Deliberate assault on economy, consumer rights, domestic law
(Tea Party) – President Obama is forging ahead with two secretive international deals that have an on impact major aspects of the economy, privacy and beyond reported WND in an exclusive. These deals would drastically change consumer protections and the use of domestic law in the U.S. reported WND in an exclusive.
On Wednesday Obama was staunchly defending a proposed mega free-trade zone between the United States and the European Union.
During a visit to the EU headquarters in Brussels Obama said, “I have fought my entire political career, and as president, to strengthen consumer protections. I have no intention of signing legislation that would weaken those protections.”
Obama was responding to criticism of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. The U.S. has been negotiating that agreement with the EU since last July.
In addition to creating the world’s biggest free-trade zone, the TTIP would result in closer cooperation between EU and U.S. regulatory bodies as it integrated the two economies more closely.
A leak regarding the TTIP revealed a proposed “Regulatory Cooperation Council” that would evaluate existing regulations in the U.S. and EU. In addition, it would recommend future rules while coordinating a response to the current regulations.
Foreign policy analyst Andrew Erwin, writing for the left-leaning the Nation magazine said the TTIP was less about reducing tariffs and “more about weakening the power of average citizens to defend themselves against corporate labor and environmental abuses.”
It was a particular section in the TTIP called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement which Erwin took issue with. That section stipulates that foreign corporations can use a special international tribunal to sue the government instead of using the country’s own domestic system that uses U.S. law.
Erwin wrote, “The tribunals are not accountable to any national public or democratically elected body.”
The section is so controversial that a coalition of more than 200 environmentalists, labor unions and consumer advocacy organizations drafted a letter last December requesting that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement section to be dropped.
Earlier this week the New York Times reported that some American companies “are concerned that protections for investors will not be part of a deal.”
Obama is negotiating the TTIP predominantly in secret as talks continue to forge ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The TTP’s expansive plan is a proposed free-trade agreement between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
If approved, the TTP agreement would create new guidelines for everything from food safety to fracking, financial markets to medical prices, copyright rules to Internet freedom.
Just days ago Canadian and Japanese leaders reportedly met on the sidelines of a nuclear summit held at the Hague to discuss the TPP.
Negotiations for the TPP have largely been criticized by politicians and advocacy groups alike because of their secrecy. Various aspects of the partnership that were leaked to the public point to an expansive agenda with extremely limited congressional oversight.
The deal was called the “most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995″ in a New York Times opinion piece.
Less than 6 months ago, the White House website released a joint statement with the other proposed TPP signatories. In that statement they affirm that “our countries are on track to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.”
The White House said, “Ministers and negotiators have made significant progress in recent months on all the legal texts and annexes on access to our respective goods, services, investment, financial services, government procurement, and temporary entry markets.”
The White House statement did not reveal details of the partnership but it did suggest that the final TPP agreement “must reflect our common vision to establish a comprehensive, next-generation model for addressing both new and traditional trade and investment issues, supporting the creation and retention of jobs and promoting economic development in our countries.”
Shrouded in secrecy
Last month, the Open the Government organization sent Obama a letter and in it the organization blasted the lack of transparency surrounding the TPP talks, charging that negotiations have been “conducted in unprecedented secrecy.”
The letter read: “Despite the fact the deal may significantly affect the way we live our lives by limiting our public protections, there has been no public access to even the most fundamental draft agreement texts and other documents.”
It was signed by numerous advocacy groups including, OpenTheGovernment.org, Project On Government Oversight, ARTICLE 19 and the Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression and Information.
Issues being secretly negotiated the groups warned, include “patent and copyright, land use, food and product standards, natural resources, professional licensing, government procurement, financial practices, healthcare, energy, telecommunications, and other service sector regulations.”
Complete lack of oversight
Free-trade agreements must typically be authorized by a majority of the House and Senate and that usually happens in lengthy proceedings.
In this case, the White House is seeking “trade promotion authority” and that means it could fast track approval of the TPP by requiring Congress to vote on the likely lengthy trade agreement within 90 days—and without any amendments.
It would also give Obama the authority to sign the agreement before Congress has a chance to vote on it. US lawmakers would get only a quick post-facto vote.
The secret TTP talks have a number of lawmakers speaking out.
Legislation was recently proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., which would require the White House disclose all TPP documents to members of Congress.
“The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement,” Wyden said.
So far Obama has refused to give Congress a copy of the draft agreement.
Regulates everything from food to Internet, medicine and commerce
In a New York Times op-ed last June, Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch wrote, the TPP is “more than just a trade deal.”
“Only 5 of its 29 chapters cover traditional trade matters, like tariffs or quotas. The others impose parameters on nontrade policies. Existing and future American laws must be altered to conform with these terms, or trade sanctions can be imposed against American exports.”
Several leaks in the proposed TPP text were spotlighted by Wallach and Beachy, including one that would regulate the price of medicine.
“Pharmaceutical companies, which are among those enjoying access to negotiators as ‘advisers,’ have long lobbied against government efforts to keep the cost of medicines down. Under the agreement, these companies could challenge such measures by claiming that they undermined their new rights granted by the deal.”
Also stepping up was Amnesty International USA which warned that draft TPP provisions related to patents for pharmaceuticals “risk stifling the development and production of generic medicines, by strengthening and deepening monopoly protections.”
Still another leak revealed the TPP would have the power to grant more incentives to relocate domestic manufacturing offshore, reported Wallach and Beachy.
Progressive activist Jim Hightower wrote the TPP incorporates elements similar to the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Hightower wrote that the TTP deal would “transform Internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our ‘user activity,’ arbitrarily take down our content and cut off our access to the Internet.”
Internet freedom advocacy groups have been protesting the TPP. These groups are taking specific issue with leaked proposals that would enact stringent intellectual property restraints and would effectively change U.S. copyright law.
Another organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued the TPP would “restrict the ability of Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs of American citizens and the innovative technology sector.”
A petition that was signed by more nearly three dozen Internet freedom organizations warned that the TPP would “rewrite global rules on intellectual property enforcement.”