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Using the TPP to Renegotiate and Expand NAFTA
by Dana Gabriel via gan - Global Research Tuesday, Jun 26 2012, 9:11am
international / social/political / other press

Both Canada and Mexico have been invited to join the U.S., along with other countries already engaged in negotiations which will deepen trade and economic ties within the Asia-Pacific region. Such a deal would surpass NAFTA in size and scope. The U.S. led talks which have been criticized for their secretive nature, could be used to update aspects of existing trade pacts among member nations. This would provide the perfect opportunity for a backdoor renegotiation of NAFTA without officially having to open it back up.

After expressing interest in joining trade talks back in November 2011, NAFTA partners have been invited to join the U.S. backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which also includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk welcomed both Mexico and Canada into the TPP fold. He noted that, “Mexico has assured the United States that it is prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement that will include issues that were not covered in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).” He added, “Inviting Canada to join the TPP negotiations presents a unique opportunity for the United States to build upon this already dynamic trading relationship. Through TPP, we are bringing the relationship with our largest trading partner into the 21st century.” A joint statement by the U.S. and Canada acknowledged that, “The TPP presents an opportunity to conclude a high standard agreement that will build on the commitments of NAFTA.”

The Council of Canadians who continue to be vocal opponents of NAFTA and other trade deals that follow the same flawed template, are strongly against Canada’s entry into the TPP. Its national chairperson, Maude Barlow warned that this, “could force Canada to change its drug policies, its copyright policies, its environmental and public health rules – all without going through the normal parliamentary process.” The organization cautioned how, “TPP negotiations could mean up-front concessions in a number of areas, including intellectual property rights, where the U.S. is making considerable demands on TPP member countries that will undermine access to essential medicines so that its multinational drug firms can increase profits.” They also emphasized that, “Supply management, which guarantees fair wages and stable prices for farmers in non-exporting sectors, is too valuable to Canada to sacrifice on a negotiating table.” Others have pointed out that it is important as a buy-local program, as well as key to Canada’s food security and food sovereignty. The Council of Canadians maintains that, “the TPP is by and large a NAFTA renegotiation but on U.S. President Obama’s terms.”

Not surprisingly, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, an organization that lobbies the government on behalf of the country’s largest corporations, welcomed the announcement that Canada has been invited to join the TPP talks. Its President and CEO John Manley stated that, “By signing on to the TPP, the federal government has taken an historic leap toward securing Canada’s long-term strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also applauded Canada and Mexico’s entry into the TPP. Its President and CEO Thomas Donohue argued that, “negotiating the TPP together is an excellent strategic decision for North America.” Back in January, the Council of the Americas explained how, “it makes little sense for the United States to enter into potentially significant trade arrangements with countries in the Pacific region without our NAFTA partners.” They view the TPP as a “promising vehicle to support the updating of our bilateral and trilateral trading relationships within North America to the high standards of twenty-first century free-trade agreements.”

In his article, Will invitation to join TPP talks lead to NAFTA 2.0?, Peter Clark one of Canada’s leading international trade strategists concluded that, “A successful TPP would allow NAFTA to essentially be re-opened without the optics of it actually being re-opened.” He went on to say, “The business leaders in all three NAFTA countries, as strong supporters of TPP invitations to Canada and Mexico, understand that after nearly 20 years, modernization of NAFTA is needed. For rules of origin, supply chain management and manufacturing integration.” Clark stressed that, “All Canadians should be clear about this – TPP is the negotiation of NAFTA 2.0 and it could have major implications for Canada-USA trade relations.” Meanwhile, both countries are implementing the Beyond the Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan which has been described as the most significant steps forward in U.S.-Canada cooperation since NAFTA. Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute observed how, “The TPP negotiating agenda is at once similar to the bilateral agenda that Canada and the United States are pursuing, and also more ambitious and multilateral.”

In May, the TPP held its twelfth round of negotiations with the next set of talks scheduled to take place in San Diego, California from July 2-10. So far, there has been a real lack of transparency, but what is clear is that the TPP seeks to go beyond other trade agreements. According to a leaked text by Public Citizen, it would expand on the investor privileges found in NAFTA, granting corporations more power and further threatening the sovereign rights of member nations. In the meantime, the U.S. continues to spearhead TPP negotiations as a way of countering growing Chinese influence. The door is open for other countries to join which is why it is considered to be a stepping stone to a larger free trade area of the Asia-Pacific and an important part of the international corporate globalization agenda.

Trade deals such as NAFTA and now the TPP are being used to smuggle through a new set of transnational corporate rights, trapping nations in a web of treaties that further trump their own laws. All too often, these agreements fail to deliver on the promise of prosperity and only serve to accelerate the path towards economic enslavement. Globalization has meant sacrificing self-sufficiency and sovereignty for foreign dependency which is a sure path to world government.

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TPP Seals Obama's Pro-Corporate Approach to Foreign Policy
by Mark Engler via gail - Dissent Magazine Wednesday, Jul 4 2012, 9:32pm

Obama, a president of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. [Your nose is on your face not your ass!]

With recent revelations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, it is now safe to say that President Obama has surpassed George W. Bush as a champion of the flawed and offensive ideology of corporate globalization.

This argument requires some explanation. Here's the backstory: As the Bush administration commenced in the early 2000s, many argued that his foreign policy represented a continuation of the Clinton-era approach to promoting "free trade" neoliberalism overseas. However, I contended that, especially after the launch of the Iraq war in 2003, the unilateralist bullying of the neocons represented a split from past practice.

No doubt, big arms and big oil had their needs met by the Bush agenda. But his administration was wary of multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, which were central instruments of U.S. policy under Clinton. The Bush approach relied on our-way-or-the-highway, coalition-of-the-willing hard power. This made a significant portion of corporate America uncomfortable, especially businesses trying to navigate and expand in foreign markets. It also left the soft-power agenda of "free trade" in an uncertain state.

This was essentially the thesis of my 2008 book, How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy. Around the time the book came out, I wrote:

In October 2007...the Wall Street Journal reported that the [Republican] party could be facing a brand crisis as "[s]ome business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share."

When it comes to corporate responses to [Bush's] Global War on Terror, we mostly hear about the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater—companies directly implicated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and with the mentality of looters. Such firms have done their best to score quick profits from the military machine. However, there was always a faction of realist, business-oriented Republicans who opposed the invasion from the start, in part because they believed it would negatively impact the U.S. economy. As the [Bush administration's] adventure in Iraq has descended into the morass, the ranks of corporate complainers have only grown.

The "free trade" elite have become particularly upset about the administration's focus on go-it-alone nationalism and its disregard for multilateral means of securing influence. This belligerent approach to foreign affairs, they believe, has thwarted the advance of corporate globalization. In an April 2006 column in the Washington Post, globalist cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby laid blame for "why globalization has stalled" at the feet of the Bush administration. The White House, Mallaby charged, was unwilling to invest any political capital in the IMF, the World Bank, or the WTO....Frustrated by Bush's failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return.

My concern back then was that a Democrat (either Obama or Hillary Clinton) would be elected to office and then abandon the overt militarism and "imperial globalization" of the Bush administration, but embrace a subtler, more multilateralist "free trade" neoliberalism—reclaiming the agenda of corporate globalization. I would have been pleased if this prediction had proved wrong. Sadly, Obama has provided irrefutable evidence that he has boarded the corporate globalist bandwagon.

At the end of the administration's first year, I gave Obama a "B" for trade policy on a report card for Foreign Policy In Focus. While there was some rumbling about resurrecting stalled bilateral trade deals with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, the administration hadn't done much to push things forward. Things were quiet. And given the kind of trade deals that Washington has brokered in the last couple decades, no news is good news in this arena.

Unfortunately, by 2011, the administration was pushing these so-called "free trade" deals hard. It succeeded in passing them through Congress and then signing them into law last fall.

Obama's trade policy grade was plummeting, but new information shows things to be even worse. In the past month the president has officially failed out of "fair trade" class. On June 13, Public Citizen released a leaked document showing that the TPP—a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and eight Pacific countries under considerable secrecy—is shaping up to be as bad as NAFTA or worse.

Public Citizen wrote in a press release:

Although the TPP has been branded a "trade" agreement, the leaked text of the pact's Investment Chapter shows that the TPP would:

—Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;

—Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;

—Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and

—Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.

In the weeks since that leak, it has been reported that Mexico and Canada will both be joining TPP talks, setting the stage for the creation of a behemoth trading bloc. This bloc will operate based on rules backed (and often concocted) by corporate lobbyists.

It didn't have to be this way. It was not preordained that President Obama would become Corporate-Globalizer-in-Chief. The base of the Democratic Party has aligned itself firmly against the "free trade" agenda—so much so that both Obama and Clinton campaigned in 2008 against the NAFTA model and in favor of a "fair trade" alternative. In fact, going into the 2012 elections, there's evidence that Obama's betrayal of earlier vows could be a significant liability among voters and a bitter pill for key constituencies the president needs if his campaign is going to overcome the enthusiasm gap between progressives and the Republican faithful.

Yet instead of taking the chance to redefine American interests in the world as something other than securing profits for U.S. businesses, Obama has allowed an ingrained pro-corporate obsequiousness to permeate the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of State.

It's not the unilaterist hubris of the Bush administration. But it's still a detestable foreign policy—and a sorely missed opportunity for something better.

© 2012 Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Inc


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