The United States is currently in the process of negotiating two major trade agreements with our Asian and European trading partners. The first is called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the other, currently more controversial agreement, now looming is referred to as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Bill Moyers posted on his website "Moyers and Company" an article on March 20, 2015 by Michael Nevradakis entitled "Proposed TTP Agreement is Profoundly Undemocratic". Citing previous attempts by major national and multinational corporations to end-around various "restrictions" to trade and, therefore, profits, beginning in 1995 under the Clinton administration a group calling itself the Transantlantic Business Dialogue was formed with the intent of creating a "customs union" where they could "trade and invest without any restrictions on their profits". (1) This effort ultimately failed but with negotiations currently being completed we are presented once again with yet another looming assault not only on the middle class but on the very sovereignty of our Republican form of government.
"The first thing to recognize is that TTIP is not your traditional trade agreement. In the past, trade negotiations were about border tariffs to goods, which are exported from one country and imported to another country. But already, the level of tariff barriers between the EU and the US is very low, so this time, it’ll be more about non-tariff barriers, and particularly getting rid of the regulatory barriers, as they call them, to trade. That means any regulations [that] will prevent corporations from being able to maximize their profits when they trade and invest across the Atlantic." (1)
" One of the main areas of contention surrounding TTIP are the so-called "investor-state dispute settlements," which would allow multinational corporations to sue sovereign governments over policies that they do not agree with, in special courts" . These are tribunals, as with the WTO that are not subject to the jurisdiction or oversight of national governments, national courts or, for that matter, the United Nations or any international agency. Rather disputes will be resolved in newly minted legal tribunals consisting of ‘judges’ appointed by the newly created treaty with extraterritorial power. This means that any national, state or local government imposing any regulation could find itself dragged before this tribunal and sued by a national or multinational corporation to be reimbursed for the costs of complying with any said regulation. Similar efforts beginning with the attempts in the mid-90's have been rejected but the momentum is growing for the adoption of this and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as we speak.
It is difficult to write about these treaties and their details. Both of these treaties have been negotiated in secret with corporate attorneys who have heretofore been mostly employed as lobbyists in Washington now meeting behind closed doors with European and Asian representatives to revamp the rules of international trade in what threatens to manifest itself, like the NAFTA agreements of the 1990's, as yet another assault on the beleaguered working people of all nations so obligated; but it has been done through the most undemocratic and most non-transparent process imaginable.
There are no good reasons for these negotiations to be conducted in secrecy. Not only have the press been excluded but United States Senators cannot get vital information concerning the content of the emerging negotiations. Senators are allowed to view only select documents for limited times and not allowed to bring staff with them.
Secondly there are no good reasons why this administration should seek, let alone demand, so-called ‘fast-track’ authority regarding the passage of this legislation. "Fast-Track" here refers to a process wherein the Senate must vote up or down, without amendment and without conducting any hearings the treaties that are presented to them. Such a procedure is a grievous abrogation of constitutional responsibility on the part of Congress, and profoundly undemocratic inasmuch as the process does not allow anyone else a voice in the outcome.
That the process surrounding these negotiations have been kept so close to the vest, and that the administration is demanding ‘fast-track’ authority means that like the NAFTA and other agreements we are about to be presented with yet another assault on our sovereignly, further limiting the ability of elected governments around the world in their efforts to reign in on the egregious abuses of Capital through the establishment of rudimentary rules and regulations. The time is upon us when our elected officials, be they county commissioners, state representatives, congressmen or presidents will be left with nothing to decide. Our economy will have been privatized, our public domain given over to private administration, and our ability to establish rules and regulations and to sue in our national courts for proper redress will no longer be possible.
No good can come from this. That this administration should not only be involved with these negotiations but openly embrace not only the content but the process by which these agreements are being fashioned is an affront to every American. That this administration should demand "fast-track’ authority to pass these noxious and obnoxious treaties is a deep betrayal of every person who campaigned and voted for this President of the United States.
Last Friday I sent off an email to the White House questioning the administration’s actions regarding these treaties. In it I said that I would expect as much from a Mitt Romney, a John McCain, and especially a Herbert Hoover. This is not, Mr. President, why we sent you to Washington.
I have yet to receive a response.