by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Thanks to WikiLeaks, a chapter of the secret agreement being negotiated by the White House has been made public. It will enshrine corporate profits as sacred rights, above the ability of local governments to make health, safety, wage, and “buy-local” regulations, and enable corporations to patent drugs, trivial techniques, diseases and living organisms.
The Obama Legacy, Part 1 of Many: Why Are Obama's Trade Negotiations Secret? Because TPP & TAFTA are NAFTA on Crack & Evil Steroids
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
That's what NAFTA gave us: lower wages and higher unemployment on both sides of the US-Mexican border"
Back in 1995, a Democrat in the White House told us the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA would create hundreds of thousands of new US jobs.
What it actually did, along with billions in corporate welfare to Big Agribusiness, was send cheap genetically modified corn to Mexico, the land where humans first domesticated corn a thousand or two years ago. The cheap US frankenfood corn contaminated the genome of original Mexican corn varieties, and sent Mexican corn prices so low that local farmers couldn't pay their bills. Millions were driven off the land into the cities, looking for work to keep their families alive.
NAFTA also gave US subsidies to US businesses wanting to relocate to the new belt of factories along the Mexican border that sprang up to take advantage of a new and desperately cheap workforce there, and thoughtfully provided employers protection from even Mexican health & safety regulations. When those business picked up and ran to the Philippines, Bangladesh or China a few years later, unemployed Mexicans crossed into the US by the millions, again seeking to keep their families alive. The long racist tradition of a two-tier US labor market made it almost natural for employers to add a new bottom tier for immigrant labor.
That's what NAFTA gave us: lower wages and higher unemployment on both sides of the US-Mexican border. Goods and capital now cross those borders freely, people and prosperity, not so much. Now it's 2 decades later. Another Democrat in the White House wants another pair of trade treaties, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). But this time, we have two decades of experience on what these trade deals are, and how to stop them. And they can be stopped.
Though Barack Obama says they will be job-creating beasts, the terms and progress of the negotiations are classified, which means there is no LEGAL way for citizens to learn what is being negotiated. The only way the public has gained any knowledge of what's in the agreement, and how the talks are progressing has been for WikiLeaks to obtain and publish a chapter of the proposed TPP agreement.
If your name isn't Monsanto, Disney, or Goldman Sachs, it ain't good news, according to Dr. Margaret Flowers of Flush the TPP. About 600 multinational corporate lobbyists are writing the treaty, backed up by their champions, the representatives of the US government and a handful of other wealthy nations. Their job is to force the thing down the throats of relatively small and less powerful nations, who are often more directly responsive to popular pressure than the US government, and whose populations are better informed on the issues than here, where corporate media keep us well-entertained, but ill-informed, or even dis-informed.
For the record, here are just a few of the wonderful things TAFTA and TPP will do:
They will extend the length of existing copyrights and patents (they call this intellectual property) almost indefinitely, so that high prices can be extracted for existing drugs and their derivatives forever, and no works of art or science may pass into the public domain.
They will enable corporations to patent and claim “intellectual property rights” to just about anything, including surgical techniques, the genomes of living organisms and diseases, and the chemical compounds existing in natural substances, all the better to extract revenue from those of us who need to eat, wear clothes, or get sick.
They will enshrine the doctrine of “takings” into international law, sanctifying corporate profits so that governments anywhere on earth which enact wage and hour, environmental, or “buy local” laws can be successfully sued in secret courts to compensate corporations for lost current and future profits.
They will promote and sometimes require the privatization of public health, public land, public transit, and public utilities like water worldwide, to better enable the extraction of rent from people who do things like drink water, grow or eat food, travel or live indoors.
They will promote the rights of transnational investors and capital over those of local communities and the environment at every turn, and transform government into an even purer instrument of the one percent than it is now.
"The secret trade negotiations of the Obama administration are the admission of its weakness..."
There's more, lots more than we can cover in this short article. We urge you to follow the links in this article to get a grasp of what so-called “free trade” agreements are, and what can be done to stop them, and to take some action yourself. Again, it's vital to understand that TPP and TAFTA can be stopped. Local governments, as Dr. Flowers points out, are passing resolutions to defy anti “buy-local” and other common free-trade provisions. Even some corporate Democrats are jumping, or threatening to jump the ship on this one.
The secret trade negotiations of the Obama administration are the admission of its weakness. As Obama trade representative Ron Kirk conceded, if the American public knew what its representatives were pushing in these trade talks, they'd be in overwhelming opposition. The first and last thing to remember is that although the US political system is designed and constantly refined to make it more and more democracy proof and people proof, it only works if we let it. Let's not.
It's time to stop caring what our betters don't allow, and oppose these “trade agreements” anyhow. It's time to take some action. Now.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.