A critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.
The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.
“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch in a written statement.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.
The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.
Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Partyduring the 2008 campaign.
“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document. Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document — regarding access to life-saving medication — is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.
“Bush was better than Obama on this,” said Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules. “It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative insists that while broad standards require many medical patents and IP rules that would increase the price of medications, the U.S. intends to work with countries involved in the Trans-Pacific talks to ensure that the agreement does not restrict access to life-saving drugs.
USTR was not immediately available to comment on the newly leaked investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific deal, and has previously stated that it cannot comment on the terms of an allegedly leaked document. That statement is belied somewhat by recent American efforts in other international negotiations to establish controversial medical patents that grant companies long-term monopolies on life-saving medications. Those monopolies increase drug prices, which impede access to medications, particularly in developing nations. The World Health Organization and dozens of nonprofit public health groups have objected to the standards sought by the Obama administration. Two United Nations groups recently urged global governments not to agree to trade terms currently being advocated by the Obama administration, on the grounds that such rules would hurt public health. Such foreign investment standards have also come under fire at home, from both conservative sovereignty purists and progressive activists for the potential to hamper domestic priorities implemented by democratically elected leaders. The North American Free Trade Agreement, passed by Congress in 1993, and a host of subsequent trade pacts granted corporations new powers that had previously been reserved for sovereign nations and that have allowed companies to sue nations directly over issues.
But while the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.
Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that “The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as ‘judges’ and as advocates for the investors suing the governments,” according to the text of the agreement.
In early June, a tribunal at the World Bank agreed to hear a case involving similar foreign investment standards, in which El Salvador banned cyanide-based gold mining on the basis of objections from the Catholic Church and environmental activists. If the World Bank rules against El Salvador, it could overturn the nation’s domestic laws at the behest of a foreign corporation.
Basic public health and land-use rules would be subject to challenge before an international tribunal, as would bank regulations at capital levels that might be used to stymie bank runs or financial crises. The IMF has advocated the use of such capital controls, which would be prohibited under the current version of the leaked trade pact. Although several countries have proposed exceptions that would allow them to regulate speculative financial bets, the U.S. has resisted those proposals, according to Public Citizen.
Trans-Pacific negotiations have been taking place throughout the Obama presidency. The deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for American corporations. Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential elections, Mitt Romney, has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as soon as possible.
The Barisan Nasional government will never use unconstitutional and illegal means to remain in power, the House was told Wednesday.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said the Barisan government was chosen by the people and it was its responsibility was to serve the people.
He said under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the coalition that formed the Government was strongly committed to upholding the principle of “people’s power”, and protect the sanctity of the Federal Constitution and the laws of the land.
“Barisan will never use unconstitutional ways to to remain in power,” he said when responding to a question by Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur), who asked for evidence that the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally was an attempt to topple the Government.
Nazri said the fact that Barisan had lost several states and did not secure two-thirds majority reflected the integrity of the Election Commission, which had organised elections in the country since Independence.
The minister said the good intentions of Bersih 3.0 to have a peaceful rally was hijacked by the Opposition, whose agenda was to pressure the Government as they were not confident of forming the government through a free and fair election.
“As a pre-emptive measure, they tried to create doubt in the hearts and minds of the people that elections in the country are not free or fair. If they lose in the election, then they will go on to say that their allegations are true,” he said.
Lim, who stood up to ask a supplementary question, hit out at Nazri for not answering his question and further asked if the Prime Minister would apologise and retract his statement that Bersih 3.0 rally was an attempt to topple the Government.
“His (Najib’s) statemment is a serious one. Does that mean that salt and mineral water (used to relieve the effects of tear gas) can cause the collapse of a Government,” he asked.
Nazri hit back, saying one should not underestimate the “power of salt and mineral water” because the governments of Egypt and Libya fell “by the mere use of handphones”.
“These governments did not fall because of bombs, so let us not underrate salt and mineral water bottles. It was clear they (Bersih3.0) wanted to topple the Government through undemocratic means. They raised the emotions of the people, asking them to come to participate in the rally. They were hoping that 100,000 would come and that the Government would fall but this did not happen,” Nazri said.
Desperate Times Require Desperate Moves: The F&N Way
by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com
Of the dozens of comments on Malaysiakini’s story on the appearance of Najib Abdul Razak’s picture on the 100Plus can, the most telling I saw was from someone writing as ‘Patchen’: “Can you imagine putting your lips on Najib’s face as you drink?…It’s like kissing him…!”
Like Patchen and seemingly almost everyone else, I have been racking my brains to think why F&N (Fraser & Neave) would defile one of its most popular brands with pictures of Najib.
Was it a ‘clever’ marketing concept gone horribly wrong? Or the company’s misguided attempt to get itself back into BN’s good books after Ambiga Sreenivasan committed the unforgiveable sin of kindly offering 100Plus to anti-BERSIH protesters outside her house?
Or was F&N’s use of Najib’s picture on the can of one of their most popular brands in response to a Mafia-style BN “offer that they couldn’t refuse”? Whichever, it certainly served to highlight the increasingly evident fact that, to multitudes of Malaysians, Najib, his BN accomplices, and all their works and words are the absolute kiss of death.
They have even managed to terminally blight their own 1Malaysia brand by making it a by-word for suspect, shoddy or otherwise undesirable products and services foisted on an unsuspecting public by crony suppliers.
1Malaysia shops notoriously sold, and perhaps still sell, a whole range of illegally-labelled goods, many of them no more cheaply than the genuine articles available elsewhere.
And they even stooped so low as to cheat mothers and children by selling so-called “growing-up” milk powder completely devoid of essential vitamins and minerals.
The 1Malaysia email service was launched as a “free” link for citizens with the government and its agencies, yet outrageously paid the crony operators of this “service”, and may do so still as far as I know, 50 sen of public money for every message subscribers sent.
As for the BR1Malaysia “gift” of RM500 to every needy Malaysian, there’s been no accounting or auditing that I’ve seen, and so I assume at least some of those responsible for dispensing the cash kept a good deal of it for themselves in the notorious “I help you, you help me” spirit of 1Malaysia.
And recently we saw the launch of the 1Malaysia tablet, which was greeted by those claiming far more IT expertise than I have to be both under-performing and overpriced.
But surely the most insulting offering to date has been the bookMenyerlalahkan Amalan Nilai-Nilai Murni 1Malaysia(Highlighting 1Malaysia’s values), which was launched by Information Minister Rais Yatim as an ideal gift for supporters of BERSIH.
With a cover prominently featuring Najib Razak pressing the flesh with a member of his adoring public, this sickening exercise in hypocrisy proposes 21 “moral values” including patience, discipline, respect, meritocracy, cleanliness, education, integrity, humility, courtesy and loyalty.
Thus vividly highlighting the fact that the BN 1Malaysia gang practices none of the virtues to which it pays lip-service, and clearly has no intention of ever doing so.
Indeed, it can’t manage a morsel of morality even when its activities almost literally result in the kiss of death, as in the disgracefully-disorganised drag-race at its so-called “Millions of Youths” gathering in Putrajaya last month.
The Sports Minister had the extraordinary cheek to claim that there were “no grounds for the government to apologise” to the families of seven young people seriously injured when a car ran off the inadequately barriered track.
In fact he went so far as to claim that “the victims’ families understood that (had) their children not been there, they would have gone somewhere else and faced other mishaps,” and thus they “have foregone suing the government as had been urged by certain quarters.”
I wonder if the Minister for Transport (MCA-BN) will be so callous and cavalier in his attitude to victims and their families if and when the allegedly defective 1Malaysia regime air traffic control radar upgrade results in a catastrophic crash.
Of course there’s always the chance he wouldn’t even notice, as these days he seems to be devoting most of his attention to trying to stifle public anger aroused by the antics of the lying Health Minister (MCA_BN) Low Tiong Lai over his alleged bid for a WWW number plate.
And the Malaysian public would be shielded from any bad news about the 1Malaysia brand and its promoters, as usual, by the 1Malaysia “news” media, largely owned as they are by BN and its crony “communications” corporation, Media Prima.
But to judge by the sinking circulations of most of its so-called “newspapers” and the pathetic content, on-air-personalities and production values of its television stations, Media Prima appears to be succumbing to the 1Malaysia kiss of death too.
Though not as quickly, unfortunately, as many of us would like. Elsewhere the process appears to be speeding-up, however, with virtually instant calls for a boycott of 100Plus following the appearance of the number 1 promoter of 1Malaysia on its can.
So, considering the visceral revulsion of Patchen and countless others at the thought of pressing their lips to a lMalaysia-polluted drink can, I hope has plans for lots more crony-enriching 1Malaysia scams posing as products and services.
The opportunities are endless. From foodstuffs, or rather stuff-ups like 1Malaysia beef from the National Feedlot Corporation to a range of sub-standard 1Malaysia cosmetics featuring lipsticks with a picture of a pouting Najib Razak on their packs.
We can’t look forward to a 1Malaysia car, unfortunately, as the country is already stuck with the 1Mahathir Proton.But the Najib Razak administration has already floated the prospect of as 1Malaysia nuclear power. And if that comes to pass, and proves as much of a combined rip-off and stuff-up as most other BN projects, it could prove the kiss of death for millions of citizens.
Though by then there would likely be a chain of 1Malaysia undertakers, so surviving BN politicians and cronies could still go on making a killing.
Ben Ali left Tunisia in January last year following deadly protests against his rule [AFP]
|A military court in Tunisia have sentenced toppled president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to 20 years imprisonment in absentia on various charges including incitement to murder.
Ben Ali, who is exiled in Saudi Arabia, was found guilty of “inciting disorder, murder and looting,” the court said on Wednesday in its verdict over the deaths of four youths, shot dead in the town of Ouardanine in mid-January 2011.
Four protesters were shot dead in the eastern coastal town as they tried to prevent the flight of Ben Ali’s nephew Kais, a day after Ben Ali flew out of the country on January 14.
The victims’ relatives have accused the security apparatus of ordering police to open fire on the crowd.
The court also slapped prison sentences of five to 10 years, some in absentia, on several members of the security forces over the same incident.
Death penalty sought
Ben Ali faces countless trials and has already been sentenced to more than 66 years in prison on a range of other charges including drug trafficking and embezzlement.
He and his wife are the subject of an international arrest warrant, but Saudi authorities have not responded to Tunisian extradition requests.
A military prosecutor is also seeking the death penalty against the former president over a similar incident which saw at least 22 people killed in pro-democracy protests in the towns of Thala and Kasserine.
The weeks of protests that started in December 2010 toppled one of the most entrenched autocratic regimes in the Arab world and led to democratic elections in October that saw a moderate Muslim party rise to power.
It also had a domino effect, triggering waves of protests which became known as the Arab Spring and is still sweeping the region.