing the treaty.  Are you kidding me?  What are they smokin’ on the Hill?

Last year, a leaked chapter from the draft agreement outlined how the TPP would allow foreign corporations operating in the United States to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its rulings. We discuss the TPP with two guests: Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO; and Jim Shultz, executive director of the Democracy Center, which has just released a new report on how corporations use trade rules to seize resources and undermine democracy. “What is the biggest threat to the ability of corporations to go into a country and suck out the natural resources without any regard for the environment or labor standards? The threat is democracy,” Shultz says. “The threat is that citizens will be annoying and get in the way and demand that their governments take action. So what corporations need is to become more powerful than sovereign states. And the way they become more powerful is by tangling sovereign states in a web of these trade agreements.”

Drake adds: “We question the wisdom of pursuing the TPP in the first place. We do have, for better or for worse, the World Trade Organization which has lowered tariffs around the world and has allowed us to increase our exports as Mr. Froman was explaining in his speech. So what the TPP is about is all these other things around the tariffs, so it is about the investor state, dispute tribunals, it’s about harmonizing rules for food safety, it’s about harmonizing rules for intellectual property, a lot of rules that if citizens aren’t really participating in the formation of those rules, they’re not necessarily going to work out to the benefit of working people and American citizens. So we’re very active in following the negotiations and advocating for better rules that will help workers, real farmers, small businesses, because our past trade agreements starting with NAFTA and on down the line have basically been big packages that benefit the 1 percent and if anybody else benefits it’s really only by accident and not really by design.”

You will not see a more honest assessment of the threat to democracy posed by TPP than on DemocracyNow:

Mining Gold, Undermining Democracy

Neither foreign investors nor unelected tribunals deserve the power to trump democratically elected leaders.

By Robin Broad and John Cavanagh

John CavanaghRobin BroadA tribunal in Washington, D.C. that nobody elected recently issued a verdict that potentially hinders the democratic rights of millions of people. Its three members ruled that a foreign company may continue to sue El Salvador for not letting the company mine gold there. The impoverished Central American country could potentially be forced to pay a Canadian mining company called Pacific Rim $77 million or more in damages. This anti-democratic ruling has ominous implications for all of us.

We visited El Salvador last year to learn more about this landmark case. A wide vein of gold lies alongside the northern portions of a large river that flows down the country’s middle. This river provides water for more than half its population. The gold remained relatively undisturbed until about a decade ago, when foreign companies began to apply for mining permits.

Farmers and others told us that they were initially open to gold mining, thinking it would bring jobs to ease the area’s deep poverty. But as they learned more about the toxic chemicals used to separate gold from the surrounding ore and about the massive amounts of water used in the process, they began to organize a movement that opposed mining. Their simple cry: “We can live without gold, but we can’t live without water.”

By 2007, polls showed that close to two-thirds of Salvadorans opposed gold mining. In 2009, Salvadorans elected a president who promised he wouldn’t issue any new mining permits during his five-year term. He has kept this pledge.

But Pacific Rim didn’t sit idly by as democracy worked its way from El Salvador’s northern communities to its national government. The company sought a mining license. When the government didn’t approve its environmental impact assessment, the Canadian company resorted to lobbying Salvadoran officials. And, when its lobbying failed, Pacific Rim lodged a complaint against El Salvador at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington under a U.S.-initiated trade agreement and a little-known investment law in El Salvador.

Laws and trade agreements like these grant corporations the right to sue governments over actions — including health, safety, and environmental regulations — that reduce the value of the corporation’s investment.

To the surprise of many observers, the tribunal ruled on June 1 that Pacific Rim can proceed with the lawsuit against El Salvador. Even if the cash-strapped Salvadoran government wins in the end, it will likely have to shell out millions on legal fees to defend an action taken after lengthy democratic deliberations. If it loses in the tribunal’s next ruling, it will cost even more.

Laws and trade agreements that allow corporations to sue governments should worry us all. No international tribunal should have the right to punish countries for laws or measures approved through a democratic process, be it in the United States, El Salvador, or anywhere else. President Barack Obama said this himself in 2008 when he promised to limit the ability of corporations to use trade agreements to sue over public-interest regulations.

Alison McKellar/Flickr

Yet the Obama administration is currently negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership with several countries. And it’s pushing for provisions that would allow companies to sue governments under this trade pact. But an expanding coalition of labor, environmental, religious, and other groups opposes giving Big Business this privilege. A similar coalition in Australia, another country negotiating this trade deal, has convinced its government to oppose such corporate “rights.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership may well prove an opportunity for this outrageous assault on democracy to be defeated.

Democracy belongs to the people. Those of us standing up to defend democracy and counter corporate abuse should strongly oppose any new “rights” for corporations being written into new trade pacts as we try to overturn the existing ones.

El Salvador’s government has the right to act upon the will of its people — and should be expected to do so. Neither foreign investors nor unelected tribunals deserve the power to trump democratically elected leaders.


Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)


Robin Broad is a professor at American University’s School of International Service, and John Cavanagh directs the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org