“Free Trade” Treaties are for Big Corporations, not for us.

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The consequence of agreements such as the TPP and EU/US treaties, being presented as facilitators of free trade is now becoming clear – as exposed recently by Wikileaks.  Are we already in the post democratic era?  The idea that global corporations could sue future democratically elected governments seems bizarre – yet that is a possibility. These treaties would mean the end of democracy. Former Labour MP, Bryan Gould  writes on the Trans Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a blue-print for the EU/US treaty, which endangers our NHS, and more. Both must be opposed.

“Free Trade” for Big Corporations, Not For Us.

By Bryan Gould

Reproduced by kind permission

The leaked document from the negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership, reported in the Herald last week, shows that the fears expressed in many quarters as to the outcome of those negotiations are more than justified. 

We are constantly assured that the great advantages of extending free trade, particularly with the Americans, will more than offset any minor changes we might have to make as the price of such an agreement.  The record of the negotiations shows, however, that – exactly as was to be expected – the Americans see the supposed advantages of free trade entirely in terms of advancing the interests of major American corporations.

The inevitable result?   Since cooperative arrangements for handling both exports and imports are regarded by “free trade” zealots as an infringement of the “free” market, what is peddled as a simple free trade deal could require major concessions in the way we organise our exports – through Fonterra or Zespri – and in the freedom we have to negotiate, by using our collective purchasing power through agencies like Pharmac, the best possible prices for imports like pharmaceuticals.

The leaked document, focusing as it does on intellectual property issues like patents and copyright, pays little attention, however, to one of the main threats from the TPPA – the requirement that overseas corporations should be able to sue a future New Zealand government in a specially constituted tribunal if their trading opportunities were to be reduced by future legislation.

Foreign businesses would, as a consequence, have much greater legal rights than any New Zealand enterprise would enjoy, and those legal rights could not be altered, even by a future government elected with a mandate to do so.

These fears are in no sense fanciful.  Other countries which have agreed to such obligations in the past are now regretting having done so.  South Africa, for example, which accepted such arrangements in trade deals with the Americans in earlier years is now insisting that the deal should be re-negotiated in the light of their damaging experience of what they mean in practice.

Ecuador and Venezuela have already refused to extend trade agreements with the US containing such provisions and India has rejected an investment agreement with the US only if the dispute-resolution mechanism is changed.

Countries like these understand that granting permanent rights of this kind to American corporations would mean, for example, giving up the ability to protect the environment from the activities of mining and petroleum companies, or (as the Australian government has discovered) being sued as a result of trying to restrain tobacco companies from selling a product that is known to cause death and disease.

Our government would have to accept many other restrictions, as the Argentine government discovered when it imposed a freeze on energy and water prices, in an attempt to help hard-pressed consumers, and had to pay over a billion dollars in compensation to international utility companies.

Even the judges who sit on these specially constituted tribunals are amazed at the power they exercise; as one has commented, these provisions mean that “three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”

Concerns like these have now extended to Europe and to the UK in particular.  The Americans are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with European countries which will contain the same investor-state dispute settlement provisions as are intended for the TPPA.  It seems likely that those countries will provide stiffer resistance to these provisions than our own government will offer in the TPPA negotiations.

What justifies such pessimism about our government, you may ask?   The first warning sign is that the negotiations are being conducted in secret and that, by the time the deal is done and announced, it will be too late.  The government’s willingness to defy public opinion over asset sales is convincing evidence of the scant regard it pays to what our citizens want when it is a question of pleasing business interests.

Even more worryingly, the government has demonstrated in the deal it has made with Sky City over an Auckland convention centre that it suffers no twinge of conscience over signing up to a legally binding arrangement that is intended to prevent future governments from altering the deal.  The granting of the licence for an increased number of pokies is meant to run for 35 years, whatever a new government – or the voters – might think.

The risk is clear – the TPPA, while presented as a free-trade arrangement, is really a very different beast.  Free trade, in principle, is undoubtedly to be welcomed, but in the normal sense is meant to remove restrictions in order to benefit the consumer and ordinary citizen through lower prices and increased opportunities.

The TPPA is intended to do the reverse – to ensure that the dominant market positions of powerful overseas corporations are immune from challenge, so that prices stay high and the interests of the ordinary citizen, and the principles of democracy, are sidelined.  You have been warned!

Bryan Gould

 

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From Think Left:

This Trans Pacific “Partnership” is really, really bad News. #WikiLeaks

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Think Left have poised the question, “Are we in the post-democratic era?”

Now, document details of the trans-pacific agreement leaked, and thanks to WikiLeaks, we see just how bad TPP trade deal is for ordinary people.. (Download pdf here)

The more you know about the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership, the less you’ll like it. It’s made for corporate intellectual property and profits. (Guardian)

(YouTube)

Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a partial draft of which WikiLeaks has just released. This treaty has been negotiated in secret meetings dominated by governments and corporations. As the implications become clearer, we are hearing of growing opposition to this agreement. The people can defeat this. (Truth-out)

  • Wikileaks have  published the full text of the intellectual property chapter; the leaked document included the positions of all the parties.  It will take time for all the corporate rigging in this lengthy document to be understood, but already it is evident that Internet freedom will be curtailed, access to health care will become more expensive and access to information will be undermined.
  • Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written several letters to President Obama opposing Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.
  • In the United States, cities and counties are beginning to pass TPP Free Zones, saying they will not obey the TPP if it becomes law. 
  •  The draft “confirms fears that the negotiating parties are prepared to expand the reach of intellectual property rights, and shrink consumer rights and safeguards,” writes James Love a longtime watcher of this process.

Copyright is a key part of this draft.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation says TPP has “extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples’ abilities to innovate”. It’s Hollywood’s wish list. The medical industry has a stake in the outcome, too, with credible critics saying it would raise drug prices.

It is vital that ordinary people, union activists and our opposition parties in parliament and everywhere oppose this treaty. Democracy, health, ethics and human decency decry it. We must organise, educate and collectively oppose this treaty for all our sakes, and  future generations.

Noam Chomsky Dissects the World Trade Organisation

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In response to the number of people who have bemoaned their lack of knowledge about the free trade agreements reported in  Are we already in the post-democratic era? 

“Corporations have more rights than you or I” 

“Human Rights are marginalized” – Noam Chomsky

Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPs): agreement imposes 20-year monopoly protection on patents developed mainly by the world’s largest agricultural, chemical, pharmaceutical and genetic engineering concerns.

With Trade Rights in Intellectual Property (TRIP), an offensive has been launched not to reinforce competition, but on the contrary, to strengthen the power of technological monopolies—at the expense, of course, of developing countries for whom the possibility of acquiring the technology they need in order to progress becomes even more uncertain. Will the ‘trade secrets’ that GATT-WTO wants to include under this category bring us back to the mercantilist monopoly practices of 300 years ago? Even the language used to discuss the topic is not neutral. We no longer speak of knowledge as the common property of humanity, but rather of ‘piracy’ when someone tries to acquire it! This policy sometimes verges on the obscene: GATT-WTO, for instance, wants to forbid Third World manufacture of inexpensive pharmaceutical products, which are of vital importance, in order to protect massive profits of monopolies in this sector. 

The Passion for Free Markets by Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, May, 1997

http://www.chomsky.info/articles/1997…

 

In this video clip, Noam Chomsky discusses the history and assumptions of the World Trade Organisation.

Noam Chomsky Dissects the World Trade Organisation

Published on Jan 4, 2013

The real surrender of our sovereignty was and is to the WTO and the plethora of trade agreements which it oversees. Has any party mentioned this? Would any admit it? Would any suggest, let alone support a referendum on that loss of sovereignty? Or are they all very happy for those aspects of sovereignty and democratic control to be removed from us completely and without discussion? I suggest this is the real discussion we should be having. But I believe we will not have it and that fact is, for me the measure and proof that our current political leadership has betrayed us and sold us.

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/01/sovereignty-betrayals-and-lies/