The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) are the largest, most comprehensive trade agreements in history, and yet have little to do with trade.   What they do is secure and expand the privileges of companies and investors under international law, diminishing national sovereignty by restricting future governments from overturning the changes through fear/intimidation of costly legal action.

As troubling is the secrecy under which they are being negotiated. The TPP, in particular, is not open for review, debate or amendment by national legislatures or the public. Try to find text on the agreements (that has not been released through WikiLeaks or a similar source). Yet, despite its reach and impact, only a handful of people in each nation are aware of the content of the deal. Only three individuals in each TPP nation have been given full access to the agreement, while 600 ‘trade advisers’ — corporate lobbyists from corporations such as Monsanto, Chevron, Haliburton and Walmart — have been granted full access.

From the leaked negotiating documents, it becomes clear that the purpose of these agreements is to establish a legal framework around trade relations between sovereign states that empowers transnational corporations and diminishes the sovereign power of the state(s).  Under these agreements, signatory countries will be unable to manage environment, resources, citizen rights etc. without risking ruining the revenue / profit opportunities of transnational corporations, who will be able to sue for compensation.  This is perverse.  It is immoral.  No wonder our governments want to keep the negotiations and the finalized documents secret from the citizens of their respective countries.  It is a total sell out.

But, why do governments want to sell out its citizens?  Why do governments want blanket surveillance of its citizens?  In a democracy, government is elected by and serves its citizens.  Democracy is not the ability to give someone power, but the ability to take it away.  Somehow, this is no longer true.  Just whom does government serve?

I am against these trade agreements, and will use this blog to track the progress of the negotiations.

  • The first comment I would like to make is, why such secrecy?  TPP and TTIP are classified for 4 years, TISA for 5, after the agreement becomes effective or negotiations are terminated
  • Der Spiegel on the dark side of the TTIP
  • A good overview on what the TPP is and the implications of its implementation. Spoiler alert: huge corporatocracy boost at the expense of national sovereignty.
  • Jan20: Japan takes exception to US efforts to strong arm compliance and approval of the TPP in participating countries.
  • Democracy Now! provides an enlightening expose on the TPP.
  • Obama administration trade officials negotiating the TPP have received multi-million $ bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America. Both banks have a vested stake in pushing the TPP deal through, since leaked documents reveal that it would rollback almost all the current banking regulations they have failed to repeal through the legislative process.
  • Joseph Stiglitz comes down hard on TPP, advising that it will clearly benefit corporations and the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Stiglitz debunks many economic myths used to justify globalization. Problem is, globalization has already destroyed much of the middle class in developed economies. TPP will succeed in finishing the job.
  • The 2014 National Trade Estimate Report, published by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), identifies financial, privacy, health, and other public interest policies of each TPP nation as “trade barriers” that the USG seeks to eliminate. Here is a good overview of the document. It is shockingly obvious that the TPP is designed only to serve corporate interests. Signatories to the TPP would effectively be ceding sovereign control of policies, resources and rights over to multinationals.
  • There is much wrong with the TPP and the TTIP, but among the more insidious is the ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement). The ISDS is a legal instrument that allows investors (i.e. corporations) to bring a claim before an arbitration tribunal that the host state has not respected the investment protection rules, as described under the TTIP. With the ISDS in hand, transnational corporations can bring governments before international investment tribunals which could force compensation for lost business or opportunity. For example, banning GMOs or forcing GMO labels on food products could impair Monsanto’s business prospects, who could then seek compensation. Quebec was hit by a $250-million damage suit after introducing a moratorium on fracking until scientific studies have reviewed the potential environmental impact.
  • A working draft of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations has been posted on the Associated Whistleblowing Press (AWP) website. This draft is the draft of the European Union’s service and investment offer. The negotiations are, of course, uber secret which affected citizens are not supposed to be privy to.
  • June2014: Wikileaks published an April draft of a critical section of pending Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which is being negotiated among 50 countries, including the US, the member nations of the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, South Korea, and Switzerland. TISA would liberalize, as in reduce the ability of nations to regulate, a large range of services.  The released document is a portion of the financial services section. It is clearly designed to serve the interests of big international players. This agreement institutionalizes the current level of deregulation as a baseline and further facilitate the introduction of new products, further ease the movement of funds, data, and key personnel, and facilitate cross-border acquisitions and other forms of market entry.
  • As an example, under TISA, countries would no longer be able to regulate the financial services industry without risking retribution from affected corporations.  These would be the same TBTF banks that nearly blew up the global economy in 2008, took $trillions in bail-out money, and are now larger and have assumed greater risk than the day before everything blew in ’08.  Fraud and criminal activity are rampant in the FS industry.  JPM, HSBC, RBS, … have been fined $billions for market rigging, money laundering, mortgage fraud and other nefarious activities (without any individual prosecution, might I add).  And we want to enshrine in trade agreements that they will be able to challenge (and likely win) domestic laws and regulations that hinder their ability to plunder national economies?  Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
  • Democracy Now! on TISATISA aims to cement the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s by forbidding countries from improving financial regulation. The draft Financial Services Annex would also establish rules favorable to the expansion of financial multinationals into other nations by preventing regulatory obstacles.
  • Naked Capitalism on TISA:  The treaty seeks to “Lock in” the privatisations of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands; Restrict a government’s right to regulate stronger standards in the public’s interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centers, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses; Specifically limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry at exactly the time when the global economy is still recovering from a crisis caused by financial deregulation.

    “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all […]. Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”  — Spanish arbitrator Juan Fernandez-Armesto

  • Professor Jane Kelsey, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand offers up an analysis of the leaked TISA agreement.  A couple of key points from her analyis: TISA is designed for and in close consultation with the global finance industry; governments signing on to TISA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalization; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorize potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.
  • William Black offers of an analysis of TISA, with similar conclusions to Prof. Kelsey’s. A key point he makes is that deregulation effectively decriminalizes activities that would be prosecuted today.  He also drills into the secrecy provisions of TISA, TPP and TTIP.  The essential question is:

    “why would the bankers and heads of state have demanded, and received, “classified” treatment of a document that did not have any confidential information (there are no state secrets, no privacy issues, and nothing of proprietary value in the leaked TISA draft) and made no meaningful restriction on regulation and supervision due to the “nowithstanding” clause of Article 17? The demand for classified treatment makes it inescapable that the bankers and government officials involved in drafting TISA are trying to hide something they believe would outrage the public.”