The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Trans Pacific Partnership is a Threat To National Sovereignty | Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

The proponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership argue that the TPP would bring huge benefits to Malaysia “with as much as US $ 40 billion (RM 128.4 billion) in annual export gains and US $ 25 billion in annual income gains by 2025.” Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in particular will reap a bonanza. The TPP, it is said, will also “give Malaysia preferential access to a US $ 15 trillion economy, which means access to the US $ 500 billion in US government tenders.” As against these projections, there are issues of tremendous significance pertaining to the TPP that have been raised by a variety of citizen groups in almost all the 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam) that are currently part of the negotiation process. These issues have emerged as a result of leaks since no officially sanctioned draft has been placed before the public.

The negotiations — the 18th round of which will commence in Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) on the 15th of July 2013 — are shrouded in secrecy though representatives of major corporations such as Monsanto, Walmart, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Cargill, Exxon-Mobil, and Chevron, among others, it is alleged, have had full access to the draft and have been “suggesting amendments.” One of the issues that has caused grave concern is a set of rules in the TPP which apparently would empower foreign corporations to bypass domestic laws and courts and challenge government policies and regulations aimed at protecting the public interest via tribunals linked to the World Bank and the UN. If this is true, it would be an affront to national sovereignty.

[…] The TPP … prohibits governments and central banks from imposing capital controls or banning risky financial products. Central banks would have diminished capacity to regulate the entry and exit of speculative capital. Countries that are part of the TPP would be compelled to create an even more conducive environment for casino capitalism.

[…] The TPP … allows pharmaceutical corporations to increase the price of medicines and to limit consumer access to cheaper generic drugs. Monopoly patents would be better protected and the purchase of generic drugs would be made more difficult. At the same time, by designating a whole spectrum of policies, regulations and practices as “trade barriers” the proposed agreement undermines some of the people oriented measures associated with different TPP countries.

While some of the provisions of the TPP may be set aside at the behest of individual countries, it is obvious that the US which is the driving force behind the pact is determined to use it as its vehicle to strengthen its economic position in the Pacific region in the face of the rise of China. It explains why China itself — economically the most dynamic nation in the region — has not been invited to join the TPP. This is why it would be naïve to view the TPP as a mere economic and trade arrangement. Its underlying motive is clearly political. It is a critical weapon in the US arsenal for curbing and containing the emergence of a power which has the potential of shaping the future of the entire Pacific in the decades to come.

The US will not allow this to happen. It knows that in order to remain as the world’s sole superpower it has to ensure that it is at the helm of that one region with the greatest economic viability and vitality. The US already has 320,000 troops in the Pacific region. That is the military arm of Pacific Power. The TPP is designed to secure the economic dimension of Pacific Power.

eyesdriftskyward:

Japan and South Korea suspended some imports of American wheat, and the European Union urged its 27 nations to increase testing, after the United States government disclosed this week that a strain of genetically engineered wheat that was never approved for sale was found growing in an Oregon field.

Although none of the wheat, developed by Monsanto Company, was found in any grain shipments — and the Department of Agriculture said there would be no health risk if any was shipped — governments in Asia and Europe acted quickly to limit their risk.

South Korea, which last year purchased roughly half of its total wheat imports of five million tons from the United States, said Friday it would suspend purchases until tests were performed on arriving shipments. Results of the tests, by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, were expected in the first week of June, according to local media.

Seoul also raised quarantine measures on wheat for livestock feed, while Thailand put ports on alert.

The European Union, which has a “zero tolerance” approach to genetically modified crops, said through its consumer protection office Friday that if any shipments tested positive, they would not be sold.

It also said it was seeking “further information and reassurance” from Washington and had asked Monsanto for help in developing a reliable test for the genetically modified strain.

The New York Times, “Japan and South Korea Bar Imports of U.S. Wheat” (via inothernews)

NAFTA at 20: The New Spin | FPIF

Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job.

Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”

But this spin is based on superficial assumptions. The small signs of economic recovery in Mexico are grounded largely on the return of maquiladora factories from China, where wages have been increasing as Mexican wages have stagnated. Under-cutting China on labor costs is hardly something to celebrate. This trend is nothing but the return of the same “free-trade” model that has failed the Mexican people for 20 years.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was touted as the cure for Mexico’s economic “backwardness.” Promoters argued that the trilateral trade agreement would dig Mexico out of its economic rut and modernize it along the lines of its mighty neighbor, the United States.

The story went something like this

Will the RCEP Kill the TPP and Why You Never Heard of Either One | Dissident Voice

Unless you subscribe to Public Citizen or the Kucinich Report (from retiring Congressman Dennis Kucinich), you won’t have heard of the secret trade negotiations related to the Transpacific Partnership (TTP), aka the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPP is a “free” trade agreement like NAFTA or GATT (the treaty which created the WTO) but much worse. A major goal of US multinational corporations for the TPP is to impose on trading partners a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. This system allows foreign corporations to challenge, at international tribunals, health, consumer safety, environmental, and other laws and regulations that potentially affect the profitability of both domestic and foreign companies. If a corporation “wins”, the taxpayers of the “losing” country must foot the bill. (See Investment rules harm public health). Thus TPP will virtually obliterate the right of member countries to protect labor rights, enforce environmental and food safety standards and otherwise protect their citizens from amoral and rapacious corporate profit-seeking.

RCEP stands for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. This is a newly proposed free trade treaty coming out of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their recent summit in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Negotiations on RCEP are expected to start in earnest in 2013 (see ASEAN leaders begin RCEP negotiations). Outside of the Asian and Australian press, the RCEP has been virtually invisible in the corporate media.

The most important difference between the two free trade treaties is that TPP excludes China, Japan and Korea. RCEP would include all fifteen Asia countries comprising ASEAN, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and exclude the US (See post-US world born in Phnom Penh). In other words, half the world’s population.

Both Korea and Japan have been invited to join TPP but are waffling, owing to harsh TPP provisions that potentially undermine their sovereignty and their economies.

Obama has deliberately excluded China, the world’s second largest economy, from TPP. Why? Because the US is engaged in a trade war with China and doing everything possible to isolate China economically and militarily (see Trade war in the Pacific).

With many Asian countries, especially Korea, Japan and Thailand, showing a clear preference for the less restrictive RCEP, the President’s end run around China, Congress and the American public may have backfired. [continue]

I talked informally with a negotiator from New Zealand about balancing investor interests with the public interest. We share our approval of fundamental labor standards in America and New Zealand. But he looked at me and declared, ‘No country in the world would let the International Labor Organization tell them what their labor laws should be, would they?’ He said it so forcefully, that I immediately imagined a nest of unaccountable, faceless bureaucrats, with dubious backgrounds, writing minimum wage laws for Idaho. God no! What country would forfeit its sovereignty like that! My heart sank. Then he stopped for a moment, lowered his eyes, and said, ‘But, …. that’s exactly what we’re doing right now, for investor interests, aren’t we?’ Yes. That is exactly what he and the other negotiators were doing. They were giving authority to unaccountable tribunals to give investors the upper hand over public interest. We Don’t Know, Exactly, What the Trans-Pacific Partnership Is, But I’m Against It

Despite his campaign rhetoric, Obama has championed George W. Bush-negotiated ‘free-trade’ deals with labor-rights pariah Colombia, tax-haven Panama, and South Korea. Trade economist Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimated that the South Korea deal alone will cost 159,000 U.S. workers their jobs. Union leaders also worry that the agreement will serve as a ‘funnel’ for component parts produced under near-slavery conditions in North Korea and China under a South Korean label, says Matt McKinnon, political director for the International Association fo Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). Meanwhile, the Obama administration is hammering out the biggest, farthest-reaching, and most secretive ‘free trade’ deal ever, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP would include numerous nations on the Pacific Rim, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. U.S. Trade representatives have negotiated its terms under such an unusual level of secrecy, with only 600 corporate executives apprised of the content, that even pro-‘free trade’ members of Congress have complained about being excluded from the talks. Obama’s Double Game on Outsourcing

Clinton Says US May Lift Cold War-Era Sanctions on Russia

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that the United States would soon lift Cold War-era trade sanctions on Russia, in an example of how hostile Washington has been more than two decades later, although it was unclear whether the move has support in Congress.

Following Russia’s inclusion into the World Trade Organization, Clinton said the US should now normalize trade relations with Russia so that American businesses can benefit from trade with one of the world’s leading economies.

The sanctions have origins in a 1974 law known as Jackson-Vanik and are waived each year, but the fact that they’re still around shows how confrontational Washington still is long after the end of the Cold War. Legislation, once on the books, almost never goes away, especially when it can be used as leverage over other states.

Mitt Romney, and many Republicans in Congress, are pushing back against normalized trade relations with Russia – unless Congress passes legislation that punishes Russian officials accused of human rights abuses, as if that were Congress’s responsibility.

The urge to discipline misbehaving Russian officials in order to further America’s geopolitical hegemony is ill-served by discordant rhetoric and economic warfare.

As Clinton said, “We are grateful for this and other opportunities to work more closely with Russia on areas of common concern that will deliver benefits to the people of both our nations.” Instead, the US has chosen bellicosity, nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War.

(Source: jayaprada, via sarahlee310)

When Corporations Are Answerable Only to Themselves | Paul Craig Roberts

The [TransPacific Partnership agreement] is likely serving many agendas. As we learn more, the motives behind the TPP will become clearer. From my perspective as an economist and former member of government, the problem with Ron Kirk’s TPP is that the agreement is constructed to serve private, not public interests. Kirk is a public official charged with serving and protecting the public interest. Yet, he has conspired in secret with private interests to produce a document that exempts private corporations from public accountability.

There is a paradox here. While financial corporations and now all corporations are being made independent of government, US citizens have lost the protection of law and are now subject to being detained indefinitely or murdered without due process of law. Corporations gain an unimaginable freedom while citizens lose all freedom and the rights that define their freedom. Similarly, foreign countries, which as members of TPP can be exempt from US law, are subject to “pre-emptive” US violation of their air space and borders by drones and troops sent in to assassinate some suspected terrorist, but which also kill citizens of those countries who are merely going about their normal business.

Perhaps one way to understand TPP is that the US government is now extending its own right to be lawless to corporations. Just as the US government today is only answerable to itself, the TPP makes corporations answerable only to themselves.

Obama’s trade policy grade was plummeting, but new information shows things to be even worse. In the past month the president has officially failed out of “fair trade” class. On June 13, Public Citizen released a leaked document showing that the TPP—a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and eight Pacific countries under considerable secrecy—is shaping up to be as bad as NAFTA or worse. President Obama: Corporate Globalizer

It didn’t have to be this way. It was not preordained that President Obama would become Corporate-Globalizer-in-Chief. The base of the Democratic Party has aligned itself firmly against the ‘free trade’ agenda—so much so that both Obama and Clinton campaigned in 2008 against the NAFTA model and in favor of a ‘fair trade’ alternative. In fact, going into the 2012 elections, there’s evidence that Obama’s betrayal of earlier vows could be a significant liability among voters and a bitter pill for key constituencies the president needs if his campaign is going to overcome the enthusiasm gap between progressives and the Republican faithful. President Obama: Corporate Globalizer | Mark Engler

President Obama: Corporate Globalizer | Mark Engler

With recent revelations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, it is now safe to say that President Obama has surpassed George W. Bush as a champion of the flawed and offensive ideology of corporate globalization.

This argument requires some explanation. Here’s the backstory: As the Bush administration commenced in the early 2000s, many argued that his foreign policy represented a continuation of the Clinton-era approach to promoting “free trade” neoliberalism overseas. However, I contended that, especially after the launch of the Iraq war in 2003, the unilateralist bullying of the neocons represented a split from past practice.

No doubt, big arms and big oil had their needs met by the Bush agenda. But his administration was wary of multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, which were central instruments of U.S. policy under Clinton. The Bush approach relied on our-way-or-the-highway, coalition-of-the-willing hard power. This made a significant portion of corporate America uncomfortable, especially businesses trying to navigate and expand in foreign markets. It also left the soft-power agenda of “free trade” in an uncertain state.

This was essentially the thesis of my 2008 book, How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy. Around the time the book came out, I wrote:

In October 2007…the Wall Street Journal reported that the [Republican] party could be facing a brand crisis as “[s]ome business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don’t share.”

When it comes to corporate responses to [Bush’s] Global War on Terror, we mostly hear about the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater—companies directly implicated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and with the mentality of looters. Such firms have done their best to score quick profits from the military machine. However, there was always a faction of realist, business-oriented Republicans .who opposed the invasion from the start, in part because they believed it would negatively impact the U.S. economy. As the [Bush administration’s] adventure in Iraq has descended into the morass, the ranks of corporate complainers have only grown.

The “free trade” elite have become particularly upset about the administration’s focus on go-it-alone nationalism and its disregard for multilateral means of securing influence. This belligerent approach to foreign affairs, they believe, has thwarted the advance of corporate globalization. In an April 2006 column in the Washington Post, globalist cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby laid blame for “why globalization has stalled” at the feet of the Bush administration. The White House, Mallaby charged, was unwilling to invest any political capital in the IMF, the World Bank, or the WTO….Frustrated by Bush’s failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return.

My concern back then was that a Democrat (either Obama or Hillary Clinton) would be elected to office and then abandon the overt militarism and “imperial globalization” of the Bush administration, but embrace a subtler, more multilateralist “free trade” neoliberalism—reclaiming the agenda of corporate globalization. I would have been pleased if this prediction had proved wrong. Sadly, Obama has provided irrefutable evidence that he has boarded the corporate globalist bandwagon. [READ]

occupyallstreets:

Obama Trade Documents Leaked, Shows POTUS Gave Power To Corporations To Violate National Sovereignty

A critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.

Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.

The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.

We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document.

Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document — regarding access to life-saving medication — is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.

Bush was better than Obama on this,” said Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules. “It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.

(via brosephstalin-deactivated201212)

Dylan Ratigan, Mad as Hell: His Epic ‘Network’ Moment

megrobertson:

We’ve got a real problem…this is a mathematical fact. Tens of trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of America.  Democrats aren’t fixing it, Republicans aren’t stopping it — an entire integrated system, banking, trade and taxation, created by both parties over a period of two decades is at work decimating our entire country right now.

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan took it all on in this epic rant from his show today.

Awesome. Interesting note: when I played the video, it started with a Goldman Sachs ad.

(via sarahlee310)