By Ernest A. Canning on 12/30/2013, 8:35am PT  

Don't care for the secretly-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal? You're not gonna like the Trans-Atlantic 'Free Trade' Agreement (TAFTA) much better.

Earlier this year, in "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup", we explained how, via the TPP, giant multinational corporations --- through a secret negotiation process that they, not we, the people, have access to --- were working with the U.S. State Department and it's trade partners to supplant the sovereignty of participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state". That "investor-state" is embodied in the deal through the creation of arbitration tribunals, which are granted the power to negate the effectiveness of laws passed by individual nation-states that are parties to the treaty.

The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary measures to hide the content of the TPP negotiation texts from the public as negotiations have proceeded in secret, but for the access granted to hundreds of corporate lobbyists. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), one of the few members of Congress to acquire access to the secret draft texts described the deal to date as "NAFTA on steroids." Last month, however, WikiLeaks published TPP's 94-page, Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, a chapter that would, according to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, permit corporate IP rights to "trample over individual rights and free expression."

The content of that chapter, according to Public Citizen's Lori Wallach will, among other things, not only extend the length of pharmaceutical patents (thus delaying the availability of more reasonably priced generic versions of the same medicine), but also attempt to expand patents to surgical procedures, both of which will serve to expand corporate profits at the expense of individual patients.

TPP represents only one-half of this ongoing, attempted, global corporate coup d'état. The second half finds its embodiment in the equally secretive TAFTA, which may prove a greater threat to our nation's sovereignty than the TPP in light of the fact that, as Public Citizen notes, "European-based corporations own more than 24,000 subsidiaries in the United States."

Like the TPP, they explain, TAFTA is also being secretly negotiated by some 600 U.S. corporate trade advisers and contains many of the very same threats to nation-state sovereignty…

Both TAFTA and TPP would supplant U.S. sovereignty through the extreme private investor tribunal system in which the "extrajudicial tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation for public policies that European corporations claim undermine their TAFTA investor rights," according to Public Citizen.

In essence, those provisions would allow corporations to supplant the basic police powers of nation states. Instead of exercising the power to protect the health and safety of citizens and the environment in which they live, the tribunals would allow for the imposition of monetary damages that make the cost of laws that shield citizens from corporate harm prohibitive.

The following chart from the May 2013 report [PDF] of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development illustrates how investor-state arbitrations, as filed with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), have been on a precipitous rise since the passage of NAFTA, exploding to their highest number ever in 2012....

One classic case entailed a $250 million NAFTA investor arbitration brought by Lone Pine Resources, Inc., a Delaware-based corporation, against Canada in response to a ban on "fracking" adopted by the Province of Quebec. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence about the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing, and a ban on the practice as democratically enacted by the people, Lone Pine described the ban in their arbitration complaint as "arbitrary, capricious and illegal."

(In a subsequent article, The BRAD BLOG will address perhaps the most blatant example of this practice, in which an ethically compromised trade tribunal has sought to supersede legal decisions now rendered against the oil giant, Chevron, by the courts of Ecuador, the United States and now Ontario, Canada).

Via TAFTA, according to Public Citizen, major corporations are not only seeking to prevent reinstatement of significant financial reforms, like the Glass-Steagall Act, but to roll back more modest reforms so as to bring back the "toxic derivatives" that played a central role in the 2008 collapse of the Wall Street casino. So called "free trade", they report, is being used as a cover for rolling back regulations on food, milk and dangerous toys, as well as to blunt the movement for the transparent labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). TAFTA would impose a "ban" on tax credits for alternative energy designed to reduce carbon emissions. It seeks to prevent "Buy Local" policies and to prevent governments from negotiating bulk rates on pharmaceuticals.

In sum, under the TPP and TAFTA, "free trade" provides but an Orwellian label to mask an effort to ensure that corporate profits will supplant the accountability that, theoretically, accompanies democratic governance.

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Previously related coverage at The BRAD BLOG...

• 8/5/2011: "Next 'Giant Sucking Sound': U.S. Senate Leaders Reach Accord on Three New 'Free Trade' Agreements"

• 5/30/13: "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup"

• 7/1/13: "Rep. Grayson Warns About Details of Classified 'Trans-Pacific Partnership' Agreement"

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing

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