FOR BLACK FOLKS, WHO WORSHIP OBAMA:
To ease your Pain at reading this Post, I give you the Video of Evillene (Mabel King) from ‘The Wiz’ singing, ‘Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News!’
With Deepest Apologies from Tabacco for bursting your Bubble!
NOW THE BAD NEWS!
Change of colour
This common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) turned black.
Chameleon Ready To Gorge On Green!
No Green now? Fear Not, It Will Be There In 2017!
Tabacco: Obama, what a BIG MOUTH you have!
Obama: All the better to grab all that Future Payola!
(Remember, folks, Tabacco is a Registered Democrat, who voted for Obama in 2008 & 2012 and a Black man! When I compare this Black President to a Chameleon, it’s NOT RACISM – it’s COMMON SENSE without the Prejudice!
And yes, if there were no 2-Term Limitation and Democrats nominated him again in 2016, I’d vote for him again over ANY REPUBLICAN! That does NOT mean I won’t watch this Bird just like a Hawk! He’s still a Politician – a Clever one at that!)
Democratic Candidates are ALL BAD; but Republican Candidates are HORENDOUS! Where are you, Dennis Kucinich!
Some chameleon species are able to change their skin coloration. Different chameleon species are able to vary their colouration and pattern through combinations of pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple.
Color change in chameleons has functions in social signaling and in reactions to temperature and other conditions, as well as in camouflage. The relative importance of these functions varies with the circumstances, as well as the species. Color change signals a chameleon’s physiological condition and intentions to other chameleons. Chameleons tend to show darker colors when angered, or attempting to scare or intimidate others, while males show lighter, multicolored patterns when courting females.
Some species, such as Smith’s dwarf chameleon, adjust their colors for camouflage in accordance with the vision of the specific predator species (bird or snake) by which they are being threatened.
The desert-dwelling Namaqua chameleon also uses color change as an aid to thermoregulation, becoming black in the cooler morning to absorb heat more efficiently, then a lighter grey color to reflect light during the heat of the day. It may show both colors at the same time, neatly separated left from right by the spine.
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE,
WHY & HOW
Tabacco: Before we can analyze the Present and predict the Future,we must first review the Past!
Let’s revisit the PAST: First NAFTA
A Subversion of American Democracy? White House & Democratic Leadership Agree on Secret Trade Deal
Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine, and author of the book “The Selling of ‘Free Trade’: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy,” discusses what’s been happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill and why many environmentalists, AIDS activists, American labor unions, and social movements in Latin America oppose the deal. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: It was an unexpected announcement from Washington and one many are still trying to figure out. Earlier this month, the White House and Democratic leaders announced they had reached a historic agreement on trade. It’s the first bipartisan economic agreement since Democrats took control of Congress this year. Democrats say they’ve won guarantees to protect labor rights and environmental standards in all future trade deals, starting with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Labor rights would include union organizing, collective bargaining, and bans on child labor and workplace discrimination. On the environment, countries trading with the U.S. would be forced to comply with existing laws and international accords.
But critics say Democratic leaders have fallen far short of what they claim. The negotiations were conducted in near secrecy, and the details haven’t been fully disclosed. Criticism has come from many circles: environmentalists, AIDS activists, American labor unions, social movements in countries, including Colombia and Peru.
Meanwhile, groups representing U.S. corporations have supported the plan. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation. Chamber President Tom Donohue said, “We are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with [International Labor Organization] Conventions.”
Democrats are anything but united on the issue. Democratic caucus members are reportedly meeting today about the deal to avoid an internal split. That may be hard to overcome. As the agreement was announced, The New York Times reported at least half of Democratic congressmembers were prepared to oppose it. In such a case, Democratic leaders would be forced to count on Republican support to pass final legislation.
As scrutiny grows, Congressmember Charles Rangel, the Democratic chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, defended the deal in an interview Monday with CNN’s Lou Dobbs.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: The United States trade representatives, when they’re negotiating with a foreign country, should not be negotiating as lobbyists for our multinational. When they sit at that table and U.S. is in there, it means that, yes, they’re supposed to get a better-than-fair deal for our businesses. But they have to consider the impact that it’s going to have on American jobs, American communities and American industry. This is now a part of the policy. This policy is going to be in every agreement. If you’re talking about Peru, Panama, Korea or Colombia, this is going to be. And they have to be held accountable, not to the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Democratic Congressmember Charles Rangel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and lead negotiator on the trade deal.
I’m joined now by Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of the book, The Selling of “Free Trade”: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy. He joins me here in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
RICK MacARTHUR: Nice to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your understanding of this agreement?
RICK MacARTHUR: Well, my principal understanding is that this is a fundraising gambit by the House leadership. Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel — and Rangel, in particular, because he’s chairman of the money committee, the House Ways and Means Committee — are putting out their sandwich board on Wall Street to say, “We’re ready for business. We’re open for business. We’ve got to show you something, that we’re interested in something you’re interested in. Now, pony up.”
This is a fundraising tactic, which was pioneered by Bill Clinton in the NAFTA fight in 1993, when he essentially said, “The Democratic Party, or at least my administration, is going to be a corporate-friendly Democratic Party, and I’m going to prove my bona fides. I’m going to prove my credibility with the business community by pushing a trade agreement that is absolutely hostile to everything that the Democratic Party used to stand for or that the base of the Democratic Party stands for,” which was NAFTA, which the Business Roundtable loved, which the Fortune 500 loved. And as a result, Clinton was able to raise massive amounts of money from corporate America and from Wall Street that had been hitherto unavailable to the Democratic Party. That was Republican money.
Now, Rangel and Pelosi are saying, “Well, we’re gearing up for the 2008 election. We’ve got to raise a lot of money.” They’re closer to the Clinton wing of the party, which is the pro-so-called-free-trade wing of the party, the pro-NAFTA, pro-permanent-normal-trade-relations-with-China part of the party. And this is a way of saying to the corporate community and to Wall Street, particularly, and to Wal-Mart, the retail lobby — Wall Street, Wal-Mart — that we’re open for business, we want to raise money from you.
Now, none of this has to do with the two main trade agreements that are not going to be changed. You didn’t see Rangel say they’re going to revisit NAFTA and change the rules of NAFTA. You didn’t see him say we’re going to do anything about China, because that’s where the big money is. That’s where the big dislocation has occurred. He’s talking about four or three particularly small countries, which — first of all, putting aside whether it’s appropriate for the United States to be legislating domestic social improvements in foreign countries, these are unenforceable.
The Peruvians, for example, they have nothing to sell us. They have nothing to offer us but cheap labor. So the idea that we’re going to be able to — we’re going to force the Peruvians to raise labor standards, when it’s precisely the low labor standards, the lousy labor standards, the lack of environmental control and regulation, that attracts people to build factories in Peru in the first place, is preposterous.
In Colombia, there are 60 — I don’t know — 70 union organizers murdered every year. It is impossible to control the militias, the right-wing militias, and the government forces in Colombia. The idea that we’re going to legislate through a trade agreement, improve social — to stop — essentially stop the civil war in Colombia, is madness. But here you have the leadership saying, “We’re going to put these big important conditions in the trade agreement,” as though they could enforce them.
Second thing to remember, of course, is that, who’s going to do the enforcing? Who’s going to do the certifying? The executive branch? The White House will decide whether Peru or Colombia or Panama are in compliance with these new symbolic provisions. So this is very much a replay of NAFTA, in the sense that in NAFTA they also said we’re going to have side agreements on labor rights, environmental protection, the National Development Bank along the border. None of it was — virtually none of it was implemented.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read a quote from you, from Cokie and Steve Roberts. Cokie Roberts, of course, NPR, ABC. They wrote in their column, “losers, and their labor bosses, should not be allowed to dictate trade policy. […] Congress should shelve its feelings and renew his authority to negotiate more trade deals. America’s economic future depends on it.”
RICK MacARTHUR: Right. Well, these are the elites of the media. They’re aligned with Wall Street, Wal-Mart, with the leadership of the political parties. And what they’re talking about here is fast-track, which is a fundamentally undemocratic and, I think, broadly speaking, unconstitutional approach to negotiating trade treaties. And this is why people have to get interested in this now, not a year from now.
If Congress authorizes what they call fast-track negotiation, that means that the White House is able then to negotiate, or the trade represent — the executive is permitted to negotiate the treaty, the trade deal with the foreign country, bring it back to Congress, and then there has to be an up or down vote on the whole package, on the whole bill, with no amendments. It’s unlike any other legislation that goes through Congress. You’re not permitted to amend it.
So, you can imagine, when a fast-track-negotiated treaty comes back to Congress, there’s tremendous pressure on the dissident congressman, saying, “Look, look what we’ve done. We’ve put side agreements in. We put in nice things to protect labor organizers in Colombia and Peru. You’ve got to vote for this. And you’ve also got to do it because if you want to stay, remain an important member of the Democratic Party caucus, you’d better vote for it.” And then, you can’t — and there’s no way you can amend it.
AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton was on the Wal-Mart board for years.
RICK MacARTHUR: Six years. Six years, from 1986 to 1992, Hillary Clinton was on the board of Wal-Mart. I keep trying to explain to people that Wal-Mart is not a public service organization, that they’re in the business of making money. They’re also in the business of maintaining these relationships with dedicated factories in China, particularly, where you cannot form a labor union, independent of the All Chinese Labor Federation, which is controlled by the government. Wildcat strikes are met with violence. You get your head busted or you get thrown in jail.
And I also wish people would understand that the same situation — it’s not as disciplined or as rigid in Mexico, but it’s still largely the case that if you try to start a labor union, an independent labor union, that is independent of the CTM, the national labor union, which has historically been a subsidiary of the Mexican government, you get your head busted, you get thrown out, you get intimidated. You’re lucky if you have the CTM in a plant, but if you actually have the guts to form your own union, you’re risking your life.
Charlie Rangel is not talking about Mexico. He’s not talking about China. He’s talking about these little countries that are going to have very little impact, but which we will then be able to exploit more efficiently, because trade agreements — first of all, these trade agreements are contracts. They’re investment agreements. Their main purpose is to protect American investment or foreign investment in these countries against expropriation, against seizure of assets, so they can not only operate safely, in terms of an investment platform, but also lock in the cheap labor.
AMY GOODMAN: How did the Democrats get away with negotiating this in secret the way they have? And how much of this have we seen at this point?
RICK MacARTHUR: Well, this is the legacy of the Clinton administration, that the Clintons persuaded enough members of the Democratic Party that labor unions were finished. And they were, I think, largely right. Labor unions were finished as an important source of votes and power, or that they could be taken for granted. They were going to vote for the Democrats anyway, because they had no choice, and the place to raise money and to expand influence with the party was in corporate America. And Clinton says to these people, through Terry McAuliffe and all his friends, Gene Sperling, the corporate Democrats who came out of the Democratic Leadership Council, “Look, you can’t argue with results. I got elected president twice, and we almost had fundraising parity with the Republicans in the ’90s.” Now —
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what power do the pressure groups, like unions, like environmental groups, have right now? We have 30 seconds.
RICK MacARTHUR: Well, they have to say, we’re not going to play along with this anymore. We’re not going to act as a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. And they’ve got to put pressure on the newly elected members of Congress — the Sherrod Browns from Ohio, the Jim McGoverns from Massachusetts — he’s not new, but Sherrod Brown in the Senate is a better example. Don’t give in to these fake symbolic gestures toward labor rights. They’re just window dressing. They’re just fig leaves to cover up what the real agenda is, which is to, again, give corporations more choices of cheap labor countries to operate in, which kill unions in the United States, because you can’t organize a union in this country anymore. You can’t do it, because they’ll shut your plant down, or they’ll threaten to shut your plant down.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Rick MacArthur, thank you very much, publisher of Harper’s Magazine, author of the book, The Selling of “Free Trade”: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy.
& the 1999 WTO Battle of Seattle
To optimize size of image above, click on image once!
Now to analyze the present!
Obama Seeks Fast Track for TPP,
Trade Deal that Could Thwart
“Almost Any Progressive Policy or Goal”
Congressional Democrats are openly criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), just as President Obama begins a major push to pass the controversial deal. The United States is engaged in talks with 11 Latin American and Asian countries for the sweeping trade pact that would cover 40 percent of the global economy. But its provisions have mostly been kept secret. After the White House deemed a briefing on the trade pact “classified,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut called the measures “needlessly secretive,” saying: “If the TPP would be as good for American jobs as they claim, there should be nothing to hide.” This comes as Obama recently called on Congress to pass “fast track” legislation to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO says it will withhold contributions to congressional Democrats to pressure them to vote no on fast-track authority. And some tea party-backed Republicans are saying Obama cannot be trusted with the same negotiating authority that past presidents have had. This spring, the White House has invited Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress in which he may promote the TPP. For more, we speak with by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who has been sounding the alarm about the negotiations. She says Congress could vote on the TPP proposal in the third week in April.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Washington, where congressional Democrats are openly criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP. This comes as President Obama begins a major push to pass the controversial deal. The United States is in talks with 11 Latin American and Asian countries for the sweeping trade pact that would cover 40 percent of the global economy, but its provisions have mostly been kept secret. After the White House deemed a briefing on the trade pact classified, Congressmember Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut called the measures “needlessly secretive,” saying, quote, “If the TPP would be as good for American jobs as they claim, there should be nothing to hide.” Well, this comes as President Obama recently called on Congress to pass fast-track legislation to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As we speak, China is trying to write the rules for trade in the 21st century. That would put our workers and our businesses at a massive disadvantage. We can’t let that happen. We should write those rules. That’s why Congress should act on something called “Trade Promotion Authority”.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO says it will withhold contributions to congressional Democrats to pressure them to vote no on fast-track authority. And some tea party-backed Republicans are saying Obama cannot be trusted with the same negotiating authority that past presidents have had. This spring, the White House has invited Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to address a joint session of Congress, in which he may promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
For more, we’re joined by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. As the push for the TPP heats up, she was recently featured in a National Journal profile headlined “The Trade Debate’s Guerilla Warrior Gets Her Day”.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! Tell us about what you’re most concerned about, Lori.
LORI WALLACH: Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans’ wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren’t enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there’s rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there’s a ban on “Buy Local,” “buy domestic” policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back. Plus, we would see more offshoring of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. So the big battle is over fast track, the process. And right now, thanks to a lot of pushback by activists across the country, actually, they don’t have a majority to pass it. But there’s an enormous push to change that, and that’s basically where we all come in.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, people are not used to hearing that President Obama and the Republicans have found common ground and that President Obama’s opposition are the largest bloc in Congress, and that’s the progressive Democrats. Can you explain why President Obama is pushing TPP forward and TPA, the fast-track authority, which means, again, that you can’t amend this agreement, you can only vote up or down?
LORI WALLACH: Well, I want to—actually, I want to take one step back before guessing why, because it’s hard to imagine. If you go to our website, TradeWatch.org, we’ve literally done a side-by-side of Obama’s policy goals as a president and everything fast-tracking the TPP would do to basically undermine everything that he has fought for, from lower medicine prices to re-regulating Wall Street, to more energy-efficient climate crisis-combating policies, to allegedly this middle-class economics agenda. The TPP and fast track are the antithesis.
But one other thing about fast track folks need to know, which is—and this gets to the weird politics—you’ve got the president basically doing the bidding of all the big corporations and commercial interests that spent millions of dollars to make sure he wasn’t elected the first time and to try and not elect him the second time. Against him are the entire labor movement united. There was a letter signed by every union president—basically, the most unity in the labor movement since certain unions left the AFL-CIO 20 years ago. And it’s the government employee unions, it’s the service sector unions—all the unions that are affected by what happens when all of our good jobs are taken away and the tax base crashes. And you’ve got groups that have never been involved in a trade fight before, all the Internet freedom groups who realize the agreement would undermine the basic rights to an accessible, free Internet. There are issues about net neutrality that could be rolled back. It’s just overarchingly a delivery mechanism for a huge, broad corporate agenda. So then, why would the president be with the Chamber of Commerce, the NAM, all the big lobby groups that also tried to unelect him? And against him are almost every House Democrat, and then, interestingly, a bunch of conservative Republicans.
But it’s not—the issue is not that they, we—anyone—doesn’t want this president to have fast track. The issue is fast track is inappropriate for any president. Fast track lets a president unilaterally pick negotiating partners, set wide rules, not about trade, that would rewrite domestic policy, sign and enter an agreement that would require us to change all of our domestic laws to meet those rules, sign and enter into that agreement before Congress votes to approve the contents, then write implementing legislation to change all the U.S. laws, that isn’t subject to congressional review through committee. It goes directly to the floor. And the president is guaranteed in 90 days a yes-or-no vote, with no filibuster, limited debate, and no amendments. So it’s literally a form of diplomatic legislating. And actually, since 1988, only two presidents have managed to have Congress give away all that authority: Ronald Reagan in ’88 and George Bush II in 2002. Every other president who’s tried—Clinton in ’95, ’97, ’98—Congress said no. So it’s not an anti-Obama thing. It’s a no giveaway of the ability of Congress to make our laws. And that’s what fast track is. And that’s why it would enable something as outrageous as the TPP.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to just ask one little example: “Buy American”, the whole push to try to buy things in the United—that are made here, because it would mean more U.S. jobs, etc.—how would that fit in to TPP?
LORI WALLACH: So the way that that works is TPP, amongst its 29 chapters, only five of which have anything to do with trade, one of the nontrade chapters is a chapter about procurement, government procurement rules. And in that chapter, the requirement is that the U.S. government treat bids from any company in any TPP country identically to how they would treat a U.S. company’s bid. But Buy America and Buy American, two laws, the first one from 1934, requires you give a preference to a domestic company, so that when we’re spending our tax dollars, instead of offshoring our tax dollars, we’re reinvesting them in our communities to create jobs and also, by the way, to create innovation. So, like the CAFE standards, that are now normal, the fuel efficiency standards for cars, that was first a procurement condition; so the Renewable Portfolio Standards, the renewable energy standards that are now part of government procurement—that’s how you create a market using the government funds for a behavior you want the private sector to shift to.
Great policy tool, great job creator, super—except, under TPP, we’d have to give a waiver to that preference. Any company in any TPP country, so even ones that aren’t from those countries—Chinese state-owned enterprise firms in Vietnam—would have to be treated the same as a U.S. company and get all of those government contracts. And that’s also the same rule that undermines all the Buy Local preferences. So to the extent—you know, for instance, a lot of school districts have done rules that say, “Let’s buy local food from local farmers. Let’s not have a big multinational company ship our vegetables a thousand miles away when we have the ability from right here to produce and procure.” Those would also be violations. You have to treat the foreign company the same, give them the same access, as you would any domestic company. And if we don’t change our laws to meet those rules, we would face trade sanctions until we do.
AMY GOODMAN: Who negotiated this?
LORI WALLACH: There’s an office that’s part of the Office of the President called the United States Trade Representative, are the actual negotiators. But I think underlying your question is: Who the heck negotiated this? And the reason we have such a lunatic agreement is those negotiators are advised by an official set of trade—U.S. private sector trade advisers. There are almost 600 of these advisers, and all but a handful of them represent big corporate interests. So, there are about 20 labor unions in the mix, of the 600. There are three or four environmental groups. There’s one consumer group, a couple family farm groups. Otherwise, it’s all-corporate! So, literally, when it comes to like the pharmaceutical rules, the pricing of medicines, you’ve got all the industry there.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the strategy that you’re—that people are using in opposing this? Democrats in Congress have spoken out, some of them, around the issue of secrecy. The reason we know this agreement, what’s in it, right, is because WikiLeaks released a draft of it about a year ago. But, you know, going back to 1999, the World Trade Organization in Seattle, for example, the massive protest outside led to the World Trade Organization—I mean, basically, the whole ministerial being called off. What kind of organizing is taking place right now?
LORI WALLACH: Well, actually, what shut down the WTO expansion was a combination of inside and outside. So, folks saw the protests in the street in Seattle in ’99, but there was an entire year of campaigning, country-by-country, around the world to get the governments who were going to that meeting to agree to not do certain things and to demand certain things.
And where we are in the campaign now is, basically, folks have to ramp up the inside and the outside, which is to say—you may think it sounds corny. I swear it makes a difference. I’ve worked in Capitol Hill. Folks, if you have not called your representative and both of your senators and gotten them to commit to you in writing that they oppose fast track, if and when it comes for a vote, which could be as soon as the third week of April, if you have not done that, you must do that! Please do that. Write them snail mail, email, call. The switchboard at the Capitol can connect you. If you’re not sure who your representative is, all you need is your ZIP code. The Capitol switchboard—you should write this down and stick it on a yellow sticky on your fridge for all purposes—
AMY GOODMAN: Lori, we’re—
LORI WALLACH: But the other—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to—
LORI WALLACH: —thing to do is—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there.
AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, speaking to us from Washington. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
Tabacco: Now everybody knows who the ‘Real” Barack Obama truly is – but only if they follow Democracy Now! and/or Tabacco!
The 6 o’clock News or CNN won’t cut it! You already know why not!
Finally, a Glimpse into the FUTURE
if TPP Becomes Law!
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Obama-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Expands Corporate Lawsuits Against Nations for Lost Profits
The Obama administration is facing increasing scrutiny for the extreme secrecy surrounding negotiations around a sweeping new trade deal that could rewrite the nation’s laws on everything from healthcare and Internet freedom to food safety and the financial markets. The latest negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were recently held behind closed doors in Lima, Peru, but the Obama administration has rejected calls to release the current text. Even members of Congress have complained about being shut out of the negotiation process. Last year, a leaked chapter from the draft agreement outlined how the TPP would allow foreign corporations operating in the United States to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its rulings.
We discuss the TPP with two guests: Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO, and Jim Shultz, executive director of the Democracy Center, which has just released a new report on how corporations use trade rules to seize resources and undermine democracy. “What is the biggest threat to the ability of corporations to go into a country and suck out the natural resources without any regard for the environment or labor standards? The threat is democracy,” Shultz says. “The threat is that citizens will be annoying and get in the way and demand that their governments take action. So what corporations need is to become more powerful than sovereign states. And the way they become more powerful is by tangling sovereign states in a web of these trade agreements.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now from domestic surveillance to secret trade deals. The Obama administration is facing increasing scrutiny for the extreme secrecy surrounding negotiations around a sweeping new trade deal that could rewrite the nation’s laws on everything from healthcare and Internet freedom to food safety and the financial markets. The latest negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, were recently held behind closed doors in Lima, Peru, but the Obama administration has rejected calls to release the current text. Even members of Congress have complained about being shut out of the negotiation process.
Last year, a leaked chapter from the draft agreement outlined how the TPP would allow foreign corporations operating in the United States to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its rulings. Earlier leaks from the draft agreement exposed how it included rules that could increase the cost of medication and make participating countries adopt restrictive copyright measures.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the TPP, we’re joined by two guests. Here in New York, Jim Shultz is with us, executive director of the Democracy Center. The organization just released a report called “Unfair, Unsustainable, and Under the Radar: How Corporations Use Global Investment Rules to Undermine a Sustainable Future.” In Washington, we’re joined by Celeste Drake. She’s trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, testifying today at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on labor issues in Bangladesh.
Jim, let’s begin with you. You’re just about to head off to the United Nations. You’re usually in Bolivia.
JIM SHULTZ: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about—I mean, most people have not even heard of what—what does TPP mean?
JIM SHULTZ: Right. Well, it’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And this is part of this global web of trade agreements that are being negotiated, that have been negotiated over the last 30 years, that, you know, from the outsider, it could seem like it’s a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo, but really what’s at stake is democracy. The report that we just put out looked at a very troubling part of what these agreements involve, which are these special trade tribunals that are used by corporations to directly undermine the ability of citizen movements to influence their government.
You know, the famous case, of course, is the one from Bolivia, where Bechtel from San Francisco came in, privatized—took over the privatized water system, raised people’s rates up by more than 50 percent, was kicked out by a popular rebellion, and turned around on a $1 million investment and sued Bolivia for $50 million. These cases—there’s almost 500 a year now of these cases being filed all over the world. Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, is suing Uruguay for the sin of putting health warnings on their cigarettes. In El Salvador—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
JIM SHULTZ: So, Uruguay decided to put stiffer health warnings on cigarette packages. And Philip Morris doesn’t like that, so Philip Morris uses a bilateral investment treaty between Uruguay and Switzerland—so, Philip Morris somehow puts on a Swiss hat and pretends it’s a Swiss company—and is suing Uruguay for hundreds of millions of dollars. This is—this is everywhere.
I mean, one of the most egregious of the current cases is in El Salvador, where here’s the community of Las Cabañas that discovers that this Canadian mining firm is going to dump poisonous chemicals into their drinking water to suck gold out of the ground. And they do what citizens are supposed to do: They hammer on their government until they get the government to agree not to let the mining go forward. So what does the company do? The company turns around, under one of these trade agreements, and sues for $315 million. So what you have—it’s a win-win for the companies, because they either win huge amounts of money—I mean, this is 1 percent of GDP in El Salvador, the amounts of money are enormous—or, just as important, they have a chilling effect on the ability and the willingness of governments to protect their people.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you’re saying there are as many as 500 lawsuits a year related to these kinds of trade infringements?
JIM SHULTZ: Yeah, it’s grown like this. And it’s a new—it’s a new derivatives market. These companies that are bringing these cases will actually go to investors and say, “We will sell you, for a price, 30 percent of the cut if we win the case.” I mean, it’s a marketplace. But the bottom line is, what it means is, if you are looking for the protection of your environment, watch out to be sued. And this is not just poor countries! Germany is getting sued, because after Fukushima, the citizen movements there were able to win a moratorium on nuclear power. And so, the Swedish company involved in their nuclear power industry is suing them for 700 million euro. And the TPP is just going to bring more of this.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the other side of this—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —is that obviously these corporations are reacting to an upsurge of citizen movements insisting on protecting their environments and protecting their resources. So, is your sense is that there’s been a huge spurt over the past decade or two, in terms of the citizen movements forcing their governments to try to protect their resources?
JIM SHULTZ: Well, I think that’s certainly true if you look across Latin America, where citizen movements and more progressive governments have been able to take these kinds of actions. And, look, if you talk to a lawyer who makes $1,000 an hour representing these corporations, they’ll say, “Look, we need legal security. Companies need foreign investment. We need legal security. We’re just trying to protect against the possibility that someone comes in with soldiers and takes away our mine.” But this is not just about them getting the $5 million they put in back. Under these bilateral investment treaties, and certainly it’s going to be the same under the TPP, these corporations can sue for the profits that they expected to earn and didn’t. That’s where you get these sums that are just off the charts.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has nominated Michael Froman as Kirk’s replacement for U.S. trade representative. Last year he defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
MICHAEL FROMAN: I don’t think I have to tell this audience how important the Asia-Pacific market is to the United States, its manufactured goods, agricultural products or services. It represents 40 percent of global trade. In 2010, U.S. goods exports totaled $775 billion, comprising almost 60 percent of all of our goods exports. And goods exports to the region are up 25 percent over the last two years. For our farmers and ranchers, nearly three-quarters of our total exports go to Asia-Pacific customers. And for our service providers, nearly 40 percent of their total services exports go to the region. And these benefits are not just for the big multinational companies, but for Americans—America’s small- and medium-size enterprises, too, who export over $170 billion to the Asia-Pacific region.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Michael Froman, the—nominated as the replacement for Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative. Celeste Drake, if you can talk about the significance of what he said and the TPP, where you’re coming from, from the AFL-CIO?
CELESTE DRAKE: Absolutely. Thank you very much. I mean, we question the wisdom of pursuing the TPP in the first place. We do have, for better or for worse, the World Trade Organization, which has lowered tariffs around the world and has allowed us to increase our exports, as Mr. Froman was explaining in the speech. So what the TPP is about is all of these other things around the tariffs. So it is about these investor state dispute tribunals, it’s about harmonizing rules for food safety, it’s about harmonizing rules for intellectual property—a lot of rules that if citizens aren’t really participating in the formation of those rules, they’re not necessarily going to work out and inure to the benefit of working people and America’s citizens. So we’re very active in following the negotiations, in advocating for better rules that will help workers, real farmers, small businesses, because our past trade agreements, starting with NAFTA and on down the line, have basically been big packages that benefit the 1 percent. And if anybody else benefits, it’s really only by accident and not really by design.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Celeste Drake, you’re scheduled to testify on Bangladesh and the situation with workers there. How would these trade agreements impact on this whole issue of the race to the bottom in manufacturing by many international corporations to places like Bangladesh, which result in these tragedies like the Tazreen fire and then the recent building collapse with more than a thousand workers killed?
CELESTE DRAKE: Well, in trade agreements, and beginning with NAFTA, which was a really poor example, the United States has tried to put in so-called labor obligations. In NAFTA, it was a side agreement, largely unenforceable. They’ve gotten better through the years. But they’re really kind of a Band-Aid that tries to fix some of the really destructive patterns that have been caused by globalization. Globalization on a corporate model has led to this race to the bottom, where the world’s biggest corporations really play a game of arbitrage, and they’re pitting especially developing countries one against the other, who can provide the lowest wages, the weakest worker rights regime, the fewest unions. And, you know, the winner is really the loser, because they’ve got workers who are working really hard, putting in a hard day’s work, and very possibly putting their lives at risk, and definitely not raising their standards of living. And when workers in any one country are allowed to be abused like that and have their rights repressed, it actually lowers the wages and the rights for workers all around the world. So, when we can try to improve it slightly through these trade agreements, that’s never going to be the silver bullet to really, really fix the problem. We’ve got to address it globally, because it’s a global problem.
AMY GOODMAN: I also just wanted to point out Michael Froman has been in the news, the U.S. trade representative, longtime White House economic aide, nominated to be Obama’s trade representative, for having nearly half-a-million dollars in a fund based in the Cayman Islands, according to financial documents provided to the Senate Finance Committee. The New York Times says, according to a 2011 document, that Froman had $490,000 in a fund managed by Citigroup based in Grand Caymans Ugland House, a modest whitewashed building that’s been widely cited as a symbol of tax avoidance, since it’s home to nearly 19,000 business entities seeking favorable tax treatment. Jim Shultz, what’s the significance of that and the whole U.S. position on trade, who it is lobbying for?
JIM SHULTZ: You know, I don’t think there’s any question. It’s all about U.S. corporations and large corporations, because if you think about it, what is the biggest threat to the ability of corporations to go into a country, whether it’s El Salvador, Bolivia, anywhere, and suck out the natural resources without any regard for the environment or labor standards? The threat is democracy, right? The threat is that citizens will be annoying, get in the way, and demand that their governments take action. So, what corporations need is they need to become more powerful than sovereign states. And the way they become more powerful by sovereign states is by tangling sovereign states in a web of these trade agreements that allow them to go to tribunal systems like the one at the World Bank and force governments to take these kinds of actions. You know, I was at the U.N. yesterday, and there was a—I was talking about this, and there was a man from Kenya who was explaining, look, these bilateral investment treaties, these investor dispute resolutions, the corporate trade panels, they were imposed on his country, as they were in many countries, by the World Bank as conditions of lending. So, it’s a straightjacket that the U.S. supports, because it is pursuing the interests of U.S. corporations. This has nothing to do with protecting public interest. And it’s a violation of public interest and a blockade against democracy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jim, I’d like to ask you something not directly related to the TPP, but last month Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development, USAID—
JIM SHULTZ: Yeah, I heard about that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —from his country. You’re very familiar with the situation in Bolivia. In a speech, Morales cited the recent comments of Secretary of State John Kerry, referring to Latin America as the U.S. backyard. He also accused USAID of using international assistance for political destabilization. Your assess—
AMY GOODMAN: We have a comment of him saying this.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we have a—yeah, we have a comment of Kerry saying that.
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Some institutions from the U.S. embassy continue to conspire against this process, against the people, and especially against the national government. And that is why, using this gathering and the 1st of May, we’ve decided to expel USAID from Bolivia. USAID is leaving Bolivia. I ask our brother foreign minister to immediately speak with the U.S. embassy. No more USAID, which manipulates, uses our brothers with charity.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And for our radio listeners, that was obviously not John Kerry, because his Spanish is not that good. That was Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. Your comments?
JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, it’s a double-edged sword. There certainly are projects in public health, these kinds of areas, where USAID has provided funding, and it’s not political, and those programs are going to lose their funding. But it’s on the U.S.’s doorstep. The fact is that the United States government has historically used USAID to have a political agenda to strengthen the opponents of the government. And, you know, Bolivians don’t feel any more happy about that than people in the United States would, if we found out that the Chinese government was funding Democracy Now! And so, I think that this is really what’s behind it.
But the reality—and this, I think, is important to know—Bolivia and the United States really don’t have any strategic interests with one another anymore. That’s really the heart of it. Bolivia doesn’t really matter to the United States. It’s not a strategic player. And the United States really doesn’t matter very much to Bolivia. They haven’t had an ambassador since 2007. So, I think that what you’re seeing is—it’s just a bad relationship that is not getting any better. And, you know, there’s always a lot of support in Bolivia when the president says something against the United States, and this is a good time politically for him to do that. You know, USAID’s money has been cut radically over the last few years. There’s just really not much left of the relationship altogether.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both for being with us, Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center, usually in Bolivia, here going to the United Nations today, and Celeste Drake of the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO and Celeste Drake are going to be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today on labor issues in Bangladesh.
When we come back, we’ll be speaking with the mayor-elect of Jackson, Mississippi. Stay with us.
+ Democracy Now!’s Solution For The FUTURE:
“FLUSH THE TPP!”
By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
President Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress are united. Yes, that’s right. No, not on ObamaCare, or on the budget, or on negotiations with Iran, or on equal pay for women. But on so-called free-trade agreements, which increase corporate power and reduce the power of people to govern themselves democratically, Obama and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder. This has put the president at loggerheads with his strongest congressional allies, the progressive Democrats, who oppose the TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the most far-reaching trade agreements in history. TPP will set rules governing more than 40 percent of the world’s economy. Obama has been negotiating in secret, and the Democrats are not happy.
The battle lines are being drawn over the TPP and TPA. If you are confused, well, that is exactly what many of the most powerful corporations in the U.S., and around the world, are counting on. Trade policy is arcane, complex and long the domain of economists and technocrats. But the real-world implications of these dry texts are profound. President Obama wants to pass the TPP, which is a broad trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. In order to expedite the process, President Obama is seeking the second acronym, TPA, or Trade Promotion Authority, also called “fast-track.” Fast-track gives the president authority to negotiate a trade deal, and to then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed. A growing coalition is organizing to oppose TPP and the president’s request for fast-track. The outcome of this conflict will reverberate globally for generations to come.
The TPP negotiations have been held in secret. Most people know what little they do because WikiLeaks, the document disclosure and whistle-blower website, released several chapters more than a year ago. Members of Congress also have been given limited access to briefings on the negotiations, but under strict secrecy rules that, in at least one instance recently, include the threat of imprisonment if details leak.
The TPP would be an expanded version of earlier trade agreements, like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, involving the U.S., Canada and Mexico. NAFTA went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, and was so harmful to the culture and economy of the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico, that they rebelled on that very day, in what is known as the Zapatista Uprising. Attempts to create a global trade deal, under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, provoked one of the largest protests against corporate power in history, in Seattle in late 1999. Thousands of protesters locked arms and literally blocked delegates from getting to the ministerial meeting. As unexpected solidarity between union members and environmentalists flourished in the streets, despite widespread police violence, the WTO talks collapsed in total failure.
The TPP, if passed, would implement trade rules that make it illegal for governments to create and enforce regulations on everything from environmental standards, to wage and labor laws, to the duration of copyrights. A law prohibiting the sale of goods made in sweatshops in Vietnam could be ruled illegal, for example, as a barrier to trade. Or certification requirements that lumber not be harvested from old-growth forests in Malaysia could be overturned.
Grassroots activists are organizing against the TPP and fast-track … Now people must raise their voices, in unison, and demand to be heard.
The TPP, she went on, “was negotiated with the assistance of 600 corporate advisers, official corporate trade advisers in the U.S. The agreement has been the initiative of the Obama administration. It was started by [President George W.] Bush, but instead of turning it around and making it something different, the Obama folks picked it up and, frankly, have made it even more extreme.”
Grassroots activists are organizing against the TPP and fast-track. They work on diverse issues ranging from human rights and Internet freedom to fair trade, labor rights and the environment. The moneyed interests in Washington have the ear of the president, so they need only whisper. Now people must raise their voices, in unison, and demand to be heard.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority”, a New York Times best-seller.
(c) 2015 Amy Goodman / Distributed by King Features Syndicate
Tabacco: None of the Initiatives in this Post (Fast Track, NAFTA, TPP or WTO) help the Majority/We The People/Average Americans, nor indeed were they intended to do so!
These Initiatives represent the POWER of the World Corporatists to control National Laws & Legislators and thereby augment their own Bottom Lines, not by Competition and Business Acumen, but by Manipulating both the Electorate and the Elected Officials, not just in America, but Worldwide.
In short, Capitalists thrive not on what they know, but whom they know, whom they can bribe and whom they can deceive! THIS MEANS YOU!
This encapsulates the PRIME DIRECTIVE of CAPITALISM: Anti-UTILITARIANISM – The Greatest Good For The Smallest Number of Elite at the
If you can’t read the Quote immediately above, Click on it once to increase size! You don’t want to miss this! (Don’t worry, nobody’s looking!)
ANOTHER TABACCO POST RE
TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP)
TPP – TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP! Obama’s Top Secret Trade Agreement Deal That Benefits Big Biz All Over The Planet & Penalizes Everybody Else.
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People