TPP: USTR Froman’s Disinformation Continues to Propagate (And What Is the “Secret Guidance Document”?)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

In this post, I’ll continue the focus on TPP goverance issues — apparently, we have “governance” these days, instead of government — by continuing to look at the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system (Chapter 28), and  by taking a fresh look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission (Chapter 27). In each case, to get perspective, I’ll take a comparative view: First, by seeing what USTR Michael Froman’s TPP FAQ says about the text, and then by reading the text itself. We’ll see that Froman’s FAQ is… Well, perhaps “a tissue of lies” is a bit strong, even if Froman’s relationship with the truth is at best non-custodial. Let’s stick with disinformation. Unfortunately, our famously free press seems to be taking Froman’s FAQ at face value, thereby falling into absurdities. Finally, I’ll look at — or, more precisely, for — a document that perhaps should be playing a key role in determining what the administration, as opposed to the rest of us, thinks the text means.

But first, let’s get a sense of the scope of the effort before us in the coming weeks and months. The TPP is a big document:

5,554 pages does seem like rather a lot; ObamaCare, for example, is only 906 pages (I downloaded it to check). And even though page-printing and counting exercises are often frowned-upon as political theatre, a reader would have to blast through ~61 pages a day to read the whole thing in 90 days. And that’s 61 pages a day of dense, technical prose crafted by international trade sherpas and corporate lawyers. So when the White House congratulates itself on “Why Transparency Matters in Securing the Most Progressive Trade Deal in History,” take that with a dose of salts, eh?

Froman’s FAQ and the ISDS

Here’s what Froman’s FAQ has to say about the ISDS (PDF) and Chapter 28 [1]:

Right to regulate

New TPP language underscores that countries retain the right to regulate in the public interest, including on health, safety, the financial sector, and the environment.

Over at Vox, Ezra Klein explains this:

The Obama administration considers itself in sympathy with ISDS’s critics — they agree that ISDS suits have been used to attack reasonable laws and regulations, and they think they’ve reworked the process to protect against abuses.

(I haven’t noticed the administration being “in sympathy” with critics, especially from the left, about much of anything, ever, so this is quite remarkable. Perhaps Klein buried the lead?)

The effort begins in the preamble, which states that all parties to the deal:

Recognize their inherent right to regulate and resolve to preserve the flexibility of the Parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities, safeguard public welfare, and protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety, the environment, the conservation of living or non-living exhaustible natural resources, the integrity and stability of the financial system and public morals.

The idea here is that this language rules out corporations using ISDS as a way to challenge basic, progressive lawmaking. USTR officials note that this language is binding on the ISDS tribunals — it is the context in which all cases must be considered

Seems legit. Unfortunately, the FAQ is deceptive, and Ezra Klein falls for it, and then regurgitates whatever the USTR officials fed him. NC readers already know differently:

From TTP’s Chapter 28, “Dispute Settlement, Article 28.11, “Functions of Panels” (“panel” is TPP’s word for ISDS tribunal):

3. The panel shall consider this Agreement in accordance with applicable rules of interpretation under international law as reflected in Articles 31 and 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969).

The International Investment Law Centre of the University of Cologne has been “putting together, in the form of a digest, the decisions and awards of international arbitral tribunals” since 2011. Here’s the digest of the Vienna Convention, and what it has to say about preambles in Article 31 (“General rule of interpretation”):

An IIT’s [International Investment Treaty] preamble is relevant for its interpretation


Although a statement in a preamble does not create legal obligations, it sheds light on the object and purpose of the treaty

So, fine words like “recognise their inherent right to regulate” butter no parsnips, if they’re included in a Preamble.[3] They do not “create a legal obligation.” (The preamble is not even a “provision,” as the FT seems to imply in paragraph 3, if provisions are contained in the articles of the agreement proper, as opposed to its preamble.) “Shedding light” and “relevant to its intepretation” make the FT’s “process” “harder” only in the most tenuous sense; in particular, since interpretation can take place only after a suit is brought, the Preamble does nothing to protect States from the chilling effect of corporations simply threatening to sue them, for billions, before extremely expensive panels.

As we see, the Preamble does not “rule out” anything, and is not “binding,” at least in the sense that USTR would like us to believe it is;  the Preamble does not “create a legal obligation.” So Klein’s reliance on both the Preamble and USTR officials is charming, but as journalism, it doesn’t even rise to the level of micro-aggression. Klein goes on:

Similar language can be found in the ISDS chapter, though the AFL-CIO’s Drake notes that neither the laundry list of worthy causes in the preamble nor the relevant chapter mentions labor standards or workers’ rights.

Well, if “similar language” does exist, I can’t find it after rereading Chapter 28 (“Dispute Settlement”), though perhaps readers will correct me. Nothing on “welfare,” nothing useful on “public,” nothing useful on “regulation.” Standards writers do try to use consistent language throughout a text, so I’d like to know what Klein means by “similar.” Here’s what I found:

ls$ pcregrep .elfare TPP-Final-Text-Dispute-Settlement.txt

ls$ pcregrep .ublic TPP-Final-Text-Dispute-Settlement.txt

60 days of the publication of the proposed measure, without prejudice to the right to make such requests at any time

               public, unless the disputing Parties agree otherwise;

               release to the public any written submission, written version of an oral statement,

to the public within 15 days thereafter, subject to the protection of confidential information.

ls$ pcregrep .egulat TPP-Final-Text-Dispute-Settlement.txt

Party to make available personnel of its government agencies or other regulatory bodies who


Again, the TPP is a major international agreement. Is it too much to ask that Klein, and the press, take this story seriously?

Froman’s FAQ, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission, and TPP as a “Living Agreement”

Now let’s turn to the Trans-pacific Partnership Commission. This is a more difficult case than ISDS, for two reasons: First, there’s been little press coverage of it. Second, although Froman’s FAQ misrepresents the Commission, what the Commission really is (or will morph or metastatize into) is far less clear than what ISDS is[2].

So here’s what Froman’s FAQ has to say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission and Chapter 27:

Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission

The Administrative and Institutional Provisions chapter establishes the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission to ensure that the Agreement is properly implemented.

As the TPP goes into effect, participating governments will need to assess and guide implementation, and address any concerns that may emerge from business, civil society, and government agencies themselves. This chapter sets out the institutional framework enabling them to do so, by establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission, composed by Ministerial or senior level officials, to oversee the implementation of the Agreement; and by defining the tasks the Commission will fulfill, the rules for its decision-making, and other general rules regarding the operation of the Agreement.

Seems legit. I mean, what could go wrong with an “institutional framework” designed to “address any concerns” with “general rules,” especially when that institution is going to write those rules?

Starting with press coverage, TPP is often described as a “living agreement” (or “living document”). This phrase does not appear in the text of the TPP itself (I won’t bore you with the results of pcregrep [Ll]iving *.*, but suffice to say that the “living” things are animals, or workers, or trees, and not agreements or documents). So I don’t know where the phrase originates, or even if it originates from officialdom. The first usage I can find is from the Congressional Research Service, March 20, 2015:

The TPP has been envisaged [by whom? and where?] as a ‘living agreement,’ one that is both open to new members willing to sign up to its commitments and open to addressing new issues as they evolve.

Summarizing, then there are two reasons for TPP to be a “living agreement.”[3] The first is the accession of new members, and the second is to address new issues. For each, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission provides the institional platform.

On new members, the Congressional Reseach Service continues:

The accession process raises the question of whether a country, especially one with political or economic heft, can be expected to simply join an agreement already negotiated or whether it should have input on the existing agreement, especially if the goal is to produce a free trade area for the Asia-Pacific, or beyond. Yet, reopening the agreement’s substantive provisions with each new entrant—as opposed to its market access provisions which presumably would need to be negotiated with each existing member anyhow—offers up its own difficulties. The WTO accession process, whereby countries agree to the established WTO trade rules but negotiate on market access, could serve as a template.

Because nobody wants to relitigate the whole deal every time a new member joins. And that’s how the National Hog Farmers understand TPP as a “living agreement.”

All the leaders look at TPP as a “living” agreement that can bring in new member countries as time goes on, with Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand showing interest.

On new issues, this is what Politico has to say:

TPP: IT’S ALIIIIVE [that’s reassuring]: In case you’ve heard that TPP is a “living agreement,” but don’t really know what that entails, here’s what’s up: The parties have formed a TPP Commission, tasked with the broad goal of “updating and enhancing the agreement.”

And that’s how the Japanese understand TPP as a “living agreement.” The Nikkei Asian Review:

[Japan’s minister for economic and fiscal policy, Akira Amari] described the TPP as “a living agreement” that is highly sophisticated and balanced, one that will penetrate and provide a new standard for trade and investment rules in the 21st century in the Asia Pacific region. “Japan will continue to show leadership, taking a proactive role in establishing the world’s trade and investment rules.”

At this point, let’s turn to Senator Jeff Sessions, who was, we might recall, the only Senator with the courage to read any part of the TPP into the record when it was still in its locked and guarded room. Sessions takes a more sinister but nevertheless coherent view of the TPP as a “living agreement” and of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commmision. From the Congressional Record of November 10, Senator Sessions explicates the text:

Section 27.1 outlines the creation of this Commission and who is a member. The agreement states that “each party shall be responsible for the composition of its delegation.” In other words, we are empowering the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries to create a new congress of sorts–a group with delegates that goes and meets and decides important issues that can impact everyday lives of Americans. The American representative in this Commission, which will operate in many ways like the U.N., will not be answerable to voters anywhere. How long will their terms be? How will they be chosen? Will there be any restrictions on lobbying, any requirements of transparency? Can they always meet in secret? Are there any ethics rules? The answer is, it will be whatever the TPP countries decide it will be.

Section 27.2 lists several powers of the Commission which should be expected in any regulatory body. It is granted the power to oversee the implementation of the TPP and the power to supervise the work of relevant working groups under its jurisdiction. However, then the section states this: Under the rules, the Commission shall “consider any proposal to amend or modify this Agreement,” to change the agreement. They get to change the agreement. We can ratify this, but they get to change it whenever they deem appropriate. Also, the Commission shall “seek the advice of non-governmental persons or groups on any matter falling within the Commission’s functions” and “take such other action as the Parties may agree,” while considering “input from non-governmental persons or groups of the Parties.”

The TPP is a living agreement. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s own Web site, the living agreement provision is in the TPP:  

 . . to enable the updating of the agreement as appropriate to address trade issues that emerge in the future as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement to include new countries.” It says it is to deal with trade issues and new issues. Are those issues nontrade? Are they environmental issues? Are they labor agreements or other kinds of things that are unrelated directly to trade? I think it is clear this would allow that to happen.

Senator Sessions’ construction of the text should be at the very least concerning. Perhaps our famously free press might consider digging into the real expectations for an international body, not answerable to any voters, that gets to write its own rules? Perhaps the House and Senate might even consider holding some hearings? Because Sessions isn’t the only person concerned.  Here’s the CATO Institute:

Despite being neutral to the operation of each party’s constitutional systems, this agreement [TPP] will inevitably entail some limitations on regulatory autonomy.

Cato’s prose is very dry. Pause to consider what “some limitations on regulatory autonomy” might mean in practice. Continuing:

As previously described, the European Union and the United States are not limiting themselves to concluding a traditional FTA-plus agreement (one that obligates the parties to go beyond their WTO commitments, reciprocally). In fact, they are striving to develop a new model of economic integration based on a permanent international regulatory cooperation mechanism. Although TTIP falls short of establishing an internal market between the two sides of the Atlantic (i.e., no joint decision-making power is foreseen), it is set to create the conditions for prompting a new awareness in the minds of the respective regulators: that of the extraterritorial impact of their existing and proposed regulations.

And pause to consider what a “a new awareness in the minds of … regulators” of “extraterritorial impact” might mean. Continuing:

Moreover, in the process of creating a permanent mechanism, TTIP will become a “living agreement” where new areas of cooperation can be identified without the need to re-open the initial international agreement or to modify each others’ institutional frameworks.5

And the crucial footnote:

5This automatic update of an international treaty may circumvent the procedure for the adoption of international agreements that typically foresees the signature and ratification of new texts.

In a word, yikes. In more words, it looks like Sessions’ intepretation of the text is — hold onto your hats, here, folks — a lot more colorable than Froman’s FAQ, unless you’re a Martian who interprets the words “general rules regarding the operation of the Agreement” to mean “Yes, really, that general.” General enough to over-ride treaties which, remember, are the law of the land under Article VI of the United States Constitution.

Where is the Secret “Guidance Document”?

In a letter sent to President Obama by Senator Sessions on June 5, 2015, before the text of the TPP was published, we see this passage:

Reviewing the secret text, plus the secret guidance document that accompanies it, reveals that this new transnational commission—chartered with a “Living Agreement” clause—would have the authority to amend the agreement after its adoption, to add new members, and to issue regulations impacting labor, immigration, environmental, and commercial policy. Under this new commission, the Sultan of Brunei would have an equal vote to that of the United States.[4]

This is the only mention of this “the secret guidance document” I have ever seen. (But you’ve seen the size of the thing; it makes sense that there would be a guidance document prepared for it.) But I think such a guidance document, if disclosed, would make the TPP agreement much more transparent to the people, their elected representatives, and the press. Maybe some kind soul would throw it over the Naked Capitalism transom?


In their interesting and useful book, Phishing for Phools, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller lay out the concept of a “phishing equilibrium”:

If we have some weakness or other — some way in which we can be phished for fools for more than the usual profit — in the phishing equilibrium someone will take advantage of it. … Economies will have a phishing equilibrium in which every chance for profit more than the ordinary will be taken up.

Akerlof and Shiller define phishing as inducing a mark to make a decision “NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY WANT” (caps in original); for example, smoking cancer sticks. Or surrendering your national sovereignty to an unaccountable body.

So, if we look at ISDS and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, we see extra-ordinary opportunities for profits and rents[5] that accrue to the owners of large corporations, in weakening regulations States put in place to protect the public. We should therefore assume that the TPP has been written to optimize those opportunities, by the lobbyists and corporate lawyers beholden to those owners. And those who didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday should view USTR Michael Froman’s disinformation campaign — as shown by the radical discrepancies between his FAQ and the actual text of the agreeeent — as phishing.

Here is a contact list of Democrats who voted for the Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”). If you don’t want to be phished, you might consider calling them — or even visiting the local office in the district — to share your concerns.


[1] Froman’s Freqently Asked Question is a straw man:

Is it true that Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would allow corporations to override laws, including environmental and public health regulations?

That’s never been the issue, and if indeed the administration is “in sympathy with ISDS’s critics,” they never invested any time in actually understanding their critique:

PLUM LINE: Is it theoretically possible to write ISDS in a way that precludes it from overriding regulation?

WARREN: It doesn’t directly tell countries to repeal regulations. It imposes a financial penalty, which has caused countries to change their regulations…[ISDS mechanisms] never had the authority to override regulations. What they had was the authority to impose a monetary penalty directly against the government and its taxpayers. That’s the point at which governments have backed up and said, “we can’t afford this, we’ll just change the law.”

Corporations won’t override the laws as such; they’ll use their financial muscle to get governments to do it for them. Of course, the Commission is another matter.

[2]  The ISDS is an unaccountable system of private tribunals designed, among other things, to neuter Article III of the United States Constitution. But if the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission is the legislative branch to ISDS’s judicial branch, then where’s the executive?

[3] There might actually be a third: “Regulatory Coherence.” But that is a topic for another post.

[4] The claim that the Sultan of Brunei would have an “equal vote” is not strictly not true; Chapter 27 states that the Commission will operate by consensus. What that means in practice, we don’t know, since the Commission has not yet defined its own rules, but there are all kinds of decision rules in consensus.

[5] I believe the Japanese for that is “highly sophisticated and balanced.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Ranger Rick

    Living document: perpetual copyright terms, DMCA and ISDS arbitration for everyone! They’re dreaming if they think they can get China to agree to any of this.

  2. Virginia

    Great job. When the Secret Guidance Document comes joyfully bouncing thru the slats please send out set the flares off. We’re hahaha breathlessly waiting.

    Maybe in DC on Monday I’ll ask the US Trade Rep for a copy … ; )

    1. Dianne Foster

      Virginia, go for it! When you get it, post for all of us. Hope you met Dylan, the talented young person I scholarshipped to go to TPP protests this week from here in Bellingham; all the while we put on loud and boisterous rally at Rep Rick Larsen’s TPP Town Hall.(he voted for Fast Track). When one guy ranted on for a while and Rick asked him if he had a question, he said, “yes, I want to know if you heard what I just said.!”

  3. Synoia

    TPP: USTR Froman’s Disinformation….

    The basics:

    Free Trade Agreements are Attacks on Labor. Nothing else.

    All the rest is smoke and mirrors.

  4. Joe Firestone

    It’s hard for me to believe that there’s only one comment on this great post, which reinforces earlier arguments that the TPP is a giveaway of our national sovereignty, democracy, consent of the government, and Federalism, and that therefore is itself of unrivaled importance. I hope an extensive discussion of it here will be forthcoming.

    If the Congress joins the Executive i giving away the essence of our self-government, then it will be up to the judiciary alone, a weak reed to have to rely on given the corporatist ideological commitments of its majority, to turn back the clock on the TPP.

    On the other hand, there are numerous grounds on the basis of which the Court could declare the TPP unconstitutional. First, there is the subordination of Article III Courts to foreign tribunals. Second, there is Congress giving away its legislative power to the projected TPP Commission. Does Congress really have the right to do that under the Constitution?

    Third, there are the predictable violations of federalism implied by the claimed authority of the tribunals to fine the United States for impacts of State and local laws on corporate profits. Such fines would not invalidate those laws.

    But what if the Federal Government, wishing to avoid or end ongoing fines imposed by the tribunals, passes legislation claiming to supersede the laws involved, and the States involved sue the Federal Government challenging the Constitutionality of the new Federal laws on Tenth Amendment grounds, and a future Supreme Court rules against the Federal Government? Then the Government would be in the position of being unable to comply with the TPP without paying continuous and unending fines awarded by the TPP tribunals. What would it do then? Levy taxes on everyone to pay fines incurred as a consequence of perfectly legal State and local laws, or search for Rube Goldberg legislation to try to find laws that can get around the Tenth Amendment.

    I think all of these are grounds for a finding of unconstitutionality, especially since the TPP will not be a treaty under US law, but only a Congressional-Executive Agreement.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Or “the Government” could presumably tell the Troikas to go f_k themselves and use all the tools of cyberwarfare and maybe even the Hellfire variety to stop the Sheriff of Nuthingham from even trying to collect… Of course that presumes that there is a “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” that “shall not perish from this Earth,” not just a bunch of sneaky little Jacobs who in their coats of many colors have suckered the rest of us into giving up our “birthrights” for a pot of porridge or stew, and intermediated with a swatch of goatskin with the hair on, suckering old blind Isaac into “blessing” the little gonif. Here’s how the tale gets peddled, “Suggested Emphasis or Theme: Deception is wrong and leads to hurt and anger,” obviously taught with little effect:

  5. Vatch

    Regarding Froman’s ISDS straw man: the U.S. government is currently in the process of repealing Country of Origin Labeling for meat because of a WTO ISDS case, as has been discussed here at Naked Capitalism several times. Our government is afraid of the inevitable financial retaliation if they don’t repeat the law. Here’s the 300 to 131 roll call vote, so you can see how well or how badly your interests were handled by your Representative:

    So far, the Senate has not voted on this bill.

  6. Ulysses

    Disinformation campaigns work best in a low-information environment. This is why for years the negotiations, on this global corporate power-enhancing tool, have been held in such strict secrecy. Now, a huge and convoluted document must be voted (thanks to Fast Track) up or down, in haste, with no opportunity for the public and their alleged representatives in Congress to fully plumb its depths.

    As a former medievalist, I may have an odd perspective on what is currently happening with the TPP/TTIP/TISA push for a new framework of global corporate governance. It is, IMHO, a radical de-modernization process. The enlightenment, the reformation, the Industrial, American, and French revolutions all helped to break down the huge gulf between clerics and nobles on the one hand, and all the rest of us “huddled masses yearning to be free.” By the late nineteenth century millions of people embraced the idea that all of us, despite humble origins and without theological sanction, were capable of gaining knowledge, and with that knowledge, power.

    During the twentieth century we had anti-modern Hitlerian and Stalinist attempts to recreate a small elite group, loyal to an autocratic ruler, who alone had the information and power necessary to make decisions for everyone else.

    Now in the twenty-first century we see an attempt to establish a new, transnational Versailles, filled with courtiers who don’t claim power through religion or hereditary status in a national context. No, they claim power through belonging to a tiny supra-national elite who have managed to rig a globalist system capable of enriching them at the expense of everyone else on the planet. Unlike the Roman, Persian, or other great empires of the remote past, there is no great advantage given to any particular religious or ethnic group in this new world order. The rubes in the general population are still encouraged to distrust another along religious and ethnic lines. All the better to create new and profitable wars!

    Those who will control the workings of the new regulatory coherence committee are not shackled by such old-fashioned prejudices. The higher worship of wealth extraction– through the relentless imposition of supra-national power– unites nominal Muslims from Brunei, with nominal Christians from Europe and the U.S., and nominal Buddhists in Japan.

    These unaccountable corporate lawyers from Tokyo, Frankfurt, New York, etc., aspire to become the priestly caste, who will help reinforce the aristocratic power of the soon-to-be-hereditary “Davos elites.” We are moving into a cold and technocratic neo-feudal system, without any of the humanizing local connectedness of past feudal systems.

    1. kl

      i think you should revisit your russian history. the german movement was championed by our elite, the russian not…

      1. Ulysses

        I don’t recall making any claim that U.S. elites supported the Bolsheviks, or the Stalinist elites who eventually took over the U.S.S.R. Of course they didn’t! You are correct that U.S. elites generally found right totalitarian systems easier to deal with than left totalitarian systems. President Ford, for example, met with Generalissimo Franco in 1975 as if he was a perfectly acceptable world leader. This tendency to collaborate with the extreme right didn’t prevent the U.S. elites from, eventually, coming to the aid of British elites to defeat Hitler in WWII.

      2. Vatch

        Of course the tsarist and other Russian elites opposed Lenin and the Communists during the Russian Revolution. But by the time that Stalin came to power as the Soviet leader several years later, the elites in his country were the members of the Communist party. Throughout Soviet history, the Communist Party’s central committee was an exclusive oligarchy. Membership in the oligarchy wasn’t hereditary, but it was very much a case of government by the few (the definition of an oligarchy). And this elite group continued to rule long after Stalin’s death.

  7. hemeantwell

    “Governance” is one of the core weasel words of the corporate technocracy that our extreme centrist elites are constructing. It aspires to the authority of government while having no direct constitutional basis. It’s fabricated within constitutional government to replace it. (Creepy biological metaphors abound.) It has an administrative quality in that its rules are seemingly there to be applied, but the authority which makes the rule binding is only present as a kind of aura, along with the guns and credit suspensions in the background. Paralleling a derivative-ridden economy, it is a derivative of government that retains only its judicial-administrative aspect.

      1. Ulysses

        Citizens United only allows big money interests to temporarily buy the key players in an elected government. Every election cycle the politician-buying process commences anew. This is tedious and expensive for the kleptocrats. The genius of the supra-national permanent TPP/TTIP/TISA structure, from their point of view, is that it allows them to relax about buying elections.

        Let those politicians promise, and even try to deliver, the moon to the 99%! “Governments” that formerly enjoyed actual national sovereignty can propose, the supra-national, unaccountable corporate lawyer Star Chamber of the Regulatory Coherence Committee will dispose.

        Even the most venal senator, or rep., should be able to see that irrevocably surrendering their power, to the multinational corporations and banksters, will kill the golden goose once and for all!

  8. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thanks so much for this post, Lambert. The more one reads of and pertaining to this proposed agreement, the more clear it becomes that it must be opposed.

    The forced Investor Dispute Settlement structure by arbitration panels composed of corporate appointees who have the authority to essentially override U.S. and state courts; the authority granted the TPP Commission to substantively change the agreement and add other nations without our legislators’ approval; and so many other terms that override our national sovereignty, call for a response beyond “No!”

    I agree with holding Congressional hearings into this matter.

  9. Will

    Wow, de ja vu:

    it is set to create the conditions for prompting a new awareness in the minds of the respective regulators: that of the extraterritorial impact of their existing and proposed regulations.

    Does this remind anyone of the Justice Department’s head of the Criminal Division from 2009-2013, Lanny Breuer?

    In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders, just as we must take into account the nature of the crimes committed and the pervasiveness of the misconduct. I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets is a real factor. Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.

    Ditto the others’ thanks for your work on this Lambert. You’ve really helped me understand this issue better, as well as seeing the parallel I highlighted above.

    1. Will

      And this by Attorney General Holder (during a Congressional Hearing):

      GRASSLEY: On the issue of bank prosecution, I’m concerned that we have a mentality of too-big-to-jail in the financial sector of spreading from fraud cases to terrorist financing and money laundering cases — and I cite HSBC. So I think we’re on a slippery slope.

      HOLDER: The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share. And I’m not talking about HSBC now. That (inaudible) be appropriate.

      But I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.

  10. wbgonne

    Outstanding work, Lambert! One additional point: the tobacco carve-out is the exception that proves the rule. This is how it will work in practice should TPP be enacted: 1) a corporation sues a state under TPP for regulations that hurt profits; 2) the state invokes the preamble as a defense; 3) the corporation argues — as do you — that precatory language imposes no obligations; and 4) the corporation further argues that when the TPP drafters (the New Founding Fathers?) wanted to carve out an exclusion they did so, as with tobacco, and the fact that there is no carve-out for the subject in the suit means there is no such defense. Under the principles of traditional American legal statutory interpretation this last argument is generally a deadbang winner. I assume the TPP drafters know this.

  11. William Hunter Duncan

    The only metric that matters in that document is trade, and the “barriers” preventing trade. Over time, every law in every signatory nation will be challenged as a barrier to trade, ie profit. Over time every law of every signatory nation would become a reflection of this TPP commission’s intent. This is an agreement to cede sovereignty to an international cartel, to accept direct rule by corporations and banks. Government more than it already is would merely be the muscle of that intent. You can be sure the total surveillance infrastructure and laws like indefinite detention for “terrorists” will not be questioned.

    Thanks for your hard work in helping make sense of this.

    1. Ulysses

      “This is an agreement to cede sovereignty to an international cartel, to accept direct rule by corporations and banks.”

      Best one-sentence summary that I have yet to read! Excellent comment!

  12. TedWa

    It’s a living document because no one can get out of it unless everyone does, not likely. This is the Too Big To Fail global constitution and Bill of Rights – that doesn’t include you and me. Too Big To Fail enshrined forever, globally. A new nightmare for the masses. You think the bailouts in 2008 and the results on our economy were bad? That was a drizzle compared to what the TPP can do.

    1. tegnost

      +1 see Greece. Unelected technocrats in Brussels use the power of the purse to force outcomes. See Bernanke an unelected political appointee create winners(a few) and losers(a lot more) and protect his own segment of the economy as the head bankster. And no recourse for anyone.

  13. Ignacio

    It is increasingly clear that the TPP is not a trade treaty but a political treaty disguised as a trade treaty. This explains why it has been negotiated so secretively. It creates or enlarge political institutions like the Comission or the ISDS empowering them to intervene in all the signatory countries. The terms, language and structure of the treaty sounds familiar to me because it resembles very much the language of the European Union and even its institutions. The TPP Comission resembles the European commission, the ISDS, looks like the embryo of a more formal court of justice like the EU Court of Justice (but the term was carefully avoided).

    I think that an international political agreement of this nature is needed and I understand that companies involved in international trade are the most interested on this beign implemented. The big problem here is that the process cannot be secretive and should not avoid a profound public scrutiny. Even more, it should be subjected to direct democratic approval. This reminds me the European Constitution affair. In that case, negotiations were not secretive and all social actors were supposedly invited to discuss the terms of the constitution. Although it was not secretive, the lack of media coverage (lack of public interest?) resulted in negotiation process that was effectively opaque. Not surprisingly, the document was rejected when submitted to direct democratic approval.

    The size of the document is also very telling: 5.500 pg is a hard document to be submitted to public scrutiny. The media will do its best to do a very shallow coverage of the TPP, just enough to justify it was openly discussed.

    1. Ignacio

      Regarding the preamble:

      Recognize their inherent right to regulate and resolve to preserve the flexibility of the Parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities, safeguard public welfare, and protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety, the environment, the conservation of living or non-living exhaustible natural resources, the integrity and stability of the financial system and public morals.

      Come on, this must be a given. Imagine that de TPP does not recognize that!!!

    2. tegnost

      “I think that an international political agreement of this nature is needed and I understand that companies involved in international trade are the most interested on this beign[sic] implemented.”
      I don’t think this is true, we currently have open trade with all parties. I can think of no part of the globe that is off limits to everybody. Companies involved in playing one party against another for more profit and improved capacity for blackmailing local economies (Boeing/seattle, Nike/beaverton, Apple/China) would be a more appropriate way to phrase it. And i think you’re right that 5.500 pgs, 60+ per daybefore the vote ought to be a big red flag by itself,(who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of corporate persons…). Obama is all about transparency (of “consumers” by the security state). and as lambert points out, the “secret guidance” is probably the holy grail

  14. Bubba Gump

    I find it rather disgusting that here in the most lawyered country in the world we cannot have a large contingent bringing thorough analysis and well-argued opposition to things like this. Rather, they are all much too busy playing their little lawyer games with liability findings and monetary settlements.

  15. moeglicherweise


    The following quote from the case of Total S.A. v Argentine Republic (Decision on Liability, p49, 27 December 2010):

    …although such a statement in a preamble does not create independent legal obligations, it is a tool for the interpretation of the treaty since it sheds light on its purpose.

    Is a finding by a 3-member Tribunal which appears to contradict the Vienna Convention on the law of Treaties, Article 31:

    2. The context for the purpose of the interpretation of a treaty shall comprise, in addition to the text,
    including its preamble and annexes…

    This gives the impression that the Tribunals are essentially a paid-off revolving Supreme-Court-of-International-Treaties, that at least in this case simply ignore the Vienna Convention, or if you are charitable, they are offering the final “interpretation”.

    Can these decisions really not be appealed? If not, then they need not follow any law whatsoever.

    Are you aware of other examples like this, where Tribunals simply ignore the text of the Vienna Conventions?

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