By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
As Sir Winston Churchill is alleged to have said, democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried. However, in this age of increasingly globalized governance the future of democracy is very much in question.
Already many key economic decisions affecting our lives are being taken and implemented in complete secrecy behind hermetically closed doors. In the negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between 12 nations including the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, an army of over 600 corporate advisers have been allowed access to the accompanying text while the public and even members of Congress have largely been kept in the dark.
Indeed, the only way for the uninitiated to learn about some – but far from all – of the potential repercussions of today’s trade agreements is through leaked documents. The current negotiations for a US-EU trade deal (TTIP) are so clandestine that the few Members of the European Parliament that are granted access can only view the plans in their original documentation, in a secure location, with the threat of espionage charges hanging over them if they are caught making copies or sharing the details with the public.
The Treaty That Must Not Be Named
If you think that’s bad, the hyper-secret Trade in Services Act (TiSA), which seeks to bind together the U.S., the EU and 22 other Western-aligned nations under a new system of laws and regulations covering telecoms, water, gas, electricity, transport, financial and legal services, software design, electronic data, tourism, healthcare and a whole lot more, is infinitely worse. The treaty’s text is designed to be almost impossible to repeal, and is to be “considered confidential” for at least five years after being signed.
Much of the political pressure behind TISA has come as a result of widespread frustration among the globalist elite with the snail-like pace of trade liberalization in the WTO’s Doha Round, notes Glen Newey in a rare article on the trade agreement in the London Review of Books.
As Roberto Bendini of the EU’s Directorate-General put it in an extraordinary gaff-blowing statement last year, the WTO talks stalled because some countries remain “uncommitted and unbound in their schedules of services liberalization. In general, trade in services has not been liberalized to the same extent as trade in goods, for both political and technical reasons.”
In other words, because some sovereign states opposed getting locked into liberalization at the WTO, the EU and others decided to start a new game under different rules. At TISA, the EU negotiates for its 28 members under Lisbon Treaty powers; even the EU Parliament’s Rapporteur, Viviane Reding MEP, remarked recently that TISA began with no integration of the Parliament and ‘no transparency at all’. [To read more about TiSA and the leaked document, click here]
In the U.S. the level of secrecy over the government’s trade agenda has been even more pronounced. According to Media Matters for America, the TPP hasn’t been mentioned at all by ABC, CBS, and NBC during the 17-month period from August 2013 to February 2015. During that same period, Fox News and CNN each mentioned the TPP trade deal just once.
As truth-out.org reports, the mainstream media’s complete and utter silence on one of the biggest stories of the year, maybe even the decade, is shocking but not all that surprising. After all, they and their corporate advertisers and backers want the TPP to be ratified.
As Congress prepares to vote on a so-called “Fast Track” bill aimed at bulldozing the corporate-friendly TPP into law before most members of the public even become aware of its existence, not to mention granting almost sole authority for crafting future trade agreements (such as TiSA) to the executive branch for the next four years, resistance is finally beginning to mount.
Earlier this week Senator Elizabeth Warren penned an op-ed for Washington Post that was sharply critical of the trade agreement, in particular the innocuous-sounding Investor-State Dispute Settlement (on which you can read more here). Warren even went so far as to use the dirty “S” word (the new eleven-letter one, not the traditional four-letter one):
One strong hint [of who TPP will ultimately benefit] is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
Warren was not alone in condemning the fast-track bill. Senator Sharrod Brown of Ohio accused the administration of abandoning American workers in its mad rush to approve “free” trade agreements with “little oversight and minimal debate.” On Thursday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) introduced a new tool for Twitter users to ask three key congressional leaders – Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Steny Hoyer – to come out against fast track.
Whether this last-minute rally in public opposition will be enough to derail the fast-track bill, time will soon tell. The fact that President Obama felt compelled to dedicate a few words to the issue in his weekly televised address suggests that nerves may be fraying. With popular resistance to TTIP even stronger and more widespread in Europe, it seems that the messy forces of national democracy could once again scupper the elite’s lofty dreams of creating a global corporatocracy run by, of and for the world’s largest multinationals.
Salon contributor Matt Stoller has used the Congressional Record to prove that the underlying goal of so-called “free trade” pacts has always been to weaken nation-states and promote rule by multinationals.
Liberal internationalists, including people like Chase CEO David Rockefeller and former Undersecretary of State and an architect of 1960s American trade policies George Ball, began pressing for reductions in non-tariff barriers, which they perceived as the next set of trade impediments to pull down…
… [In a 1967 hearing] before a legion of impressive senators and congressmen Ball attacks the very notion of sovereignty. He goes after the idea that “business decisions” could be “frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations,” and lauds the multinational corporation as the most perfect structure devised for the benefit of mankind. He also foreshadows our modern world by suggesting that commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies should just be and will inevitably be handled by supranational organizations.
The fact that we now live in a world dominated by highly undemocratic and unaccountable supranational organizations (the IMF, World Bank, WTO, EU…) is no mere accident. Now, all that remains for the Global Corporatocracy endearingly envisaged by the likes of Rockerfeller and Balls to become reality is for our elected governments to sign along a few dotted lines. Whether that comes to pass depends on the willingness of the governed to stop them from doing it. After all, in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit.
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