The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?
One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws – and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers – without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions – and even billions – of dollars in damages.
If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
Trying to learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is like trying to walk through a minefield. The only information we really have is courtesy of leaks, and those snippets are definitely not encouraging.
Pretty much every piece of major legislation passed by Congress since 9/11 is either a taxpayer giveaway to mega corporations, or a major expansion of government power. The worst pieces of legislation are always marketed with positive sounding terms and soundbites. The latest swindle is no exception. At its core, the TPP appears to be nothing more than a ceding of national sovereignty to multi-national corporations. Then again, us skeptics could be wrong about that, but chances are we’re not. We just don’t know because the text is “classified.”
Passing this corporate giveaway masquerading as a “free trade deal” is a lengthy process; a process that begins today with a Senate vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast track.” Passing TPA would be Congress agreeing to neuter itself to a yes or no vote on a trade pact and ceding its power to amend it. Even worse, it would give trade deals this expedited process for six years, thus outlasting the current Administration, and applying to other “trade” deals like the TTIP. Mind you, TPA is being voted on while the TPP text remains completely hidden from the public.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a procedural vote to start debate on the so-called “fast track” trade bill, which would set the rules for congressional passage of trade agreements like the one U.S. officials are negotiating in the Pacific.
Tuesday’s vote will be the first chance to take the temperature of the entire Senate on Mr. Obama’s trade policy, which has stirred fierce opposition among unions, environmentalists and other liberal and conservative organizations but is backed by many economists and business groups.
That’s the first warning sign.
Who is voting for it? Nearly all of the Senate’s 54 Republicans are expected to vote for Mr. McConnell’s motion on Tuesday. Most Republicans and business groups back opening up trade and setting American-style rules of the road for commerce in the Pacific.
If it fails, is that the end of Mr. Obama’s divisive trade push?
Mr. McConnell could repeat the exercise with a different package, but the delay would add to the risk that the legislation stalls until after Memorial Day recess. That could weigh on the bill’s overall chances, since opponents are generating grassroots opposition across the country.
That just says it all doesn’t it? They need to pass it before the public has a chance to learn about it and oppose it. Typical Washington D.C. bullshit.
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Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.
If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
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