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Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Corporate Coup

Andrew Gavin Marshall
Occupy / Investigation
Published: Friday 23 November 2012
Dubbed by many as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup,” only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade.
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Luckily for the populations and societies that will be affected by the agreement, there are public research organizations and alternative media outlets campaigning against it – and they’ve even released several leaks of draft agreement chapters. From these leaks, which are not covered by mainstream corporate-controlled news outlets, we are able to get a better understanding of what the Trans-Pacific Partnership actually encompasses.

For example, public interest groups have been warning that the TPP could result in millions of lost jobs. As a letter from Congress to United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated, the TPP “will create binding policies on future Congresses in numerous areas,” including “those related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.”

In other words, as promised, the TPP goes far beyond “trade.”

Dubbed by many as “NAFTA on steroids” and a “corporate coup,” only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade. Most of it grants far-reaching new rights and privileges to corporations, specifically related to intellectual property rights (copyright and patent laws), as well as constraints on government regulations.

The leaked documents revealed that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations,” as Obama and Kirk have emerged as strong advocates “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.”

In other words, the already ineffective and mostly toothless environmental, financial, and labor regulations that exist are unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations aligned with the TPP who are giving him his orders.

The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic U.S. laws regarding protections for the environment, finance or labor rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.

The “international tribunal” that would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing – fairly balanced in favor of corporate rights above anything else.

A public interest coalition known as Citizens Trade Campaign published a draft of the TPP chapter on “investment” revealing information about the “international tribunal” which would allow corporations to directly sue governments that have barriers to “potential profits.”

Arthur Stamoulis, the executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, explained that the draft texts “clearly contain proposals designed to give transnational corporations special rights that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens... A proposal that could have such broad effects on environmental, consumer safety and other public interest regulations deserves public scrutiny and debate. It shouldn’t be crafted behind closed doors.”

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a public interest organization, undertook an analysis of the leaked document on investment and explained that the international corporate tribunal would allow corporations to overturn national laws and regulations or demand enormous sums in compensation, with the tribunal “empowered to order payment of unlimited government Treasury funds to foreign investors over TPP claims.”

Even under NAFTA, over $350 million has been paid by NAFTA-aligned governments to corporations for “barriers” to investment “rights,” including toxic waste dumps, logging rules, as well as bans on various toxic chemicals.

Because let’s be clear: for corporations, such regulations and concerns over health, safety and environmental issues are perceived solely as “barriers” to investment and profit. Thus their “government” would sue the foreign government on behalf of the corporation, on the premise that such regulations led to potential lost profits, for which the corporation should be compensated.

The TPP allows the corporations to directly sue the government in question. All of the TPP member countries, except for Australia, have agreed to adhere to the jurisdiction of this international tribunal, an unelected, anti-democratic and corporate-staffed kangaroo-court with legal authority over at least ten nations and their populations.

Further, TPP countries have not agreed on a set of obligations for corporations to meet in relation to health, labor or environmental standards, and thus a door is opened for corporations to obtain even more rights and privileges to plunder and exploit. Where corporate rights are extended, human and democratic rights are dismantled.

One of the most important areas in which the TPP has a profound effect is in relation to intellectual property rights, or copyright and patent laws. Corporations have been strong advocates of expanding intellectual property rights, namely, their intellectual property rights.

Pharmaceutical corporations are major proponents of these rights and are likely to be among the major beneficiaries of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP. The pharmaceutical industry ensured that strong patent rules were included in the 1995 World Trade Organization agreement, but ultimately felt that those rules did not go far enough.

Dean Baker, writing in the Guardian, explained that stronger patent rules establish “a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company’s test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.” Baker noted that such laws are actually “the opposite of free trade” since they “involve increased government intervention in the market” and “restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.”

Essentially, what this means is that in poor countries where more people need access to life-saving drugs, and at cheaper cost, it would be impossible for companies or governments to manufacture and sell cheaper generic brands of successful drugs held by multinational corporate patents. Such an agreement would hand over a monopoly of price-controls to these corporations, allowing them to set the prices as they deem fit, thus making the drugs incredibly expensive and often inaccessible to the people who need them most.

As U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman correctly noted, “In many parts of the world, access to generic drugs means the difference between life and death.”

The TPP is expected to increase such corporate patent rights more than any other agreement in history. Generic drug manufacturers in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia would suffer. So would sales of larger generics manufacturers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, which supply low-cost drugs to much of the world.

While the United States has given up the right to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations (hence the exorbitant price for drugs purchased in the U.S.), countries like New Zealand and even Canada to a lesser extent negotiate drug prices in order to keep the costs down for consumers. The TPP will grant new negotiating privileges to corporations, allowing them to appeal decisions by governments to challenge the high cost of drugs or to go with cheap alternatives. Referring to these changes, the U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders’ Access to Medicines Campaign stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.”

But that’s not all the TPP threatens: Internet freedom is also a major target.

The Council of Canadians and OpenMedia, major campaigners for Internet freedom, have warned that the TPP would “criminalize some everyday uses of the Internet,” including music downloads as well as the combining of different media works. OpenMedia warned that the TPP would “force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards, and give media conglomerates more power to send you fines in the mail, remove online content – including entire websites – and even terminate your access to the Internet.”

Also advanced under the TPP chapter on intellectual property rights, new laws would have to be put in place by governments to regulate Internet usage. OpenMedia further warned that, from the leaked documents on intellectual property rights, “there can be heavy fines for average citizens online,” adding: “you could be fined for clicking on a link, people could be knocked off the Internet and web sites could be locked off.”

The TPP, warned OpenMedia founder Steve Anderson, “will limit innovation and free expression.” Under the TPP, there is no distinction between commercial and non-commercial copyright infringement. Thus, users who download music for personal use would face the same penalties as those who sell pirated music for profit.

Information that is created or shared on social networking sites could have Internet users fined, have their computers seized, their Internet usage terminated, or even get them a jail sentence. The TPP imposes a “three strikes” system for copyright infringement, where three violations would result in the termination of a household’s Internet access.

So, why all the secrecy? Corporate and political decision-makers study public opinion very closely; they know how to manipulate the public based upon what the majority think and believe. When it comes to “free trade” agreements, public opinion has forced negotiators into the darkness of back-room deals and unaccountable secrecy precisely because populations are so overwhelmingly against such agreements.

An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American public has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” toward NAFTA-style trade deals.

A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs.” Only 17% of Americans in 2010 felt that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007.

Because public opinion is strongly – and increasingly – against “free trade agreements,” secrecy is required in order to prevent the public from even knowing about, let alone actively opposing, agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And this, as U.S. Trade Representative Kirk explained, is a very “practical” reason for all the secrecy.

Part III of Marshall's investigative series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will appear Monday.

People are simply too stupid

People are simply too stupid to live, is the conclusion I have most unwillingly come to.

Individually, they are fine. In SMALL groups, as they evolved, they are fine; willing stewards to their environment, and able to make something from almost nothing. Couldn't ask, for a better species to belong to.

But collectively? The more faces a person is "in contact" with (see "teevee"), the more that person pulls back from any critical involvement.

It really is only a matter of time, before we make one or a dozen compromises too many, and a LOT of people die as a result.

After that, it's up in the air, because that watershed will change everything -- except the basic nature of humans, which will remain in waiting for (and likely setting up) our next "unforeseen" catastrophe.

And likely at that point, the emerging narrative will say that we had no choice under the circumstances, but to cut the poor and starving off, and let them die.

But this will NOT be any sort of an advance, because we DO have choices. They are simply choices we have no intention of taking.

We will have traded our little remaining morality for just another feel-better story, while killing off our fellows in the process.

Anyone still wondering why humans today have no soul, no guiding light? It is because of where we've come from, and what we have done on the way.

As with too many things our

As with too many things our Government is either doing or agreeing to this comes under the heading of, "If you put up with it you deserve it"

Tell your government NO TPP. NO GMOs. NO more "WAR ON..."

I've started a petition. It

I've started a petition. It needs 150 signatures to become publicly viewable on the website...

404 Not Found. Please fix

404 Not Found. Please fix the link. I'll sign it.

404 Not Found. Please fix

404 Not Found. Please fix the link. I'll sign it.

Unfortunately, the URL for

Unfortunately, the URL for your petition is being truncated, and therefore I cannot locate your petition on the White House site. Could you please break your URL into pieces and repost so we can see the full URL? Otherwise, I cannot get to your petition, which is not showing up in search on the site.

It is indeed hard to pin down

It is indeed hard to pin down exactly what economic "fascism" is and how it works. It seems to change for each power system depending on what perceived economic system will keep the power elite in power.

There are, however, several universal aspects economic fascism.

(1) Collaboration of governments with corporations in order to force corporate ideologies on a people, by force, if necessary.

(2) The suspension of liberal capitalism, which simply means an economic system founded on real competition (this has been the model, incrementally, for decades).

(3) Laws passed that supersede government constitutions in order to favor corporate profits and control of populations, by proxy of governments, and through governmental force--military.

So from my understanding, what we have here is a trans-national economic fascist movement spearheaded by corporations, made possible by the support of governments in order to guarantee those in power stay in power.

In other words, governments give up their power to shape and regulate both political and economic futures, and become the enforces of power behind a corporate political and economic systems in order to stay in power themselves. In this sense, democracy is relegated to irrelevance, since any 'democratic' laws must first past corporate scrutiny.

So why is this happening? From an infrastructure position, it's because capitalism cannot survive on competition alone. It simply implodes, as we have seen. In order to maintain power structures, capitalism must be replaced with a system that supports and gives power to current power systems. Hence, what we see happening now.

. . gee how fast we

. . gee how fast we forget....The XL pipeline has been pushed through by the republicans - and our president... George Bush and Dick Cheney said how they wanted long term bases in the middle east - - - lo and behold the president signs an agreement with Afghhanistan for aid for the decade following our complete withdrawal..(2024).( no objection from the republican house?? ).....
. . Is our President a republican stooge working under cover for the republicans ?? Gitmo is still open. . . Save money ?? Foreign Aid has expanded...We have over eight hundred military installations around the world . . . T.A.R.P. has not been fully re-paid AS BOTH SIDES HAVE of Wall Street ...nope.............banks.....nope.......... has the foreclosure disaster benn addressed.... nope
. . the pipeline is not built with U.S. steel.......
Democrat ?? - - - republican ?? - - - - ONE HAND WASHES THE OTHER......

Fascism is in overdrive!

Fascism is in overdrive!



MNhistoryfan's picture

I doubt it. More doom

I doubt it. More doom spreaders. Worry about something real, like the hurricanes, storms, floods, drought, wildfires, changes in bugs, insects, grasses and other things wild life feeds on. That's where our real demise lies. If you think you can keep this to the U.S. dream on.

Obama is more of a

Obama is more of a representative for the UN than he's ever been as the POTUS. It blows me away that he was ever 're-elected', especially with the uproar in regards to his legitimate citizenship status ... leaving me to wonder how he was ever allowed back on the ballot to begin with.

This Generation had better be keeping their eyes on Washington D.C. and taking action to rid ourselves of the traitors that have infiltrated our Government while we can. NAFTA the TTP, the SPP, the Dream Act, etc. are all individual steps leading us away from our Sovereignty and into the NAU. The Mega-Corporations need to be put back in their place and the Politician's they've purchased need to be sent to prison for Treason.

If we reverted back to our original Constitution, the majority of the problems we are facing to day would solve themselves.

MNhistoryfan's picture

you must have missed all the

you must have missed all the stories, articles, photographs of Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate as well the published announcement of his birth. I doubt that you would believe it if even if you could somehow be transported back in time to watch the birth.
This is past arguing about. No amount of evidence satisfies you.

We are contending with FIPA

We are contending with FIPA here in Canada: a similar power grab for China; as well as TPP, this time touted by the most secretive & regressive Federal government Canadians may ever have had. We have already suffered expensive, public-fund-paid lawsuits from US corporations ‘investing’ here, over claimed losses of putative profits due to environmental regulations. Sovereignty now appears to be an unspeakably dirty word, unless it’s corporate sovereignty.

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