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Weissman writes: "Hillary Clinton will continue to argue that she now opposes TPP, which as Secretary of State she had called 'the gold standard in trade agreements.' But she will not do diddly to stop Obama - and her corporate backers - from having their way. So much for his legacy. So much for hers."

Hillary Clinton. (photo: AP)
Hillary Clinton. (photo: AP)

"Free Trade": Hillary Draws the Battle Lines

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

11 July 16


ove her or loathe her, Hillary Clinton plays the big game. She just gave Bernie Sanders and his supporters some major progressive victories. She promised $40 billion over ten years to double primary care funding at community health centers. She reaffirmed that she would enable Americans to buy into Medicare when they reach 55. She committed herself to tuition-free higher education. But, at the same time, she joined with the White House to persuade a majority of the Democratic Party’s 187-member platform committee not to oppose the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which Obama will likely get the Republican-led lame-duck Congress to pass after the November election.

This move reveals Hillary’s intentions. She will continue to argue that she now opposes TPP, which as Secretary of State she had called “the gold standard in trade agreements.” But she will not do diddly to stop Obama – and her corporate backers – from having their way. So much for his legacy. So much for hers.

The damage could hardly be greater. Negotiated out of public view with the direct participation of Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and their high-priced lawyers, TPP commits the US and other nations on the Pacific rim to expand trade by eliminating tariffs and other restrictions. But it’s a huge stretch to call TPP a free trade agreement.

Like NAFTA, which Bill Clinton used Republican votes to pass, much of TPP is frankly protectionist. It guarantees patents and other intellectual property rights, a huge restraint of trade worth billions to Silicon Valley, Big Pharma, and US media conglomerates.

Like NAFTA, TPP creates new investor rights, encouraging firms to leave the United States, set up shop in Asia, pay far lower wages, and export their products back to the United States. To update the 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot, TPP will produce such a rush to send American factories and jobs overseas that the “giant sucking sound” will be ear-splitting.

But, to my mind, the most galling aspect of NAFTA, TPP, and all of this bogus “free trade” is in the legal rights it gives corporations. They can sue any national government that does anything to jeopardize their potential future profits, as Trans-Canada is now suing the US for blocking its opportunity to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Trans-Canada is asking US taxpayers to cough up $15 billion dollars. Under NAFTA they will have their suit heard not in a court of law, but in a corporate dominated panel.

Please note that individual workers, their unions, and their job-deprived communities have no similar right to recuperate their losses. Neither do inhabitants of Planet Earth have any right to sue the corporations for all the damage they do to our shared environment and its deteriorating climate.

Why do average citizens put up with this? In part because Big Money puts such effort into stacking the deck in its favor. In part because so much of their effort takes place out of public view. And in part because so many well-meaning people still take as a matter of faith that “free trade” produces more winners than losers. Obama appears to believe this, or at least this is what he wants the rest of us to believe.

Well, it’s a fairy tale, just like the belief that “free markets” generally work for the public good. “The elite case for ever-freer trade is largely a scam,” wrote Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for his work in international trade. “The case for more trade agreements – including TPP, which hasn’t happened yet – is very, very weak. And if a progressive makes it to the White House, she should devote no political capital whatsoever to such things.”

That is the economics. The political argument is even stronger. At least since the 1970s, when Wall Street titans like David Rockefeller and their intellectual retainers like Zbigniew Brzezinski began seriously promoting regional trading blocs as stepping stones to a new global economy, "free trade” has been their rallying cry. No surprise, these Lords of the Universe always intended for financial elites and multinational corporations to rule the regional and ultimately global system they were building. They then persuaded Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton to take up their cause, and no one did more than Clinton to give them the power they wanted. It was enshrined in NAFTA and the rules governing trade with China and the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). TPP just continues the game.

Can the game be stopped? It’s getting very late. The Sanders campaign has talked about bringing the fight to the floor of the Democratic National Convention, in all its televised splendor. Hopefully, in all the talk this week about Bernie endorsing Hillary, he and his supporters will not back down.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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