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YES! Magazine [1] / By Lori Wallach [2]
December 5, 2012  |  

While the election season seized everyone’s attention, government officials and 600 official corporate “advisors” were working behind closed doors to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Negotiations have been cloaked in unprecedented secrecy and its proponents have mislabeled the TPP as a “free trade” agreement. In reality, the TPP is about much more than trade. It threatens a stealthy, slow-motion corporate coup d'etat, formalizing and locking in corporate rule over most aspects of our lives.

Thirteen years ago, at the World Trade Organization’s [3] (WTO) Seattle Ministerial, a similar threat in the form of a massive expansion of the powers and scope of the WTO was stopped. 

At the Battle in Seattle, the immovable object called grassroots democracy was victorious [4] over the allegedly unstoppable force of corporate-led globalization. The “Doha Round,” which followed two years later and continued the attempt to expand the WTO’s reign, was alsoderailed [5] thanks to tenacious campaigning [6] by organizations and activists worldwide.

Recalling these historic moments, when people power stopped the dangerous expansion of corporate power, is especially sweet today, when we must again act to safeguard these inspiring victories. All of us who will live with the results must become active to stop the TPP, the latest iteration of corporate coup via “trade” agreement.

What Would the TPP Do?

Eleven countries are now involved—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—and there is an open invitation for more to join. Think of the TPP as a NAFTA on steroids, which could encompass half of the world.

This is the largest, most potentially damaging agreement since the 1995 establishment of the WTO. And you may never have heard about it before. That’s because the negotiations, which have been underway for three years, are being conducted in extreme secrecy [7]. The public, Congress [8], and the press are locked out, but the 600 official corporate advisors have access to the negotiating texts.

The TPP is the latest strategy by the same gang [9] who got us into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pushed for the expansion of the WTO: American job-offshorers like GE and Caterpillar; banksters like Citi; pharmaceutical price-gouging giants like Pfizer; oil, gas, and mining multinationals like Chevron and Exxon; and agribusiness monopolists like Cargill and Monsanto. 

They’ve misbranded the TPP as a model 21st-Century “trade” deal to try to sell it with the usual false promises of it expanding exports. But only two of the TPP’s 29 chapters are about “trade.”

Most of the TPP’s proposed provisions instead comprise a corporate power grab [10]. The TPP would includeextreme protections [11] for foreign investors, which would help corporations offshore American jobs to low-wage countries. These terms would require governments to provide foreign investors a guaranteed “minimum standard of treatment” when they relocate, including special privileges and rights that domestic firms and investors do not enjoy. Foreign firms—or foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms—could extract unlimited amounts of taxpayer money as compensation when investors claim that U.S. government actions undermine a corporation’s expected future profits. Seriously. [12]

Equal Status for Corporations and Country

The investor rules would elevate individual foreign firms and investors to the same status as the sovereign nations that would be party to the TPP. Corporations and investors would be empowered to privately enforce the agreement by suing a signatory government before the World Bank and other foreign tribunals. In this “investor-state dispute resolution,” three private-sector lawyers, who rotate between suing governments and acting as “judges,” could order governments to pay large amounts of our tax dollars to investors who do not want to follow the same laws as domestic firms. 

Under similar, if less grandiose, provisions in NAFTA, investors have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in cases attacking bans on toxic chemicals, land use rules, and more. Phillip Morris Asia has attacked  [13]Australia’s cigarette plain packing law—which requires that health warnings be included in cigarette packaging—before such a tribunal. Australia announced [14] in April that it will not agree to be bound to the investor-state regime in the TPP. Negotiators from the United States have declared that all TPP nations must submit to this regime.

Either by winning an investor-state dispute or by preemptively putting a chill on government actions to address critical public needs, the TPP’s investor rights would impose an outer bound of the possible for communities and countries setting policies related to health, the environment, water, or other natural resources. There is almost no progressive movement or campaign whose goals are not threatened, while vast swaths of public-interest policy achieved through decades of struggle are poised to be undermined as these attacks proliferate.

Progressive Achievements Rolled Back

The TPP would also ban existing and future “Buy Local” and “Buy American” [15] procurement policies. These are rules that direct federal and state governments to reinvest our tax dollars to create American jobs by buying domestically made cars, steel, food, and more, and by giving contracts to local construction firms or call centers firms. 

The TPP also would expose to attack green and sweat-free procurement rules that specify that only recycled paper, non-old-growth wood products, renewable-source energy, or products made under fair labor standards can be purchased with government funds. Under these terms, democracies would no longer be able to decide that we want to invest our tax dollars to create jobs at home or to create markets for green energy or morally produced goods. Instead, the TPP would require our governments to send our money offshore [16] and spend it with firms trashing human rights and the environment.

The TPP would limit financial regulation [17] by forbidding bans on risky derivatives and other dangerous financial products, as well as the use of capital controls  [18]to counter wild surges of speculative investments in and out of countries, which destabilize the global economy. The massive financial firms that caused the financial crisis could use these terms to roll back the new financial regulations implemented in the U.S. and around the world.

As far as health care goes, the TPP would grant new monopoly privileges to Big Pharma that would jack up medicine prices and cut consumers’ access to life-saving medicines [19] in the developing countries involved in the TPP. There is a proposal to allow pharmaceutical firms to challenge the pricing decisions of cost-saving drug formularies, which are used by developing countries and, increasingly, by the United States, to bargain for better prices with drug firms. 

One chapter would even attack Internet freedom by imposing through the backdoor damaging aspects of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) [20], which citizen activism derailed in the U.S. Congress.

A Trade Justice Coalition Emerges (Again)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. [21] But it’s precisely the extreme nature of the TPP corporate wish list that is its greatest vulnerability—and our greatest opportunity. The 1-percenter TPP agenda would harm most of us in the United States and in the other countries involved. It can only survive if left shrouded in darkness. Citizen activists in many of the TPP countries are building an inspiring global movement implementing the “Dracula strategy” [7] to drag the TPP into the sunshine so those who will have to live with its consequences can know what’s coming and take action.

Civil society groups representing millions of members worldwide [22] have joined together in raising the alarm. And, given the stunning audacity of the TPP’s prospective corporate power grab, activism is reaching beyond the environmental [23]consumer [24], labor [25], family farm, and access to medicines [26] groups who have been the mainstay of movements against past “trade” agreement attacks. Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Avaaz, Consumers International, tobacco controls groups, and many other organizations have become involved [27]

From the United States to Australia [28] and even to Malaysia [29] (where any public gathering the authorities consider to be a protest is illegal and participants are subject to arrest), protests are growing. Outside each posh resort where TPP negotiators meet behind closed doors, citizens gather to chant “Flush the TPP,” [30]“Release the Text,” and “Peoples’ Needs, Not Corporate Greed!”

At the next round of negotiations, which will be held in early December in Auckland, New Zealand, negotiators hope to finish several chapters of the deal, so they can sign the whole thing in the first quarter of 2013. 

Each of us can make a difference [31]. Given the threats that the TPP poses to a stunningly broad range of fundamental rights and public needs, this is a fight—like the Battle in Seattle in 1999 [32]—that can unite a powerful coalition of movements. And it is people power that will be victorious against the TPP corporate power grab, if you help spread the word.


Lori Wallach wrote this article for YES! Magazine [33], a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. A Harvard-trained lawyer, Ms. Wallach has promoted the public interest regarding globalization and international commercial agreements in every forum: Congress and foreign parliaments, the courts, government agencies, and the media. She is director of Public Citizen [34]’s Global Trade Watch.

Interested?

See more stories tagged with:
tpp [38],
trade [39],

Links:
[1] http://www.yesmagazine.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/lori-wallach-0
[3] http://citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=758
[4] http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=758
[5] http://www.citizen.org/documents/owinfs-press-release-doha-text-april-21-2011.pdf
[6] http://www.citizen.org/trade/article_redirect.cfm?ID=1582
[7] http://youtu.be/cWgtygGCbfU
[8] http://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/blog/post/iycmi-wyden-statement-introducing-congressional-oversight-over-trade-negotiations-act
[9] http://www.tppcoalition.org/documents/Members%20of%20the%20Coalition%20(7-2011).pdf
[10] http://youtu.be/9SOokUdKYcM
[11] http://www.citizen.org/documents/Leaked-TPP-Investment-Analysis.pdf
[12] http://www.citizen.org/documents/investor-state-chart.pdf
[13] http://kluwerarbitrationblog.com/blog/2012/01/29/investor-state-arbitration-and-plain-packaging-the-new-%E2%80%98anti-tobacco-movement%E2%80%99-has-begun/
[14] http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/main-page/multiple-countries-rejecting-investor-state-dispute-settlement
[15] http://donnaedwards.house.gov/uploads/Buy%20American%20TPP%20Ltr%20to%20Admin.pdf
[16] http://www.citizen.org/documents/TPP-Buy-American.pdf
[17] http://www.citizen.org/documents/memo-korea-fta-capital-controls-2-24-12.pdf
[18] http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/FinancialSvcsDemMedia/file/press/112/Frank_%20Levin%20letter%20to%20Geithner%20RE%20capital%20controls_%20May%2023_%2020120003.pdf
[19] http://www.citizen.org/TPPA
[20] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/08/whats-wrong-tpp
[21] http://citizen.org/tpp
[22] http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/Final-Official_ITUC_TransPacific_Partnership_Labor_Chapter.pdf
[23] http://www.sierraclub.org/trade/trans-pacific-partnership-agreement.aspx
[24] http://www.citizen.org/TPP
[25] http://www.cwa-union.org/issues/entry/c/trans-pacific_free_trade_agreement/#.UI8FPobn-So
[26] http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/2011/MSF-TPP-Issue-Brief.pdf
[27] http://www.citizen.org/tpp#moc
[28] http://www.citizen.org/TPFTA-melbourne
[29] http://www.citizen.org/documents/Pictures%20from%20Malaysia%20protest.pdf
[30] http://www.citizen.org/trans-pacific-partnership-leesburg-round-14#photos
[31] http://www.citizen.org/tppaction
[32] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-wto-in-seattle/wto-1999-in-seattle
[33] http://www.yesmagazine.org/
[34] http://www.citizen.org/
[35] http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/treaty-like-its-1999
[36] http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-tricks-of-the-trade-deals
[37] http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/its-your-body/wto-votes-against-labeling-meat
[38] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tpp
[39] http://www.alternet.org/tags/trade-0
[40] http://www.alternet.org/tags/corporations
[41] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
badnewswade
Dec. 9th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
Hi Nebris

Could you put long posts behind a tag? It's just that it blocks out the rest of my friends page.

Thanks

Andy
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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As the economies around the world teeter once again, with many already having slipped into "Growth Recession" if not outright technical recession, and with many more looking at the real possibility of outright recession in 2012 and 2013, "the recession" in 2011 was seeming mild by way of comparison to what could be lurking just around the corner.

Will "Recession 2012" look as bad as "The Great Recession" of 2007-2009? Could we skirt by this time without a full-on economic death spiral? Will the economy get better by election day? Or will Obama lose the election for economic reasons? (Presidential elections are usually won or lost for base economic reasons in this country, after all).

Stay tuned. I think it's fair to say that it is going to continue to be a pretty wild ride for the world economy for some time to come. Recession 2013? Recession 2014? Did the Great Recession ever really end in the first place? Many think not!



ECRI Weekly Leading Index
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Has a moderate lead over cyclical turns in U.S. economic activity. Data begins in 1967.


Recent Data

Date Level Growth

Jun 29 '12 121.9 -2.9
Jun 22 '12 121.7 -3.2
Jun 15 '12 121.5 -3.2
Jun 08 '12 122.1 -2.8

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Is your state essentially in expansion or recession?
Lt Green-Dark Green: Growing-Faster.
Gray: No growth.
Pink-Dark Red: Contracting-Faster.


What is the
definition of recession?


According to the laypress, and even many economists, a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP (Gross Domestic Product). While this very simple definition is usually the case during recessions, it is not always so.

Most experts now acknowledge that GDP alone is an insufficient determinant of recession.

For one, GDP is often revised several quarters - even years - later, as more complete information becomes available that changes the components of the earlier, initial GDP estimates in what can be very substantial ways.

For another, not all serious downturns exact as serious a toll on GDP. Often, the decline is much more pronounced in GDI (Gross Domestic Income) and/or employment. If the income or employment of a nation is undergoing a pronounced, pervasive and prolonged decline even if for whatever various reasons its GDP may be holding up, is it not foolish to deny that a recession is underway?

For these reasons and others, the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research), the official arbiter of recessions and expansions in the United States, determines whether or not the US has fallen into recession using a much more holistic approach.

As the NBER explains it:
Q: The financial press often states the definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. How does that relate to the NBER's recession dating procedure?

A:
Most of the recessions identified by our procedures do consist of two or more quarters of declining real GDP, but not all of them. In 2001, for example, the recession did not include two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. In the recession beginning in December 2007 and ending in June 2009, real GDP declined in the first, third, and fourth quarters of 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009. The committee places real Gross Domestic Income on an equal footing with real GDP; real GDI declined for six consecutive quarters in the recent recession.

Q: Why doesn't the committee accept the two-quarter definition?

A:
The committee's procedure for identifying turning points differs from the two-quarter rule in a number of ways. First, we do not identify economic activity solely with real GDP and real GDI, but use a range of other indicators as well. Second, we place considerable emphasis on monthly indicators in arriving at a monthly chronology. Third, we consider the depth of the decline in economic activity. Recall that our definition includes the phrase, "a significant decline in activity." Fourth, in examining the behavior of domestic production, we consider not only the conventional product-side GDP estimates, but also the conceptually equivalent income-side GDI estimates. The differences between these two sets of estimates were particularly evident in the recessions of 2001 and 2007-2009.

Q: How does the committee weight employment in determining the dates of peaks and troughs?

A.
In the 2007-2009 recession, the central indicators–real GDP and real GDI–gave mixed signals about the peak date and a clear signal about the trough date. The peak date at the end of 2007 coincided with the peak in employment. We designated June 2009 as the trough, six months before the trough in employment, which is consistent with earlier trough dates in the NBER business-cycle chronology. In the 2001 recession, we found a clear signal in employment and a mixed one in the various measures of output. Consequently, we picked the peak month based on the clear signal in employment, as well as our consideration of output and other measures. In that cycle, as well, the dating of the trough relied primarily on output measures.

Q: Isn't a recession a period of diminished economic activity?

A:
It's more accurate to say that a recession–the way we use the word–is a period of diminishing activity rather than diminished activity. We identify a month when the economy reached a peak of activity and a later month when the economy reached a trough. The time in between is a recession, a period when economic activity is contracting. The following period is an expansion. As of September 2010, when we decided that a trough had occurred in June 2009, the economy was still weak, with lingering high unemployment, but had expanded considerably from its trough 15 months earlier.




What is a
"Double Dip Recession"?


In the most general sense a Double Dip Recession occurs when an economy falls back into contraction for at least a couple of months (usually at least six) after a relatively brief expansion.

By this definition, the recession of 1981-82 which followed a year-long expansion after the very short, two quarter's long 1980 recession, seems to qualify. Also by this broad definition, the 1937 recession that occurred four years after the end of the 1929-1933 recession also qualifies. While each of those were technically "new" recessions, they happened so soon after their predecessors that many people tend to think of the separate 1980 & 1981-82 recessions as one nasty, long recession. Similarly, most people think of the 1929-1933 & 1937 recessions as encompassing "The Great Depression."

Another definition of a "Double Dip Recession" would be that of a recession which technically has not ended, and was only punctuated by a quarter or twos worth of head-fake rise in GDP. Many recessions throughout history have had such false hopes, only to swoon back down into contraction, until they finally came to an end.

List of Recessions:
Post-1900 US Recessions

Mo/Yr Started Duration
Sep 1902 - 23 Months
May 1907 - 13 Months
Jan 1910 - 24 Months
Jan 1913 - 23 Months
Aug 1918 - 7 Months
Jan 1920 - 18 Months
May 1923 - 14 Months
Oct 1926 - 13 Months
Aug 1929 - 43 Months
May 1937 - 13 Months
Feb 1945 - 8 Months
Nov 1948 - 11 Months
Jul 1953 - 10 Months
Aug 1957 - 8 Months
Apr 1960 - 10 Months
Dec 1969 - 11 Months
Nov 1973 - 16 Months
Jan 1980 - 6 Months
Jul 1981 - 16 Months
Jul 1990 - 8 Months
Mar 2001 - 8 Months
Dec 2007 - 18 Months


What is
Gross National Happiness (GNH)?


An alternate measure of a nation's wealth was conceptualized several decades ago as a means of cutting through the overemphasis on materialism of traditional wealth measures, and seeing the bigger picture.

According to GNHUSA.Org

  Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an indicator developed in Bhutan in the Himalayas, based on the concept elaborated in 1972 by the then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Since then, the kingdom of Bhutan, with the support of UNDP (UN Development Program), began to put this concept into practice, and has attracted the attention of the rest of the world with its new formula to measure the progress of a community or nation.

GNH is based on the premise that the calculation of "wealth" should consider other aspects besides economic development: the preservation of the environment and the quality of life of the people. The goal of a society should be the integration of material development with psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects - all in harmony with the Earth.

The Four Pillars of GNH

  • the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
  • the preservation and promotion of cultural values
  • the conservation of the natural environment, and
  • the establishment of good governance.



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