Thoughts after reading the piece (at bottom) in Sunday’s New York Times…
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), like NAFTA, WTO and other so-called trade agreements, isn’t really about trade at all, be it free (touted by conservatives) or fair (promoted by liberals). Like all others, it’s at root about corporate governance — shifting decision making away and beyond citizen control and definition. Just as our oil and gas friends in Ohio and elsewhere ran to the state government to escape municipal authority over fracking, multinational and transnational corporations run to the international level to escape what semblance of public control that exists at the nation-state level — all in the name of “harmonizing” laws (short for race to the bottom).
Historically, corporations have escaped democratic control for more than a century in one of three ways. Corpses have sought to shift decision-making…
• From one level of government to another (more to less accountable): local to state, state to nation. TPP is simply the latest effort to shift decision-making from the nation-state to the global level where there are even fewer pressure points given the rigged pro-corporate decision making process.
• From the legislative to judicial arena. Judges are often appointed and, thus, easier to influence by the corporate crowd. There are fewer judges to influence and legislators. Legislators are the closest elected officials (at least on paper) to the public.
• From the legislative to regulatory arena. Regulatory bodies shield public officials and corpses between the public and themselves, providing a wonderful foil where the public receives their obligatory 3 minutes to testify. Regulatory bodies are often about the business of “regulating” vs prohibiting harms — prohibitions are what legislators do. Regulatory decisions, when they do go against the public, can still be appealed to courts. Historically, regulatory agencies were used to counter widespread calls for publicly owned enterprises. They still are. [For an enlightened view of this dimension, read “Gaveling Down the Rabble: How Free Trade is Stealing our Democracy”, by Jane Anne Morris. Her shorter article, “Help I’ve Been Colonized and I Can’t Get Up: Take a Lawyer and an Expert to a Hearing and Call Me in a Decade.” also lays out the charade that is often the regulatory process].
My understanding is that the difference with the TPP is that the agreement permits corpses to bring a challenge directly against a country over trade “barriers” (what we know of as environmental, law and consumer protections) without needing a nation-state to do their bidding. The conflict goes through a “dispute resolution” process that of course bypasses any courts or juries of any nation — stacked with no doubt corporate friendly panelists.
We might be best served, given that only 5 of 29 of the proposal’s chapters deal with actual trade, to reference it as a Corporate Governance Proposal or Corporate Power Proposal. For me, it’s much more accurate.
[Note: Another element of the TPP would either ban or severely limit the ability to set up public banks, all the craze these days in many states…and some municipalities as an alternative to the Too Big to Fail banks that are pushing for its inclusion].
We need to oppose TPP hard. Who’s at the table during the negotiations…and who’s not…is basically all one needs to know about how much it promotes justice. It’s an opportunity to unify people of many issues across the political spectrum on issues of protecting/expanding self-governance.
Obama’s Covert Trade Deal
By LORI WALLACH and BEN BEACHY — NYT
Published: June 2, 2013