Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't give corporations more power to attack US laws

Technical Barriers to Trade clauses are another reason to oppose the South Korean, Colombian and Panamanian FTAs

by David e. Delk, co-chair, Alliance for Democracy
President Obama has recently promoted three Bush regime-negotiated bilateral "Free Trade Agreements" (FTA's) with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. He claims these agreements are essential to creating jobs here in the U.S. In fact, he advocated for these agreements in his job creation address to Congress last week.

From the history of other trade agreements, we know that in fact trade agreements have resulted in a net loss of U.S. jobs. This will be particularly true for South Korea. The economies of Panama and Colombia are so small that very few jobs could possibly result.

Equally important, these bilateral agreements, just like CAFTA and NAFTA, empower corporations to sue our government directly in undemocratic trade tribunals whenever they believe that government regulation or law represents a barrier to trade, especially if future profits are alleged to be threatened!

This means that environmental protection, public health, or laws and regulations in any other area where human needs come into conflict with the corporate bottom line could be challenged and overturned by secret trade tribunals.

I offer the examples below to show the importance of strongly opposing these agreements.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has reached two new decisions this month which further empower corporations, overriding local decision making in favor of decisions made at the international level by privately empowered WTO trade tribunals. A third decision is expected within days.

The three decisions involve the WTO...

Banning the voluntary labeling of canned tuna as "Dolphin Safe"—these labels are illegal because they're restrictive of trade, says the WTO. Mexico won this case against the U.S.

Hindering efforts to reduce teen smoking—the US had, among other actions, banned the sale of clove and other types of flavored cigarettes as being "trainers" by cigarette companies to get youth addicted to smoking. Can't be banned, says the WTO. Indonesia won this case against the U.S.

Banning country of origin labeling of beef and other meat products--the US required country of origin labels after the mad cow and e.coli scares of the 1990s. The WTO is expected to say no dice. Our neighbors Canada and Mexico brought this case against the U.S.

These decisions are based on trade language called "technical barriers to trade" which is part of just about all trade agreements. Health provisions, environmental protection, worker safety—all are technical barriers to trade in the world of "free trade" promoted by these agreements.

Under the WTO, countries have to sue on behalf of their corporations. With bilateral agreements allowing for corporations to sue governments directly, we can expect even more harmful decisions.

Prior to the advent of these trade agreements, American states or the U.S. Congress were able to decide on these types of rules and laws. Now an international trade tribunal decides with no recourse to the American court or legislative systems. With every such decision, our ability to be a sovereign people is diminished. Sovereignty indicates who gets to decide. It is clearly not "We, the People" any more.

Take action now!
Move now to stop the web of corporate power from further attacks on democratic decision making. Call your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and demand that they vote against the U.S.-Korea, U.S.-Colombia, and U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreements.

David e. Delk,
Co-chair, Alliance for Democracy

Need contact info?
You can call the White House at 202-456-1111. See this page for Senate contact information, and this page for House members. A phone call carries much more weight than an on-line comment, so we ask you to please take a few minutes and contact these offices directly. Let us know what response you receive! Email afd@thealliancefordemocracy, or call 781-894-1179.

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