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Now that we can see the TPP text, we know why it’s been secret

By the admin - Systemic Disorder, November 11, 2015

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership can now be viewed by the public, thanks to the New Zealand government, and it is every bit as bad as activists have been warning.

The TPP, if enacted, promises a race to the bottom: An acceleration of jobs to the countries with the lowest wages, the right of multi-national corporations to veto any law or regulation their executives do not like, the end of your right to know what is in your food, higher prices for medicines, and the subordination of Internet privacy to corporate interests. There is a reason it has been negotiated in secret, with only corporate executives and industry lobbyists consulted and allowed to see the text as it took shape.

The threat from the TPP extends beyond the 12 negotiating countries, however — the TPP is intended to be a “docking” agreement whereby other countries can join at any time, provided they accept the text as it has been previously negotiated. Moreover, the TPP is a model for two other deals: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), an even more secret “free trade” deal being negotiated among 50 countries that would eliminate any controls on the financial industry.

The elimination of protections is precisely what U.S. multi-national corporations intend for Europe by replicating the terms of the TPP in the TTIP, a process made easier by the anti-democratic nature of the European Commission, which is negotiating for European governments. Already, higher Canadian standards in health, the environment and consumer protections are under sustained assault under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The TPP is an unprecedented corporate giveaway, going well beyond even NAFTA, which has hurt working people and farmers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

More than 300,000 jobs in the U.S. alone may be eliminated by the passage of the TPP. The Wall Street Journal, in an article celebrating victory for multi-national capital, nonetheless reported that 330,000 manufacturing jobs would be lost, basing this estimate on an estimated US$56 billion increase in the national trade deficit. That forecast is based on a U.S. Department of Commerce estimate that 6,000 jobs are lost for every $1 billion of added trade deficit.

Uruguay Shows the Way by Leaving Secret Trade Deal

By Viviana Barreto and Sam Cossar-Gilbert - Common Dreams, September 17, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A strong coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and farmers working together on an effective public campaign were able to take on the interests of the world's biggest companies and win.

Last week the Uruguayan government decided to end its involvement in the secret negotiations of the Trade in Services Agreement TISA, signifying an important victory in the global fight against bad trade deals.

TISA is a radical new deal that aims to go far beyond current trade rules and force States to further open their markets to foreign corporations, privatize public services and reduce regulations. These measures often mean job losses, less environmental protection, and less accessible healthcare and education.

Uruguay has created a blueprint for how to stop this corporate-driven agreement.  It is time for  other countries to follow the lead and end TISA once and for all.

After months of intense pressure led by unions and other social movements—including a general strike on the issue—the Uruguayan President listened to public opinion and left the US-led trade agreement. The overwhelming majority of members of the ruling Frente Amplio party believe that the deal would undermine the government's national development strategy and therefore considered it “unadvisable to continue participating in the TISA negotiations”.

Why we must oppose austerity and join the Manchester protest: a Green Perspective

By the Green Trade Unionist - A Green Trade Unionist in Bristol, August 14, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We all know that austerity is a ‘social justice’ disaster. This morally reprehensible policy is forcing ordinary people – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – to pay for the economic crash caused by the reckless speculating of unaccountable banks in deregulated financial markets. In its most extreme the cuts to disability benefits, the NHS and a vindictive regime of benefit sanctioning have led to thousands of deaths. Austerity kills.

On top of this, the economic justification for inflicting all this misery has been completely discredited with most economists agreeing that by shrinking the economy austerity has harmed growth, prolonged the effects of the recession (even the IMF is issuing proclamations against it) and utterly failed as an apparent strategy to reduce national debt. Austerity is revealed to be not an economic necessity but a repackaged conservative ideology to undermine the welfare state. The financial crash is being used as a smokescreen to implement the same brand of neoliberal policies (cuts to public spending, privatisation and de-regulation) that led to it in the first place.

All this is grounds enough for why austerity is wrong and why we must fight against it, and large protests like the 250,000-strong June 20th Demo in London and the ones in Manchester in October this year (co-organised by the TUC and The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, to coincide with the Tory Party Conference) are crucial in building this struggle against a great social injustice. Nonetheless, within these debates and protest movements we must be sure to argue that austerity is also a huge obstruction to the aims of environmental justice and directly threatens attempts to mitigate climate change.

McWhoppers Not Bombs?

By Dan Fischer - Capitalism vs. the Climate, September 14, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Peace has never been less appetizing. In a full-page advertisement last month, Burger King proposed that for the International Day of Peace on September 21, they and McDonald’s put aside their rivalry and open a temporary restaurant selling the “McWhopper”, a blend of their signature burgers the Big Mac and the Whopper. Proceeds would go toward promoting the annual Day of Peace.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook declined Burger King’s offer, saying that the collaboration would not advance peace and that it was silly to liken “friendly business competition” to the “real pain and suffering of war.” Easterbrook is correct, of course, about the stunt being of no benefit to world peace. But what of his second point, that the fast food industry is just business, not war?

Trench Fries and a Vanilla Drone

Actually, business as usual and war aren’t so easy to separate. Fast food companies thrive on war, opening franchises on military bases and in colonized territories around the world. Just ask Thomas Friedman, the restless cheerleader for neoliberal capitalism: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15.” In addition to fast food companies’ connections to outright war, their everyday business inflicts astronomical “real pain and suffering” on humans and animals alike.

The fast food industry has a long history of profiting off the military. McDonald’s established their first drive-through in 1975, in order to serve soldiers at a nearby military base in Arizona. Today, as Naomi Klein writes, “the U.S. Army goes to war with Burger King and Pizza Hut in tow, contracting them to run franchises for the soldiers on military bases from Iraq to the ‘mini city’ at Guantanamo Bay.” Let’s say you’re visiting Guantanamo and get hungry. You can order a Bacon Clubhouse Burger from McDonald’s, or if you’re more in the mood for Kentucky Fried Chicken, you can always get some popcorn nuggets. There is also a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, and a Baskin-Robbins.

Obama’s Trade Agreements are a Gift to Corporations

By Robert Kuttner - Common Dreams, April 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Thursday, legislation moved forward that would give President Obama authority to negotiate two contentious trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But for the most part, these aren’t trade agreements at all. They’re a gift to corporations, here and in partner countries, that claim to be restrained by domestic regulations.

If these deals pass, the pharmaceutical industry could get new leverage to undermine regulations requiring the use of generic drugs. The tobacco industry has used similar “trade” provisions to attack cigarette package warnings.

A provision in both deals, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would allow corporations to do end runs around national governments by taking their claims to special tribunals, with none of the due process of normal law. This provision has attracted the most opposition. It’s such a stinker that one of the proposed member nations, Australia, got an exemption for its health and environmental policies.

To get so-called fast-track treatment for these deals, the administration needs special trade promotion authority from Congress. But Obama faces serious opposition in his own party, and he will need lots of Republican votes. He has to hope that Republicans are more eager to help their corporate allies than to embarrass this president by voting down one of his top priorities.

But the real intriguing question is why Obama invests so much political capital in promoting agreements like these. They do little for the American economy, and even less for its workers.

The trade authority vote had been bottled up while the Senate Finance Committee Chair, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and his Democratic counterpart, Ron Wyden of Oregon, worked out compromise language in the hope of winning over skeptical Democrats. The measure announced Thursday includes vague language on protections for labor and environmental standards, human rights, and Internet freedoms. Congress would get slightly longer to review the text, but it would still have to be voted on as a package that could not be amended.

Wyden trumpeted these provisions as breakthroughs, but they were scorned by leading labor and environmental critics as window dressing. Lori Wallach, of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, points out that the language is almost identical to that of a 2014 bill that had to be withdrawn for lack of support. Only about a dozen House Democrats are said to support the measure — and many Republicans won’t back it unless more Democrats do.

But why would they, at a time when Hillary Clinton sounds more populist and momentum is increasing for campaigns to raise the minimum wage? Speaking last week at the Brookings Institution, Jason Furman, chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, proclaimed that, according to an elaborate economic model, by 2025 the Pacific deal would increase US incomes by 0.4 percent, or about $77 billion.

That’s pretty small beer. And as Furman admitted, the projection is only as good as its economic assumptions. One such heroic assumption is full employment, but this deal might well reduce US employment by increasing our trade deficit.

The TPP was rolled out with great fanfare in 2012 as part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.” The subtext was that a Pacific trade deal would help contain China’s influence in its own backyard.

Since then, Beijing has unveiled a development bank that rivals the US-dominated World Bank, and our closest allies — Britain, France, Germany, Italy — are lined up to join. It’s not at all clear how the TPP, whose only large Asian member would be Japan, helps contain China, whose economic influence continues to grow.

Basically, ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993 (NAFTA), trade policy has been on autopilot. Tariffs are now quite low, and these deals are mainly about dismantling health, safety, consumer, labor, environment, and corporate regulations.

These agreements are conceived and drafted by corporations, and sponsored by both political parties. For the Obama administration, the key official negotiating these deals is US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman, a protégé of former Citigroup and Goldman Sachs executive Robert Rubin, who was a big promoter of NAFTA while serving as Bill Clinton’s top economic official.

Mainly, these deals help cement a corporate alliance with the presidential wing of the Democratic Party and divert attention from the much tougher challenge of enacting policies that would actually raise living standards. In the closing days of the Obama era, this is what passes for bipartisanship.

White House Solicits “Green” Sell-outs For Positive Statements on Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers - Global Research, April 08, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. 

The White House has published a handful of comments from “environmental groups” implying widespread support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other corporate trade agreements. Yet these cherry-picked comments from some of the most conservative, corporate-funded environmental groups actually reveal the administration’s desperation to find any support for such deals.

Indeed, the reality is that scores of major environmental organizations including Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife, Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, and many others oppose fast-track for the TPP. Many recognize the TPP is a backward step for environmental protection that will help push the world over the tipping point for climate change.

The White House’s false image of environmental support for the TPP

The White House is having a hard time generating any momentum for fast-track trade authority for the TPP and other agreements. The Obama administration pushed to stop the Seattle City Council from opposing fast-track legislation and the TPP, but instead got a unanimous vote against them from a major port city that trades with Asia.

One of the key issues that has fostered opposition to the TPP is the impact of the agreement on the environment. In order to counter the reality of broad environmental opposition, the White House published an article seeking to spin reality. The White House carefully selected environmental groups that are heavily corporate-funded and then cherry-picked quotes inaccurately portraying their position. In fact, all the groups quoted by the White House have said they have not endorsed the TPP and are waiting to see what the agreement says.

In response to the White House effort Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for 350.org said:  “So many groups and organizations who care about climate change have repeatedly bashed this corporate giveaway — and suggesting otherwise is nothing short of misleading cynicism.” And, Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program said: “The White House took some of their statements and spun them out. There are a large number of environmental groups that came out pretty clearly and said … ‘What we’ve seen on TPP doesn’t look good.’”

Mines, Water, Roads, Borders

By Chaparral - Chaparral Respects No Borders, March 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Resolution Copper land grab is also a water grab, with a projected use of millions of gallons per year and contamination of more; and during what could be a mega-drought. Water is often compared to gold as its value increases the more scarce it becomes, which means we may soon be fighting not only the increasing privatization of land, but also of water. Despite the fact that the Resolution Copper deal, having been snuck into a defense bill, involves an exchange of land, it is being done to the advantage of a transnational mining corporation and to the detriment of the Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel/Oak Flat/Apache Leap area and the people who hold it sacred. This land grab represents a continued prioritization of economic development in so-called Arizona, which means more resource-extraction and increased international trade (specifically with or through Mexico). Mining and other industries shaped by trade-related demand bring not only risk to water, but also more roads like Interstate 11 and rail (which require land acquisition), and increased border militarization. US trade policy is largely culpable for the violence on the border and south of the border.

Economic development is portrayed as bringing more jobs, but these “free-market” policies, as in the case of NAFTA, are meant to redistribute wealth to the hands of the rich. Because of their trade relationship and connecting infrastructure, Arizona and Sonora have a shared fate as land, water, safety, indigenous ways of life and sacred sites are all at risk. The state governments enable resource-extraction and other infrastructural projects, lucrative to those who would build them and those who would finance them, through subsidization and protection with our tax dollars.

Arizona's connection to a port in Guaymas, Sonora is crucial to the Arizona mining industry. Copper is one of the fastest growing US exports, and much of what is and would be mined in Arizona would be transported down to where mining companies such as BHP Billiton (of Resolution Copper) and Freeport McMoran do business at this Mexican port on the Sea of Cortez. Guaymas is also significant because shipping companies can have lower standards for working conditions in Mexico versus the US. This port is the southernmost point of the CANAMEX Corridor, the NAFTA trade route connecting Canada and Mexico through five US states including Arizona. The Port of Guaymas has been expanding over the years and brings along its own set of problems in the vicinity, requiring its own energy sources and water, damaging the environment, impacting the local communities, etc. Arizona is counting on the continued growth of the Mexican economy, yet the importance of the Port of Guaymas also signifies that a lot of exports from the US are meant to cross the Pacific ocean (especially if the Trans Pacific Partnership goes into effect), not stay within its favored trade partner's borders.

A just transition for all: Can the past inform the future?

By various - International Labour Office, 2015

2015 is a decisive year for global agreements on Sustainable Development and climate change. The ILO calls for a just transition for all towards a greener and more socially sustainable economy. This Journal is focussing on drawing lessons from a few transition experiences in order to analyse how successfully (or not) these processes were managed in the past and how future transitions might be handled in a just manner. Challenges such as policy coherence, consultations and participation by all relevant stakeholders are addressed and lessons learned on these issues are highlighted in the Journal.

Read the report (Link).

Troubled Waters: Misleading industry PR and the case for public water

By Emanuele Lobina - Corporate Accountability International, June 2014

When it comes to the nation’s most essential public service, mayors and municipal officials face a momentous challenge.

Local governments are investing in public water systems at all-time highs, but in the absence of adequate federal support, many systems still face serious infrastructure reinvestment gaps. Over the next 20 years, U.S. water systems will likely require a staggering $2.8 to $4.8 trillion investment. In response, private water corporations are waging a national campaign to present privatization, in its many forms, as a cure-all that will reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Even where public water systems are thriving, the private water industry is pressuring public officials to pursue private water contracts repackaged in terms deemed less offensive to a skeptical public. But are public-private partnerships (PPPs), and other euphemisms used to describe water privatization, a way forward?

The key findings of this report indicate no. All too often, promised cost savings fail to materialize or come at the expense of deferred infrastructure maintenance, skyrocketing water rates, and risks to public health.

The current trend toward remunicipalization (return of previously privatized systems to local, public control) of water systems is a primary indicator that privatization and PPPs are not the answer. Since 2003, 33 U.S. municipalities have remunicipalized their water systems. Five have done so in 2014 alone. And an additional 10 have set the wheels in motion to do so this year through legal and/or administrative action. This closely mirrors the accelerating global remunicipalization trend. Paris, where the two largest global private water corporations (Veolia and Suez) originated and are headquartered, has notably led the charge to remunicipalize, saving tens of millions of dollars since returning its water system to public control.

As this report finds, private water contracts can pose substantial economic, legal, and political risk to local officials and the communities they serve. The findings come through review and analysis of lobbying reports, Congressional records, city case studies, and empirical evidence drawn from research by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU). They show the private water industry depends on political interference, misleading marketing, and lack of public oversight to secure its contracts. This report exposes the private water industry’s tactics and makes the case for democratically governed and sustainably managed public water systems, providing public officials with a set of examples and recommendations to bolster public water.

Read the report (PDF).

Trade Deals that Threaten Democracy

By staff - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, June 2014

At its 2002 World Congress, the IUF adopted a wide-ranging resolution on trade and investment committing our organization to vigorously oppose the expanded WTO “Doha Round” agenda and to combat the growing number of bilateral trade and investment agreements as instruments for entrenching and expanding corporate power at the expense of democratic rights and the rights of workers and their trade unions.

The resolution highlighted the function of the expanding web of regional and bilateral agreements in building on the WTO rules to construct, layer upon layer, “investment regimes which enforce the right of corporations to pursue maximum profit while removing and undermining restrictions which seek to regulate corporate activities in the interest of public health, worker and consumer health and safety, public services and the environment.”

The Resolution recalled the IUF’s historical and statutory commitment to promote and defend a broad spectrum of basic rights: the right to adequate, nutritious and safe food; the right to food security and food sovereignty; the right to a safe working and living environment; and the right to livelihood protection. Congress further called on the IUF and its affiliates to “actively support and campaign for governments at every level (local, national, regional) to review all existing trade and investment rules and treaties using these fundamental rights as a benchmark and to reject all trade and investment agreements which conflict with those rights.”

Organized opposition killed the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), an attempt to establish far- reaching powers for transnational investors only partially realized in the WTO’s TRIMS agreement. Popular resistance also halted the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, an attempt to extend the reach of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to all of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2002, growing popular resistance has blocked the advance of the WTO Doha Round. This has arrested the insertion of more far-reaching investment rules into the WTO, but has also frozen into place a global food system whose destructive features were dramatically highlighted in the 2008 and subsequent food crises which are essentially permanent. And while attention has largely focused on these ambitious mega-treaties, an intricate web of bilateral and regional investment agreements, some of them deliberately and misleadingly packaged as free trade agreements, have conferred on transnational capital new powers to directly challenge the democratic right of governments to regulate and to legislate in the public interest.

The latest proposed treaty instruments to embody these investor ambitions are the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Both these treaties are being negotiated under conditions of the strictest secrecy. Corporations draft and share the negotiating texts, but citizens are denied access in the name of national security. On the basis of the leaked texts we know that they would build on existing trade and investment rules by incorporating the most toxic elements of the already-existing thousands of treaties and granting expanded powers to transnational capital to challenge public interest policies and practices, eliminating or putting at risk rights for which workers and unions have struggled over many decades.

This publication builds on the past work of the IUF and the efforts of many activists in explaining the nature of these threats and why the labour movement must commit to defeating these treaties as an urgent political priority. We would also hope to stimulate discussion on how we might move beyond these defensive struggles to begin putting in place a system of global rules to effectively enforce respect for human rights over the private claims of investors.

Read the report (PDF).

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