News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TPP trade deal 'does nothing for Americans, means constant downward pressure on American wages,' per Obama advisor. TPP seen as 'huge pot of gold' by global investors. US towns, cities, and states will be visited by UN and World Bank tribunals-NY Times, March 2015 (Ohio lost 112,500 jobs in 2015 alone as result of US trade deficit with TPP countries)

Obama advisor: TPP means "constant downward pressure on American wages." Obama admin. advisor Michael "Wessel said the thrust of the TPP does nothing for Americans. “This is about increasing the ability of global corporations to source wherever they can at the lowest cost,” he said....That, he said, results in constant downward pressure on American wages." 10/9/2015 UK Guardian article 

Der Spiegel: "It's hard to know what drives politicians to sell out their people and their country." 5/6/16, Der Spiegel on TTIP, massive free trade deal pending between US and Europe   

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March 2015 NY Times:

"Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation would be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.”"...US towns, cities, and states will be subservient to UN and World Bank tribunals.  

3/25/2015, "Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.," NY Times, Jonathan Weisman  

"An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agendawould grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings federal, state or localbefore tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations. 

Backers of the emerging trade accord, which is supported by a wide variety of business groups and favored by most Republicans, say that it is in line with previous agreements that contain similar provisions. But critics, including many Democrats in Congress, argue that the planned deal widens the opening for multinationals to sue in the United States and elsewhere, giving greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.

The chapter in the draft of the trade deal, dated Jan. 20, 2015, and obtained by The New York Times in collaboration with the group WikiLeaks, is certain to kindle opposition from both the political left and the right. The sensitivity of the issue is reflected in the fact that the cover mandates that the chapter not be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force or trade negotiations end, should the agreement fail. 

Conservatives are likely to be incensed that even local policy changes could send the government to a United Nations-sanctioned tribunal. On the left, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, law professors and a host of liberal activists have expressed fears the provisions would infringe on United States sovereignty and impinge on government regulation involving businesses in banking, tobacco, pharmaceuticals and other sectors. 

Members of Congress have been reviewing the secret document in secure reading rooms, but this is the first disclosure to the public since an early version leaked in 2012.

“This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”... 

Such “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” accords exist already in more than 3,000 trade agreements across the globe. The United States is party to 51, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. Administration officials say they level the playing field for American companies doing business abroad, protect property from government seizure and ensure access to international justice. 

But the limited use of trade tribunals, critics argue, is because companies in those countries do not have the size, legal budgets and market power to come after [local and state] governments in the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership could change all that, they say. The agreement would expand that authority to investors in countries as wealthy as Japan and Australia, with sophisticated companies deeply invested in the United States.

“U.S.T.R. will say the U.S. has never lost a case, but you’re going to see a lot more challenges in the future,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. There’s a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for these companies.” 

One 1999 case gives ammunition to both sides of the debate. Back then, California banned the chemical MTBE from the state’s gasoline, citing the damage it was doing to its water supply. The Canadian company Methanex Corporation sued for $970 million under Nafta, claiming damages on future profits. The case stretched to 2005, when the tribunal finally dismissed all claims. 

To supporters of the TPP, the Methanex case was proof that regulation for the “public good” would win out. For opponents, it showed what could happen when far larger companies from countries like Japan have access to the same extrajudicial tribunals.... 

Civil courts in the United States are already open to action by foreign investors and companies. Since 1993, while the federal government was defending itself against those 17 cases brought through extrajudicial trade tribunals, it was sued 700,000 times in domestic courts. 

In all, according to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, about 9,000 foreign-owned firms operating in the United States would be empowered to bring cases against governments here. Those are as diverse as timber and mining companies in Australia and investment conglomerates from China whose subsidiaries in Trans-Pacific Partnership countries like Vietnam and New Zealand also have ventures in the United States. 

More than 18,000 companies based in the United States would gain new powers to go after the other 11 countries in the accord. 

A similar accord under negotiation with Europe has already provoked an outcry there. Senator Brown contended that the overall accord, not just the investment provisions, was troubling.

“This continues the great American tradition of corporations writing trade agreements, sharing them with almost nobody, so often at the expense of consumers, public health and workers,” he said. 

Under the terms of the Pacific trade chapter, foreign investors could demand cash compensation if member nations “expropriate or nationalize a covered investment either directly or indirectly.”

Opponents fear “indirect expropriation” will be interpreted broadly, especially by deep-pocketed multinational companies opposing regulatory or legal changes that diminish the value of their investments. Included in the definition of “indirect expropriation” is government action that “interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations,” according to the leaked document. 

The cost can be high. In 2012, one such tribunal, under the auspices of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, ordered Ecuador to pay Occidental Petroleum a record $2.3 billion for expropriating oil drilling rights. 

Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation [eg the US] would be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.”

Critics say the text’s definition of an investment is so broad that it could open enormous avenues of legal challenge. An investment includes “every asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristic of an investment,” including “regulatory permits; intellectual property rights; financial instruments such as stocks and derivatives”; construction, management, production, concession, revenue-sharing and other similar contracts; and “licenses, authorizations, permits and similar rights conferred pursuant to domestic law.” 

“This is not about expropriation; it’s about regulatory changes,” said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch and a fierce opponent of the Pacific accord. You now have specialized law firms being set up. You go to them, tell them what country you’re in, what regulation you want to go after, and they say ‘We’ll do it on contingency.’” 

In 2013, Eli Lilly took advantage of a similar provision under Nafta to sue Canada for $500 million, accusing Ottawa of violating its obligations to foreign investors by allowing its courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs. 

All of those disputes would be adjudicated under rules set by either the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes or the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.... 

There are other mitigating provisions, but many have catches. For instance, one article states that “nothing in this chapter” should prevent a member country from regulating investment activity for “environmental, health or other regulatory objectives.” But that safety valve says such regulation must be “consistent” with the other strictures of the chapter, a provision even administration officials said rendered the clause more political than legal. 

One of the chapter’s annexes states that regulatory actions meant “to protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety and the environment” do not constitute indirect expropriation, “except in rare circumstances.” That final exception could open such regulations to legal second-guessing, critics say." 

"Correction: March 27, 2015 An article on Thursday about provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as outlined in a classified document, that would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States over actions that hurt their business or investment expectations misstated when the document was made available to members of Congress. Drafts were available for review soon after being written; it is not the case that the latest document was not made available until last week." 

"A version of this article appears in print on [Thurs.] March 26, 2015, on page B1 of the New York edition."...

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Added: "Ohio lost 112,500 jobs in 2015 resulting from the United States' trade deficit with countries that are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement." Overall U.S. lost 2 million jobs to TPP countries in 2015, with losses in every state. Currency manipulation is one of the key driving forces behind the continually rising U.S. trade deficit. The pending TPP has no mechanism to stop ongoing and future currency manipulation, an absolutely key component to keep it from damaging the U.S. economy:

From Economic Policy Institute report:

3/3/16, "Trans-Pacific Partnership, currency manipulation, trade, and jobs"

"U.S. trade deficit with the TPP countries cost 2 million jobs in 2015, with job losses in every state,"
Economic Policy Institute, by Robert E. Scott and Elizabeth Glass
 

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries lacks an absolutely key component to keep it from doing potential damage to the U.S. economy. The missing piece of this trade and investment deal is a set of restrictions and/or enforceable penalties against member countries that engage in currency manipulation. Currency manipulation is one of the key driving forces behind the high and rapidly rising U.S. trade deficit with the 11 other members of the TPP. In 2015, the U.S. deficit with TPP countries translated into 2 million U.S. jobs lost, more than half (1.1 million) of which were in manufacturing. Without such provisions against currency manipulation, the TPP could well follow other trade agreements and leave even greater U.S. trade deficits in its wake. 
 
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Linked in above NY Times article:

3/25/2015, "Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment Chapter," wikileaks.org/tpp

"WikiLeaks releases today the "Investment Chapter" from the secret negotiations of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. The document adds to the previous WikiLeaks publications of the chapters for Intellectual Property Rights (November 2013) and the Environment (January 2014).

The TPP Investment Chapter, published today, is dated 20 January 2015. The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor said: "The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The TPP is the largest economic treaty in history, including countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP.

The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can "sue" states and obtain taxpayer compensation for "expected future profits". These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country's laws or policies affect the company's claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more. 

Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing in secrecy for five years and are now in their final stages. In the United States the Obama administration [strongly supported by the Republican Establishment] plans to "fast-track" the treaty through Congress without the ability of elected officials to discuss or vote on individual measures. This has met growing opposition as a result of increased public scrutiny following WikiLeaks' earlier releases of documents from the negotiations.

The TPP is set to be the forerunner to an equally secret agreement between the US and EU, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

Negotiations for the TTIP were initiated by the Obama administration in January 2013. Combined, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. The third treaty of the same kind, also negotiated in secrecy is TISA, on trade in services, including the financial and health sectors. It covers 50 countries, including the US and all EU countries. WikiLeaks released the secret draft text of the TISA's financial annex in June 2014.

All these agreements on so-called “free trade” are negotiated outside the World Trade Organization's (WTO) framework. 

Conspicuously absent from the countries involved in these agreements are the BRICs countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China."

"Read the Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment chapter"

https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/press.html 

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"In chapter after chapter, the final text is worse than expected, with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest.The text reveals that the pact replicates many of the most controversial terms of past pacts that promote job offshoring and push down U.S. wages."...

8/16/16, "Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): More Job Offshoring, Lower Wages, Unsafe Food Imports," Public Citizen, citizen.org/tpp

"Have you heard? The TPP is a massive, controversial, pro-corporate "free trade" agreement among the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Although it is called a “trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP's 30 chapters, only six deal with traditional trade issues. 

Secret TPP Text Unveiled: It's Worse than We Thought 

In early November 2015, after seven years of close-door negotiations, with the public, press and policymakers locked out, the final TPP text was released. In chapter after chapter, the final text is worse than expected, with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest.The text reveals that the pact replicates many of the most controversial terms of past pacts that promote job offshoring and push down U.S. wages."...



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