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Dragging Secretive Trade Talks Into the Light: Activists Expose Slow-Motion Corporate Coup

A highly secretive trade agreement aims to penalize countries that protect workers, consumers, and the environment. Luckily, the growing opposition goes beyond the usual trade justice suspects.

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Under similar, if less grandiose, provisions in NAFTA, investors have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in cases attacking bans on toxic chemicals, land use rules, and more.  Phillip Morris Asia has attacked Australia’s cigarette plain packing law—which requires that health warnings be included in cigarette packaging—before such a tribunal. Australia  announced in April that it will not agree to be bound to the investor-state regime in the TPP. Negotiators from the United States have declared that all TPP nations must submit to this regime.

Either by winning an investor-state dispute or by preemptively putting a chill on government actions to address critical public needs, the TPP’s investor rights would impose an outer bound of the possible for communities and countries setting policies related to health, the environment, water, or other natural resources. There is almost no progressive movement or campaign whose goals are not threatened, while vast swaths of public-interest policy achieved through decades of struggle are poised to be undermined as these attacks proliferate.

Progressive Achievements Rolled Back

The TPP would also  ban existing and future “Buy Local” and “Buy American” procurement policies. These are rules that direct federal and state governments to reinvest our tax dollars to create American jobs by buying domestically made cars, steel, food, and more, and by giving contracts to local construction firms or call centers firms. 

The TPP also would expose to attack green and sweat-free procurement rules that specify that only recycled paper, non-old-growth wood products, renewable-source energy, or products made under fair labor standards can be purchased with government funds. Under these terms, democracies would no longer be able to decide that we want to invest our tax dollars to create jobs at home or to create markets for green energy or morally produced goods. Instead, the TPP would  require our governments to send our money offshore and spend it with firms trashing human rights and the environment.

The TPP would  limit financial regulation by forbidding bans on risky derivatives and other dangerous financial products, as well as the use of  capital controls to counter wild surges of speculative investments in and out of countries, which destabilize the global economy. The massive financial firms that caused the financial crisis could use these terms to roll back the new financial regulations implemented in the U.S. and around the world.

As far as health care goes, the TPP would grant new monopoly privileges to Big Pharma that would  jack up medicine prices and cut consumers’ access to life-saving medicines in the developing countries involved in the TPP. There is a proposal to allow pharmaceutical firms to challenge the pricing decisions of cost-saving drug formularies, which are used by developing countries and, increasingly, by the United States, to bargain for better prices with drug firms. 

One chapter would even  attack Internet freedom by imposing through the backdoor damaging aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which citizen activism derailed in the U.S. Congress.

A Trade Justice Coalition Emerges (Again)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. But it’s precisely the extreme nature of the TPP corporate wish list that is its greatest vulnerability—and our greatest opportunity. The 1-percenter TPP agenda would harm most of us in the United States and in the other countries involved. It can only survive if left shrouded in darkness. Citizen activists in many of the TPP countries are building an inspiring global movement implementing the  “Dracula strategy” to drag the TPP into the sunshine so those who will have to live with its consequences can know what’s coming and take action.

 
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