Listen: Bill Waren on the perils of upcoming trade deals
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Friends of the Earth’s trade policy analyst Bill Waren recently appeared on the Progressive Radio Network’s Connect the Dots show, where he discussed with host Alison Rose Levy the potential consequences of passing Fast Track trade promotion legislation. Fast Track would push pending Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific trade deals through Congress on a quick up-or-down vote with no amendments — before the public has had a chance to see the secret text of the TPP and TTIP. These two massive trade deals threaten the public health and our environment. The historical record shows that it is almost a political impossibility to stop congressional approval of a trade agreement under Fast Track rules. A vote on Fast Track, effectively a vote to approve TPP and TTIP before the press and public have a chance to read the provisions, is coming up as soon as March. If passed, Fast Track would stay in effect for several years before it sunsets. Essentially, a vote for Fast Track is in effect a vote for other trade deals that we know nothing about.
Below are excerpts from the show, which is available in its entirety on PRN.fm. (Note: As of publication, PRN is experiencing a server outage and the recording is unavailable. Please check back later to listen to the show.)
Beginning with the Fast Track trade bill slated for Congress’ consideration in coming weeks:
There’s a bit of branding going on here that can be deceptive. Because, to a certain extent, these international agreements are about trade, but they’re more about deregulation and rolling back those health and environmental safeguards that we depend upon to take care of ourselves and take care of our planet. This really is all about shifting authority away from democratic institutions, from people like you, and the people we elect to represent us to represent us in Congress and legislatures, and shifting that authority and power to international trade and investment tribunals that are effectively run by multinational corporations. … They want to limit the capacity of democratic institutions to protect the environment, to protect our health, and it’s all coming to a head.
Host Alison Rose Levy mentions the ability of corporations under TPP and TTIP to undermine key environmental laws in the U.S., such as New York’s recent move to ban fracking. Waren notes that such a case has already happened in Quebec, involving the same investor-state tribunals these deals would establish.
[The] NY fracking scenario is exactly on point, because the same scenario has already played out in Quebec. There was a grassroots citizens movement to protect our health and our environment from fracking. Eventually the national assembly of Quebec instituted a moratorium on fracking and fracking under the St. Lawrence river.
What happened then: a Canadian fracking company called Lone Pine, which actually had a technical legal-corporate address in the United States, claimed its status as a U.S. investor in Canada under NAFTA, and filed suit before one of these investor-state tribunals. These take the place of our courts in these kinds of disputes and give access only to corporations, and give them the rights to claim money damages in the millions and in some cases billions in compensation for current and future lost profits as the result of government action. In this case, the action was Quebec putting a hold on fracking to protect the St. Lawrence River. And they’re asking for tens of millions of dollars in compensation, when Lone Pine hasn’t actually gone ahead with the project at all, and this is just lost future profits.
On the trade deals’ goals of dismantling of chemical regulations:
The U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman and the chemical companies have targeted a pretty effective chemical regulation that’s been established in the EU, which is called REACH. What REACH does is apply the precautionary principle and put the burden of proof on the chemical company to show that the product is safe, rather than put the burden of legal and scientific proof on overworked and politically influenced agencies, like the EPA, which handles [the Toxic Substances Control Act]. This is one of the leading negotiating points for the U.S., and they’re making a lot of headway. This would not only dismantle the world model for regulating chemicals, but it would freeze in place and roll back effective regulation of dangerous chemicals in the United States as well.
It’s an outrageous situation, and is an imminent threat to the planet. And it illustrates these so-called trade agreements, things that have been branded as trade agreements, are not really about trade at all, in most cases. This is about deregulation, this is about hobbling governments’ capacity to protect people and the planet. And this move by the chemical companies illustrates that.
At the conclusion of the show, Waren explains why it is urgent for listeners to contact their members of Congress immediately and stop Fast Track.
The media and every citizen need to speak up, need to talk to their members of Congress, and need to get involved politically. … It’s a crisis situation, with this corporate capture of our democratic institutions by Big Oil, Big Ag and others. It really requires making an appointment to see your member of Congress, letting them know that you’re aware of what’s going on, [as well as] talking to people like you in the media, writing letters to the editor. It’s about speaking up at public meetings.
It’s really the responsibility of all of us as citizens, and all of you as journalists, to bring this issue to the public’s attention and to see that change comes from the grassroots up.
To find out more, including how the U.S., EU and corporations are already weakening climate and health regulations in anticipation of the TPP and TTIP trade deals, listen to the full show above or on PNR.fm.
We need your help to stop these trade deals from being rushed through Congress.
Visit StopFastTrack.com and call your representatives. Tell them not to Fast Track the Pacific and Atlantic trade deals.
Also, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, Citizens Trade Campaign and other groups are coming together across the U.S. to protest and educate the public on the massive threats of Fast Track and TPP. Check to see if an event is happening in your area this month.