A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter, and it’s as bad as many of us feared.
Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want the TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it.
The section of the TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses. WikiLeaks has the text and analysis, and the Times has the story, in “Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.”:
An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.
The WikiLeaks analysis explains that this lets firms “sue” governments to obtain taxpayer compensation for loss of “expected future profits.”
Let that sink in for a moment: “[C]ompanies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals….” And they can collect not just for lost property or seized assets; they can collect if laws or regulations interfere with these giant companies’ ability to collect what they claim are “expected future profits.”
The Times’ report explains that this clause also “giv[es] greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.”
The tribunals that adjudicate these cases will be made up of private-sector (i.e., corporate) attorneys. These attorneys will rotate between serving on the tribunals and representing corporations that bring cases to be heard by the tribunals. This is a conflict of interest because the attorneys serving on the tribunals will have tremendous incentive to rule for the corporations if they want to continue to get lucrative corporate business.