If there is one piece of legislation (and in a “democracy”, there is no reason why any one law should be fast-tracked through Congress under the shroud of secrecy) that should be passed in complete openness and in full view of the general public, especially by the world’s “most transparent organization”, it is Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multi-trillion dollar treaty with 29 classified chapters, which – whennot if passed – will have an impact on the vast majority of workers in the US, on their wages and living conditions.
And yet, when it comes to the TPP, not only is the text of the legislation under lock and key, but the law’s drafters, primarily US corporations, have made it so profoundly secret, that “many of the provisions will not only be secret before the vote in the House, but will also be kept secret for four years after the bill is signed. That means we won’t know what’s in it even after it’s passed.”
Curiously, according to Wikileaks, the TPP contains 29 chapters but only 5 pertain to trade. As Red State reports, “Wikileaks will be publishing the entire bill and they have already released the chapter on Investment. It’s very interesting. It is written in a such a way as to give multinational companies a huge advantage on trade. If a public hospital is built close to a private one, the private hospital has the right to sue the country for expected losses.” The chapter on investment can be found here.
It gets worse:
The agreement also regulates the internet and requires internet companies to gather certain data which they will be required to share with certain private companies. Many of the provisions will not only be secret before the vote in the House, but will also be kept secret for four years after the bill is signed. That means we won’t know what’s in it even after it’s passed.
Wikileaks has more information:
The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can “sue” states and obtain taxpayer compensation for “expected future profits”. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country’s laws or policies affect the company’s claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more. Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.
For those interested, here is a Julian Assange interview in which he shares his take on the TPP’s highly classified contents:
But what is by far the worst, and is both farcical and tragic at the same time, is that in a parallel effort, the same Wikileaks which is a semi-illegal organization in the US and whose founder will be immediately arrested should he leave the sanctuary of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has leaked 3 of the 29 chapters. It is now raising a reward of $100,000 for the missing chapters of the TPP legislation. To wit:
America’s most wanted secret. The TPP is a multi-trillion dollar international treaty that is being negotiated in secret by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and others. This massive agreement has 29 chapters, of which 26 are still secret. It covers 40% of global GDP and is the largest agreement of its kind in history. The treaty aims to create a new international legal regime that will allow transnational corporations to bypass domestic courts, evade environmental protections, police the internet on behalf of the content industry, limit the availability of affordable generic medicines, and drastically curtail each country’s legislative sovereignty. US Senator Elizabeth Warren has said “[They] can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.” Over the last two years WikiLeaks has published three chapters of this super-secret global deal, despite unprecedented efforts by negotiating governments to keep it under wraps. The remaining 26 chapters of the deal are closely held by negotiators and the big corporations that have been given privileged access. The TPP is also noteworthy as the icebreaker agreement for the proposed ‘T-treaty triad’ of TPP-TISA-TTIP which would see TPP style rules placed on 53 nations, 1.6 billion people and 2/3rds of the global economy.
Said otherwise, a non-profit, international organization whose legal status has been openly challenged by various western governments, is seeking to bribe whistleblowers in Congress who have access to the full TPP, just so the public can see what the US president is rushing to slam through Congress without anyone have any idea of its contents. In other words, Wikileaks is scrambling to do what in any normal representative democracy should be taken for granted.
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