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Archive for July 9th, 2012

[Warning Widdershins:  This may become boring reading, but keep with it and especially, check out the links I’ve put in]

Ron Kirk is our United State Trade Representative.  His responsibilities and those of his office are the represent the United States in trade negotiations.  Here is the mission statement from their website:

American trade policy works toward opening markets throughout the world to create new opportunities and higher living standards for families, farmers, manufacturers, workers, consumers, and businesses. The United States is party to numerous trade agreements with other countries, and is participating in negotiations for new trade agreements with a number of countries and regions of the world.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. The head of USTR is the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member who serves as the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.

Lately ole Ron has been working on something called TPP or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As you can see from the Wiki link, we weren’t even in on this thing in the beginning, but we are now.  Apparently what Ron is doing is sooo secret that he doesn’t even want Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon who is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade Customs and Global Competitiveness to even get a look-see at what’s he’s up to.  In fact, Senator Wyden literally had to create an act of Congress just so that staff members could get access to certain documents involved in the TPP, as he stated:  the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.  So what in the world is so hush-hush about this?  Well for one thing, according to HuffPo it “addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws”.  Hmm. wonder what those things are?

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.  [italics/bolding mine]

And as the HuffPo piece says, “the terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.”  Oh no he diduh, did he?  Why, of course he did.

Here is a brief breakdown of how some aspects of the TPP could affect the U.S.

  • Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
  • Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
  • Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
  • Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.

Some of the other countries involved in the TPP are not agreeing to portions of it, like Australia, when it comes to this International Tribunal stuff.  And I don’t blame them.  It is more or less ceding authority over things that happen or laws that are written within our own borders to an entity outside of our country.

  • Australia has refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the “investor-state” private corporate enforcement foreign tribunal system;
  • U.S. negotiators are alone in seeking to expand this extra-judicial enforcement system to allow the use of foreign tribunals to enforce contracts that foreign investors may have with a government for government procurement or to operate utilities contracts and even related to concessions for natural resources on federal lands;
  • Other countries are proposing safeguards for financial regulation and limits to the corporate tribunals that the U.S. has not supported.

Furthermore, this will have impacts upon labor in the country, much like NAFTA and union officials are voicing concerns over that.

Union officials also expressed outrage over the leaked info or distress over the state of the negotiations. Joseph Nigro, the president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers, said over email that the leak showed that “this Administration would seek to extend the worst parts” of “horrible trade agreements like NAFTA.” Nigro said the leaks offered an example of why his union “will only support and work for those candidates and parties that serve to support working people.” Without mentioning Obama by name, Nigro urged “supporters of this measure” to “cut out the caviar, celebrity photo ops and cocktail parties and spend a day in the shoes of the average working person and seeing the damage it will cause.”

“This is what happens when you get an administration that is pretty much in the lap of corporate America,” said Chris Townsend, the political action director for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and a longtime Obama critic. “That’s who they perform for, and that’s who most of them will go to work for after they lose the election in November.”

-Wait, there’s more!>

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