What You Need to Know About a Worldwide Corporate Power Grab of Enormous Proportions
Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network
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As international trade negotiators gathered this week at a posh golf resort in rural Virginia to hammer out details of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), they sought to project an image of inclusion and receptivity to public input. In reality, this high-stakes global corporate pact, now in its 14th round of discussions, is heavily guarded by paramilitary teams with machine guns and helicopters as it is developed behind closed doors under a dangerous and unprecedented veil of secrecy.
What the hell is the TPP, you may ask? While it is among the largest and potentially most important ‘free trade’ agreements the world has ever seen, one can hardly be blamed for not being familiar with it yet. The corporate cabal behind it, including names like Cargill, Pfizer, Nike and WalMart, has done an exceptional job of maintaining an almost total lack of transparency as they literally design the future we will all inhabit.
While 600 corporate lobbyists have been granted access and input on the draft texts from the beginning, even high-ranking members of Congress have been denied access to the most basic content of what US negotiators are proposing in our names.
Thankfully, draft texts of the proposal have appeared on Wikileaks and the website of Citizen’s Trade Campaign. It is difficult to overstate the potential implications on the lives of people around the world if anything like the agreement in these leaked documents were to be implemented with the force of law.
The TPP is called a ‘trade agreement,’ but in actuality it is a long-dreamed-of template for implementing a binding system of global corporate governance as bold as anything the world’s wealthiest elite has attempted before. Of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them. The TPP essentially proposes to establish a parallel system of justice where companies can sue countries in a tribunal of judges composed of unaccountable international trade lawyers with little to no process for appeal.
This wild bastardization of the concept of justice endangers everything from affordable medicines, internet freedoms and intellectual property rights to democratically enacted labor laws and environmental protections. And that’s not to mention the massive outsourcing of middle class jobs from the US to countries like Vietnam and Brunei.
This isn’t just a bad trade agreement, it’s a wish list of the 1%—a worldwide corporate power grab of enormous proportions.
This week, in an empty warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, a group of activists from around the US gathered to plan a spirited week of resistance to the TPP. Finally, after three years of secret negotiations, the momentum of an opposition movement is building. On Sunday, a diverse and raucous crowd of a couple hundred people descended on this exclusive golf resort to demand their voices be heard, chanting after each speaker: “Flush the TPP!”
NAFTA was the last straw that sent the Zapatistas into armed rebellion. The WTO negotiations spawned a robust and global anti-globalization movement the likes of which the world had never seen. Even after 9/11, the FTAA elicited a pushback of people power that even a fully militarized Miami police force could not completely suppress.
But near as I can tell, even though the TPP is bigger, bolder and badder than any trade agreement before it, the small group gathered this week on a grassy hillside in rural Virginia is the backbone of resistance to the TPP today.