Thursday, November 14, 2013

Protecting Wall Street: Obama's Neo-Liberal Genetics shining through in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement



Yesterday, the bane of Obama secrecy, Wikileaks, struck again. Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, released the  Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (draft) for the world to view..

Entitled:
"Secret TPP treaty: Advanced Intellectual 
Property chapter for all 12 nations with
negotiating positions
WikiLeaks release: November 13, 2013"


... (the PDF format version can be accessed "here"), the negotiations appear to be short on "free trade" and long on corporate protection, restrictions on internet freedom, and assurances of more junk tossed on the US market while killing jobs in the US and a perpetuation of outrageous increases in health care costs for everyone.

This is the second release of a chapter from the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership Agreement in the past 18 months.  The first, released by Citizen's Trade Campaign, in the summer of 2012, brought members of Congress, from Darrell Issa to Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden, together denouncing the TPP as the "NAFTA for Asia".

Yes, the  "transparent and accountable" president,  the "people's" president, the "liberal president" proves, once again, he is none of those things. In a press release published in conjunction with the documents, statement preceding the document, Julian Assange is quoted stating:

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Sound like histrionics? Actually, not when one reads the text of the released chapter currently in negotiations and listens to politicians (Elizabeth Warren, Alan Grayson, and elected representatives from both sides of the aisle) and activists around the country (Ed Schultz,  Jim Schultz - The Democracy Center, Lori Wallach - director of the fair trade group Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Thom Hartmann, ACLU and others) warning against the agreement . 

If passed, the "agreement," will impact the following countries:

".........the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia,
Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam. The treaty is being
negotiated in secret by delegations from each of the 12 countries, who together account for 40% of global GDP. The chapter covers proposed international obligations and enforcement mechanisms for copyright, trademark and patent law, and includes the combined positions of all of the parties as they were by the end of August 2013. The document was produced and distributed to the Chief Negotiators on August 30, 2013, after the 19th Round of Negotiations at Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei."
"A secret draft proposal of a controversial trade agreement shows the Obama administration is trying to push through a corporate wish list that resembles a failed anti-piracy measure and would limit intellectual freedom and likely increase health care costs...."

Yes, the "transparent and accountable" president is at it again.   A secret trade deal that will attempt to install the defeated SOPA and PIPA (defeated soundly by activists from all walks of life, demanding that the internet remain free) while instituting protections and guarantees that will give corporations (e.g., Monsanto, Disney, as well as drug companies, hospital and medical corporations and surgical supply manufacturers):


  • The ability to control and dominate the international market as they secure and protect international patents on genetics and control over production, planting and seeding.  That control will drive small farmers, around the world, out of business and control the food of the planet, as it assures Monsanto and other major agri-corps, control over their GMO seeds and the production of food.
  • The ability to control dominate the international market by large Pharmaceutical corporations - giving them free reign over patents on prescription drugs, extending their patents, removing them from a  "free" and "fair" marketplace - assuring high prices and limiting access to those who can afford them (the crony captialist version of eugenics) as it further increases the cost of medical care.
  • The ability to patent and copyright surgical and medical techniques and treatments that will increase the cost of these procedures and treatments forcing any physician, hospital or institution to pay to use those procedures and techniques or limit their use around the world. (corporate eugenics 2.0)
  • The ability to control  and limit the free exchange of ideas and the Internet by bringing  SOPA type regulations in through the backdoor -SOPA was defeated in a massive grassroots movement in January, 2012, but the TPP threatens to bring it all back hidden inside the trade agreement. 
  • The ability to quash civil protest and civilian participatory government,  in the US and abroad, through threat of law suit that allows corporations to obtain outrageous settlements against governments acting only to protect the people of their nation. In effect, these agreements create a power for corporations that supersedes the power and rights of sovereign states.  
  • The ability to perpetuate the "race to the bottom" with even more ability to pit nation against nation and worker against worker in bids for contracts thereby lowering wages even more and removing rights around the world.  These trade agreements don't fix that problem, they exacerbate it.

The people of "the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam" have been told very little about the negotiations and the specifics of the proposed agreement.

In November, 2011, this is how the President Obama discussed the TPP :




"...I want to welcome, once again, all the leaders gathered around this table and their trade ministers to Hawaii.  Here in Hawaii, the United States wants to send a clear message:  We are a Pacific nation and we are deeply committee to shaping the future security and prosperity of the Trans-Pacific region, the fastest-growing region in the world. 
I’m very pleased to be here with my partners with whom we’re pursing a very ambitious new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  I want to thank my fellow leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru.
We just had an excellent meeting, and I’m very pleased to announce that our nine nations have reached the broad outlines of an agreement.  There are still plenty of details to work out, but we are confident that we can do so.  So we've directed our teams to finalize this agreement in the coming year.  It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done.
The TPP will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people, which is my number-one priority.  Along with our trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, the TPP will also help achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports, which support millions of American jobs.
Taken together, these eight economies would be America’s fifth-largest trading partner.  We already do more than $200 billion in trade with them every single year, and with nearly 500 million consumers between us, there's so much more that we can do together.
In a larger sense, the TPP has the potential to be a model not only for the Asia Pacific but for future trade agreements.  It addresses a whole range of issues not covered by past agreements, including market regulations and how we can make them more compatible, creating opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in the growing global marketplace.  It will include high standards to protect workers’ rights and the environment.
And I want to thank my U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Kirk, and all our teams for doing tireless work to achieve the progress that we’ve made so far.  I want to thank all my fellow leaders for their partnership and their commitment to making the TPP a reality, which will be a win for all our countries.
So, again, I am confident that we can get this done.  Together we can boost exports, create more goods available for our consumers, create good jobs, and compete and win in the markets of the future."


And, in September, 2013, at Obama's "Business Roundtable,"  this was what Obama had to say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement:

"We know that we can do even more when it comes to exports, which is why I’m out there negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now a Transatlantic Trade Partnership that will allow us to create a high standard, enforceable, meaningful trade agreement with essentially two-thirds of the world markets, which is going to be incredibly powerful for American companies who, up until this point, have often been locked out of those markets."



But in June, 2013, this report on the TPP on Democracy Now included Jim Schultz, executive director of the Democracy Center, ( The Center had just released a report entitled "Unfair, Unsustainable, and Under the Radar: How Corporations Use Global Investment Rules to Undermine a Sustainable Future") and  Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO, discussing the potential agreement:


 

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— 
JIM SHULTZ: Yeah. 
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.





WikiLeaks has published the secret text to part of the biggest U.S. trade deal in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). For the past several years, the United States and 12 Pacific Rim nations have been negotiating behind closed doors on the sweeping agreement. A 95-page draft of a TPP chapter released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday details agreements relating to patents, copyright, trademarks and industrial design — showing their wide-reaching implications for Internet services, civil liberties, publishing rights and medicine accessibility. Critics say the deal could rewrite U.S. laws on intellectual property rights, product safety and environmental regulations, while backers say it will help create jobs and boost the economy. President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman reportedly wish to finalize the TPP by the end of the year and are pushing Congress to expedite legislation that grants the president something called "fast-track authority." However, this week some 151 House Democrats and 23 Republicans wrote letters to the administration saying they are unwilling to give the president free rein to "diplomatically legislate." We host a debate on the TPP between Bill Watson, a trade policy analyst at the Cato Institute, and Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: WikiLeaks is back in the news after it published Wednesday part of the secret text of a massive new trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. For the past several years, the United States and 12 Pacific Rim nations have been negotiating behind closed doors on the sweeping agreement. On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a 95-page draft of a TPP chapter focusing on intellectual property rights. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange appeared in a YouTube video Tuesday talking about the leak.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We released today the secret international—the secret intellectual property chapter, what they call intellectual property, but it’s actually all about how to extend the monopoly rights of companies like Monsanto, which has genetic patents over wheat and corn; extending the ability of Disney to criminally prosecute people for downloading films, prosecute Internet service providers; Japan introducing something they call a patent prosecution highway—Japan has. And so, we released all this, their secret negotiating positions for all 12 countries. 
AMY GOODMAN: The WikiLeaks release of the text comes a week before a TPP chief negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman reportedly wish to finalize the TPP by the end of the year and are pushing Congress to expedite legislation that grants the president what’s known as "fast-track authority." However, this week some 151 House Democrats and 23 Republicans wrote letters to the administration saying they’re unwilling to give the president free rein to, quote, "diplomatically legislate." Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we host a debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bill Watson is trade policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. And Lori Wallach, the director of the fair trade group Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. ......

...
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bill Watson, if we can, if we could bring in Lori Wallach to respond to some of your comments, especially in terms of the—we’ve had lots of publicity over pharmaceuticals and the huge disparities in prices of pharmaceuticals around the globe and how this might affect the—under the TPP agreement. Lori?
LORI WALLACH: Well, free trade is a pretty theory, but as yesterday’s WikiLeaks showed, the TPP has very little to do with free trade. So, only five of the 29 chapters of the agreement even have to do with trade at all. What’s in that intellectual property chapter? What the Cato Institute would call rent seeking—governments being lobbied by special interests to set up special rules that give them monopolies to charge higher prices. What does that mean for you and me? In that agreement, we now can see the United States is pushing for longer monopoly patents for medicines that would increase the prices here. They’re looking for patenting things like surgical procedures, making even higher medical costs. They’re looking to patent life forms and seeds. And with respect to copyright, the U.S. positions are actually even undermining U.S. law. So, for Internet freedom, if you didn’t like SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, the domestic law that Congress and amazing citizen activism killed last year when it was attempted to be pushed here domestically, huge chunks of SOPA are pushed through the backdoor of this intellectual property chapter.
Now, what the heck is that doing in a free trade agreement? I would imagine the Cato Institute is also wondering: Are Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the free trade philosophers, rolling in their graves? Because that is protectionism. This is patent monopolies. This is copyright extensions. This is actually exactly what Bill just talked about, which is powerful special interests—Big Pharma, Disney and the other big-content guys—undermining us as consumers—our access to the Internet, our access to affordable medicine—and they’re using their power to put that into an agreement that they’ve got misbranded as "free trade." That’s what’s the real TPP. So maybe, actually, we agree, between the consumer group Public Citizen and Cato, that what’s in TPP, whatever you think about free trade, ain’t so good for most of us.
BILL WATSON: This is a rare occasion where I do agree with Lori Wallach. I agree that what’s going on in the IP chapter is a special-interest free-for-all, a grab bag, that U.S. companies are pushing to get what they want in these agreements. And the problem, really, with that is that intellectual property is not a trade issue, and it shouldn’t be in the agreement. Originally, adding intellectual property into the agreement was a way to bring on more political support, to be able to bring in U.S. companies to counter other U.S. companies that would oppose the agreement. At this point, I think we’ve gotten to where the intellectual property chapters are so expansive that what you’re seeing is a domestic constituency, people concerned about copyright and patent reform, who are opposing the TPP, not because of anything having to do with trade, but just because it’s going to reform U.S. copyright and patent laws. So, the—what I would say is that we need to have a renewed focus within these trade agreements to be more about free trade and less about some of these other issues like intellectual property rights.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Bill Watson, why should we even have to depend on WikiLeaks to provide information on what’s in this proposed agreement? Isn’t the actual—just the super secrecy under which this agreement has been worked out, raise questions for ordinary citizens about why all the secrecy? 
BILL WATSON: You know, I’m certainly glad that WikiLeaks published this report. Personally, I like to be able to read it. It’s very interesting. I wish that they would publish the rest of it, to show us the rest of the draft text. I don’t think that it would be, at this point, particularly harmful to the agreement to let us know something about the countries’ negotiating positions.
But I really—I really disagree that the TPP negotiations are especially secret. There’s a lot that goes on in Congress that the public doesn’t know about. When Congress writes a law, we don’t know in advance what it’s going to be before it gets proposed. So, they’re still trying to figure out what the contents of the agreement will be. They don’t know yet; they’re working on it. So, eventually, we’ll see something. We’ll see it well in advance of when it becomes law, and Congress will have a chance to decide to vote yes or no on the agreement. 
AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, what most surprised you about seeing the TPP agreement for the first time yesterday, you know, the WikiLeaks leak? 
LORI WALLACH: Well, first of all, this is extraordinarily secret. I’ve followed these negotiations since 1991 with NAFTA. And during NAFTA, any member of Congress could see any text. In fact, the whole agreement between negotiating rounds was put in the Capitol, accessible for them to look at. In 2001, the Bush administration published the entire Free Trade Area of the Americas text, when it was even in an earlier stage than TPP is right now, on government websites. They’ve even excluded members of Congress from observing the negotiations. I mean, this is extraordinary.
And so, to me, what was the most horrifying, I would say, is the ways in which the U.S. negotiators are using this agreement to try and rewrite U.S. law. I mean, I find it morally repugnant and outrageous that the U.S. negotiators be pushing Big Pharma’s agenda to raise medicine prices for the developing countries in the TPP. People in Vietnam, in all the developing countries that have HIV/AIDS, that have malaria, they need access to generic medicines, and this would cut it off. But they’re actually doing it also to us. So, to the extent, theoretically, they’re sort of supposed to be representing our interests, it would make cancer drugs in this country more expensive. Evergreening of patents, changing just a little tweaky thing, the six-hour versus 12-hour version of a medicine, you get 20 more years of monopoly. Also undermining our Internet freedom by rewriting U.S. law? There’s language in there where U.S. law says there’s an exception for liability for U.S. Internet service providers. The U.S. is the only country in that bracket that’s saying, "No, we shouldn’t allow that in TPP." It’s backdoor diplomatic legislating.
And that ties into that business with fast track. Why were—and it’s now 27 Republican members, because there was a second letter that came out of the Republicans, and 151 Democrats—why were they all saying together, in the last 36 hours, "No fast-track trade process. We don’t want to give away our constitutionally granted authority over trade policy"? And a big piece of the reason is, the left and right in Congress may disagree on what the policies should be, but they actually believe that, constitutionally, Congress gets to write our legislation. So the notion of this backdoor legislating, that we saw actually revealed in this WikiLeak, is precisely what is uniting, animating congressional outrage at the notion that after being left out of these negotiations uninformed, somehow they should volunteer to handcuff themselves so they can be thoroughly steamrollered and have even their legislating authority undermined through this so-called trade agreement. That’s really a backdoor coup d’état on domestic policymaking.......
For the Obama Administration - the administration that negotiated "Health Care Reform" through big Pharma and Big Insurance; negotiated "peace" through continued illegal detention and denial of due process for the prisoners of war held in Guantanamo and Bagram, the continuation and expansion of the infamous Cheney "Kill List," Drone slaughter from the sky, and the out-sourcing of torture; negotiated "transparency and accountability" through increased spying on everyone on the planet, secret negotions of "trade deals" and prosecution of whistleblowers (from Barrett Brown and Jeremy  Hammond; Aaron Swartz and Edward Snowden) -  the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is more of the same.  More broken promises, more corporate whoring and more neo-liberalism on the backs of the real people of the planet.


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..............



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