Thursday, May 21, 2015

Elizabeth Warren on TPP

ELIZABETH WARREN: I've joined with Senator Heitkamp, Senator Manchin and a number of other senators to propose a simple change to the fast-track bill, a change that would prevent Congress from using this expedited process on any trade deal that includes so-called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, and I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to support this amendment. 

ISDS is an obscure process that allows big companies to go to corporate-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system in order to challenge laws they don't like. 

These panels can force taxpayers to write huge checks to those big corporations with no need to file a suit in court, no appeals and no judicial review. Now, most Americans don't think that the minimum wage or anti-smoking regulations are trade barriers, but a foreign corporation used ISDS to sue Egypt after Egypt raised its minimum wage. 

Tobacco giant Philip Morris went after Australia and Uruguay to stop their rules to cut smoking rates. 

Under TPP, corporations can use these channels to challenge rules right here in America. 

It wasn't always this way. ISDS has been around for a while. From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than a hundred claims in the whole world. But boy, has that changed. In 2012 alone there were 58 corporate cases. Corporate lawyers figured out how powerful a tool these panels can be for corporate clients. 

Huge financial penalties that these cases can impose on taxpayers have already caused New Zealand to give up on some tough anti-smoking rules. It's already caused Germany to pull back from clean water protections. And it's caused Canada to stand down on environmental protections. 

If that worries you, you're not alone. 
Michael Wessel: I've read Obama's secret trade deal. Elizabeth Warren is right to be concerned:
"The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.
I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what's hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.......................
The text of the TPP, like all trade deals, is a closely guarded secret. That fact makes a genuine public debate impossible and should make robust debate behind closed doors all the more essential. But the ability of TPP critics like me to point out the deal’s many failings is limited by the government’s surprising and unprecedented refusal to make revisions to the language in the TPP fully available to cleared advisors."

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