▪ Social insurance benefit cuts (the “Grand Bargain”)
▪ Keystone tar-carrying pipeline
▪ The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the next big NAFTA-style “trade” agreement
This continues our focus on Obama’s TPP.
What’s wrong with these “trade” agreements?
There are several problems with these “trade” agreements — one, the extreme secrecy, will be discussed in the video below — but I’ll detail just two others here.
First, they’re not trade agreements at all, but “unrestricted capital flow” agreements — “capital is king” agreements. Unrestricted trade is just a by-product, a secondary effect. From an earlier piece:
In its simplest terms, “free trade” means one thing only — the ability of people with capital to move that capital freely, anywhere in the world, seeking the highest profit. It’s been said of Bush II, for example, that “when Bush talks of ‘freedom’, he doesn’t mean human freedom, he means freedom to move money.” …
At its heart, free trade doesn’t mean the ability to trade freely per se; that’s just a byproduct. It means the ability to invest freely without governmental constraint. Free trade is why factories in China have American investors and partners — because you can’t bring down manufacturing wages in Michigan and Alabama if you can’t set up slave factories somewhere else and get your government to make that capital move cost-free, or even tax-incentivized, out of your supposed home country and into a place ripe for predation.
Can you see why both right-wing kings (Koch Bros, Walmart-heir dukes and earls, Reagan I, Bush I and II) and left-wing honchos (Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, Barack Obama) make “free trade” the cornerstone of each of their economic policies? It’s the song of the rich, and they all sing it.
That’s the first thing that’s wrong with these agreements — they enable totally unrestricted capital flow, and anything that gets in the way of capital is cleared away. Environmental concerns? Doesn’t trump profit. Wage concerns? Doesn’t trump profit. Prosecution for murder of labor leaders in Colombia? Sorry; gotta make a “free-trade” buck.
Another by-product of unrestricted capital flow, by the way, is boom-and-bust economies. When hot banking money flowed like wine into places like Spain, the economy bloomed, wages rose, prices rose — and a giant bubble was created. When the crash occurred, all that (German, French, U.S., etc.) investment money raced out like water from a broken cup, and the Spanish economy crashed. Prices fell through the floor, as did wages, and the government went from a surplus to a deficit.
None of the crashed economies have recovered, since the E.U. kings and queens (EU central bank and the bankers who control it) are insisting all through Europe that every bond-holding investor be made whole before anything else is done.
“Trade” agreement courts trump national sovereignty
The second problem with these “trade” agreements is that they trump national sovereignty. This is very clever and literally true. I’ve written about this before, as have others, but here it is in a nutshell. From a different earlier piece, here’s how it works with NAFTA and the NAFTA court (slightly modified):
In general, the corporate-sovereignty story goes like this:
▪ Nations have national courts, including a Supreme Court, the top court in the country.
▪ National courts operate under the nation’s constitution, its “supreme law of the land.”
▪ In the U.S. and many other countries, treaties are folded into the constitution and become part of that “supreme law.” (If you think about it, this is the only way treaties can be enforced.)
▪ In the U.S. Constitution, the clause that does this is the Supremecy Clause:
Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and U.S. Treaties as “the supreme law of the land.”
▪ NAFTA and other “free trade” treaties have their own court system, operating by rules specific to that treaty. In NAFTA’s case, it’s the NAFTA court. In TPP’s case, it will be the TPP court.
▪ Corporations from any NAFTA nation can sue cross-border nations, states, and municipalities in NAFTA court for “lost profits” due to regulations (among a variety of other reasons).
▪ Courts that are structured like the NAFTA court have jurisdiction that is superior to the member nations’ court system. This jurisdiction is given to them by the language of the NAFTA treaty.
▪ Because treaties like NAFTA are folded into national constitutions, international corporations have found a way to establish a new international system of dispute resolution that trumps national governments.
▪ The U.S. Supreme Court can’t overturn a NAFTA court decision. Thus, in this new system, corps (and the billionaires who run them) rule.
Breath-taking, right? “NAFTA” Bill Clinton has much to answer for. This is the “one-world order” your grandpa warned you about. But he thought it would be “libruls” or the Trilateral Commission or the Bilderberg Group in charge. Nope; it’s our friends at GE, Walmart, Nestlé, and the gang at Mouse (sorry, the folks at Disney) that will soon have the nation’s nuts in their squirrel-like hands.
There are a number of other reasons to oppose these agreements; for example, they seem more interested in outlawing governmental regulations than in enabling trade. And as you’ll hear below, the “negotiators” are almost always feathering their nests for after they leave government and these treaties are in effect.
But let’s leave it at this for the moment. If you remember only two things about TPP-style “trade” agreements, remember this. They (a) make capital the king of the world, and (b) allow rule-by-the-rich to trump national sovereignty for any nation that signs on.
A primer on TPP from Dave Johnson and Stuart Zechman
Dave Johnson, of Campaign for America’s Future and Seeing the Forest, is one of our best writers on this subject. (For example, this piece on TPP and Deregulation is a must-read). Here he is in a short conversation with Stuart Zechman from a recent Virtually Speaking Sundays show.
The whole show is typically an hour, and this one is fascinating (click to hear it all). The first half dealt with how Apple uses corp-written tax policies to pay almost no taxes on its billions in profit. The clip below is the heart of their second-half discussion of TPP.
Did you catch the “negotiators feathering their nest” part (1:06)? Clinton’s NAFTA “trade negotiator” Carla Hills loaded the NAFTA court with corp-enabling power, then quit and went to work representing corps … who wanted to take advantage of NAFTA court decisions. Ms. Hills now lives on Thank-You Street.
I’ll have much more on TPP — for example, I’ll take a closer look at the leaked parts of the treaty so far. Remember, as Johnson and Zechman say, it’s still under negotiation, it’s so secret that Congress can’t see it, it will be “fast-tracked” when it’s ready, and every corp who counts has a seat at the table right now.
To stop corp-rule, which is a proxy for international billionaire rule, we have to stop Obama’s push for TPP. Obama, of course, has other plans. After all, presidential libraries don’t fund themselves. But that’s his lookout; ours is the health of the actual country. Too bad we’re not on the same side on this.