It’s time to get mad, dear LFT reader…
If you’re not aware of what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is all about…
“The TPP,” one of your fellow LFT readers Charles D. explains, “is designed and negotiated by 617 partners. Twelve are countries, the rest are corporations.”
And, unfortunately, even more countries are lining up to join. Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan… are all asking where they should sign.
“I want to state clearly and irrevocably,” the Philippines’ trade secretary, Gregory Domingo said last week, “that we want to join TPP.”
In turn, Americans aren’t the only ones speaking out against the massive “free trade” deal. The whole world knows what’s up. For example, let’s zoom in on some streets in Southeast Asia, where much of the TPP points its scaly, rotten finger.
And the list goes on…
In nearly every country on the TPP’s sights, the blood of the people is at a slow simmer with a chance of boil. That’s a good thing. It means we have much support in the fight against the TPP — foreign and domestic.
But, let’s not get too excited. There’s much to understand about the TPP — and much to be done once we understand the enemy.
So let’s get to it.
Yesterday, I showed you the beauty of the TPP: It finally gives the people — once divided by ideological (and now, societal) barriers — a reason to work together.
[By the way, thanks to those LFT readers who took action and shared yesterday’s article on Facebook. Upon writing, we’ve reached thousands of new eyeballs. Meaning, thousands more people are thinking a little harder about the TPP.]
It’s imperative that this information is disseminated far and wide.
Because the TPP, if passed, will affect every single aspect of our lives — 100% against our will. We’ve distilled down eight of the most heinous ways the TPP does this below.
We’re certain there’s more.
[We encourage you to write in if we’ve missed anything. What else do the people need to know about the TPP? Chris@lfb.org.]
EIGHT TPP FACTS THE WHOLEWORLD CAN GET MAD ABOUT
ONE:WHAT “FAST TRACK” MEANS
For our first opinion from the diversity pile, we bring Ralph Nader to the podium. Ralph, what is “fast track,” really?
“This term “fast track” is a euphemism for your members of Congress — senators and representatives — handcuffing themselves so as to prevent any amendments or adequate debate before the final vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another euphemism that is used to avoid the word “treaty,” which would require ratification by two-thirds of the Senate. This anti-democratic process is being pushed by “King Obama” and his royal court.
“After six years of secret negotiations,” Nader goes on, “Fast Track legislation would allow President Obama to sign and enter into the TPP before Congress approves its terms. It then requires a vote 90 days after submission of this Fast Track legislation on the TPP itself and changes in existing U.S. laws to comply with its terms.
“No amendments would be allowed and debate would be limited to a total of only 20 hours in each chamber of Congress. By limiting debate and preventing any amendments to the agreement, Fast Track prevents challenges to any issues about how America conducts business with the countries included in the TPP.
“Some of the countries in the TPP — Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam, for example — have terrible human and labor rights records. Those conditions attract big companies looking for serf labor and their accommodating governments.”
TWO:THE NIGHT OF THE UNDEAD AGREEMENT
[Translation: “TTIP. Excellent!”]
The New American reports: “The TPP/TTIP architects are drawing from the “success” of the European Union. In the development of the European Union — from its origin as the European Coal and Steel Community to the Common Market to the European Community to, finally, the EU — this subversive mutational process has been referred to as “broadening and deepening.”
“Broadening (or “widening”) refers to the constant expansion through addition of new member-states; deepening refers to the constant creation of new supranational institutional structures and continuous expansion and usurpation by regional authorities of powers and jurisdiction that previously were exercised by national, state, and local governments.
“The “living,” “evolving” treaties and agreements of the EU have eviscerated the national sovereignty of the EU member-states and increasingly subjugated them to unaccountable rulers in Brussels under the rubric of ‘integration,’ ‘harmonization,’ ‘an ever closer union,’ ‘convergence,’ ‘pooled sovereignty,’ ‘interdependence,’ and ‘comprehensive cooperation.’”
Pooled sovereignty? Comprehensive cooperation? Harmonization?
Sounds a bit like the “F” word.
THREE:ONE FREE TRADE DEAL. BUT HOLD THE FREE TRADE, PLEASE.
“Such intense secrecy,” Harriet Heywood writes in Florida’s Citrus County Chronicle, “has led to widespread speculation that TPP is not about trade at all, but is a corporate “power grab” designed to circumvent laws that protect citizens and hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing. Of TPP’s 29 chapters, only six deal with trade. The other 23 chapters address barriers to corporate profit, called “trade irritants,” including environmental protections, energy regulations, food and drug controls, labor laws, and Internet freedom.
Activist Jim Hightower chimes in: “The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish ‘partnership’ for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new ‘rights’ and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments… and to us.”
The American people, mind you, have not seen the full text of the TPP. And according to Nader, candid supporters of the deal told Senator Elizabeth Warren, “[trade talks] have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.”
Sounds like something we need, right?
THREE:THE FIGHT FOR INTERNET FREEDOM
Per Wikileaks: the “IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.”
SOPA, you might recall, is the Stop Online Piracy Act. It’s an Internet copyright enforcement measure that essentially gives the government free rein to censor anything it deems fit. But thanks to activist opposition, SOPA fell flat on its face.
But the TPP wants to pull SOPA out of her grave. So we’re going to have to make sure the TPP falls to the same fate.
“The measures,” John Glaser writes in the Huffington Post, “would also call for harsher penalties for Internet Service Providers (ISP) for carrying pirated content on their networks, something that could end up restricting access to the internet.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “the TPP carries draconian copyright enforcement provisions that threaten users’ rights and could stifle innovation well into the 21st Century,” courtesy of “an opaque policymaking process that seems geared towards appeasing Big Content.”
“If instituted,” founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, writes, “the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons.”
FOUR:AFFORDABLE MEDICATION GOES EXTINCT
“For several years,” Public Citizen reports, “U.S. proposals for the TPP — revealed in some cases in earlier partial leaks of U.S. positions — have been seriously criticized by consumer, health and international organizations, as well as the other negotiating countries.
“The draft Intellectual Property Chapter published by WikiLeaks confirms these longstanding concerns, for example, that U.S. proposals would:
- Expand the scope of pharmaceutical patents and create new drug monopolies by lowering patentability standards and requiring patents be available for surgical and treatment methods as well as minor variations on old medicines.
- Lengthen drug monopolies by requiring countries to extend patent terms if review at the patent office or regulatory authority exceeds a prescribed period.
- Undermine the Indian rule against patent “evergreening” at issue in the high-profile Novartis drug case — even though India is not a party to the TPP.
- Risk facilitating patent abuse by requiring countries to condition marketing approval on patent status (patent linkage). Under linkage, patents, even ones that should not have been granted, block generic market entry.
- Extend “data exclusivity” (e.g. commercial control over regulatory information) by providing at least five years exclusivity for information related to new products and three more in cases of new uses for old medicines — even when that information is in the public domain.
“Leaked papers from the TPP negotiations,” says LFT reader, Charles D., “show that any country that signs the TPP will need to buy their drugs only from Big Pharma companies at full (exorbitant?) prices. If they buy generics, they can be sued by Big Pharma companies for loss of profits.”
Excited yet? Well, we’re only halfway through…
FIVE:THE GLOBAL CRONY COUP
“This corporate coup,” Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt writes, “includes the privatization and offshoring of the judicial function delegated to the U.S. court system in the Constitution, through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that strengthen existing ISDS procedures.
“As explained in The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe. Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases.
“The secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent give wide scope for creative judgments — the sort of arbitrary edicts satirized by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
SIX:ISDS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Alan Morrison, a constitutional law professor and associate dean at George Washington University Law School says the TPP is set to undermine the Constitution.
Here’s what he wrote in his letter to Congress:
“I am writing to call to your attention a serious, but previously undiscussed constitutional problem with the investor-state-dispute-settlement (“ISDS) provision of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”). They would allow foreign investors to challenge laws, regulations, and court decisions of our federal, state, and local governments, not in our court systems, but before three privately appointed arbitrators. Such arbitration tribunals would be empowered to order the United States Government to pay unlimited sums in damages to the foreign investor if the investor could convince two of the arbitrators that the challenge to a governmental action violated any of its substantive rights provided by the TPP.
“I am writing this letter because I believe that the creation of private arbitral tribunals to decide whether otherwise valid federal, state, and local laws are inconsistent with the investor protection provisions of the TPP improperly removes a core judicial function from the federal courts and therefore violates Article III of the Constitution. Whatever problems there may be with other aspects of the TPP, my sole focus is on the unconstitutionality of the ISDS arbitral tribunals.”
But, wait. There’s more!
SEVEN:AGAIN, IT’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL
“All members of Congress,” says one of your fellow LFT readers, David W., “took an oath to defend the Constitution. A majority of them just voted NOT to amend an agreement that overthrows the Constitution. That’s what the terms of the Investor-state Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions part of the TPP actually does:
ONE: The Constitution vests all judicial power in a supreme court, and inferior courts as the Congress may ordain. (Article III Section 1)
TWO: The Supreme Court has original or appellate jurisdiction over all cases arising under the Constitution. (Article III Section 2)
THREE: And the Congress has the power to constitute tribunals INFERIOR to the Supreme Court. (Article I Section 8)
“HOWEVER,” David goes on, “according to the Investments chapter of the TPP posted on WikiLeaks: Chapter 2 Article II of the TPP agreement establishes the Investor-state Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals to be SUPERIOR to the Supreme Court.
“Here’s how: By the terms currently written in the agreement a) there is no prohibition against conflicts of interest in arbitrators selected for the tribunals (Article II. 21), b) there is no cap on the awards these tribunals empowered to grant against US jurisdictions, c) the awards are enforceable (Article II.28.(9-12)) and d) the agreement explicitly states that THERE IS NO APPEAL and no commitment that any appellate mechanism will ever be established. (Chapter 2, Article II.22(10))
“And where ISDS “assures” a fair process by having the claimant and the defendant each select one arbitrator who then agree on a third arbitrator. If the two sides cannot agree on a third arbitrator, the ruling body (the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) select the third.
“But there is no prohibition against the representative of the ICSID having a conflict of interest favoring the claimant or having a relationship with the arbitrator selected by the claimant. In other words, there is no safeguard against a “friendly” arbitrator appointed to the third position.
“When this happens, the claimant’s victory is secured before the case is heard.
“And Congress just voted NOT to amend this.
“TPP,” David goes on, “literally surrenders our ability to govern ourselves to foreign-based corporate attorneys. Who are not prevented from having a massive conflict of interest in favor of the company or the investor bringing the claim.
“This is a coup negotiated in secret by the U.S. Trade Representative (authorized by the President) who allowed 600 corporate executives or their lobbyists to write most of it while limiting access to the text so that members of Congress wouldn’t even find out what was in the agreement — let alone have a role in writing it.”
And here’s the climax…
EIGHT:IT AFFECTS EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET
In the words of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange:
“If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
[What haven’t we mentioned today? Email it: Chris@lfb.org.]
The TPP will trample over everything we hold dear. That’s precisely why we are joining the fight.
And we’re currently fishing out creative ways to fight back. If you have any ideas on how to subvert this beast, email it: Chris@lfb.org.
You can always, at the very least, visit our Facebook page and share today’s LFT. The best thing we can do for now is spread the information. Let people know what’s happening in secret rooms around the world.
Thanks again to those LFT readers willing to take action. Though it might seem trivial, it makes a difference.
Let’s jump to reader mail…
“Had to write,” one of your fellow LFT readers, Hagan H., wrote yesterday. “This was my favorite issue of LFT ever.
“It nearly crystallized my long-held thoughts on our two-party system. For a while now I have used the WWF as my analogy of choice for the Dem vs. Repub fiasco of a government system we endure.
“Both sides send their gladiators into the ring to get their face into the cameras and spew rhetoric that gets their respective supporters riled into a frothy rage. Then they get into epic mock battles with each other that do no actual harm to one another but incite passionate animosity toward the ‘other side’ among their followers.
“Then, when the show’s over, they head to the bar to grab drinks together after cashing their fat checks all signed by the same corporation and funded by the masses. The only difference I can see is that the WWF was eventually forced to rename itself the WWE to publicly acknowledge that the whole thing was a farce.
“That, of course, was orchestrated by our government. Had to squash the competition.”
LFT: Oh, man. That’s a good one.
What a perfect analogy…
Thanks, Hagan. Good stuff.
I’ll talk to you tomorrow, dear LFT reader.