I made it to the San Diego Hilton right when the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) event officially opened. I found my way to the reception desk and was given my official press pass. There were lots of people milling around so I found my way over to where a group of people were standing, hoping to find other members of the press.
TPPA protests will end off with a bang on Saturday, July 7, 2012 with a Pots and Pans March. 10:30 am — Gather at San Diego Freedom Plaza (Civic Center) 11:00 am — MARCH BEGINS. Noon — Rally in the park adjacent to Hilton Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center.
I wasn’t even there five seconds when hotel security stopped me and asked if I was lost. I told him I was looking for the press room and he told me the fourth floor was reserved for delegates and press were allowed on the third floor only. He told me I could just go around the corner and take the escalator. I replied that even though my walker looked quite hip, it was not a fashion accessory, so I preferred the elevator. Jeez! Aren’t these guys supposed to be observant?
We were given different color lanyards at the reception desk. Mine was green for press; the red ones were for stakeholders and the purple for delegates. I should have known the delegates were representing the 1% because they wore purple. How appropriate! Stakeholders seemed to represent those who would be most affected by the delegates decisions. Most were from groups like Sierra Club, Teamsters Union, the California Pirate Party (?), the Motion Picture Industry, Public Knowledge, and my favorite, the soy industry.
They were all crammed in one room and it basically was set up like a job fair. We were given only three hours to mingle and there seemed to be a million people I wanted to talk to. A stakeholder told me the corporations had the ear of the delegates 24/7 and even sponsored some events; in a nutshell they were lobbying.
Did I mention that press was not allowed to speak with delegates and security made sure it didn’t happen? So exactly why was the press there? I counted six of us and we were all from online news sources. Not a sign of local news or CNN. The TPPA should be front page news! I found this quite disturbing since the decisions of the TPPA will affect all of us, not just in this country but all the ones who sign up. In our country every state in the U.S. and the federal government would have to abide by the rules created by the TPP. These include domestic policy on financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications; patents, copyrights, food and product standards; land use and natural resources.
In other words, the corporations own us. This seems to me the kind of news the press would want to inform the public about, but then I remembered, the media are owned by the same corporations who are pushing to have more rights than the countries involved. Silly me!
I didn’t get to speak with as many people as I hoped but I did get many points of view and documentation to back their claims up. I won’t post everything in one story because it’s so much information. I will break it down into a few stories, and I will start with the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter.I found this chapter’s press release which in part states, ‘To date, corporations like Exxon Mobil, and Dow Chemical have launched more than 450 cases against 89 governments using investment rules similar to the ones proposed in the TPPA text. Dozens of environmental laws have been challenged, and countries including the US have spent millions of our tax dollars fending off corporate attacks on government policy’.
A woman staffing the desk asked me not to reveal her name gave me a couple examples of how corporations supersede government environmental laws. Mexico had to pay Metalclad, a U.S. corporation $15.6 million because the municipality wouldn’t give them a permit to have a toxic waste facility. Metalclad purchased the facility and the previous owner left a huge toxic mess.
The Mexican government told Metalclad they would have to clean it up and then be given a permit. But Metalclad didn’t like that ruling so they went to the investor-tribunal who ruled that Mexico violated NAFTA’s “minimum standard of treatment” guaranteed to foreign investors, because the firm was not granted a clear and predictable regulatory environment.
Then there was the case of S.D.Meyers, a United States waste treatment company challenged the temporary Canadian ban on PCB exports. The investor-trade tribunal under NAFTA ruled in the company’s favor and ordered Canada to pay them $5 million dollars.
The way the wording in the TPP agreement is shaped, these same corporations, both foreign and domestic can sue the United States if they don’t get what they want. Corporations are seen as sovereign and do not have to abide by local or federal government rules. They can even threaten to sue states, like Monsanto did to Vermont when the government backed down instead of getting into a costly court battle over labeling gmos.
This type of thing can happen over and over. Our environmental laws could and probably will be ignored; judging by the corporation’s behavior with NAFTA and most of the people I spoke with called this agreement “NAFTA on steroids”.
What I found disturbing is that these secret negotiations do not allow or want citizens input, even though they are the very people who will be affected by these decisions. At stake is nothing less than a democratic society’s ability to regulate a market economy in the broad public interest. Where is the transparency? Where is the Democratic process?
The governments who joined so far include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and U.S. Canada and Mexico look like they will join soon. These rules will apply to all countries that join and if one country doesn’t like what is happening to them, they can’t just say they won’t participate in that part. They have to get all parties involved to agree, and we all know that some of these countries have lower standard environmental laws, not to mention labor.
Remember the huge battle over the TransCanada pipeline? Under TPP rules we in the U.S. cannot stop that from happening. We can even be sued for protesting!
Inge is a stage four rectal cancer survivor. She now spends her time volunteering @ the Infusion Center @ UC Irvine Medical Center and writing her blog “Rectal Cancer My Ass“. She is a vegan, animal lover, political activist, wife and mom.