Second Release of Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Documents

TRADE, 16 Dec 2013

Charles P. Pierce – Esquire

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

WikiLeaks and The Huffington Post have raised all kinds of unshirted hell this morning [9 Dec 2013] by publishing a trove of documents relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the gigantic new trade agreement which was negotiated largely in secret — unless, of course, you were a CEO or a lobbyist who worked for one — and which the administration is seeking to “fast-track” through Congress so as to avoid the kind of public scrutiny to which deals like this rarely stand up. OK, that last part’s me, but you get the point.

One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.

The documents say pretty much what you’d expect them to say — that the provisions of the TPP grant multinational corporations vast new powers and that, among these, are virtual veto-powers over local environmental and labor laws, and that the agreement is a virtual Christmas tree on which corporations have hung all of their fondest individual wishes regarding future profiteering. (The drug companies seem particularly hopeful, which is to say incredibly greedy.) Large financial institutions seem happy, too.

The U.S. is also facing major resistance on bank regulation standards. The Obama administration is seeking to curtail the use of “capital controls” by foreign governments. These can include an extremely broad variety of financial tools, from restricting lending in overheated markets to denying mass international outflows of currency during a financial panic. The loss of these tools would dramatically limit the ability of governments to prevent and stem banking crises.

(Let us pause right here to acknowledge that any counter-argument based on what a schmuck you think Julian Assange is will be ruled out of order as immaterial and irrelevant to the matter at hand. Thank you.)

The TPP, which will materially affect the lives , in one way or another, of every American who works for a living, has been criminally undercovered in the United States media — and I include the blog in this, as well — while it has been negotiated in secrecy among a corporate class beyond the reach of democratic accountability, and a corporate class that most people around the world have no earthly reason to trust any more. The administration inexcusably is trying to short-circuit debate on what would be a massive reconfiguration of the relationship between the American government and the universe of international business and finance, which latter is acting in this matter very much the way a state would if it were negotiating a treaty — or, say, the terms of a surrender, not that I’m negative on the whole business or anything. The lack of any kind of accountability, let alone transparency  — in which I include the media, and in which I definitely include this blog — on something of this magnitude seems so, well, transparently, unAmerican that it almost beggars argument. And if there is no official accountability, then, thank god, there is going to be unofficial accountability and renegade transparency, and that’s just tough. I don’t want to hear official blatherings about “outdated” documents. I want to know what deals my government is cutting with people from whom I, at this point, wouldn’t buy an apple.

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