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Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with "The End of Nature" in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. The group he founded, 350.org, has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. The Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was "probably the country’s most important environmentalist."
Alexis Tsipras, a member of the Hellenic parliament, president of the Synaspismos political party since 2008, head of the SYRIZA parliamentary group since 2009, and leader of the Opposition since June 2012. SYRIZA currently leads in Greek opinion polls. Listen to the audio here.
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"Rand Paul: Making a Point," by Reginald Johnson, March 8, 2013
"The Bipartisan Gift: Budget Cuts," by Reginald Johnson, March 2, 2013
"Fighting for Gun Control," by Reginald Johnson, Feb. 18, 2013
"Tyranny of the Minority," by Reginald Johnson, Jan. 28, 2013
"Is President Obama About to Betray Those Who Re-elected Him Less than 2 Months Ago?" by Scott Harris, Dec. 21, 2012
"Will the Slaughter of the Innocents in Newtown Lead to Gun Law Reform in U.S.?" by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo, Dec. 16, 2012
"My Friend in Sandy Hook," by Doug Moss, posted by Scott Harris, Dec. 16, 2012
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Posted Jan. 2, 2013
Interview with Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, conducted by Scott Harris
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a proposed trade and investment treaty being negotiated in secret by 11 nations that include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan has also expressed interest in joining the pact; however, that position was quite unpopular among Japanese voters in December’s election campaign. The 15 round of TPP talks held in Auckland, New Zealand from Dec. 3-12, drew militant protests. Despite growing opposition around the world, negotiators in New Zealand stated they hoped to conclude a deal by the end of 2013.
Although negotiations have been conducted under unprecedented secrecy, leaked documents reveal an agenda demanding aggressive intellectual property provisions which would roll back public health safeguards in favor of enhanced corporate patent and data protection. Critics charge those provisions would make it harder to gain access to generic drugs, such as retroviral medications to treat HIV and AIDS. Other concerns center around the treaty’s expansion of corporate power to challenge national laws on worker rights, environmental regulations and consumer protections.
While some 600 corporate advisers have participated in TPP negotiations – having access to drafts of the treaty’s language – the public, members of Congress, journalists, and civil society have been excluded. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Lori Wallach, director of Public Global Citizen’s Trade Watch, who was in New Zealand during the most recent round of talks. Here, she explains why she believes the TPP is the most potentially damaging agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 1995 establishment of the World Trade Organization.
LORI WALLACH: Well, this is a perverse irony because, although people were divided about what NAFTA would do back the 1990s, the polling shows that one of the only things that actually unites the American public across Democratic, Republican, Independent, extremely conservative, extremely progressive - is opposition by majorities in each of those categories to more NAFTAs. NAFTA's actually united us in more opposition. The reason – and if people knew about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they would be up in arms and there would be a debate.
The reason they don't is unprecedented secrecy. This is a negotiation that has been going on since 2008, started by the Bush administration, took a hiatus, and at the end of 2009 the Obama administration picked it up. There have been 15 multi-week rounds of negotiations. There is a multi-thousands page draft text of 29 chapters of what isn't a trade agreement – that's the brand that we're being sold. In fact, what it is an enforceable system of binding global governance written largely by and certainly written for the biggest multinational corporations. Think effectively "NAFTA on steroids" with Vietnam, China, it would be open for any country to join. And the chapters of which only 5 of the 29 have to do with trade include new rights for the big pharmaceutical companies to expand, to raise medical prices, expand monopoly patents, limits on Internet freedom, penalties for inadvertent noncommercial copying, sending something to a friend. There are the same rules that promote off-shoring of jobs that were in NAFTA that are more robust that literally give privileges and protections if you leave.
There is a ban on "buy American" and "buy local" or "green" or sweat-free procurement. There are limits on domestic financial stability regulations. There are limits on imported food safety standards and product standards. There are limits on how we can regulate energy towards a more green future - all of these things are what they call "Behind the Borders" agenda. And the operating clause of TPP is: "Each country shall ensure the conformity of its domestic laws, regulations and administrative procedures with these agreements." That's to say, that we're told to conform all of our domestics laws - including all the important public interest laws fought so hard by people around the country – for these corporate dictates and it's strongly enforceable. If we do not conform our laws, another country can challenge us and impose trade sanctions until we do, but this one is even privately enforceable by the corporations themselves.
This is an agreement that actually formalizes the priority of corporate power over government. It allows any foreign investor to go to a United Nations or World Bank-based tribunal of three private sector attorneys and sue our governments for our taxpayer-compensation over any domestic policy or action that the foreign investor thinks undermines their expected future profits. I could not make this up, and in fact, it would be hard to believe, except this is one of the few chapters that has leaked. This whole negotiation has been the most secretive I have seen in 20 years of watching trade agreements. Not even the members with jurisdiction directly over the agreement are being allowed to see the draft.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What has been the role of the Obama administration, pushing the agenda if at all, forward on the TPP talks?
LORI WALLACH: What's heartbreaking is in fact the Obama administration has – despite President Obama's really terrific promises in his 2008 campaign promises to replace the old NAFTA job-killing race to the bottom model of trade agreements – in fact, the administration has recycled through in to their trade positions. Many of the very people who got us into NAFTA during the Clinton administration and those folks have picked up exactly where the Bush people left off, pushing this corporate agenda. And even more, which is just stunning; they've actually in areas like pharmaceutical, Big Pharma's rights to expand patent links in poor countries. The Obama negotiators have actually rolled back reforms that the Democratic Congress made Bush include in some of his later trade agreements, which is just remarkably are horrifying. But lock, stock and barrel, the rest is just straight up the same old, except NAFTA on steroids. So NAFTA had certain elements of each of the rules that are in TPP and TPP is the maximalist of corporate power.
Find more information about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade treaty and its critics at http://www.citizen.org/trade/.