While I was watching a generally weak set of questioning of Jamie Dimon at the Senate Banking Committee (outside of Menendez, Brown and especially Merkley), Zach Carter was reporting on a key leaked document from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This is the “NAFTA for Asia” trade deal that Senators sought more transparency for earlier in the week. Well, thanks to Public Citizen, now they know a bit more about what’s in this trade deal. And now we know why it was a well-guarded secret.
Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.
“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document.
Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document — regarding access to life-saving medication — is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.
On the bright side, now the Administration has another leak investigation to pursue, I suppose.
This is really important stuff. We’re talking about restricting access to life-saving drugs, and giving up sovereignty over key domestic laws and regulations to foreign multinationals. That would be true for foreign companies in the US and domestic companies in the eight Pacific nations engaged in the trade pact. This is completely in line with the NAFTA consensus, which also allowed corporations the right to sue nations party to certain trade treaties. Private sector lawyers would be the judges on the international tribunals, with clear conflicts of interest, as they advocate for and serve the clients who would be suing the government in this case. Here’s but one example:
In early June, a tribunal at the World Bank agreed to hear a case involving similar foreign investment standards, in which El Salvador banned cyanide-based gold mining on the basis of objections from the Catholic Church and environmental activists. If the World Bank rules against El Salvador, it could overturn the nation’s domestic laws at the behest of a foreign corporation.
It’s sad that we have so much opacity in these trade deals that it takes a leaked document to raise public awareness. But this clarifies that the Administration is basically taking the NAFTA template and applying it to a much larger group of nations in Asia, threatening regulatory sovereignty on environmental, public health, land use and even financial industry standards.