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Free trade ain’t free

September 30th, 2012 · No Comments

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Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
by Mickey Z
World News Trust (September 13 2012)
Photo credit: Mickey Z

TPP is Wall Street’s global power grab – a death sentence for people with AIDS, for endangered rainforests, family farmers, and US jobs.

— Adam Weissman

Free (sic) trade agreements have a way of altering our lives in unexpected ways. For example, thanks to something called the “trade-related intellectual property rights” section of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) – precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO) – when a human gene is introduced to a sheep’s mammary glands to produce a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin, a sheep is no longer a mere “sheep”.

Instead, that woolly object is now a legally patented corporate commodity known as a “mammalian cell bioreactor”.

Not a sheep, not a lamb, but a mammalian cell bioreactor. Try it out: “Mary had a little mammalian cell bioreactor”.

If you don’t like it, don’t blame me. Blame GATT. Hell, you can blame all these so-called trade agreements because they’re really all about investors’ rights anyway.

For more details on the infamous WTO, here’s an article I wrote in April of this year: “Roots of Occupy: The Battle in Seattle, 1999”: http://worldnewstrust.com/roots-of-occupy-the-battle-in-seattle-1999-mickey-z

Of course, there’s also the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which, since the time it was enacted in 1994, the US Labor Department has certified more than 2.5 million American jobs as “destroyed by either direct offshoring or displacement by imports”.

Mic Check: There’s a huge difference between “free trade” and fair trade: http://www.foodforthought.net/learn-more/blog/fair-trade-or-free-trade.html

All this backroom betrayal has led us right up to what has been called “NAFTA on steroids”, potentially the mother of all free (sic) trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP.

Free Trade ain’t free … and it ain’t even trade

TPP, as described by the Citizens Trade Campaign, is a

massive new international trade pact being pushed by the US government at the behest of transnational corporations. The TPP is already being negotiated between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – but it is also specifically intended as a ‘docking agreement’ that other Pacific Rim countries would join over time, with Japan, Korea, China and others already expressing some interest. It is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in the world.

“Trade is only a minor part of the agreement”, add the folks at TPP Watch, who call it “a clever branding exercise” and “an agreement that guarantees special rights to foreign investors”.

“TPP is a sweetheart deal for corporations who profit from hydrofracking, toxic dumping, mining, and the destruction of rainforests and other endangered ecosystems”, explains Adam Weissman of the Occupy Wall Street Trade Justice Working Group …

It grants corporate environmental destroyers the power to sue governments for unlimited sums in international tribunals for enforcing their environmental laws. Outrageously, corporations can sue not only to recoup their investments, but can demand compensation for all the money they might have made if they weren’t stopped from damaging the environment.

How will all this – and more – be possible? Under TPP, details Public Citizen, corporations would gain an array of privileges, for example:

* Rights to acquire land, natural resources, factories without government review.

* Risks and costs of offshoring to low wage countries eliminated.

* Special guaranteed “minimum standard of treatment” for relocating firms.

* Compensation for loss of “expected future profits” from health, labor, and environmental, laws (indirect or “regulatory” takings compensation).

* Right to move capital without limits.

* New rights cover vast definition of investment: intellectual property, permits, derivatives.

In addition:

* A major goal of US multinational corporations for TPP is to impose on more countries a set of extreme foreign investor privileges and rights and their private enforcement through the notorious “investor-state” system. This system elevates individual corporations and investors to equal standing with each TPP signatory country’s government – and above all of us citizens.

* Under this regime, foreign investors can skirt domestic courts and laws, and sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their “expected future profits”.

Such an agreement would also give animal agribusiness the opportunity to pressure countries to eliminate import safety standards and eliminate tariffs on US meat, dairy, and egg exports.

Translation: More animals suffering on factory farms, more climate change and factory farm pollution, more destruction of rainforests for livestock feed, more diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in the global South, more countries shifting to factory farming to stay competitive, and more outbreaks of deadly diseases like bird flu and swine flu.

As one might imagine, Wall Street is licking its chops over provisions like: prohibitions against limiting the size of financial institutions (that is, safeguards against “too big to fail”); prohibitions against firewalls between different types of financial institutions (that is, reinstating the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act); prohibitions against bans on specific financial products (that is, banning the sale of toxic assets); and prohibitions against capital controls (that is, tools designed to stabilize the flow of money into and out of a country).

To add insult to injury, under the auspices of TPP, the United States. is actively seeking to cut access to medicine in the name of boosting Big Pharma profits.

Those of you in the “lesser (sic) evil” crowd please note that both wings of the one American corporate party are swooning over TPP.

“President Obama is slamming Mitt Romney for refusing to release his taxes and for offshoring jobs at Bain Capital”, Weissman adds, “but the Obama administration is negotiating and refusing to release the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an eleven-country international outsourcing agreement that makes Bain look like a bunch of amateurs by comparison”.

Translation: You ain’t gonna stop TPP by voting.

You down with TPP?

All right, now that you’ve heard some (key word: some) of the sordid details, you might be wondering what – if anything – can stop TPP from becoming a rapacious reality.

Well, here’s the good news …

If you think NAFTA and GATT were the stuff of nightmares, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was a plot, cloaked in secrecy, designed to essentially eliminate those pesky nation-to-nation boundaries that stop our poor, neglected multinational corporations from competing in the global marketplace.

US CEO at the time, Bill Clinton, failed in his effort to fast-track MAI in 1997, but it was back on the table a year later. If implemented, the MAI would’ve granted trans-national corporations a unique brand of sovereignty that superseded national borders.

However, by April 1998, MAI had been soundly defeated thanks to perhaps the first ever Internet activist campaigns – a campaign that mobilized some twenty million people to speak out against and stop this global nightmare.

(Subsequently defeated by sustained public action: the “Millennial Round” of the WTO in 1999 and The Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA] in 2003.)

Like all battles against the one percent, the odds are long and the game is tilted in their favor, but it’s powerful to remember that:

1. As stated above, agreements like TPP have been defeated when the response was immediate, informed, broad-based, and sustained.

2. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has helped bring corporate malfeasance into the public’s awareness as never before.

We can begin by educating ourselves and the general public about the avaricious agenda of the one percent. Let’s spread the word that TPP isn’t an arcane exercise in DC double-talk. It will directly affect us – from access to medicine, a lack of food safety, more jobs lost, a faster rate of climate change, and too many more ways to list here.

Some resources:

Trade Justice
Citizens Trade Campaign
Trade Watch
Flush the TPP
Occupy the TPP
Stop TPP

Of course, we can and should go the usual route, the methods that beat back MAI, FTAA, et cetera – letters, petitions, et cetera – but I think if we also occupy a major effort towards public outreach, we stand a better chance.

If we can relentlessly and effectively expose how this deceptive design is whitewashing our past, oppressing our present, and jeopardizing our future, it would not only help us defeat TPP but also inspire others to more easily recognize the big connections.

In 1998, one activist said MAI was “like a political Dracula” which “simply cannot survive sunlight”. It’s our job, our duty to the future, to let the sun shine brightly on TPP and collectively drive a stake through its gluttonous heart.

So … I’ve laid out some of the details above and now I put it to you: What can and should we do about TPP? What are you willing to do and how soon will you do it? Post comments here or e-mail me (mickey@mickeyz.net) with your ideas.

I’d say it’s now or never …

But then again, what do I know? I’ve always been the black mammalian cell bioreactor in my family.


The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains several links not included here.

Mickey Z is the author of eleven books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green (2011). Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

(c) WorldNewsTrust.com – Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.


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