THE BLOG
05/09/2013 03:15 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2013

Time to End the Free Trade Sellout

Until Friday, you have the chance to make your voice heard about a pending massive corporate giveaway now being promoted by the U.S. Trade Representative. It's a chance that you should take.

The agreement the trade representative  is seeking comments on is the "Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership." Even the title makes you ill, doesn't it?

Known as a "NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) with Europe," the "partnership" is actually a deal between multinational corporations and their minions in government. It features "investor-state" dispute resolution, which would permit foreign corporations to file lawsuits to prevent government actions that they don't like, such as health, environmental and safety regulations. If this sounds crazy, that's because it is.

But there's a twisted corporate "logic" behind it.

Trade policy has historically been associated with tariffs. But since President Richard M. Nixon invented a new way of negotiating trade deals in the 1970s, these deals have attacked what's known as "non-tariff barriers" to trade.

Interesting concept, but it has degenerated into handcuffs on government, slapped on at will by special interests. Let's say your country or state passes a consumer protection law -- such as one that says fishing companies must label tuna caught using methods that kill dolphins. A Mexican corporation that sells tuna in the United States might declare this is a "non-tariff barrier" to trade, undercutting Mexican sellers of tuna versus American ones (though it applies equally to both).

Under the guise of a "free trade" agreement, the government could be sued, and have the dolphin-safe tuna law overturned.

This actually happened, in 2012. The World Trade Organization ruled against the American dolphin-safe tuna labeling law. So this is not just a theoretical possibility. "These provisions elevate corporations to the level of nation states and allow them to sue governments over nearly any law or policy which reduces their future profits," the Sierra Club warns.

Canada has been sued under a similar clause in NAFTA for refusing to export its water. Canada has also  been sued for keeping a pollutant out of its gasoline supply, and for taxing windfall profits by oil companies. This next wave of trade agreements may prioritize corporate rights over the privacy of our personal data, restrict regulation on fracking and (as Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] has warned) roll back much-needed rules on large banks.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has probably never met a regulation it didn't want to repeal or violate. The chamber is even arguing that the Volcker Rule, which restricts gambling with tax-payer protected deposits by large banks, violates U.S. trade policy.

"The Volcker Rule's discriminatory provision," the chamber has asserted, "certainly does, at a minimum, send the wrong message internationally and gravely complicates the long-standing U.S. goal of liberalizing trade in financial services."

Why are we even thinking about handing over our sovereign rights to huge corporations who care nothing about us? It's not as if these agreements bring us any net economic benefit. Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the United States has lost almost four million manufacturing jobs. Moreover, huge U.S. subsidies for corn have helped to make it impossible for millions of Mexican families to survive on the farm.

NAFTA accomplished something that hardly seems possible - impoverishing both U.S. workers and Mexican ones. Since we ratified a Korea Free Trade Agreement just a year and a half ago, U.S. exports from Korea are down, and imports are up.

Can't we learn from our mistakes? Why are our leaders regularly treating us like lambs being led to the slaughter?

The first Amendment gives us the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Anyone paying attention to these Judas-kiss trade "deals" is feeling mighty, mighty "aggrieved."

The window for comments closes tomorrow. So give them a piece of your mind today.

You can comment on the "Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" by visiting TradeTreachery.com

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