JUAN GONZŃLEZ: We turn now to a
controversial trade pact between the United States and eight Pacific
nations that until now has remained largely secret.
Itís called the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. A chapter from the draft agreement
leaked Wednesday outlines how it 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.
The agreement is being negotiated by the U.S. trade representative, Ron
Kirk, appointed by President Obama.
But the newly revealed terms
contradict promises Obama made while running for president in 2008. One
campaign document read in part, quote,
"We will not negotiate bilateral
trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the
environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; [or] give
greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors."
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier leaks from the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership
agreement exposed how it included rules that could increase the cost of
medication and make participating countries adopt restrictive copyright
No one from the U.S. trade representativeís office was able to join us,
but in a statement to Democracy Now!, they said, quote, "Nothing in our
TPP investment proposal could impair our governmentís ability to pursue
legitimate, non-discriminatory public interest regulation."
For more, weíre joined by Lori Wallach, director of the fair trade group
Public Citizenís Global Trade Watch. The leaked documents were posted on
her organizationís website early Wednesday morning.
Lori, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what the documents show and what
this agreement is about.
LORI WALLACH: Well, itís been branded as a trade agreement, but really
it is enforceable corporate global governance.
The agreement requires
that every signatory country conform all of its laws, regulations and
administrative procedures to what are 26 chapters of very comprehensive
rules, only two of which have anything to do with trade.
The other 24
chapters set a whole array of corporate new privileges and rights and
handcuff governments, limit regulation.
So the chapter that leaked - and
itís actually on the website of Citizens Trade Campaign, itís a national
coalition for fair trade - that chapter is the chapter that sets up new
rights and privileges for foreign investors, including their right to
privately enforce this public treaty by suing our government, raiding
our Treasury, over costs of complying with the same policies that all
U.S. companies have to comply with.
Itís really outrageous.
JUAN GONZŃLEZ: Well, Lori, thereís been a quite a bit of complaint, even
in Congress, about the secretive nature of these continuing
negotiations. About 600 or so corporate advisers have access to
information that even members of Congress donít? Could you talk about
how that has come about?
LORI WALLACH: Well, this is how you get a text and in a potential
agreement that is this outrageous. I mean, this isnít just a bad trade
agreement, this is a one-percenter power tool that could rip up our
basic needs and rights.
How that happens is the negotiations have been
done in total secrecy. So, for two-and-a-half years, until this leak
emerged, people have suspected whatís going on, because, as you said,
under U.S. law there are 600 official advisers, they have security
clearance to see the text, they advise the U.S. position.
senator, Ron Wyden, who is the chairman of the trade committee in the
Senate, the committee with jurisdiction over the TPP, has been denied
access to the text, as has his staff, who has security clearance, to a
point where this man who has supported agreements like this in the past
has filed legislation demanding he have the right to see the agreement
that heís supposed to be having oversight with.
Heís on the Intelligence
Committee, and he has security clearance, so he can see our nuclear
He just canít see this corporate bill of rights that is trying
to be slipped into effect in the name of being a trade agreement. Itís a
very elegant Trojan horse strategy. You brand it one thing, and then you
put an agenda that could not survive sunshine into this agreement.
We have been able also to get some of the texts on patents, expanding
patents for Big Pharma, jacking up medicine prices. And we have analysis
on our website,
tradewatch.org, as well as information about how to get
involved, because these agreements are a little bit like Dracula. You
drag them in the sunshine, and they do not fare well.
But all of us, and
also across all of the countries involved, there are citizen movements
that are basically saying,
"This is not in our name. We donít need
global enforceable corporate rights. We need more democracy. We need
AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach...
LORI WALLACH: And this agreement is the antithesis.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read part of the comment we got from the U.S.
trade representativeís office when we invited them on todayís show. They
"The Obama Administration has infused unprecedented
transparency into the TPP negotiations. We have worked with Members of
Congress... [and] invited stakeholders to every round of negotiations
where they have given presentations and met with individual negotiating
teams... We are always looking for ways to enhance provisions on
transparency and public participation."
Lori Wallach, your comment?
LORI WALLACH: Well, to start with, the idea of transparency of the
current negotiators is a one-way mirror. We can basically talk to them
and do presentations.
But as this leak shows, nothing that the public
interest organizations - and itís a huge array of organizations, from
faith groups to consumer groups, environmental, labor - nothing that we
have said is now reflected in the U.S. position in this negotiation,
which Iím sad to say is the most extreme.
I mean, the U.S. is even
opposing proposals in this agreement to try and make sure countries have
the ability to use financial regulation to ensure financial stability.
The U.S. positions donít reflect what weíve been saying, but we can talk
But just to put this in perspective, in the last negotiation of a big
regional agreement - that was the Free Trade Area of the Americas in the
1990s, 34 countries, very complicated agreement - two years into the
negotiation, the entire draft text was published officially by the
governments. Here we are, three years into this negotiation with eight
countries, and they will not publish a sentence.
In fact, it finally
leaked that they had signed a special agreement not to release any draft
text for four years after negotiations are done - a secrecy agreement on
top of the normal secrecy. And when asked, Ron Kirk, the trade
representative, why - in the past, the U.S. has sent out draft texts.
The WTO, hardly a paradigm of transparency, publishes draft texts.
the - whatís going on?" he was asked.
"Well, in the past, for
instance, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, when the text was
revealed, we couldnít finish it."
Now, what sort of indictment is that
of what they are doing behind closed doors, that merely allowing the
public who will live with the results and Congress to know whatís up is
going to somehow derail the plans to lock us in?
Because whatís really
important to understand about these agreements, itís not about trade,
and itís like cement. Once the cement dries in these agreements, you
canít change the rules, unless all the agreement - all the other
countries agree to amend the agreement.
So what weíre talking about with this leaked chapter is literally a
parallel system of justice. People have domestic laws and courts, trying
to defend our rights and get our needs met. Corporations would have a
parallel system of private attorneys, three of them, no
The U.S. and the other countries would submit
themselves to the jurisdiction of this corporate kangaroo court, and
these three random attorneys would have the right to order the U.S.
government to pay unlimited amounts of our tax dollars to corporations
and investors who, A, claim regulatory costs need to be refunded, or, B,
are saying theyíre not being treated well enough, regardless if the
policies they dislike are the exact same ones that apply to all of us.
Even under NAFTAís system, which has some of this, $350 million have
already been paid out to corporations by governments, over toxics bans,
zoning laws, timber rules.
This is a sneaky outrage. And if people
actually put a spotlight on it, we can stop it.
JUAN GONZŃLEZ: So, Lori, I wanted to ask you - you mentioned the eight
nations that are involved in the negotiations. Which nations are they?
And also, the issue of the way this is being negotiated, the number
could expand dramatically in the future.
Can you talk about that?
LORI WALLACH: Well, the reason why it is so incredibly important that
this agreement be exposed is this could well be the last agreement
So, many of your listeners and viewers have been
involved in the sneaky way trade agreements have been used by
corporations to limit regulation and to foster a race to the bottom
And each of these agreements has gotten bolder, more
expansive in its limits on government regulation and in its granting of
corporate powers. This one could be the end, because what they intend to
do is leave it open, once itís done, for any other country to join. So,
this is an agreement that ultimately could have the whole world in it as
a set of binding corporate guarantees of new rights and privileges,
enforced with cash sanctions and trade sanctions.
It is not an
exaggeration to say that the TPP threatens to become a regime of binding
global governance, right at the time that the Occupy movement and
movements around the world are demanding more power and control.
the fight-back. This is locking in the bad old way plus. And in addition,
the way that the agreement is being negotiated, these rules would
require that you not only change all of your existing laws - so good
progressive laws would have to be gotten rid of - but that, in the
future, you donít create new laws.
Now, the agreement now includes,
And the agreement includes all of the NAFTA-style
privileges that promote offshoring.
But more drastically, it has all
sorts of new corporate privileges, so the right to extend medicine and
seed monopolies to jack up medicine prices, even the right to challenge
formularies, medicine prescription group buying plans.
what the Obama administration has put in their health reform bill, they
are at the negotiating table behind closed doors trying to kill the
right to use for other countries. Or the financial rules would have just
Countries arenít allowed to ban risky financial products or
services, at the same time that weíre trying to issue regulations under
financial reform. And the agreement even meddles with how we spend our
local tax dollars.
For folks around the country who are doing sweat-free
campaigns, who are doing living wage campaigns, green buying campaigns,
this agreement says, A, you canít have local preferences, so no "buy New
York" state preference to recycle money back in your state, your tax
dollars, no "buy American," but also conditions like a product has to
have recycled content or that that uniform has to be sweat-free.
kind of conditions can be challenged. It is an incredible corporate
power tool. Itís only gotten this far because itís been secret. And
people in the other countries donít want it either.
But our country is
the one thatís largely pushing the most radical provisions, which is why
it was so important for this text, which everyone can see an analysis of
at tradewatch.org, to be made public, to make people aware of whatís
really going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Lori, the last round of negotiations on the trade agreement
took place in Dallas. While there, Obamaís appointed trade
representative, Ron Kirk, spoke at an event for the local business
The Yes Men took the opportunity to present Kirk, the former
mayor of Dallas, with a mock award.
This is a clip.
GIT HAVERSALL: Hello. Thank you so much for being here. My name is Git
Haversall. And on behalf of the Texas Corporate Power Partnership, we
are very, very pleased to announce that the U.S. trade negotiators are
the winners of our 2012 Corporate Power Tool Award.
I would like to
personally thank the negotiators for their relentless efforts. The TPP
agreement is shaping up to be a great way for us to maximize our
profits, regardless of what the public of this nation or any other
nation thinks is right.
AMY GOODMAN: The next round of negotiations on TPP are scheduled over
the July 4th holiday weekend. Lori Wallach, can you comment on this?
also, what I assume would be President Obamaís response, if talking
behind the scenes, like perhaps tonight when heís going to be at Sarah
Jessica Parker house with - with raising a lot of money - the financial
sector is donating $37 million to Mitt Romney so far, the Obama
administrationís haul, $4.8 million - that even his own Wall Street
supporters are going over to Romney right now, so he would say he is
doing better than Romney would in trying to take on these guys.
LORI WALLACH: I think that, for President Obama, there are two
One is, he has not been on top of what these negotiators are
doing. This really has been under the radar. Itís so important that the
text finally came out, because it sends a warning to Congress, to the
public, etc., and that basically heís got negotiators on the loose. They
are many of the same people who during the Clinton administration got us
into NAFTA, that recycled back into the trade negotiating team.
other alternative explanation is just the money one, which is, it is the
case that this is an agreement the 1 percent loves. This is sort of one-percenter
Itís not just that on the margins and in national governments
you have to keep fighting with all your money and lobbying to try and
get what you want; this would lock it in for the future, indefinitely.
AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, we want to thank you very much for being with
us, director of Public Citizenís Global Trade Watch. And we will
continue to watch this.
This is Democracy Now!