Results tagged “Trans-Pacific Partnership” from PlanetGreen.org

Say No to TPP: Brexit and US Trade Policy

|
It's official. 51.9% of British citizens decided to leave the European Union in a landmark referendum, choosing national sovereignty and control of their own policies over their forty-three year bond with continental Europe. This decision was definitely influenced somewhat by the ongoing migrant crisis, but also stemmed from widespread frustration with the trend of globalization. Britain decided that the benefits of closer integration with foreign countries - the job creation and international harmony that free-trade deals were supposed to create, but that never materialized - were outweighed by the costs - the loss of many jobs, an influx of imported goods, and the partial loss of national independence.

Here in the United States, we are facing a similar decision on the future of our jobs as a vote on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership looms, but what we may not realize is that we as citizens have the same power Britons just exercised.

According to this document's preamble, it "promotes economic integration to liberalize trade and investment, bring economic growth and social benefits... reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth." Apparently, our government and the corporations it is speaking for here do not expect us to read further. Because if we do, we will notice that this, too, was likely generated in the same specious slippery spirit as all those other things that don't deceive us. We will refuse to be fooled. We will realize that this agreement does nothing to prevent the mass exodus of our American jobs; it merely bids them adieu as the gangplank goes up and they go puffing away. It does nothing to protect the foreign laboring class, give them decent hours or the right to improve their situation through collective bargaining; it merely gives the dignified speech at the cornerstone laying of another faraway sweatshop. It does nothing to hinder the commonplace crimes against our persons, the toxic air and corrupted foods we accept for lack of a choice; it merely sanctions the conspiracy of silence keeping us ignorant of what we're doing to ourselves. And it sets up a subtle satire of the justice system, allowing corporate lawyers to eviscerate our progressive statutes without ever setting foot in U.S. courts, while simultaneously subjecting regulators to the twists and turns of tangled, undeveloped foreign legal systems if they want to enforce the more liberal provisions.

They insist that all this will do us a service, provide a much-needed boost to our economy. But by doing away with the vilified Reign of Tariffs, they are only enabling foreign governments and corporations to encroach on our independence. But we can defeat this if we pull together to remind Congress that they ultimately answer to the people that trusted them to serve us - even if all we could contribute to their campaigns was our support.

We can continue to fight for our economy and our rights as consumers. We can Say No to TPP.

Say No To Kangaroo Courts

|
Kangaroo.jpgAs I mentioned in my last installment of this series, TPP would eviscerate this country's already weak control over product safety. However, one argument in favor of weakening jurisdiction rules and long-arm statutes is that such an extensive reach would expose our businesses and government agencies to lengthy and costly lawsuits against them by foreign entities.

Enter the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system.

This is a binding arbitration agreement that allows corporations to challenge U.S. regulations without ever even submitting to the procedures and precedents of U.S. courts. Instead of impartial judges, they go up before a panel which, more often than not, would be made up of highly-paid lawyers from firms specializing in defending corporations and challenging government ordinances. Yet these judges would not be forbidden from practicing law between times, and in some cases representing the very parties they have just passed a judgment on. Instead of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or any comparable code, they would operate on a perplexing hybrid of multinational standards.

All the gains this country has made since the Roosevelt administration stand to be reversed. Any increases in the minimum wage, and possibly even our existing wages and hours laws, could be thrown over. What's left of our clean air regulations once our courts are through with them could be dismantled even further. Food safety measures dating back to 1906 are once again in danger of being arbitrarily struck down. Worst of all, though, because this tribunal's jurisdiction is reserved for cases brought by "international investors," U.S. companies, labor unions, and government agencies would still have to enforce the more liberal terms of the agreement in foreign legal systems, which are often inferior in their procedural safeguards and common law decisions.

It is hard for me to believe that we have spent so many decades and centuries attempting to improve our existing justice system and insure the fairness of every detail only to abandon it at the behest of outlaw corporations and their smooth-talking stooges. Yet, if Congress does approve the TPP, it will be rejecting our values of substantive justice at enormous cost to American consumers and workers.

Say No to Giant Sucking Sounds

|
In its disregard for the environment, workers, consumers, small businesses, elected governments and human rights, the Trans-Pacific Partnership outdoes NAFTA.

Perot.jpgLike all free-trade agreements that give unfathomable power to wealthy corporations at the cost of injuring humanity, NAFTA went in direct opposition to the principles of utilitarianism by attempting to achieve the greatest good for the smallest number. It did not help the United States; it simply made it easier for American businesses to move their factories to locations where they could operate free of government oversight. As Ross Perot, an Independent candidate for president in 1992 and one of NAFTA's most prominent critics, observed during the second presidential debate,

If you're paying $12... an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,... have no health care[,]... no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement [benefits], and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.

Perot's unpretentious phrasing was ridiculed and his logic belittled by many intellectuals and prominent economists, but his predictions were unquestionably accurate.

NAFTA wreaked havoc in Mexico, as well. Devastatingly, the abolition of tariffs flooded the nation's markets with U.S. government-subsidized, GMO, Monsanto-patented corn. Consequently, small farmers lost their land and, with it, their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Much of the region's manufacturing was destroyed when Walmart and other retailers began selling Chinese-made goods. As a direct result of the deal, immigration from Mexico increased to half a million a year after NAFTA's implementation, which, of course, exacerbated the illegal immigration issues we're still facing today. The extension of this treaty to other countries (in a pact known as CAFTA-DR, which stands for the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement) has spread the problems even farther.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is even more alarming. Even now, Vietnam is beginning to replace China as a target for outsourcing, because its factories are less regulated and its workers receive even smaller pittances. This trade deal would only encourage this trend. If allowed to take effect, the TPP will create an enormous, Trans-Pacific Sucking Sound, with devastating affects on the entire world.

Say No to Jurisdictional Limbo

|
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would authorize outsourcing to Asia on an unprecedented scale. Widespread job loss and tax evasion would obviously result - however, an unforeseen consequence might also be the loss of U.S. jurisdiction over the wrongdoing of foreign corporations.

This side effect of international commerce is far from coincidental. Rather, for both the alien manufacturers contracting to supply goods to this country and the domestic distributors of the imports, it has long been the perfect arrangement to insure that neither has to pay the cost of any negligence that may have occurred in the construction of the product.

The problem began, on its current scale, in 1987, with the Supreme Court's decision in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). This case involved a motorcycle accident attributable to defects in the vehicle's rear tire, which injured Gary Zurcher and killed his wife Ruth. The maker of the tire tube, Asahi, did not even bother to dispute the facts in a products liability suit brought the next year. Rather, it claimed that California courts could not exercise jurisdiction over it because its base of business was Taiwan and it had no contacts with California. Shockingly, the Court agreed with this claim, reversing the lower courts even over the objection of local businesses who felt that their decision to remain in this country had gone unrewarded.

If the facts of this case inspire a strange sense of deja vu, that might be because similar injustices continue to occur on an everyday basis throughout this country. Currently, the Japanese-based company Takata is attempting to escape liability for its lethal airbags under similar logic. In our recent memory, airplane owners and operators have shirked responsibility for preventable crashes, fabricators of foodstuffs, cosmetics, and medicines have marketed toxins with impunity, and factories selling their wares here have pointedly refused to comply with the most basic of our regulations. Far from the safeguard of "fair play and substantial justice" the Asahi decision claimed itself to be, it has caused our international economy to deteriorate into a lawless, deceitful exchange of tainted or dangerous goods.

However, we are far from helpless in the face of this judicial anarchy. Many states have adopted comprehensive "long-arm" statutes which locally overrule Asahi and similar decisions, restoring some sense of accountability to their commercial law. Massachusetts extends its reach to any company or individual who "derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in this commonwealth." New York takes it even further, not even requiring that the "substantial revenue" come from within the state as long as it originates from "interstate or international commerce" of any sort. The U.S. law, though, is not nearly so comprehensive, largely restricting federal jurisdiction to situations either of waiver or "in which the action is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or upon an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere." 28 U.S.C. §1605. This will offer almost no protection against defects in the millions of imports that will flood our market if the TPP indeed goes into effect.

I recall that Justice Cardozo once said that "it is possible to use almost anything in a way that will make it dangerous if defective" - and clearly such faulty global policy will indeed be highly hazardous. Therefore, instead of opening the door even further to a practice already costing millions in unpaid damages and an inestimable amount of distress, injury and grief, maybe our government should focus on repairing the laws already in place.

Say No To TPP

|
It's another average American evening, and there I am again, wandering the aisles of German-based grocery store Aldi. I begin to examine a package of bright red tomatoes, and intrigued by their unseasonable freshness, I begin to read the label. The vegetables, I discover, were grown in Mexico -- but distributed by a company headquartered in Ontario. Somewhat alarmed by this corporation's deliberate avoidance of the USA, I start examining other products around the store and the town, and discover the omnipresence of foreign goods. Walmart candy: the cherry balls were made in Canada and the peppermints originated south of the border. Canned fruit: the consumer is offered the comforting choice between Chinese and Mexican regulators. Apple juice: Argentina, China, and Turkey make their appearance frequently, but it seems unlikely Johnny Appleseed could find a buyer anytime soon. Silverware: It takes thirty minutes of reading the small print on the backs of tablespoons even to find tableware from Vietnam, and even longer to debate whether that's any safer than China or not. Tinfoil: "Made in America," but the generic brand admits using metal from Russia and the Reynolds Wrap package conveniently doesn't mention it. Even merchandise proudly sporting miniature American flags and other patriotic decorations is more often than not crafted from "imported materials."

Cheap, imported goods are commonplace and unavoidable, thanks to two factors -- international agreements such as NAFTA , which legalized and effectively sanctioned outsourcing, and common law decisions such as Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987), which placed foreign companies completely out of the reach of US courts and regulators. Yet it still does not appear the U.S. government has learned its lesson.

Hence the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

According to its official website, the TPP "levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses, leading to more Made-in-America exports and more higher-paying American jobs here at home." But in reality, it opens the door to even more state-sanctioned outsourcing while providing no protections for sweatshop workers or enforceable environmental requirements. Therefore, we at PlanetGreen.org take a firm stand against it, and, in our "Say No to TPP" series," will explore the terms of the agreement not as they are conveniently summarized by the government but as they will affect our everyday lives and our collective strength and growth as a nation.

Tags

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.