Will Opposition in the US and Overseas Derail the Toxic TransPacific Partnership?

Given the extreme measures the Obama Administration has gone to to keep the pending trade deal known as the TransPacific Partnership under wraps, it’s hard to be certain where things stand. Public Citizen has been relentless in publicizing leaks in combination with detailed analysis that show that this pact is not about trade, but about setting up a pro-corporate regime that would strengthen intellectual property laws (including drug patents) while allowing for “investor” panels to impose fines on governments for environmental, labor, and financial regulations that might dent their profits. Weaker versions of this sort of provision has led to a claim against Australia by Philip Morris for plain cigarette packaging and one against Quebec for imposing a moratorium on fracking. Each sought multi hundred million dollar damages. So images what a Brave New World with even more opportunities for investors to challenge national laws would look like.

Even with the veil of secrecy, enough damaging information has come public to lead to a large number of House Democrats and even some House Republicans to voice concerns about the pact and threaten to deny so-called fast-track authority. As we wrote in November:

Wow, this is amazing. Word has apparently gotten out even to Congressmen who can normally be lulled to sleep with the invocation of the magic phrase “free trade” that the pending Trans Pacific Partnership is toxic. This proposed deal among 13 Pacific Rim countries (essentially, an “everybody but China” pact), is only peripherally about trade, since trade is already substantially liberalized. Its main aim is to strengthen the rights of intellectual property holders and investors, undermining US sovereignity, allowing drug companies to raise drug prices, interfering with basic operation of the Internet, and gutting labor, banking, and environmental regulations…

This development is more significant than it might appear. “Fast track” authority limits Congress’s role in trade negotiations. The Administration presents a finished deal, and individual members have only an up or down vote. At that point, because the pending agreements have been misleadingly presented as “pro trade,” dissenters will be depicted as anti-growth Luddites.

But the loss of fast track authority would substantially undermine America’s ability to bully the other parties in the negotiations.

Mind you, the degree of opposition in Congress is high enough to be fatal; 18 of 21 ranking full committee members are opposed.

Since then, Wikikeaks has has two rounds of substantial leaks of actual draft text from the key chapter on intellectual property, with notes as to where various countries stand on and suggested revisions. Amusingly, the supporters had embarked on a renewed effort to try to push the deal over the finish line on the eve of the opening of the last round of negotiations. But my sources on the Hill weren’t convinced. As one staffer wrote, “Hard to know what is going on, I suspect that the international agreement is falling apart and the US elements are trying to restart momentum by introducing fast track in Congress.”

Right after the new effort in Congress started, Wikileaks dumped its second set of TPP releases. While it did not change the overall bad picture of the deal (assuming you aren’t a drug company, major studio, or financial services firm), keeping public awareness up is the last thing the Administration wanted. Media coverage in countries that are generally willing to follow the US lead, like Japan, Australia, and Thailand, has been negative. Even sites like MacroBusiness, which generally don’t focus on trade, have written highly critical pieces.

So the latest development in the drip drip drip of unfavorable media coverage is yet another set of leaked documents, this time from a foreign nation to Huffington Post, which included a memo that summarizes where various countries stood on key issues right before talks due to open in Singapore this week, as well as a chart before an earlier round showing the stances of various countries. The picture that emerges is that of a bullying US that is peculiarly confident tat it can not only force the other nations to accept its terms but also agree to the artificial deadline of January 1, 2014, which evidently no one takes seriously. The memo is short and you can read it here. From the Huffington Post account:

One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court….

“The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter, since under the concept of Investment Agreement nearly all significant contracts that can be made between a state and a foreign investor are included,” the memo reads. “Only the U.S. and Japan support the proposal.”…

New standards concerning access to key medicines appear to be equally problematic for many nations. The Obama administration is insisting on mandating new intellectual property rules in the treaty that would grant pharmaceutical companies long-term monopolies on new medications. As a result, companies can charge high prices without regard to competition from generic providers. The result, public health experts have warned, would be higher prices around the world, and lack of access to life-saving drugs in poor countries. Nearly every intellectual property issue in the November chart is opposed by a broad majority of the 12 nations. The December memo describes 119 “outstanding issues” that remain unresolved between the nations on intellectual property matters. The deal would obligate nations to develop many standards similar to those in the United States, where domestic prescription drug prices are much higher than costs in other nations.

Also according to the December memo, the U.S. has reintroduced a proposal that would hamper government health services from negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The proposal appears to have been universally rejected earlier in the talks, according to the memo…

The U.S. is also facing major resistance on bank regulation standards. The Obama administration is seeking to curtail the use of “capital controls” by foreign governments. These can include an extremely broad variety of financial tools, from restricting lending in overheated markets to denying mass international outflows of currency during a financial panic. The loss of these tools would dramatically limit the ability of governments to prevent and stem banking crises.

“The positions are still paralyzed,” the December memo reads, referring to the Financial Services Chapter. “The United States shows zero flexibility.”

Now if this were a corporate negotiation, based on how far apart the parties are, I’d deem this to be dead on arrival. But everyone is continuing to talk. The Doha round concluded with no agreement, so trade deals failing isn’t unheard of. But here, I wonder what inducement is sufficient for these countries to prostrate themselves before US commercial interests. The one thing that may have helped the US enormously is the decision by China to extend its airspace and its threats against Japanese and Taiwanese commercial airplanes. While the US is a terrible partner, the Chinese have managed the difficult feat of making it look like the more attractive choice. And the “everybody but China” strategy of isolation may prove to be a strong enough plus so as to offset the enormous minuses.

So while the trajectory of these negotiations looks encouraging from the perspective of ordinary citizens, don’t underestimate Obama’s resourcefulness in finding ways and means to deliver us up to his corporate masters. But the inability so far to develop momentum is an encouraging sign.

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  1. YankeeFrank

    I wonder what other ways Obama has planned for enslaving us to the multinational corporate hegemony before he leaves office. Lame duck status can’t come too soon.

  2. Banger

    No way this agreement goes forward. The momentum for international trade agreements has virtually stopped both in the U.S. and in the world as a whole. While I still think power is flowing to the corporations within individual countries I think the “free” trade route has been blunted.

    The defining moment for the political change in Washington was the solid opposition to military action in Syria which occurred despite the fervent support of nearly all the mainstream media. This showed me that the authorities had lost moral legitimacy in terms of foreign policy. I think this mood will extend to any big trade agreement particularly one that is as stunningly insane as this one.

    Even if all that wasn’t the case, the fact is that no real major policies can be enacted in country as fractured and divided as the U.S. even if is relatively benign. In the case of the trade deal we are fortunate that this is the case.

    1. Ulysses

      I would very much love for you to be right. Sadly, nearly all of our Congresscritters are more concerned with pleasing their corporate masters than anything else. We need to beware of some kayfabe production– in which they gain cover for allowing the TPP (and TAFTA) to sail through, with some minor procedural tweak to the mechanics of rubber-stamping them hailed as a “victory for transparency and Congressional oversight.”
      Sen. Feinstein’s MSM-supported attempt to spin her bill (that makes the Surveillance State even more powerful on paper than it already is) as “reining in the NSA,” comes to mind.

      1. Banger

        It is too easy for the hard right to criticize this agreement as yet another form of “world government.” A substantial and growing part of the right is “isolationist” and interested in the issue of sovereignty. On the DP side there are still small pockets of leftists in Congress that have not abandoned the American people.

        1. Vedicculture

          Sorry, but this is the “hard right” dream. They claim to be “against” this, but in truth, this is exactly what they want. The death of the nation state and the merging of market forces into the state.

          Isolationist they are not. you simply don’t understand the hegelian dialect and who is running it.

          1. jonboinAR

            I agree with Vediculture. They want a corporate state, as universal as possible. That’s the real goal. Tea-Party types are useful idiots in this venture.

      2. 10leggedshadow

        I think we should all write our congressman and point out the following. If this TPP passes, it would severely diminish the power of Congress and most likely lobbyists funding and perks would dry up. If corporate power is put above the state, what do they need their congressional lackeys for? They can go to this private international court to extract whatever money and concessions they want. I’ll bet it’s a lot cheaper than paying for Congress Critter’s perks. Also what’s the point of even having a congress if something like this passes. They agree to this and they are cutting their own throats.
        This TPP to me says that corporations are spending way too much money on politicians, and like everything else want to cut their costs. Despite their ridiculous return on investment they were getting from buying politicians, they want ever more profit.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Congress doesn’t understand this argument. Part of the Democratic crowing over website fixes is a direct result of not understanding what ACA is. The stories about Congressional aides in a tizzy about higher premiums exists because they don’t understand ACA. I bet they are expecting European style healthcare for less money. They don’t face questions or have used the specter of the GOP and promises future action to not provide real answers that they just simply don’t understand very much.

          Rationale arguments don’t work because these are ignorant people who have been allowed to be ignorant for so long they are past the point of redemption. There is a comment on this thread with a defense of the morality of people who are behind the TPP even though TPP is awful. Its bizarre.

          1. Expat

            Who knows if the members of Congress are ignorant, in the usual sense of the term, or not? If they are kept by the corporate powers, which has been the case for some 40 years now, they only exist to exercise power on the behalf of their masters. Ralph Nader’s critique is to the effect that a mere 500 people (out of a potential 550,000 or so) in a majority of districts could organize enough voters to overthrow this neoliberal regime. That is, in our constitutional democracy, however much we have suffered takeover by the .1%, majority rules. Of course, this means organizing and finding good candidates, two factors in short supply in this vile durance of neoliberal triumph.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I think at the moment there isn’t a neo-liberal majority. The Teabaggers and the few “good” Democrats plus the ones terrified of losing their seats can’t work together constructively, but I do think they have prevented the faux-immigration border militarization bill, the Syrian conflict, and restoring defense cuts to date.

              I think the neo-liberal element is using the ACA disaster and the holidays to push ahead with defense increases and attacking their pet projects such as federal pensions, but I called my Senators twice yesterday in the morning and afternoon. In the morning, they were very supportive of the bill, but in the afternoon, they really needed to look closely at the bill because they have some concerns.

    2. weinerdog43

      I think you’re right. Obama has been wounded by the idiotic ACA rollout, not to mention the failed Syrian gambit. The congresscritters as well as the administration were surprised that the actual citizens were tired of the relentless push for moar war. The economy still stinks and it will be pretty tough explaining to Joe and Jane American exactly how this stupid bill helps them. One can only hope the House Republics continue their anti Obama everything. They’ll accidentally accomplish something good.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Obama came out of the gate with his attacks on Social Security immediately after the re-election and like W. before him effectively ended his Presidency. TPP, Keystone, SS, and wishy-washiness on gun control put a microscope on his Presidency which wasn’t there because his supporters pushed the “just wait until he is re-elected” memo. Even before Syria, he didn’t get traction on any of his checklist goals.

        There are enough Democrats who understand the political fallout from Obama’s policies when he is no longer popular and Teabaggers to effectively end any political movement except in the dead of night. Even this MIC bailout deal is being done in the dead of night while most people are concerned about the holidays and ACA. If low info Democratic voters make the connection between high defense spending and Democrats being “forced” into cutting domestic spending, things can get out of hand.

        The Democrats will be nostalgic for the days of Occupy.

      2. Vedicculture

        By Spring, the ACA will be long gone as a event, so will the wound. It will be like Medicare or SS. Something nobody on this board wants to admit.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          No. Social Security and Medicare represented real improvements in people’s lives. ACA continues and supports the hideous health industry system we have in this country. Your comparisons and conclusions are just flat out absurd.

          Of course, this was the same argument that was made after the original passage, then the Supreme Court fight, the elections, and of course the website.

          Unless ACA is magically going to morph into single-payer, Democrats need to wake up to the problem, and when they have town halls with people asking why they lost their insurance, denied treatment (narrow networks are going to be a problem, or don’t understand the difference between co-pays and deductibles, there will be a problem

          1. Sammy Maudlin

            Exactly. Taxes to fund SS, Medicare, and the ACA are all collected through the coercive power of the federal government. The difference is that in the case of SS and Medicare, citizens are then granted a constitutional right to the concrete, actual benefits of those programs (if eligible). In the case of the ACA, the government grants essentially nothing in return to those citi… er, “consumers.”

  3. 12312399

    ” even some House Republicans to voice concerns about the pact and threaten to deny so-called fast-track authority. ”

    sheesh, the one time i thought that you can count on the entire House Republican caucus to rally around US sovereignty and Obama-bashing.

  4. thelonegunman

    does anyone really think pubic (i.e. The People’s) opposition to a policy the transnationals are pushing so hard for will fail?

      1. Crazy Horse

        Were you and I watching the same reality show during the Syria Standoff? Clearly Obomber really, really, really wanted to start a war to (among other things) deflect attention from the emergence of the Surveillance State from the shadows. He and his handlers went so far as to manufacture a false flag poison gas attack, with the help of our Al-Qaeda mercenary allies, in the expectation that it would provide a rallying point for a “Coalition of the Willing”. The war seemed like a win-win situation: Obama would gain an opportunity to silence the mad dogs of his domestic opposition as he played the role of national leader in time of war. As with any war, the opportunities for obscene profits would multiply. With any luck, another 911 style attack could be arranged that would wipe out all those negative poll results that were threatening to besmirch his legacy.

        At the same time a US-led overthrow of Syria would serve to pay back old debts on the books to our principal allies in the region– Israel and Saudi Arabia. Removing the Assad thorn from Israel’s side and opening up a natural gas pipeline route direct to Europe from Qatar–another win-win scenario.

        In the face of all these benefits to the key players in the region, when it came time to pull the firing pin Obummer backed down and was forced to eat crow… Do you really think that was because “the people” were united in their opposition and popular will determined policy? I think not.
        The reason Obummer didn’t get his war was because Vladimir Putin told him in no uncertain terms what the consequences would be, and was fully prepared to back it up with guns and bullets. Obummer correctly recognized that he was a mere boy who had found himself sitting across the table from a KGB hard case who plays poker to win. Putin wasn’t motivated by dreams of sainthood, but rather by personal and national self interest… Maintaining control over the natural gas supplies that keep Europeans from freezing is simply good business for Russia, and as mobster-in-chief, Putin’s accumulation of several billion $ personal net worth derives from the profitability of its petrochemical exports.

  5. ohmyheck

    I remember, a few months back, a Trade Pact Apologist coming and decrying the vehement opposition here. We didn’t seem to understand that some very earnest and conscientious people, who cared a great deal, were the types of people working on the pact, and if we only knew then we might stop the bashing. This person did not seem to be able to grasp that we were not disparaging the people working on the pact, but what was IN the pact. I found it very odd. I guess content means nothing , for some.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Considering what is in the pact, the people involved in the process are hideous people and deserve to be called out as such. If the person was defending the people involved, its likely he is just trying to justify his behavior of others because he has recognized the problems, and like defenders of NAFTA and free trade, they will make up absurd connections such as “trade ends war” just like how Germany never went to war with its biggest trading partners or France and England have never had any spats.

      When content of policy ceases to be matter, its a moral issue. Plenty of Democrats even at the elite levels expect a single-payer type system to be here on Jan 1. The reports about Congressional aides in panics about higher premiums seem to suggest that the people trusted with knowing what was in legislation had no clue what was in it.

    2. Banger

      Pretty funny. The people negotiating the agreement are careerists who take their kids to soccer practice and brush their teeth at night and may never cheat on their spouses. But I know these people inside and out and they all believe they are “good” people who want to serve the public. But they are also seriously deluded. They cannot live with the facts about what they are doing so they choose not to see reality so they can be “good” people. I’ve heard this nonsense before and the apologist’s argument is an example of how pathetically retarded the liberal class has become.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’m rather shocked by the attitude where people seem to be under the impression that morality is independent of actions, the pushers of TPP are amazingly good people despite doing hideous things.

    3. different clue

      What is IN the pact is a reflection of the people who PUT it IN the pact. Those people deserve just as much disparagement as their content does.

  6. Timothy Gawne

    One thing to consider: the TPP is not really a trade treaty as such. In theory the USA needs NO other countries to sign it at all! We could just sign it with ourselves! (Although I am sure we can get at least one patsy foreign government to play along for the sake of form).

    That’s because the TPP is aimed mostly at changing AMERICAN law. It will effectively void democratic sovereignty here and make our law subservient to secret tribunals run by corporate lawyers. The ‘negotiations’ with other countries may well be, to a large extent, a red herring, and their opposition, of no relevance.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Intriguing take. I’m not at all well-versed in these matters.
      I’d love it if any other commenters would care to weigh in on this?
      or TG would you care to elaborate?

      1. susan the other

        Interesting. Come to think of it, US patents, free capital flows demands, and investor “rights” are too peculiar. This has very little to do with trade, it’s all about US elite protectionism. Even free capital flows, the restriction of which prevents banking crises (like the one we are in) is a form of protectionism – blatantly protect the financial looters. Naturally. The TPP makes no sense at all in terms of “trade” and only makes sense for pillage. Just get one quisling in the Pacific Rim to go along (Japan) and it’s a done deal.

        1. Ulysses

          Very perceptive comment. Yet I think we err in supposing that the plutocrats of different countries are “competing” with each other directly in establishing this TPP and Transatlantic regime. What’s good for a Malaysian billionaire is probably also good for an American billionaire. They are all quislings in the sense that they know no loyalty to any particular country, they are, indeed, a transnational class.
          The TPP then, doesn’t particularly privilege U.S. billionaires. Asian politicians fetching water for their own plutocrats will of course publicly lament that cheaper generic drugs will be less available. Yet they are only shedding crocodile tears for the sick and dying in their own countries. They fully expect to be rewarded for their betrayal by the deep pockets of Big Pharma, etc. just as U.S. politicians were for foisting the Big Pharma/Big Insurance Enrichment Act (aka ACA) on the rest of us.

    2. Ulysses

      “That’s because the TPP is aimed mostly at changing AMERICAN law. It will effectively void democratic sovereignty here and make our law subservient to secret tribunals run by corporate lawyers. The ‘negotiations’ with other countries may well be, to a large extent, a red herring, and their opposition, of no relevance.”

      Bingo!! Yet we can’t look at the TPP in isolation. The TPP would not allow Americans to preserve labor, health and environmental standards any better than those meager protections seen in third world countries like Vietnam.
      TAFTA would rob Europeans of the right to preserve any of their remaining social democratic policies that make Europe somewhat less of a plutocrats’ paradise than the U.S.
      Taken together, TPP/TAFTA aims to essentially delegitimize any of the gains made, since the end of WWII, by ordinary folks against the interests of the billionaire corporatists in the developed world.

      Even under the far less ambitious NAFTA regime sovereignty has been eroded:

      “1998 case brought against Canada by the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation [see “Another NAFTA Nightmare.” In that case, Ethyl sued Canada for $250 million after Canada banned the gasoline additive methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) because of health risks. The state of California had banned MMT and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working on a similar regulation. Ethyl claimed the Canadian ban violated NAFTA because it “expropriated” future profits and damaged Ethyl’s reputation. After learning that the NAFTA tribunal was likely to rule against its position, the Canadian government revoked the ban, paid Ethyl $13 million for lost profits to date, and, as part of a settlement with Ethyl, agreed to issue a public statement declaring that there was no evidence that MMT posed health or environmental risks.” http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/NAFTA_FTAA/NAFTA_FTAA_InvestorsRights.html

      1. Expat

        Important points. Bob Jessup, Nancy Fraser and others describe the current neoliberal efforts to defeat and delimit democratic processes as another enclosure project by the kleptocrats. Enclosing the knowledge commons is the most obvious, with the corporate colonization of the internet and the erection of barrier after barrier to entry, the re-writing of copyright law and the disappearance of “fair use,” not to mention the all-but-bodily invasions by government spies and their corporate paymasters. But who knew that majority rule, otherwise known as democracy, could be hijacked by a tiny minority to such an extent that law itself will have — like the transparently unconstitutional “free speech zones” — small, unimporatant areas of influence far from the real action of despotic oligarchy practiced by our ruling kleptocracy. In other words, by cordoning off profit-taking from the historic legislative and judicial branches (if there are, in fact, any but neoliberal judicial hacks left in the system), the kleptocrats are enclosing the governmental processes off from the likes of you and me.

      2. Nathanael

        FWIW, 1998 was Jean Chretien’s prime ministership. I’m sure the evil Harper would have done the same thing. I’m equally sure that an NDP prime minister would have refused.

        Notice that California does NOT give in on environmental issues once they’ve committed, US Supreme Court or no US Supreme Court. But then California is more powerful than Candada.

    3. savedbyirony

      In as much as the TPP is a race to the bottom, i think it’s about exporting the U.S. laws/regulations its corporate backers favor and undermining, bypassing and making a buck off those they don’t, so the Corp. interests behind the TPP benefit by having as many nations sign on as possible (excluding China, which they must have other plans for.) My understanding of how the tribunals work is that the most pro-business/investor laws/regulations found among any of the Nations in the deal become the standard by which Corporations are to base their profit making expectations and if they meet up with a country trying to enforce more costly rules, the country must either change/ignore its own laws or compensate the Corp/investors for losses.

  7. Eureka Springs

    If I were a bloody leech of US politician I would insist upon bleeding the backers of TPP by slowing it down rather than letting that massive extortion opportunity, I mean party/campaign contributions slip right on by via fast tracking out of the kindness not found in my heart.

    Pharma alone ought to be worth what, a billion or more for promises made in the leaked memo’s so far?

    It’s bad enough we’ve allowed secret courts like FISA in our times, but it seems to me to be tantamount to treason for congress or the executive to legally accept/create privately run courts. Much less for the main purpose of giving corporations the guarantees against any perceived/potential loss.

    To presume any good will by congresscritters here strikes me as far to kind…. after all all of this info as Yves points out is still only getting to us through leaks. Even congress wont allow itself to be informed.

    1. scraping_by

      You’ve touched on a very important side effect of the TPP. If the Congress no longer has any real say in the crafting of US governance, they’re no longer worth bribing.

      Consider: The great money tsunamis of the last few years have been from the finance industry to keep the bailout going, from insurance and healthcare to prevent single payer, and from the defense industry to keep the pointless WOT on track. These self-destructive errors continue because bribery is legal and gets results.

      However, if a board of foreign corporate managers could just declare anything government action (or inaction) harmful to business, your local Congresscritter wouldn’t have a say in the matter. A vote wouldn’t be worth selling.

      There will always be those who like figurehead positions, so there will always be people to fill those roles. But when a seat in Congress is worthless by law rather than by crime, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble stealing the election.

      1. Timothy Gawne


        Yes of course, I should have thought of that.

        If TPP passess, the US congress will be irrelevant – and thus, not worth bribing – and thus congresspeople will not get juicy consulting jobs or board positions after retiring etc. Congresspeople are scum, but they are politically savvy – I wonder how many of them realize that TPP will effectively put them out of work?

        1. Nathanael

          Congress still has a lot of paper power when it’s unified. Even if they sign it away, the way the Roman Senate did, they could reclaim it in an instant. Congress can repudiate treaties, repeal laws, impeach government officials, declare war, etc.

          One worry is that Congress will sign away so much power that eventually its power will just be on paper. Then Caesar will be able to cross the Rubicon without worries — some President will just declare Congress irrelevant. We are already very, very, very, very close to this.

          Of course, the President can still repudiate treaties, etc in that case, but how would we get such a President?

  8. William Neil

    Thanks for keeping the issue alive, more than alive, the opposition is doing better, growing stronger.

    I can’t but help viewing what this process does to the long Western history of democracy, even with all its asterisks and footnotes. From the intimate forums of direct citizen participation in city state Greece, to the American version of delegated representation to an elected official – now they cannot even access the proceedings and the full text. There are selected Congressional committee chairs which supposedly have access to the text, but according to my Congressman’s staffer – Rep. Van Hollen, a senior Democratic leader, I could not get the text because it is wrapped in some form of “security status/standing,” which I don’t have. Labor and environmentalists stand at several layers removed from the corporate lobbyists working on it, and have no direct seat at the table. And then the process will be fast tracked because, and not without some decent reasons (not Constitutional ones, certainly) the “child-like and irresponsible Congress” (as a growing number would portray it) will be incapable of producing a trade package in the end, they must swallow whole, up or down with no amendments, the results of the process that most of them have been kept from.

    So am I, in this very important matter, still in any meaningful sense, a citizen of a democratic republic with this form of Keystone Cop “delegating?” Well, I’m protesting, at least that….as for the rest….

    1. William Neil

      NC readers deserve a little “context” for my above train of thought. It stems from struggling with the very difficult, but magisterial book by J.G.A. Pocock, “The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine political thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition.” I picked it up from the Princeton U. book store after a particularly troubling legislative session in New Jersey.

      Here’s a brief selection from one of the concluding chapters, “Corruption, Constitution and Frontier,” about how the Atlantic republican tradition was faring under the newest republic: ” The choice of a representative was a surrender, a transfer to another of one’s plenitude of power and one’s persona if not one’s individuality; and republican humanism which was fundamentally concerned with the affirmation of moral personality in civic action, had cause to ask whether the concept of representation did not exclude that of virtue. How could I designate another to be virtuous for me, in my place and wearing my mask? At the core of Hobbes’s moral theory is indeed the statement that it is only when I become capable of owning another’s actions as my own that I become a being capable of civic morality; but the zoon politikon, the being naturally civic, must act immediately and in his own person. Rousseau, an ambiguous master within the classical tradition, had insisted that there was no virtue in the mere choice of a representative and that consequently people governed by plenipotentiary representatives of their own choosing were not free.”

      Stop and think upon this passage and the nature of delegation in the TPP process…not only where it leaves elected representatives, the agents of other none commercial entities in the society – labor and environmental groups, esp. – and the poor citizen. It is citizen distance from facts and events to the nth power…in some ways – after all, this is an economics blog, isn’t it – mirroring, to all our detriments, the exotic world of financial derivatives to the nth power, “synthetics,” with their great distance from the actual mortgages themselves…and the “representations” given about the toxic products, too hot to handle, get them off our books and on to someone else’s…ah the consequences of the great divisions of labor and specialization, in economics and the theories and practice of “democracy.” Truly a site to behold in the TPP. Who is proud of this monstrosity?

  9. LucyLulu

    I mentioned an offshoot of this with a different link I posted yesterday but its really important and troublesome, more so than the pharmaceutical provisions, and people need to pay attention. Not only are their major implications for quality of care and outcomes but also in terms of health costs. Unsurprisingly, US law grants the broadest recognition of medical patents currently. However even US law exempts medical practioners from infringement liability for the surgical, therapeutic, and diagnostic methods that constitute medical care, with the narrow exception of the use of a patented device to perform a patented procedure. The TPP attempts to impose an expanded version of medical patent protections on the treaty signatories.

    The U.S.-proposed TPP measure provides for surgical method patents which “cover a method of using a machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.” In other words, except for when a surgeon uses her bare hands, surgical methods would be patent eligible subject matter. The provision fails to recognize the distinction between patented and unpatented devices, and is therefore distressingly even broader than U.S. law.

    How does having your surgeon rip your gallbladder out with your bare hands or paying royalties grab you? The scalpel and hemostats he’s using make it a patentable procedure. You may be paying royalties for your improved anesthesia procedure using unpatented machines and supplies too, the same procedure your tax dollars may have funded research for. I may apply for a patent for the best practice method of inserting the urinary catheter in surgery (and millions of times per year) used in Europe that was shown to reduce infections by 30% (this is a made up example). Look at what the pharmaceutical industry has done to the prices of medications in the US and extrapolate it more broadly. If patents are imposed on new surgical procedures, further advances and refinements will be correspondingly stifled in TPP countries, including the US. Medical tourism in the EU, India, Argentina, Brazil, and reefer-madness Uruguay will become a booming business if this passes.

  10. LucyLulu

    For an informative post with the latest updates on the suit brought against Chevron (Texaco prior to 2001) by the Amazonian indigenous peoples in Ecuador, a link is below that illustrates how these trade agreements are enforced. What takes the cake, IMO, in this situation is that there was no trade agreement in place with Ecuador either when the damages occurred or prior to the filing of the lawsuit. In addition, the trade agreement specifically stipulates it does not apply retroactively. The Ecuadorian tribes have already prevailed in the courts of both US and Ecuador in a case that has dragged on for over 20 years, thus Chevron is now seeking relief from the international tribunal.

    1. Nathanael

      Get down to brass tacks. How does Chevron or the “IBB” hope to enforce this?

      They can’t enforce it in Ecuador, which will openly refuse to comply with this nonsense, and has its Supreme Court rulings to back it up. Ecuador can, of course, seize Chevron’s assets within Ecuador. Apparently the problem is that Chevron has no assets in Ecuador any more. Ecuador can make it completely illegal for Chevron to *operate* in Ecuador, which would cause some problems for Chevron.

      I guess Chevron’s plan is to stay out of Ecuador to avoid paying, basically. But how hard is it going to be for Ecuador to get cooperation from Venezuela, which has had similar problems with oil companies and these corporate “tribunals”? Not at all difficult. Expect Chevron to have its Venezueula’s assets taken to pay the bill.

  11. susan the other

    Even Greenspan cautions against the result of capital free flows. He said (Monday? on Kudlow) that if you are successful at stabilizing the economy you are invariable rerwarded with a bubble. And that long interest rates and short rates diverged in the late 90s when the world went turbo-capitalist and much of the profits were invested here in the US which did not impose capital controls. And after trying to keep it together for 8 more years the whole banking system imploded like a third world country. So before the crash this kept the dollar from inflating, but prices did inflate? Dropping or raising the fed funds rate had no impact on long rates whatsoever and when the Dotcoms crashed and the Fed lowered the funds rate to 1% it had no effect on long rates and therefore no effect on the rising value and price of housing which was an investment. Housing responded to all the incoming money from outside the US. But didn’t raising the interest rate in 2006 bring the whole thing down, Alan? I think Greenspan just blew Bernanke’s cover story about using the Fed funds rate to control the long rate. So we are in a deep depression then; probably due to our own mercantilist policies. We knew that. And specifically the crash was thanks to our policy of free capital flows. Chickens coming home via the TPP.

  12. Steven Greenberg

    Let us also remember to look to the future of the Presidential campaign of 2016. There is one likely Democratic candidate who needs to hear the message loud and clear that if TPP gets accepted, she will lose many potential supporters. She needs to speak out now to oppose this deal. 2016 will be too late to say she supported it before she opposed it or the other way around.

  13. Vedicculture

    The TPP isn’t getting passed anytime soon. Obama won’t sign it and threw it to his successors. No Hilliary then, no Republican.

    1. Foppe

      He won’t sign it but he did try to write it (or at least, push it through as written by the parties who he’s allowed to “contribute”)?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Obama will try and suspect he has been trying. He has two problems. One is the Teabagger as opposed to the Koch-turf brand* element of the GOP. They are probably 40% of the caucus and have total control of 70%. The Democrats don’t have a Teabagger problem, but they do have an apathy problem. The Democrats have ACA and Lily Bedletter to their name, and Lily-Bedletter was a holdover from 2008 when they wanted something for the Democratic President to sign on day 1.

        Liz Warren is a star because people are so disgusted with the current crop of the Democrats that the first vaguely intelligent person to speak with a sliver of honesty is hailed as the new messiah. Terry MacAuliffe won the Governor’s race in Virginia by less than 2 points despite outspending his opponent 8 to 1 and his opponent’s status as a guy too extreme for Taliban Bob Ultrasound MacDonnell and marred by scandal. Tim Kaine, the last Democratic Governor, won by 7 points against a well-liked Republican candidate. This is where the Democratic Party is. If the Democrats were pushing forward with good legislation, there would be several credible candidates to be President in 2016, but they chose to do nothing but serve corporate interests and the result is that the front runners are Hillary and the Lt. Gov of California. The Democratic Party is a joke.

        If anything I think the elected Democrats do understand this. They can’t have on their record anything which will result in their record being scrutinized because many of their votes suck or they didn’t vote. Senator Mark Warner puts out a fluff every few months about his frustration about never gettin’ work done, but he is also the most absentee Senator despite his home address being within walking distance of the Capital Building.This is why the Democrats are refusing to acknowledge the problems with ACA because they have nothing but hope that ACA saves them.

        *The Tea Party was an attempt to control the natives who went crazy for Palin and didn’t line up for Romney in ’08. There is a natural element in the GOP which has been cultivated for years. The Tea Party was an attempt to control them and prevent a split in the GOP which would lead wavering members off the reservation. The Tea Party was a spectacle, but the Teabaggers predate the issue.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Obama wants TPP for his legacy. He’s not the brightest bulb and has confused greatness with titles and lists instead of achievement which happens to narcissists surrounded by cultists. I doubt Obama has any clue of what is TPP and doubt he would care (ACA is a similar situation). Obama wants the achievement and gold star, so he can have it in a library.

        I know there hasn’t been much to do about an Obama library, but I wouldn’t be surprised if ACA’s acceleration causes enough outrage that the Obama library has to be shopped around and downsized much like W’s library even if Obama can find donors for an unpopular President who isn’t part of the club as much as he might like to be.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Obama is more than intelligent enough to be aware of what he is doing and what TPP will mean. Time and again, he has proven himself indifferent to the suffering of ordinary people. The reason he can live with it is arrogance, avarice and the kind of ruthlessness it takes to assassinate the innocent.

          The reasons congress critters can live with it even though it may render their services less necessary are much the same (the majority of them are truly corrupt) except in their case they don’t mind being the last man out the door as long as it pays well; that is, pays well at least until they are out the door.

  14. American Slave

    What a nightmare this globalist system is becoming. Every day im starting to understand Banger and Dork of Cork’s stance on the importance of local community and economy especially when I look back and remember what I saw them accomplish in parts of Oregon.

    I used to think that a central system like the Soviet system was the way to go if you could prevent corruption but after a while a system becomes to big and complex to be able to take care of everyone and therefore some people get left out like Detroit, as the have shifted the economy over to China which is now the worlds biggest car market which works for the globally focused corporations but not for the rust belt communities.

    And trust me Ive heard it a million times that if we just focus on the local the the corporations will destroy us from the out side but maybe if enough people focus on the local rather than Syria etc. than it will remove the drive for the global empire as Obama may not care about the homeless woman who freezes to death on the park bench but the local community will.

    Eventually people are starting to slowly but surely realize how much we are destroying our communities for the federal and global project that funds federal creeps who watch our every move and an oversize military who causes trouble where they can at the expense of ever increasing federal taxes that leaves little room for local taxation as you cant have a 35% federal tax while charging a 35% local tax.

    When I think of the things we could do locally its amazing. Kind of like how the Soviet Union had community machine shops we could have community owned fully equipped machine shops for people to rent out for a few weeks or so to produce products who dont need to own one 24/7 but can make products on a batch basis till there sold and unlike in Detroit the producers may move out but they wont be able to take the factory with them thereby always keeping some kind of productive capability in the community.

    1. psychohistorian

      It is a small world and all those great local communities need to work within a larger structure.

      It is interesting that I have yet to read a comment or posting that talks about how the TPP is an end-run around the UN and existing world trade organizations that project some semblance of “democratic” governance. That is how I see the TPP.

    2. cnchal

      Speaking of community machine shops and Detroit, check this out.

      The TPP must be opposed in it’s entirety for the simple reason that it is being put together in secrecy, and there is no opposition to those crafting the language of the agreement. Everything about it needs to made public, now!

      It isn’t just the globalist system that has gone haywire. The federal government has gone haywire too. NSA spying and lying. Secret courts making secret rulings where it is a crime to let the citizen know what the secret rulings are! Bizarre. Thank you Ed Snowdon. And now we also know a bit more about the corruption of our tech giants.

      Obama kill lists. Seizing phone records of journalists. It is a depressing and endless list of corruption and criminality at the top levels of government, in a supposedly free and democratic country.

      It is all focused on cowing and intimidating the little people, and making sure the money keeps flowing upward to the already obscenely rich.

  15. Foppe

    Ran across this example, though it is about a lawsuit filed on the basis of a ‘mere’ bilateral trade agreement:

    The company claims the government is in breach of the Canada-Costa Rica bilateral investment treaty. If the dispute cannot be settled amicably in six months, it will proceed with formal arbitration.

    Infinito Gold sent a letter to the country’s foreign trade minister demanding its subsidiary company, Industrias Infinito SA (IISA), be allowed to resume full operations, according to the Tico Times. The mine was closed after the approval of an amendment to the mining law which banned open-pit mining in the country.

    IISA said at a press conference the government invited it to develop the project and it believed the investment was guaranteed.
    The company has already invested $92 million and it claims to have lost $1 billion in potential profit.
    Costa Rica’s Supreme Courts have caused a legal vacuum regarding the project by writing two contradictory decisions about it.

  16. Doug Terpstra

    Bullseye, Crazy Horse. It was the Russian navy in the Med Sea that quashed the O-regime’s war on Syria. Democracy had nothing to do with it. The scofflaw war criminal won’t let democracy, the constitution, international law, or basic decency stand in his way of killing for power and profit. Only hard power can stop such a reckless degenerate.

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