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Blog Posts: Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

March 27th, 2015

Leaked Documents Underscore How TPP Will Provide Special Rights for Corporations

By Patrick Woodall

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Are you working on state legislation to label genetically modified foods? Or are you working to pass a local ban on fracking? If you are, you’ll want to know what the TPP has in store for you, according to recently uncovered documents.

This week, Wikileaks released the long-secret investment provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that revealed the trade deal would give big business the ability to sue governments for protecting the public interest – confirming our worst fears about the trade deal being pushed by the business community, Republican leadership and the Obama administration.

Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted the risks of these so-called investor-to-state suits in a Washington Post opinion piece last month, but the release of a current draft of the TPP investment chapter brings these legitimate concerns into sharper focus. These TPP investment provisions provide a new and powerful avenue for foreign corporations to attack commonsense public health, environmental and consumer safeguards as well as effectively rollback any local or state legislation or ordinances that threaten their bottom lines.

The TPP investment language allows foreign companies to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations that the companies claim “indirectly expropriate” their “reasonable investment-backed expectations.” International investment rules were originally designed to prevent other countries from seizing private property without compensating the owner (by building a highway through a company’s land or nationalizing a factory). But the TPP’s indirect expropriation language expands that idea to allow corporations to sue (for financial damages) over rules and regulations that curb dangerous or abusive business practices (like pollution or financial fraud) or even require companies to provide sensible disclosure (like food labels).

So far, the United States has been sued but not faced a penalty under these investment cases, but that is because our trade deals have been primarily with countries in the developing world with few investments in the United States. The TPP would empower major companies from New Zealand, Australia and Japan with new rights to attack federal and local laws. If the companies prevail in these suits, the government defendants (either national or local) could be forced to pay damages for harming expected earnings. Already international trade tribunals have already awarded $3.6 billion to foreign investors that brought successful investor-to-state corporate lawsuits under NAFTA and other U.S. trade deals, according to Public Citizen.

A measure to prevent pollution (like a local fracking ban) would indirectly expropriate the anticipated future profits from fracking, so a foreign drilling firm could sue for damages. One natural gas company has already challenged a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec under NAFTA’s investment provisions. These corporate lawsuits have an especially chilling effect on communities that want to protect their citizenry but lack the resources to defend against a colossal corporate lawsuit, including the more than 250 localities (including New York state) that have banned or imposed moratoriums on fracking.

The leaked investment text highlights the total lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations. It even includes a provision that keeps the investment chapter confidential until four years after the TPP goes into effect. If these special rights for corporate interests are so beneficial, why keep it classified?

March 20th, 2015

Ten Ways to Protect the Human Right to Water on World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo and Ryanne Waters

“Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right.” — Maude Barlow

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an essential common resource that nobody, and no thing, can live without. But around the world, even here in the United States, the human right to safe, clean, affordable water is under great threat; a global water crisis is looming, and in some places, has already begun.

Here are ten ways you can protect the human right to water and promote sustainable water management on World Water Day. Let’s dive in.

1. Join Tap-a-palooza! Mobilize your college campus to kick the bottled water habit and take back the tap.

The commodification of water by the beverage industry is a huge con. Research shows that in the United States, bottled water is not safer than tap water and it only serves to perpetuate our planet’s plastic bottle waste problem. When corporations like Nestlé commoditize what many consider to be a human right, communities lose out and executives fatten their wallets. If you’re a student, encourage reusable water bottle use by pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on your college campus.

TBTT

2. Say “no” to international water privatization schemes; oppose fast track of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The United States and the European Union are secretly negotiating a deal that would make it easier for the world’s biggest corporations to privatize our public water systems. And when private companies buy out public water systems, community members often experience degraded service at a higher price. Opposing fast track would make it harder for Congress to pass terrible trade deals like the TTIP.  Tell your member of Congress to oppose fast track today.

Fast Track

3. Support the campaign to stop water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria on twitter.

The city of Lagos, Nigeria is in great need of water supply and infrastructure improvements. But research shows that private ownership of municipal water systems does not benefit the community and often results in poor service at an unjust rate. 180 cities in 35 countries have fought hard to “re-municipalize” their water systems because of these failures. Lagos should not have to go down the same path. Tweet your support Tweet: I stand with Lagos, Nigeria. NO to water privatization! #OurWaterOurRight #Right2Water @followlasg @tundefashola for public water to the Lagos state government (@followlasg) and the governor (@tundefashola) by using the hashtag #OurWaterOurRight and #Right2Water.

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4. Write to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

Did you know that our national forests and land surrounding our national parks are being fracked? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and associated activities such as wastewater injection can contaminate nearby rivers and streams that feed these treasured places – their vegetation and wildlife. Stopping fracking on public lands will bring us one step closer to stopping fracking, and protecting water, everywhere. Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

PublicLands

5. Sign this emergency petition to immediately stop fracking in California.

According to NASA, California has only one year of water left. But did you hear that oil and gas industry regulators in California recently admitted that they’ve failed to protect the state’s precious water supply from toxic contamination? Regulatory systems like these are unacceptable. Join us in calling on Governor Brown to issue an immediate emergency moratorium on fracking in California.

California

6. Urge the Ohio Legislature to protect the Great Lakes from toxic algae blooms.

Industrial agriculture is threatening Lake Erie. Last summer, a huge algae bloom left half a million people in Toledo, Ohio without water. The state legislature is trying to address the problem, but their bill falls short of real, meaningful agricultural reform. Tell them to toughen up and protect the Great Lakes from factory farms!

Toledo Algae

7. Demand that authorities in Detroit restore affordable water service.

Detroit’s water is simply unaffordable, and thousands of residents have had theirs shut off as a result. The United Nations recently visited Detroit to investigate the water shut offs and found that they violate the human right to water. Protect public health and the human right to water by urging officials in Detroit to restore water service under a water affordability plan.

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8. Educate yourself and your friends on the global water crisis by reading Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow.

Maude Barlow is a water justice warrior. The latest in her best-selling series, Blue Future exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. It lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis and details the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

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9. Keep an eye out for a pre-screening of the film Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice from Jon Bowermaster.

In this film, Bowermaster takes a national look at the issue of fracking and the threats it poses to water quality and public health. The film profiles the victims of fracking across the U.S., checks in with experts on the topic, and takes a look at alternative energy sources gaining traction around the globe.

DearPresidentObama

10. Stay up to date on global water issues and learn how you can get involved by signing up here.

Whether by banning fracking, stopping terrible trade deals, promoting public ownership of water systems or protecting waterways from agricultural pollution, Food & Water Watch is working with communities to hold the industries that threaten the right to safe, clean, affordable water accountable.

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Update, March 22: Check out Maude Barlow’s World Water Day post about how to address the world water crisis.

March 10th, 2015

Nobel Laureate Joins Food & Water Watch Opposing Fast Tracking TPP

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Food & Water Watch New York Organizer Eric Weltman speaks out against the TPP at a press conference in Manhattan.

By Eric Weltman

If there were ever a rock star among economists, Joseph Stiglitz would get my vote. On February 25, the Nobel Prize winner headlined a community forum in Queens on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The event was part of Food & Water Watch’s national campaign to stop the Fast Tracking of this dangerous trade agreement.

Three hundred people jammed the auditorium of PS 69, the neighborhood elementary school, to hear Stiglitz along with local community leaders. Our focus that evening was Congressman Joseph Crowley, the local representative and a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, whose opposition to Fast Track could be crucial. We were partnering with some great allies, including the Communication Workers of America, the Working Families Party and the Sierra Club.

Stiglitz’s credentials are a mile long. He was the chief economist for the World Bank and Chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. And he effortlessly and absolutely shredded the TPP and the entire process of negotiating and trying to win Congressional approval for the agreement.

Stiglitz targeted the Obama administration for its secrecy, asking, “What are they trying to hide?” He blasted them on Fast Track, calling the move “an end-run around Congress.” He discussed how previous trade agreements had destroyed jobs and increased income inequality. He noted that the TPP would limit access to generic medicines. And he declared that the bottom line is “moneyed interests, special interests trying to get what’s good for them.” You can watch for yourself here.

He was awesome. But it’s going to take more than rock star economists to defeat the corporate giants behind the TPP. This event was just part of the hard work that Food & Water Watch, along with our allies in New York and across the country, are engaged in to defend what’s most important: our jobs, our health, our communities, our environment. Take action now by asking your member of Congress to oppose Fast Track and the TPP.

February 10th, 2015

TPP is the Crazy Train, and Fast Track is the Highway to Hell

Stop Secret Trade DealsA quick guide to why the TPP and Fast Track would undermine Democracy and eliminate protections for food and water

By Rich Bindell

We’ve been exposed to an awful lot of banter and propaganda about international trade deals recently. In the past year, the words “Fast Track,” “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” and “trade promotion authority” have been thrown around quite liberally, most recently in the State of the Union Address. While we’ve blogged about the TPP and Fast Track many times already, and produced a fact sheet or two to break it down for the uninitiated, it seems like it might be a nice gesture to explain why this topic is on the tips of many a political tongue as of late.

In a world of endless acronyms, international trade has produced its share, many of which can be noted for their potential to reap havoc on values that Americans hold dear. To put it simply, the TPP is a controversial and largely secretive global trade deal that the Obama administration is trying to push through Congress, and Fast Track is a convenient nickname for the mechanism that political leaders are trying to use to push it through Congress quickly, without any messy arguments about it’s details. If it helps you remember: TPP is the Crazy Train and Fast Track is the Highway to Hell.

For the better part of a year-and-a-half, the corporate lobbying machine, congressional Republicans and the White House have been united in pushing for Fast Track authority on trade deals that will hurt the environment, public health, workers and American democracy, but the TPP has the ability to do all of this in one fell swoop. Read the full article…

January 22nd, 2015

Opportunity for Some, Favoritism to Corporate Interests

Corporate_BS_Detector

By Wenonah Hauter

Once again, dark money ruled on Election Day 2014 when a slew of die-hard reactionaries swept into office, their victories clinched by donations from a small group of selfish big money donors. These wealthy funders seem to believe they can hide behind the gates of their fancy estates and not experience the adverse effects of global climate change or the consequences of the other regressive policies they promote. So how did these radicals, who are out of touch with the values of most Americans, spend their second week of the 114th Congress? Rubbing elbows with one another and the other sycophants that feed at the trough of dirty money.

I’m talking about the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action’s 2015 Conservative Summit, “Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None,” the perfect setting for a love fest of extremists that included a number of House and Senate members. Speaking on their frightening agenda for energy, the House budget, trade and other matters, the name of the game for the current Congress is DEFENSE. Read the full article…

December 9th, 2014

Climate Deniers Watch: Congress’s Climate Change Deniers (Brought to You by the Oil and Gas Industry)

By Mitch Jones

Global_Climate_Change_MapIn the 114th Congress, a shift in power in the Senate means that a group of climate change deniers, funded by the oil and gas industry, will be taking over key committees. Their goals: advancing an agenda to frack more for oil and gas, export more dirty fossil fuels, and attack an already weak EPA. We’re not going to let them get away with it.

We are launching a special feature on our blog – Climate Denier Watch – that will expose the ties between the oil and gas industry, the Koch Brothers, and other climate change deniers and their representatives in Congress. Because, let’s not be fooled, these climate change deniers are the representatives of the oil and gas companies, not of the voters.

Take, for instance, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the incoming Chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). Sen. Inhofe is a leader of the climate deniers in Congress, having proclaimed climate change “the greatest hoax.” In his role as chairman, we can expect Inhofe to continue his attacks on climate scientists, the EPA, and public interest groups working to prevent climate change. Why? Because the oil and gas industry has donated at least $1.7 million to his campaigns during his career, more than twice what any other industry group has given. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

Senator Inhofe isn’t the only climate denier serving in Congress on the oil and gas industry’s dime. As Ranking Member on EPW in the 113th Congress, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has used public money and staff resources to release malicious reports attacking Food & Water Watch and other public interest groups fighting to protect the environment. The attacks serve two purposes: First, to aid Vitter in his run for governor; and second, to try to intimidate Food & Water Watch and others into not standing up for the environment and the public interest. In the past, Vitter has voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and voted for protecting oil and gas subsidies. It shouldn’t surprise us that Vitter is aiming for us; he has said evidence of climate change is “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage”. Add to that the over $1.2 million in contributions from the oil and gas industry, and you can see Vitter is doing what he’s being paid to do.

All told, the Republican members on EPW have received over $5 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. That’s a major investment, and we can expect those companies will want to see a big return on it. That’s why we can expect more climate denial, more attacks on EPA’s weak regulations, a bigger push to frack us and ship the oil and gas abroad, and more attacks on the groups that stand up to fight them.

But we aren’t going to be intimidated by their imitation McCarthyism. We’ll continue to expose their climate denial, expose the connections between the deniers and their paymasters in the oil and gas industry, and most importantly we’ll continue to push to ban fracking, to have real solutions to the emissions of greenhouse gases, and to protect our food and water.

November 5th, 2014

Can 1 Million People Stop a Bad Trade Deal for Europe?

By Eve Mitchell

This Is One Doozey of a Trade Deal
This trade deal is such a doozey, it made more than 721,000 EU citizens hopping mad in a couple of weeks. Nothing makes citizens angry faster than being ignored. The executive director of War on Want and one of the citizens named in the official Stop TTIP ECI proposal summed it up nicely: “These trade deals are already facing unprecedented opposition for their secrecy and unaccountability, but now we are denied even the right to petition our own EU leaders. An unelected executive [the Commission], facing growing vocal opposition, has put its hands over its ears.”We don’t want the TTIP.We have to stop the TTIP.

Act now.

Take Action to stop the TTIP.

In July, a group of people set off to do a hard thing, but an important thing.

They wanted to collect 1 million signatures.

Once attained, those 1 million signatures would force the European Commission to discuss an immediate halt to the ongoing trade talks between the EU and U.S. These talks are known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. For short, they are called the TTIP.

Having already achieved nearly three-quarters of the signatures through the European Commission’s official process — the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) — we should be celebrating.

We aren’t celebrating. Here’s why:

On 11 September, just days before the ECI was to launch publicly by 230 organisations in 21 countries, the Commission announced that it was rejecting the ECI altogether. It claimed that the call to stop the TTIP “falls outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union”. The Commission argued that we could use an ECI to request an agreement, but we can’t use an ECI to stop something we didn’t ask for and don’t want.

We are not waiting for permission to try to stop this very bad trade deal.

As Karl Baer on the Stop TTIP ECI steering committee aptly points out, “Democracy arises through social intervention and participation in the political process; it is not something to be granted or denied by Brussels.”

So the ECI has re-formed and will carry on regardless of the Commission’s disapproval. In fact, not only are we collecting signatures to halt the TTIP talks, we are appealing to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the Commission’s rejection of the official ECI.

It’s a wide-ranging mess that threatens to lower the standards that it took us generations to secure in employment and social policy, environmental protection, food safety, privacy, consumers’ rights, the deregulation of public services like water and everything else swept into these secretive discussions. It controversially includes a so-called investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that would enable companies to side-step our courts if we change our laws to protect ourselves. It can’t be allowed to happen.

Instead of a nice calm petition, the Commission now faces a legal challenge in the ECJ and an investigation by the European Ombudsman into transparency in the TTIP negotiations. Already an independent legal opinion issued by Professor Dr. Bernhard Kempen, University of Cologne, says that the decision to reject the ECI was wrong.

All of this lit the touchpaper of public anger over not just the TTIP but the very basis of EU trade policy.

For those keeping score:

Citizens: 1
Commission: nil

We need a new approach to trade and investment policy in the EU that puts people and genuine ecological sustainability at the very heart of discussions. To get that, we need to stop the TTIP.

Please sign our ECI now to help stop the TTIP. If there wasn’t so much at stake, the Commission wouldn’t be trying to stop us.

 

September 5th, 2014

Where the Jobs Are: U.S. Manufacturing, China, and Free Trade

TPP_SecretBy Mitch Jones

I’ve highlighted before the threat to our food and water posed by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated by the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries. But a few recent events have shifted my attention to the other big story about which we don’t speak as much: manufacturing jobs.

Earlier this year, I traveled to New York to give a talk about the TPP and food safety. Traveling north on the train it struck me that the tracks passed through many neighborhoods filled with boarded up houses. I noticed that all of those neighborhoods had one thing in common: they all surrounded shuttered factories. Then this summer, while visiting family, I drove past the abandoned Motorola factory outside Harvard, Illinois. When I returned to work I saw a new “working paper” from economists working with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) entitled “Import Competition and the Great U.S. Employment Sag of the 2000s” (pay walled). NBER is a nonprofit research organization that represents mainstream economic thinking. Many economists associated with NBER have gone on to work as advisors to both Democratic and Republican presidents.

The paper confirms what progressive economists have long been saying; so-called “free trade” has a massive negative effect on U.S. manufacturing employment. The authors of the paper estimate that between 1999 and 2011 the U.S. had a net job loss of 2.0 million to 2.4 million jobs because of imports from China. A quick, back of the envelope calculation shows that, were these jobs still in the U.S., it would have knocked a full percentage point off of our unemployment rate. And these aren’t just any jobs—they are more likely to be better-paying jobs with better benefits. Read the full article…

May 15th, 2014

Closed-Door Agreement Shuts Out U.S. Fishing Industry and Consumers

the fight over fish quotaBy Patrick Woodall

This week, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) trade negotiators met in secret in Vietnam to hammer out the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While many Wall Street and Big Business issues were reportedly discussed — like extending copyrights and patents and securing overseas corporate investment rights — protections for consumers continue to receive short shrift.

And that is a shame, because Vietnam is the perfect venue to discuss seafood safety and the impact that the global fish trade has on consumers and independent fishing businesses here in the United States. Vietnam is one of the biggest exporters of fish-farmed catfish and shrimp and many of these seafood products are raised with veterinary medicines or chemicals that are unsafe and illegal in the United States. U.S. border inspections have failed to keep pace with the flood of imports and dangerous imports may be slipping past the safety inspectors.

The TPP poses significant risks for both American fishing and fish farming businesses as well. Imports make up the vast majority — more than 90 percent — of the seafood eaten in the United States. In 2012, about one-third of all fish and seafood imports came from TPP countries and shrimp and catfish imports from Vietnam have increased significantly. Oftentimes, these shrimp and catfish are imported at unfair and illegally low prices, undercutting U.S. shrimpers and catfish farmers.

The TPP negotiators could address some of these key issues and ensure that the trade pact includes key protections for consumers and for independent fishing businesses and fish farms in the United States. This week, Representative Walter Jones (NC) spearheaded a letter, with other members of Congress, to USTR Ambassador Froman demanding that negotiators address key concerns on their trip to Vietnam.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION

The letter notes that “Vietnam’s aquaculture and fisheries industry has been a scofflaw of U. food safety and trade rules for too long, these negotiations provide a key leverage point to ensure that Vietnam’s industry plays by the rules and does not unfairly disadvantage American fishing an aquaculture industries or imperil consumes with dangerous seafood exports.”

USTR needs to put the needs of consumers and independent small fishing and fish farming businesses on an equal footing with the corporate special interests who have set America’s free trade agenda for too long. Representative Jones is leading the charge to make sure that free trade deals don’t drown our consumers and fishing communities in a tidal wave of unsafe imported fish.

 

 

 

May 2nd, 2014

Water Privatization Coming to Your Town, Thanks to the WTO?

By Mitch Jones

 

Water Privatization

Read Public Services International’s latest report, “TISA Versus Public Services”.

With your help, we at Food & Water Watch have been working with a broad alliance of organizations to push back against the pro-corporate trade agenda being negotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. While we’ve made some progress, the fight is far from over, and it could impact your local water services.

Evidence of that fact is the necessity of a new report by our friends at Public Services International: TISA Versus Public Services: The trade in services agreement and the corporate agenda.

Negotiations for TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement, began in 2012 when a group of 20 World Trade Organization (WTO) members formed the “Really Good Friends of Services” (no, I’m not making that up). These Really Good Friends decided to negotiate a new deal outside of the normal WTO framework.

Like the TPP and TTIP, the TISA would undercut domestic regulations designed to protect local workers and small businesses, as well as the environment, so that large multinational corporations could reap larger profits. Little wonder when the Really Good Friends’ really good friends –- the banks, oil and gas industry, and private water companies, among others –- have been pushing for this agreement. TISA would allow foreign corporations the same access to domestic markets at “no less favorable” conditions than domestic companies. At the same time it would block local governments’ attempts to regulate, purchase and provide services. Under TISA, privatization of local water systems would be made easier, and fights against privatization would be made harder. Oh, and it could use investor-state dispute resolution to allow foreign companies to sue our local governments if they don’t like our laws and regulations, just like the TPP and TTIP. It’s outrageous!

TISA is really just another effort by large corporations and the big banks that fund them to push an agenda that they can’t get passed through democratic means. It’s part of the same agenda being pushed in the U.S. by the Koch brothers and ALEC. And, with the Supreme Court paving the way for these same companies to pour millions upon millions of dollars into our elections, we need to fight back harder than ever.

Read the report by Public Services International. Then, email your Member of Congress and tell them you oppose fast track trade deals that will undermine our laws and harm our communities and our environment.

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