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Matfess writes: "American democracy is in a sorry state when corporations are granted more access to even the text of sweeping government agreements than the public and its elected officials."

Demonstrators rally against the TPP in Leesburg, VA. (photo: Global Trade Watch)
Demonstrators rally against the TPP in Leesburg, VA. (photo: Global Trade Watch)


The TPP: A Quiet Coup For the Investor Class

By Hilary Matfess, Foreign Policy In Focus

26 September 12

 

t would be a relief to report with any certainty that the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - a massive proposed free-trade zone spanning the Pacific Ocean and all four hemispheres - are definitely empowering corporations to the detriment of workers, the environment, and sovereignty throughout the region. Unfortunately, the secretive and opaque character of the negotiations has made it difficult to report much of anything about them.

What can be confidently reported about the TPP is that, in terms of trade flows, it would be the largest free-trade agreement yet entered into by the United States - and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, that the ministers negotiating the agreement "have expressed an intent to comprehensively reduce barriers in goods, services, and agricultural trade as well as rules and disciplines on a wide range of topics” to unprecedented levels. Yet despite these grandiose ambitions, details of the negotiations and drafts of the text have been purposefully withheld from Congress and American citizens.

The secrecy surrounding the negotiations is breathtaking. In July, 134 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk requesting that the appropriate congressional committees be consulted and that a draft of the text be released. The members reminded Kirk that draft texts were circulated and congressional committees consulted throughout the NAFTA negotiations in the early 1990s. Their letter received no response. A month later, House members petitioned Kirk to allow a congressional delegation to observe the negotiations - as in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the launch of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, and numerous NAFTA rounds. Despite its persistence, Congress has not been granted any significant oversight or insight regarding the negotiations.

While Congress, the press, and the public have had to make do with leaked chapters of negotiations, Just Foreign Policy reports that 600 corporate lobbyists were granted access to the negotiated text. American democracy is in a sorry state when corporations are granted more access to even the text of sweeping government agreements than the public and its elected officials. Although corporate influence on U.S. trade policy is hardly a new phenomenon, the simultaneous waning of congressional oversight is all the more unsettling.

In May, Democratic Reps. Barney Frank and Sander Levin wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to express their concern about the TPP's provisions entrenching capital mobility. Their letter requested "an official written statement of the U.S. policy” concerning the ability of parties to the agreement to deploy capital controls in the face of a financial crisis. If the leaked drafts accurately reflect the direction of the negotiations, countries that instituted capital controls could be taken to court by private corporations and could be held liable for damages. Hundreds of economists signed letters in January and February 2011 opposing these provisions, yet the investment chapter leaked in June suggests that neither their concerns nor Frank's and Levin's were taken into consideration.

Other troubling trends have emerged in the leaked chapters. According to Citizen.org, the negotiations thus far have given corporations the right to avoid government review when acquiring land, natural resources, or factories. They have also banned corporate performance requirements, guaranteed compensation for the loss of "‘expected future profits' from health, labor, [or] environmental” regulations, and included stunning provisions concerning the right to "move capital without limits.” If these are indeed terms of the TPP, then the agreement would make it nearly impossible for countries to hold corporations accountable for their conduct - and would in fact hold governments liable for any "damage” incurred by corporations due to the institution of regulations.

Many progressives had hoped that President Barack Obama would shift U.S. trade policy away from staunch free-marketeering. But according to Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, the leaked chapters of the TPP "sent shock waves through Congress because it showed that U.S. negotiators had totally abandoned Obama's campaign pledges to replace the old NAFTA trade model and in fact were doubling down and expanding the very Bush-style deal that Obama campaigned against in 2008 to win key swing states.”

The struggle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership reveals a disturbing trend in American politics. The much discussed Citizens United ruling granting corporations personhood has given way to a trade negotiation process in which corporations are granted more rights than American citizens, their elected representatives, or foreign governments impacted by the deal. That trade negotiations with such an immense potential impact on numerous sectors of the American economy have been conducted in secret is troubling enough. To consider that those negotiating the treaty have willfully ignored experts and elected representatives in favor of corporate interests calls into question the sustainability of American democracy.

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-37 # phantomww 2012-09-26 23:52
How can this be true? Congress can't get information from most tranparent administration in history? Oh, I know it must be the evil republicans fault. I can understand why the tax cheat Sec Treas Geithner would not reply to that evil conservative republican Barney Frank.

How is that hope and change going for all you progressives out there?
 
 
+15 # cynnibunny 2012-09-27 01:03
Quoting phantomww:
How can this be true? Congress can't get information from most tranparent administration in history?
......
How is that hope and change going for all you progressives out there?


How's that two-party = democracy comfort food working for ya' Neanderthal? If you think 'all' supporters of Obama think that he's gonna solve all our problems by himself, then tuck us in at night - well, go on and keep believing in your essentialist fairy tales.

Presidents, Senators, Representatives , etc are sad compromises that an alert and aware populace must work with. Election success means something, but it's only one small part of democratic action that is available. Occupy Wall Street was much more powerful: it changed the dialog - not as much as it deserved to, but enough to make a real difference.

I for one, see politicians as imperfect mercenaries, and when they disappoint - and yes Obama really does disappoint (caving into Wall Street, not fighting the GOP enough) - I think back to how it was when GW was Pres, or Reagan!

It is stupid to be a Republican just because a Democrat isn't perfect. Policies mean something.

Alas, this TPP seems horrible. But it doesn't encourage me to vote Republican just because they would be honest in their unabashed pro-corporate greed.
 
 
0 # RLF 2012-10-02 06:03
I won't vote Republican...I' ll vote Green or Socialist. Obama was a turncoat from the very first appointments. He doesn't have a liberal bone in his body. Go ahead and vote Republican light if you want but I won't. Also...get angree if you like but cool the name calling.
 
 
+28 # James Smith 2012-09-27 05:12
It is not going well as the rethugnicans have consistently blocked anything proposed by the Obama administration, even the health care bill that's no more than a warmed-over version of Romneycare. Even Mitt the twit is no opposed to the very thing he supported in MA.

Remember, the Repthugnicans publicly stated that it was more important for Obama to fail than for the country to recover from the various disasters left from the Bush years. Or is that an awkward moment for you to consider those facts?
 
 
+9 # HowardMH 2012-09-27 11:17
James, but what you really doing to do with Obama the Wimp?

Don't blame Mitt or any other millionaire for how little they pay in taxes. Blame the millions of IDIOTS that voted for the politicians that passed the laws that allow the rich to continue screwing everyone else that earns a modest paycheck.
Until there are two hundred thousand really, really pissed off people on Capital Hill (all at the same time) raising some serious hell against the Lunatics, absolutely nothing is ever, ever going to happen to these totally bought and paid for by the richest 50 people in the world that are becoming more and more powerful with each passing rigged election thanks to the stupid people.
 
 
+6 # Johnny 2012-09-27 11:42
Those "millions of idiots" voted for the only candidates that were on the ballot and included in media exposure.
 
 
+16 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-27 08:25
phantomww,

I am so very impressed with your original and astute observation regarding hope and change!

How is Sec. Geitner a tax cheat? I thought he paid the IRS for any taxes he did not pay. In order to be a cheat, you have to deny that you owed the money, then you have to lose the appeal in a hearing, if not in court. Unless you now consider guilty until proven innocent to be a guiding principal.

I think you know that the Obama administration has not met up to the extremely high expectations of the Progressives, and the degree of his cooperation with the 1% ruling elite is troubling.

This is one of the reasons we support Occupy. It is the only voice in the wilderness calling out the criminal activity of the 1% ruling elite. However, even though I would much prefer the negotiations be made public, at least in synopsis format, and that Congress have oversight there will be no agreement without Congressional approval.
I for one,would much rather have Obama than Romney negotiating and even more important the Progressive Democrats and Independent in Congress must have final approval. That is just another reason we cannot allow the Senate to go to the Republicans and why the House must be returned to the Democrats. Its not a case of one-party rule, its a case of one party holding America hostage for the benefit of the ruling elite's agenda.
 
 
+16 # in deo veritas 2012-09-27 08:42
The declared purpose of the Rethuglicans is more proof that they are the enemy of democracy. If they are not crushed in November the USA is as good as dead. If they are open enough to admit their disdain for the American people and a recovery why are many people too stupid to listen to them? We have met the eenemy and he is US!
 
 
0 # RLF 2012-10-02 06:00
This is Democratic business as usual since Clinton started the "I'm more conservative than the conservatives" and won. The Dems and Obama have become free traders because they think we gain more than we loose...problem is...very few gain and the 99% loose big time...we can buy cheap chinese stuff cheap but have no job/money to buy anything. We need a 20% VAT to get rid of the low quality, unrepairable Chinese junk. We also need to start realizing that the reason Bush had a crap economy is because Clinton left it there with his bubbles...IT and the beginnings of the real estate bubble, made possible by the repeal of Glass/Steagal. With Democrats like these...who needs Republicans?
 
 
+33 # Smiley 2012-09-27 00:17
Without open negotiations and democratic backing the negotiations of the TPP will have NO legitimacy. When corporations put profit above life, people and the future, they have no right to exist...and profit is their highest legal fiduciary responsibility.
 
 
+3 # Johnny 2012-09-27 11:39
They don't need legitimacy. They have the military, intelligence agencies, and police to enforce the TPP.
 
 
+22 # Mardi Gras 2012-09-27 01:27
TPP negotiations need to be STOPPED. The corporations influencing the negotiations do not have the best interests of the American people, OR THE PEOPLE OF ANY NATION, at heart. President Obama needs to hear loud and clear, the sooner the better, that the TPP is simply unacceptable. It would sacrifice, to greedy corporations, control over many, MANY aspects of our lives, including our food supply.
 
 
+5 # in deo veritas 2012-09-27 08:44
If Obama does not come out against the TPP and work to defeat it then he should be impeached along with any member of Congress voting for it. It is time for the people to play hardball and realize that all the campaign rhetoric is just empty BS.
 
 
+1 # Johnny 2012-09-27 11:37
Obomber knows that "TPP is simply unacceptable"-- to us 99 percent. He doesn't care, because it is the 1 percent, to whom TPP is acceptable, who buy elections.
 
 
+17 # MainStreetMentor 2012-09-27 01:34
‘T is this and no other, which brings about the demise of what was the greatest economic power on earth since the beginning of recorded time: Greed, and a failure in interests to curtail it
 
 
+13 # James Marcus 2012-09-27 03:34
Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!
The Secrecy surrounding..al most Everything, is staggering.
Keeping the Public 'in the dark', for 'National Security reasons', for 'their own good', for 'protecting the innocent', etc. Can you believe it? Such Nonsense!!
All Lies, and cover-ups, and Hands-in-the-Tr easury' /Contract/ Treaty.
Our Government Of, By and For The People, has been Officially Traded by Most representatives , with the Advise and Consent of the Supreme Court (In)Justices (also properly bought)
 
 
0 # RLF 2012-10-02 06:08
It is arrogance. We don't have Ivy League degrees and wouldn't understand the 'complexity'! They have to protect us from our own ignorance.
 
 
+14 # RMDC 2012-09-27 04:48
One more example of why the Obama regime is just as bad as the Bush regime. Everyone should know by now that these "free trade agreements" are the root cause of the crisis level economic disparity in the world. They enable wealth to flow upward to the richest 1%. They are written by the 1% and for the 1%.

Obama could all by himself put a stop to this. He could refuse to act on it.

The textbook definition of Fascism is the corporate control of governments. In a democracy, people control government. Fascism emerged in the 19th century as a reaction to democracy and socialism. Its political theory is that a ruling elite of wealth has a right to control governments and nations. Trade Agreements like the TPP are essentially fascist. Obama's policies are deeply fascist. It just appears that no one cares anymore.
 
 
+3 # TomThumb 2012-09-27 11:13
Quoting RMDC:
One more example of why the Obama regime is just as bad as the Bush regime. Everyone should know by now that these "free trade agreements" are the root cause of the crisis level economic disparity in the world. They enable wealth to flow upward to the richest 1%. They are written by the 1% and for the 1%.

Obama could all by himself put a stop to this. He could refuse to act on it.

The textbook definition of Fascism is the corporate control of governments. In a democracy, people control government. Fascism emerged in the 19th century as a reaction to democracy and socialism. Its political theory is that a ruling elite of wealth has a right to control governments and nations. Trade Agreements like the TPP are essentially fascist. Obama's policies are deeply fascist. It just appears that no one cares anymore.


Capitalism, or as Nial Ferguson has termed it Finance, did not overthrow, but was responsible for the demise of fuedalism. The nobility became so indebted and addicted to the newly moneyed class, that they had to bend to its desires. What they set up was an authoritarian system obedient in laws and customs to the new national orders, which with imperialism became the new world order. Tommy Rimes
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-27 14:56
TomThumb,

with all due respect, I think Ferguson is wrong about just about everything he writes and is too smart to not know it so i think he is also disingenuous at best if not outright intellectually dishonest.

Finance was not responsible for the demise of feudalism. the development of the forces of production (i.e., technology and the "socialization" of labor i.e., the development of individual labor into social, collective labor) made the old guild system not just outdated and anarchronistic but also a real constraint on the further development of capital. And, since capital needed wage-laborers and not guild masters and apprentices they needed to create this mass of wage laborers which is why you then get the enclosure laws in England (so that people could not remain economically self-sufficient outside of the wage/money/comm odity economy)....as for your comment below on fascism, i think fascism was in fact much more a movement that had to do with the most advanced wing of capital (i.e., monopoly capital) rather than the old authoritarian order (though i fully agree with your description of it as being pseudo-populist ).
 
 
+2 # WolfTotem 2012-09-28 15:35
Quoting dkonstruction:


Finance was not responsible for the demise of feudalism.


Now we have a new feudalism, but one without any reciprocity. The barons protected their serfs, but no one protects the people who used to be (and still imagine themselves to be) citizens from corporate power.

We should bow down to our Owners. We owe them fealty and should be grateful for any scraps that fall from their high table.
 
 
+4 # TomThumb 2012-09-27 11:14
This preserved portions of the nobility to maintain order. Over time, nobility was overthrown and movements for democracy and socialism arose. Fascism arose as a psuedo-populist movement to restore the old authoritarian order. Tommy Rimes
 
 
0 # PhoenixRising 2012-09-27 09:17
Here is what the investor class coup has done to education for the last 17 years (a must read): http://www.scribd.com/doc/106337306/THE-CHICAGO-PUBLIC-SCHOOLS-ALLERGIC-TO-ACTIVISM
 
 
+1 # TomThumb 2012-09-27 09:30
It must be kept secret, otherwise the US population and that of other countries would rise up against it. It is not a fair trade agreement, it is like NAFTA,the WTO, and other agreements that subjegate local, and even national, control to large capital formations, an investors rights agreement. The large formations of capital, bot public and private, that are essentially negotiating these agreements, are essentially forming supra capital formations under the guise of a treaty. Tommy Rimes
 
 
+1 # dkonstruction 2012-09-27 09:52
This will be supported by both dems and repubs more or less universally since their role is not to protect or look out for any individual capitalist but rather capital and the system as a whole. US (and indeed global) capital has been suffering from a declining rate of profit (which is all that capital really cares about and not the absolute size of their profits) since the early 1970s and it is something it has never really recovered from. All of this "free trade" and "globalization" talk is ultimately about capital trying to overcome its own internal contradictions and its falling rate of profit...in the end, "it" has only two alternatives... continuing sluggish growth (i.e., low profits) which then often lead to speculative bubbles in one sector or another (because money has to go somewhere) or a massive destruction of wealth (as we saw in the Great Depression) which then returns the system as a whole to profitablility. so, "our responses" has to be informed by this overall situation and, given this, i think we need to have alot more discussion about how to separate "public finance" from "private finance" and the creation of publicly funded projects that are not determined by a rate of profit. This means that the discussion about a New Deal style jobs program also has to be linked to discussions about the creation of publicly owned financial institutions.
 
 
+2 # American_Idle 2012-09-27 10:42
TPP Outline

http://1.usa.gov/SorWWL
 
 
+4 # Johnny 2012-09-27 11:30
You will notice that the "free trade" is only free movement of capital and goods. It does not include free movement of labor--for the obvious reason that if workers could follow the capital that capitalists extort from their countries, it would be more difficult for the capitalists to keep the workforce in slavery and easier for the workers to join together across national boundaries.
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-09-27 13:34
Quoting Johnny:
You will notice that the "free trade" is only free movement of capital and goods. It does not include free movement of labor--for the obvious reason that if workers could follow the capital that capitalists extort from their countries, it would be more difficult for the capitalists to keep the workforce in slavery and easier for the workers to join together across national boundaries.


Great point Johnny...I have been saying for a while now that if capital wants no restrictions on its movement that we should demand the same thing for workers. Problem is i don't think most americans understand why it would be in their interests to make such a demand as they have been brainwashed into thinking that the free flow of capital is good but that the free flow of people (i.e., "illegals") is bad.
 
 
0 # RLF 2012-10-02 06:15
If labor could move and did it would accelerate a race to the bottom for worker incomes...which we are getting now but more slowly. The only excuse for free trade is development of the third world...support ed by business to create larger markets for the cheap crap made in the cheapest locations...in the end the run out of locations...but that doesn't do us a lot of good here. This is the only excuse I can see for Democratic support for free trade...and I don't like it a bit.
 
 
+2 # Buddha 2012-09-27 12:11
If Americans thought we had a major sucking sound as our jobs left to low-wage nations before, wait until TPP. This is the ultimate in driving all wages to a global equivalence. And given that 1B people live on $1/day, that equivalence isn't going to be a good thing for "formerly wealthy" developed nations. Capital is going to benefit, labor is going to lose, big time.
 
 
+1 # jflagg@corcoran.com 2012-09-27 14:21
Since this is the first I've heard about this, I suspect a lot of people don't know... safe to say most. We need to bring some light onto the subject and lobby our elected officials to insist they be given access as well as getting the names of the lobbyists who were already given access....
 
 
-1 # charsjcca 2012-09-27 16:09
The people of America will have one tool to deal with this:BOYCOTT. Boycotts always work. Our congress forfeited its power to be speak on behalf of the people long ago. That genie is out of the bottle. When progressives and tea partiers see their common purpose they will unite and dismantle this elitist cabal. That is why we have two Harvard lawyers as the lead candidates to be president for the next 4 years. Same is..
 
 
0 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 12:05
Quoting charsjcca:
The people of America will have one tool to deal with this:BOYCOTT. Boycotts always work. Our congress forfeited its power to be speak on behalf of the people long ago. That genie is out of the bottle. When progressives and tea partiers see their common purpose they will unite and dismantle this elitist cabal. That is why we have two Harvard lawyers as the lead candidates to be president for the next 4 years. Same is..


Sadly, boycotts do not always work and even when they do sometimes they take a very long time (e.g., the boycott of grapes when i was growing up to support the farmworkers or the boycott of Nestle to get them to stop peddling baby formula in developing countries). So, while boycotts can be a great tactic they are never a panacea and should when it comes to electoral politics have always tended to be merely self-defeating.

I do however, agree wholeheartedly with your pointed comment that progressives and "tea partiers" (at least their base but of course not their mega-rich demagogic leadership/mani pulators) should indeed be able to make common cause along class lines...this is why it was such a mistake for progressives and the dems to simply write them off instead of reaching out to try and make economic/class alliances whenever possible...afte r all, their critique (such that it is) is that gov't doesn't work for them which is pretty much the same thing that progressives and radicals are saying.
 
 
0 # John Steinsvold 2012-09-27 19:34
An Alternative to Capitalism (since we cannot legislate morality)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative".
She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/steinsvold.htm

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
 
 
+2 # hattie12KY 2012-09-27 20:56
I'm hearing rumors that large for-profit US health insurers could insist that they be allowed access to the Canadian health care market, that under expanded and virtually unrestricted trade agreements, they could demand access, insist that they cannot be shut out.
The opacity of the corporate maneuvers is very scary.
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-09-28 12:07
Quoting hattie12KY:
I'm hearing rumors that large for-profit US health insurers could insist that they be allowed access to the Canadian health care market, that under expanded and virtually unrestricted trade agreements, they could demand access, insist that they cannot be shut out.
The opacity of the corporate maneuvers is very scary.


hadn't heard this one before hattie12KY, but if true then we should demand access to drugs in canada since they are paying a hell of alot less than we are for the same drugs made by the same companies.
 
 
0 # Charles3000 2012-09-28 03:21
I agree, there should be openness but I must point out that in the opening paragraph:
"...spanning the Pacific Ocean and all four hemispheres ...", we only have two hemispheres on Planet Earth.
 
 
0 # Independent 2012-09-29 12:21
Is there an action/ petition that is recommended
 

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