Article – David Cooke

We should avoid the TPPA like the plague, for at least four main reasons. First, we should be instantly suspicious of any negotiations conducted in oppressive secrecy. The lead nation, America, has everything to gain and much to hide, so much so that …

The TPPA: Corporate Control on Steroids

by David Cooke
November 30, 2012

We should avoid the TPPA like the plague, for at least four main reasons. First, we should be instantly suspicious of any negotiations conducted in oppressive secrecy. The lead nation, America, has everything to gain and much to hide, so much so that Canada and Mexico were prevented from seeing the existing text in advance, when they moved to join up. Who does get access to the full text? Six hundred corporate reps acting as official US trade advisors.

And that’s the second reason. The TPPA is a mechanism for huge multinational corporations to gain massive control over nations’ decision-making. Under the Agreement, corporations will have procedures for over-riding the law-making of nation-states. A case in point is unelected three-person tribunals that can decide on international disputes. As Lori Wallach put it in a recent column in The Nation (July 16/23), “the TPPA is mainly about new corporate rights, not trade.” Therefore, safeguards for investors to move jobs off-shore, rights for corporations to sue governments, and removal of regulations in “financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, healthcare.” In the wake of Pike River, we have little cause for considering de-regulation.

Which points to the third main reason. The TPPA is profoundly and explicitly anti-democratic. The last thing these corporations want is democratic countries responding to the needs of their people. The corporations are serious: they plan to run things, just as the MAI wanted to a decade ago. In the late 1990s, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment proposed a sweeping set of pro-corporate measures, which are now re-surfacing in the TPPA. The problem for the MAI was that it became known and publicised world-wide. The internet enabled the rapid spread of information and international criticism, as well-organised groups around the globe fought back. As a result, a number of countries, such as France, pulled the plug on the impending deal. So the TPPA is deliberately highly secretive. Indeed, our own government is signing up to a deal which will remain secret until four years after it comes into force.

And that’s the fourth reason. Our own elected government is selling us out – very consciously, in the full knowledge that under the TPPA, successive NZ governments will be bound and undermined by the powers that Key and co are handing over to foreign corporations. According to the NZ Herald (27 Nov), Key claims that NZ will insist on protecting Pharmac and removing tariffs on dairy products. There’s little reason to believe him. After all, he gave $20m to Warner Brothers, of all people, and worse, to his lasting shame, changed labour laws overnight, to accommodate the movie moguls. But just as importantly, Key says nothing about the other exacting provisions of the TPPA.

There’s a watershed political choice here: either we try to run our own show, or we let the foreign corporations do it for us.

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David Cooke is a senior scholar at York University, Toronto. He is a former staff member at Unitec.

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