Sunday, December 08, 2013

The neoliberal side of the Obama Administration

I know I'm jaded about Obama. But this is why.

After a new push for renewable energy, a re-energized affirmative defense of the ACA and a progressive speech on economic inequality in America, here's a new report that in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, the Obama Administration is pushing to "grant radical new political powers to corporations, increase the cost of prescription medications and restrict bank regulation." (Zach Carter, Obama Faces Backlash Over New Corporate Powers In Secret Trade Deal Huffington Post 12/08/2013)

And, of course, treaties when approved by the Senate are equal in legal force to the Constitution.

The good news in Carter's article: "The Obama administration appears to have almost no international support" for those measures.

This is the Barack Obama we've seen most often the last five years on economic policy. The corporate Democrat who pushes the neoliberal agenda aggressively. Yes, he's still NABATR (Not As Bad As The Republicans). But that's faint praise indeed!

How bad could the TPP be? Here's a sample:

One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.

"The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter, since under the concept of Investment Agreement nearly all significant contracts that can be made between a state and a foreign investor are included," the memo reads. "Only the U.S. and Japan support the proposal."

Under NAFTA, companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly have attempted to overrule Canadian regulations on offshore oil drilling, fracking, pesticides, drug patents and other issues. Companies could challenge an even broader array of rules under the TPP language. [my emphasis]
This cartoon from Public Citizen illustrates the relationship of such courts to justice:

And it sounds like the Administration is carrying water for Big Pharma in the TPP negotiations: "The Obama administration is insisting on mandating new intellectual property rules in the treaty that would grant pharmaceutical companies long-term monopolies on new medications. As a result, companies can charge high prices without regard to competition from generic providers."

And since we all know that the fine folk who run giant banks would never set up a new financial crisis like 2007-8, why should the following worry us?

The U.S. is also facing major resistance on bank regulation standards. The Obama administration is seeking to curtail the use of "capital controls" by foreign governments. These can include an extremely broad variety of financial tools, from restricting lending in overheated markets to denying mass international outflows of currency during a financial panic. The loss of these tools would dramatically limit the ability of governments to prevent and stem banking crises.
The last thing we need is this kind of neoliberal trade treaty to further cripple consumer protections and let corporate bandits run wild.

And let's not forget that the same Obama Administration is simultaneously negotiating a neoliberal Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), aka, Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).

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