If this Huffington Post article is accurate, the Obama administration's trade representative, Ron Kirk, has embraced provisions in international trade talks which would allow multinational corporations to appeal U.S. laws and regulations they don't like to an international tribunal under the auspices of the World Bank. And, potentially, get them overturned.
WASHINGTON -- A critical document from President Barack Obama's free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.
The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration's trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.
Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.The Trans-Pacific Partnership talks include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The talks do not include China or any other G8 nations; the only other G20 nation in the group is Australia. So it's not as though this treaty would immediately open the floodgates to a deluge of objections to U.S. laws and regulations. It does, however, appear to set a troubling and perilous precedent: if the United States agrees to these terms in one multinational trade agreement, it can hardly object to them in future talks, which may include nations that headquarter multinational corporations with substantial clout. Moreover, according to a Public Citizen press release, the TPP is unusual among international trading partnerships in that additional nations may join the group in the future and be granted all the same privileges as the negotiating members. Japan is not yet a formal partner in the talks but has announced its interest in joining the group, and Kirk has stated that he would welcome China's inclusion in the TPP.
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.
"We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications," reads the campaign document.
Whatever one's degree of loyalty to President Obama and his administration may be, it's hard to see this policy position as anything but a betrayal of the consumer, labor and environmental protections that years of progressive advocacy have fought for and won.