TPP: A Trade Deal from Hell

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By Stephen Lendman

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Obama and political Washington support an alphabet soup of repressive police state laws, other freedom destroying measures, and hellish trade deals.

SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA threaten online freedom. Free speech and civil protections are endangered species. So are other inviolable rule of law provisions. With bipartisan support, they’re heading for the trash bin of history.

Obama officials secretly negotiated and adopted ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). It established unrestricted supranational global trade rules. Its provisions trample on national sovereignty, privacy and personal freedoms.

In October 2011, Obama lawlessly circumvented Congress. He signed ACTA. He falsely claimed it’s not a treaty. He usurped diktat authority. He claimed he acted by “executive agreement.” He strong-armed other nations to go along.

TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) is ACTA 2.0. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) calls it “a secretive, multi-nation agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe.”

Ten nations negotiated it secretly plus Japan without formal status. They include America, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Canada, and Mexico.

They want it adopted quietly out of public view. Since March 2010, multiple negotiating rounds were held. They continue. Other nations may come aboard. Mexico is the latest.

At issue is agreeing on unrestricted trade in goods, services, rules of origin, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers, government procurement and competition policies, and intellectual property (IP).

IP includes copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related considerations. One-sided pro-business structuring harms ordinary popular rights. At stake is a free and open Internet, its global infrastructure, and worldwide innovation under level playing field rules.

Power brokers want secretive provisions established with no public knowledge of their destructive harm. TPP aims to rewrite global IP enforcement rules. It also includes numerous other anti-populist mandates.

National sovereignty is at stake. Signatory countries will have to change domestic laws, regulations, and other policies to comply.

Leaked provisions subvert US laws. Congress is powerless to enforce them. Supranational TPP authority overrides national sovereignty. Investor rights are prioritized over public ones.

Corporate giants already rule the world. Imagine giving them more power. Imagine having no way to stop them. Imagine a president trashing personal freedoms for his own self-interest.

In 1995, Lori Wallach founded Global Trade Watch. It’s a Public Citizen division. It monitors destructive trade deals.

Its “mission is to ensure that in this era of globalization, a majority have the opportunity to enjoy economic security, a clean environment, safe food, medicines and products, access to quality affordable services such as health care and the exercise of democratic decision-making about the matters that affect their lives.”

Working closely with environmental, labor, and other allied groups, Wallach supports the public interest in Congress, foreign parliaments, the courts, government agencies, and the media.

A National Journal profile called her “the trade debate’s guerrilla warrior.’ The Institute for International Economics says she’s the “madame Defarge of Seattle.”

On June 13, Public Citizen headlined “Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda.”

“After Two Years of Closed-Door Negotiations, Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Replicates Alarming Bush Trade Pact Terms That Obama Opposed as Candidate, and Worse.”

US officials secretly agreed to controversial provisions. According to Wallach:

“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations.”

“Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”

Outrageous TPP Investment Chapter provisions:

(1) prohibit federal, state, and local governments from regulating foreign companies operating in America. They’ll have greater rights than US firms.

(2) incentivize corporate America to invest abroad and offshore more jobs to low wage countries.

(3) establish a two-track legal system. Foreign firms will be exempt from US laws. They’ll be able to sue federal, state and local governments in foreign courts. At issue is demanding compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use, and other laws they claim undermine their rights.

(4) let foreign corporations demand and receive compensation for costs incurred in complying with US financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to all companies globally.

Hundreds of US corporate officials have access to TPP provisions. They’re advising US negotiators on what they want. Except for leaks, the public is entirely shut out.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk defended TPP secrecy despite having no leg to stand on. According to Wallach:

He “effectively has said that the administration must keep TPP secret because otherwise it won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress.”

“The airing of this one TPP chapter, which greatly favors foreign corporations over domestic businesses and the public interest and exposes us to significant financial liabilities, shows that the whole draft text must be released immediately so it can be reviewed and debated.”

“Absent that, these negotiations must be ended now.”

Obama wants negotiations completed by fall. Other countries are free to join in later. Information Public Citizen obtained shows how TPP tramples on individual freedom and national sovereignty.

US negotiators want extrajudicial enforcement rights. They want corporate investors freed to do what they please without regulatory oversight.

On June 14, Public Citizen said TPP “could undermine Medicare, Medicaid,” and veterans’ health benefits. Seniors, military families, and America’s least advantaged will be harmed most.

That the whole idea. TPP prioritizes corporate interests at the expense of public ones. For example, affordable medicines will be lost. Price containment will be subverted. Leaked texts reveal it.

On June 18, Public Citizen said Mexico became the tenth negotiating country. China reportedly is seeking entry. Expect others to follow.

Wallach again stressed that TPP’s “model is fundamentally flawed: It’s hard to imagine who in this country would support it if they knew that it banned ‘Buy American’ procurements, limited Internet freedom a la SOPA (the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act) or created a two-track judicial system privileging corporations with a new ticket to raid our tax dollars.”

“Adding more countries just expands the potential threats of corporate attacks that the TPP poses to people here and now also poses to Mexicans.”

Congressional opposition exists. Sixty-nine members wrote Obama after learning that TPP bans “Buy American” procurement rules.

The entire Congress can hang its hat on that issue. Whether it will is another matter entirely.

US politics are too corrupt to fix. Big money controls it. What corporate funders want they get.

Public rage alone can change things. Expect nothing else to work. It’s high time people understood the buck stops with them. There is no alternative.

It’s their choice and burden to bear otherwise. Hopefully they’ll stand up for what they should have demanded long ago.

Stealth Trade Agreement Secret Negotiations

Two other articles address the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). They discuss what the companion article to this one calls a trade deal from hell.

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch says it’s a “Corporate Power Tool of the 1%.” Secret negotiations plan:

  • offshoring millions more US jobs to low wage countries;
  • freeing giant banking crooks entirely from oversight;
  • banning “Buy America” policies in deference to global marketplace mandates;
  • decreasing access to medicines and making prescription drugs less affordable;
  • infesting America with toxic foods and other harmful products; and
    destroying fast eroding environmental and health safeguards.

In many respects, TPP represents a death sentence for fundamental human rights, environmental protections, employment prospects, and constitutional freedoms. Nonetheless, it’s being secretly discussed in multiple negotiating rounds.

Obama officials push it. They’re pressuring negotiating nations to accept Washington diktats. They urge others to join those currently involved.

Twelve negotiating rounds were held. From July 2 – 10, San Diego is hosting round 13. US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk held a July 2 Direct Stakeholder Engagement.

He’s part of the problem, not the solution. Tech Dirt.com says he “continues to insult the intelligence of the Senate.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR) questioned him about lack of transparency. Most congressional representatives have no access to TPP documents. At the same time, corporate officials on government advisory boards and selected business friendly NGOs are kept fully informed.

Negotiators demand no public revelations or information sharing.

Like his predecessors, Kirk represents entrenched power. Public interests are spurned. So is Congress. Wyden chairs the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.

Unlike corporate representatives able to access TPP documents online, Wyden must visit USTR offices, remain in a private room, and take no notes or make copies of anything he sees. He can’t even bring his own staff expert with him.

At issue is why hasn’t the entire Congress stopped this?

On July 2, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined “Internet Users Again Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations,” saying:

Sinister trade deal talks threaten Internet and other fundamental freedoms. The public is entirely shut out. So are most congressional members.

What’s ongoing “not only lacks transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.”

EFF’s International Property team attended “the first days” of round 13 negotiations. IP Director Carolina Rossini lead them. She focuses on Internet and IP law and policy, cooperation theory, international IP negotiations, and open licensing.

EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator Maira Sutton is also involved. She monitors emerging trends and developments in international freedom of expression, privacy, digital consumer rights and innovation.

Team members hope to do more to raise public awareness about ongoing “shady proceedings.”

TPP provisions aim to enact global copyright mandates and more. National sovereignty won’t matter. Corporate lobbyists want it subverted.

If enacted, TPP will “prevent countries from passing, or even retaining, pragmatic copyright legislation appropriate” for individual country needs.

Provisions discussed are secret and destructive of personal freedoms. They include intellectual property (IP), copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and liability for ISPs and online hosting providers.

Leaked information only has come out. From what’s known, everyone should be “furious that government representatives are negotiating an agreement (to) harm online expression, privacy, and innovation.”

Negotiating countries include America, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Brunei, Canada and Mexico. Japan’s involved without formal status.

Expect other pressured countries to join them. Some will jump voluntarily. Draconian enforcement standards will be created worse than ones in place.

Many groups joined the anti-TPP fight. They’re holding San Diego events and actions. They include OpenMedia.ca, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, and others. Expect new ones to join.

They comprise an international coalition against TPP’s assault on Internet and other personal freedoms.

Congressional demands for transparency are growing. Backing up rhetoric with action is essential. Over 130 House members wrote USTR Kirk. Four senators joined them, including Wyden.

They demand members of Congress and groups advocating Internet freedom have full access to TPP documents.

In a joint statement, Senators Wyden, Sherrod Brown (D. OH), Jeff Merkley (D. OR), and Robert menendez (D. NJ) said:

“Groups essential to the success and legitimacy of any agreements are not being provided the opportunity to provide meaningful input on negotiations that have broad policy ramifications.”

“If Congress and the broader public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then the opportunity for meaningful input is lost.”

“The lack of transparency and input makes passage of trade agreements more contentious and controversial.”

In June, Representative Darrell Issa (R. CA) leaked TPP’s IP chapter. Last year he opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Technology companies raised concerns. They have similar apprehensions about TPP.

In late May, Wyden introduced legislation opposing its secrecy. Only about a dozen congressional members know its contents. They’re part of a Congressional Oversight Group.

According to Wyden, a 2002 law requires all members of Congress be given full access. Legislation he introduced stresses full disclosure.

On July 3, a joint statement from EFF, Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology International, and Public Knowledge addressed USTR Kirk’s new copyright exceptions and limitations introduced in San Diego.

It includes a “3-step test.” It involves restricting copyright exceptions like fair use. Its secret proposal includes provisions similar to Article 13 of the WTO TRIPS (Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). It states:

“Members shall confine limitations or exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.”

Depending on TPP’s actual language and interpretation, it may restrict fair use and other copyright exceptions and limitations. They’re vital for issues regarding culture, science, education, innovation, and the ability of everyone in free societies to benefit from them.

In 2000, the WTO defined the “3-step test” narrowly and restrictively. It makes it hard to justify legal limitations or exceptions to exclusive copyright ownership.

International trade agreements must protect vital exceptions and limitations. TPP is no exception. The Berne and Rome Conventions include provisions providing them without a “3-step test.”

Advocacy for Internet Freedom

On July 2, Free Press.net joined over 100 other advocacy groups, human rights organizations, technology companies, and concerned individuals in issuing a “Declaration of Internet Freedom.”

It aims to “preserve the Internet as a platform for speech, innovation and creativity.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron issued the following statement:

“Today’s launch of the Declaration of Internet Freedom is another major step forward in the growing movement to define and defend the online freedoms all people should enjoy.”

“We’ve seen the power that millions of people have against threats from corporate and government interests alike — whether in fighting for Net Neutrality or against SOPA. Now comes a moment for us to shape, to debate and to unite behind a positive, proactive vision for the Internet’s future.”

Free Press Internet Campaign Director Josh Levy said:

“Earlier this year, a big-tent, post-partisan coalition came together to fight against SOPA and PIPA, two bills that threatened to cause irreparable harm to the open Internet.”

“Now members of this same group are fighting not just to stop bad legislation, but to secure and protect our universal freedom to connect online.”

“We want Internet users worldwide to engage with these principles, discuss them, remix them and make them their own, improving the final product in ways that only the Internet makes possible.”

Supportive organizations advocate a free and open Internet, full transparency, and participation in discussions relating to its policies.

They firmly oppose censorship. They support universal access to fast and affordable networks. They want the benefits of Internet technology to serve everyone equitably.

A Final Comment

On July 4, AP headlined “European Parliament overwhelmingly rejects ACTA anti-piracy pact,” saying:

Voting 478 against, 39 in favor, and 165 abstentions, they rejected unrestricted supranational global trade rules. If established, they’d trample on national sovereignty, privacy and personal freedoms.

In October 2011, Obama lawlessly circumvented Congress. He signed ACTA. He falsely claimed it’s not a treaty. He usurped diktat authority. He claimed he acted by “executive agreement.” He strong-armed other nations to go along.

The companion article to this one calls TPP ACTA 2.0.

AP said the EU Parliament defeat means TPP is dead in Europe – “at least for the moment.”

These type measure never die. They don’t even fade away. They lurk unnoticed surreptitiously. At opportune moments, they resurface under new names.

The European Commission serves as the EU’s executive arm. Its spokesman said it may take another vote once a court ruling decides on whether ACTA violates fundamental EU rights.

Supporters claim enacting it would standardize international IP right laws. Opponents understand it means censorship and loss of online freedom.

It involves far more than counterfeiting issues. It covers copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property forms, including the Internet.

It’s also about the ability of users to communicate, collaborate and create freely. Moreover, it requires Internet intermediaries to police cyberspace and its users.

As a result, it raises serious questions about open affordable access, free expression, personal privacy, and fair use rights.

It’s an unabashed assault on personal freedoms. As explained above, Obama usurped diktat authority. He signed it extrajudicially. He lawlessly circumvented Congress.

Freedom in America is fast eroding. It’s an endangered species. Some congressional members talk, but few act act to save it. Revolutionary activism is the only way.

It’s high time enough concerned people understood the threat and acted forthrightly to prevent it. It’s our only chance.
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Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

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