Three long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia are moving closer to a vote after the Senate’s leaders announced that they had reached an agreement to bring the pacts up for consideration when Congress returns from recess in September.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also agreed to hold a vote on a program favored by Democrats, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides aid and retraining to workers who have lost their jobs because work was sent overseas.
Congressional approval is by no means guaranteed, but passage of the deals would fulfill a plank of President Obama’s economic policy. Obama, who expressed skepticism as a candidate about free trade, has hailed the agreements as crucial to increasing U.S. sales overseas. Obama has called for a doubling of U.S. exports by 2015.
With jobs returning to the top of Obama’s agenda, he has been pushing measures to stimulate the economy, including the renewal of temporary tax breaks and funding for highway construction and other infrastructure, in addition to the trade deals. The trade agreements are especially attractive because they could help the economy without requiring more government spending.
In summary, the two party system that runs America is proceeding to sell off American sovereignty through economic treaties that benefit the ruling class–not just America but in foreign lands as well. Consider the following example: the passing of NAFTA had ruinous effects on Mexican farmers by allowing US subsidized corn to flood its markets. This jeopardized the livelihoods of millions of farmers and arguably help create the undocumented immigration crisis we see today as desperate farm workers began looking north. To make matters even worse, when the price of corn started rising in the late 2000s, Mexicans found themselves still hopelessly dependent on US agribusiness because their own domestic agricultural system had been neglected for so long. As GRAIN pointed out at the time: “Wal-Mart’s Mexican division, Wal-Mex, which handles a third of overall food sales in Mexico, reported an 11% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2008. (At the same time Mexicans are demonstrating in the streets because they can no longer afford to make tortillas.).”
At home, NAFTA has resulted in an erosion of sovereignty over environmental policy. As Public Citizen explains:
NAFTA’s investment chapter (Chapter 11) contains a variety of new rights and protections for investors and investments in NAFTA countries. If a company believes that a NAFTA government has violated these new investor rights and protections, it can initiate a binding dispute resolution process for monetary damages before a trade tribunal, offering none of the basic due process or openness guarantees afforded in national courts. These so-called “investor-to-state” cases are litigated in the special international arbitration bodies of the World Bank and the United Nations, which are closed to public participation, observation and input. A three-person panel composed of professional arbitrators listens to arguments in the case, with powers to award an unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars to corporations whose NAFTA investor privileges and rights they judge to have been impacted.
As I put it months ago:
An illustrative case is that of Methanex v. United States, concerning a California state ban on a methanol-based gasoline additive (MTBE) that was getting into water supplies. The Nation noted that “even small amounts of MTBE leaking from storage tanks, pipeline breaks or car accidents made water unfit to drink–and extremely difficult to clean up.” In 1999, the Canadian company Methanex filed a lawsuit demanding that California pay $970 million in compensation for the damage California may inflict on its profits. Instead of being heard before a US federal court, the case was heard before a private three-judge panel. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that the proceedings were secret and closed to the public. Arbitration records under NAFTA can only be disclosed upon the consent of both parties.
So now we are being presented with new free trade agreements to make out state, local and national governments answerable to unelected arbitration boards for policies perceived as impeding multinational profits. The Tea Parties, who once prided themselves on an opposition to “globalism” and “New Word Order,” are silent as expected:
The lead US negotiator on NAFTA’s chapter 11 was a Washington lawyer named Daniel Price. At a scholarly forum in Cleveland he claimed that the free trade agreement “checks the excesses of unilateral sovereignty” and advised those disturbed by violations of US sovereignty to “get over it.” Just think about that for a second. Imagine George Soros ranting about “excesses of unilateral sovereignty” in supporting a human rights treaty that the Obama administration is considering signing. It would be a scandal. Glenn Beck would devote an entire show to such a cavalier attitude in dismissing US sovereignty and his “do-gooder” human rights ideology. Yet because the efforts of Price and other conservative legal minds succeeded in putting the protection of capital over the interests of national sovereignty, Beck would probably sing his praises. After all, what harm is there in a New World Order if it defends the “right” of foreign investors to make profit at the expense of public health and the environment?
The Tea Partiers have an ample opportunity to show they are consistent in their proclaimed principle of supporting US sovereignty by opposing Obama’s attempts to put America further under the control of foreign companies. But they aren’t making a sound despite the fact that the rank-and-file among them generally oppose free trade agreements.
In fact, it’s incredibly intriguing that our government is about to sign such far-reaching treaties with three different countries and barely a word of it is being spoken by any media outlets at all. Is it just business-as-usual for our government to join hands across aisles and sign away America’s economic sovereignty? Shouldn’t we, the people, have some input or at least be informed of what is happening?