Tag Archives: trans pacific partnership

The Corporate Coup and TPP

Written By:  Stephen Agwu, Labor & Trade Intern, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter

The Corporate Coup

Systems of governance have always encountered entities which would create laws against/circumvent the will of the people. In grade school, we all learned that the Magna Carta started the proverbial wheel which eventually drove western society toward the height of democratic ideals, not seen since the time of ancient Greece. What is good to remember about these ideals is that the proverbial wheel goes both ways.

There has always been, and currently are, forces that would deny  the people their democratic voice. At this time there are corporations vying for their private interest, which seeks to overthrow the autonomous control of the people and their governments. This corporate coup d’état is being driven by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. The TPP is a set of secret negotiations being conducted between trans-pacific countries such as Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Peru, and other countries such as the USA, Mexico, and Canada.


The negotiations include 29 chapters (with only about five focused on trade) with known topics ranging from intellectual property to investor state arbitration. Because the negotiations only take input from 600 of USA’s top corporations and none from average citizens, it is the corporation’s interest that is negotiated in place of the people of the USA, and it is corporations that are achieving their goal at the expense of the consumer. The fact that corporations are using these negotiations to create a set of rules that would benefit themselves while being deleterious to the majority of the population is not the main problem (you can decide how deleterious these changes are as these changes are illuminated later). The problem is the fact that their means for creating these set of laws involves circumventing our democratic principles.

Establishing Corporate Rule as Government Law

The important thing to remember about TPP is that of its 29 chapters, only about 5 pertain to traditional trade law (tariffs, subsidies, etc). The main point of the TPP is to get all the participating countries to conform to a set of non-trade related regulatory policies. For example, lets do a more in depth analysis of the effect TPP would have on copyrights and patents on intellectual properties, and other protections investors would gain with the ratification of TPP (this example is used because it is one of the few chapters leaked to the public).

Investor State Arbitration is one of most far-reaching clauses of TPP. This provides the corporation investing in a foreign country investment protection that ranges from patents with pharmaceuticals and information technologies, to changes in the host countries laws and practices. Investor state arbitration provides the investing corporation a means to enforce TPP standards and protect any investment that company might make.

An example of what would call for a investor state arbitration can be found here, with a focus on the suit filed by the Swedish company on the German government. In summary, Germany made a move to phase out nuclear energy following the tragic nuclear explosion which took place in Japan, their reason being the safety of their citizens and the safety of the environment. The protections offered to investors, however, allow the Swedish corporation to sue the German government for potential loss of profits due to their change in policy.

The point is that the people of Germany, which its government represents, are now under the rule of the Swedish investing corporation. The German government has lost autonomous control over its policies and laws which conflict with foreign corporate interest.

Under the TPP, this would become the standard. An international tribunal would be created, with corporate lawyers presiding as judges in the hearings. These judges will be able to assess loss of profits and bring government and domestic policies under the watchful eye of domestic and foreign corporations.

The implications are far, and frankly, terrifying. Take the Keystone XL pipeline, for example. If a foreign investor, say China, were to invest in the pipeline in Canada, then Canadians would need Chinese permission to stop the pipeline from operating. What’s worse, the investor need not worry about environmental or health cost or externalities because any attempt the host government made to protect themselves, or internalize the cost to the investors could land them in the international tribunal court. Environmentally speaking, the use of “dirty” energy would be further ingrained in society because the people may be unable to monetarily afford to democratically change their laws under the pressure from foreign corporations (more on environmental impact here, and for investor state impact here).

Medicinal and Pharmaceutical copyrights and patents would be more uniform under TPP. Patents on pharmaceuticals would continue to last for 20 years, but even more extensive patent protections would be introduced onto the world stage. This would make the process of “evergreening” or the extensions of patents over a drug more frequent and longer lasting (very nearly indefinite). TPP would also require that surgical practices, treatments, and medical tests be patented, reducing its availability in less affluent nations.

If these TPP measures are enacted, a rise in the global cost of health would ensue as generic drugs became less available. At the same time, medical practices and innovations would not focus on the most prevalent diseases if the people afflicted came from a poorer nations, because they would not be able to afford rights to the patent, instead innovation would be monetarily driven to less prevalent diseases that afflicted more affluent people. Both these patent protections would drive the global medical industry towards one that is focused on making money from the consumer, not one which focused on making the consumer healthy, much like the one in the USA, which is considered highly inefficient when it comes to treatment cost per capita (more on Medical impact of TPP here and here )

The Intellectual Properties chapters would seem very familiar to anyone familiar with the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) of 2011-12. SOPA was an attempt to redefine copyright infringement so as to combat online piracy. The act was controversial in its redefinition of copyright infringement and ended up never being drafted as a bill due to widespread public protest against such legislation.

TPP seeks to not only bring back such copyright re-definitions, but to make them global. Similarities include the criminality of unauthorized streaming of copyright content (even if it is not for profit), blocking of sites which facilitate copyright infringement, and allowing copyright owners to interfere with a sites ability to host advertising. (For a full account of TPP chapter of information technology click here, for SOPA click here). The danger of this provision in TPP is that as a democracy we have already expressed our discontent at such changes. SOPA attempted to make these changes through the proper democratic processes and failed. TPP should not be able to force these changes upon a democratic body which has voted against it. (More here).

TPP revitalizes SOPA without public input

TPP revitalizes SOPA without public input

The secrecy in which the negotiations are being held can be identified as the main moral problems with TPP. The specific problems highlighted in the leaked chapters highlight other problems which all consumers would be subjected to at the hands of corporate investors, but they are moot points if these trade laws were to be debated in public.

The rub is that the negotiators know this. As it is, only a select 600 corporations and the United States Trade representatives are allowed to participate in the negotiation process. Other members of congress may view the document, but are forbidden to talk of it. When asked why the need for secrecy, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk claimed the secrecy was needed to preserve negotiation strength. He and all the business men of every country know that if this information reached the ears of the masses we would revolt. We would shoot these propositions down quickly, decisively, and most importantly, democratically. If that wasn’t enough, there are even talks of using fast track negotiation authority which would prevent the public from seeing the final TPP proposal, and our lawmakers from amending the document before it is ratified. (More here).

The Fight What we must realize is that more is at stake than the individual mandates which change copyright infringement laws, or the duration of patents. What is at stake is the ability for the people to be able to decide these changes themselves. What is at stake is the fundamental principle of democracy which we have established in our government; the ability to contribute the formation of laws and to have litigation contested by our peers; not to have laws decided and evaluated for us like commoners had done for them by nobles.

The time of the Magna Carta may have passed, but the fight for democratic control over the decisions made in society still wages. In our time the players are corporations and their personal interest using the vehicle called the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a means to create a new nobility system which supersedes the democratic body of the people represented by their government. To put it shortly, the TPP is corporations attempting to assume over governments, and through governments, the individual. We must fight back! As the dream of America has progressed it is believed that the democratic ideals for which this country was founded on has extended through demographics: to women, to the African American ethnicity and now the frontier of sexual orientation.

Though the United States practice of democracy has not always been perfect, we all would like to believe that each year, each generation, we come closer to achieving these ideals. In order to continue to move forward we must get the TPP to be discussed openly and with input from all demographics so as to achieve an end that benefits all those in society.

*Interested in this topic and want to get involved? Its as easy as getting in contact with your representative and demanding that they release the negotiations over TPP to the public. Or you can like or comment on this blog post. Comment on the blog and lets make change happen together!

Trade Rules Undermine Transition to Clean Energy

TPP - Green Trade

(This article was cross-posted from http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/)

By Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Reprsentative

Responsible trade can help countries develop sustainably, foster a healthy environment, and expand the use of clean energy. But when used irresponsibly, trade and investment agreements do more harm than good. They can encourage production of goods in places with weak environmental laws and policies, increase carbon pollution by expanding long-distance trade, and accelerate pressure on scarce natural resources. And, by offering corporations broad rights to challenge environmental and other public interest policies, trade and investment rules can undermine one of the most urgent challenges of our time: the transition to a clean energy future.

Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 demonstrated the human and environmental costs of nuclear energy. With tens of thousands of individuals internally displaced, the contamination of land and water, and the dangerous health impacts associated with the nuclear meltdown, the disaster in Japan led a number of governments to turn their backs on nuclear and change course.

Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan

Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan

Germany, for example, initiated a phase-out of nuclear power after the disaster in Japan and committed to transitioning to cleaner, greener, renewable energy sources. Reasonable, right?

Not according to Vattenfall, the Swedish energy firm that is suing the government of Germany because it initiated the nuclear energy phase-out. Vattenfall claims that Germany’s decision to phase-out nuclear energy production violates its right as an investor in nuclear energy in Germany by diminishing its profits. While the case filing has not been publically released, reports show that the corporation is seeking U.S. $4.6 billion in damages from Germany.

Vattenfall is using the Energy Charter Treaty, a trade and investment treaty for the energy sector signed by 51 states, including the European Union, to bring its lawsuit to a private tribunal at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.Clearly, this case is an example of how trade and investment rules can threaten the environment and the health of communities.

As another example, just a couple of months ago, an American oil and gas firm notified Canada of its intent to launch a similarly outlandish case at the same World Bank trade tribunal used by Vattenfall. The Delaware-incorporated Lone Pine Resources noted its intent to sue Canada for $250 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over Quebec’s moratorium on fracking — the violent process of extracting natural gas from shale rock buried deep underground. The people and government of Quebec merely wanted to have time to study the environmental impacts associated with fracking.

The firm is using the rules in NAFTA—rules similar to those that Vattenfall likely used under the Energy Charter Treaty against Germany—that give corporations the right to sue a government over nearly any law or policy that the corporation argues is hurting its profit. In the Quebec case, the firm is willing to threaten safe drinking water and the health of communities in Canada by opening the dangerous floodgates of fracking.

Governments must be able to put in place clean energy and other policies that protect communities and the environment without trade rules getting in the way. Yet, the United States is currently negotiating a new trade pact with ten other countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would virtually replicate the same flawed rules used in the cases described above and leave the door wide open to attacks like the ones on Canada’s fracking moratorium and Germany’s nuclear phase-out.With climate disruption reaching its tipping point, the transition to a clean energy economy has never been more critical. In order for our trade system to support this transition, our elected officials must stop drafting trade pacts that empower the fossil fuel industry at the expense of communities and the environment. We can and must change course.

–Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Representative

Keep fracking out of our trade agreements!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement is a threat to those of us concerned about fracking in Texas and across the country. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign and Labor & Trade program have partnered to call attention to portions of the TPP that will pave the way for more fracking in Texas.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk refuses to acknowledge the concerns of more than 28,000 Americans who signed our petition to call for more environmental and worker protections in the TPP. Tell Ron Kirk that we want responsible, fair trade that doesn’t sacrifice our air and water quality in order to ship natural gas to Pacific Rim nations.


This factsheet provides a good overview of why trade matters to those of us primarily concerned about the environment. Please take a moment to sign and share our petition against expedited fracking and LNG exports.

Feel free to share this link to your anti-fracking networks and to your friends on Facebook: 

For more information on the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade program, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/trade/



Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
David.Cortez (at) SierraClub.org

Texas Sierrans join with hundreds of activists to stop a “NAFTA of the Pacific”

Sierra Club, Texas AFLCIO, Texas Fair Trade Coalition, CWA, and Occupy Gather at Trade Rally

(Rally in Addison, Texas)

This past weekend in Addison, Texas, a north Dallas suburb, more than 300 environmental activists, labor unionists, public health advocates, human rights supporters and members of the Occupy movement joined together to prevent a  “NAFTA of the Pacific”. The rally demanded the release of the draft text of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

The American people have been denied the right to see the text of the TPP that could weaken environmental rules, increase fracking and exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), lower labor standards and wages, outsource more jobs, increase medicine prices, throw out food safety policies, ban Buy American rules, and allow multinational corporations to challenge and overturn U.S. federal and state laws in private trade tribunals that operate entirely outside of  U.S. court system.

(Sierra Club’s Ilana Solomon gets crowd to shout “hell yeah” to supporting American-made solar & wind products)

A very big “thank you” to the Dallas and Ft. Worth Sierra Clubs for taking time to learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and for attending our events. Another shout out to the Lone Star Chapter interns who helped make over 300 calls to Texas Sierrans about the threats TPP could pose to environmental, labor, health, and consumer regulations in the U.S.

Trade is an issue that crosses all political and issue campaign boundaries. Whether you care about clean air, saving American jobs, fair access to medicine, or holding Wall Street accountable, the fight for fair trade is a much-needed unifying battle that can help us build coalitions that can win the change we want to see.

Thanks again for all your support and hard work, and stay tuned for some next steps as we prepare to mobilize solidarity actions during the next round of negotiations in early July in sunny San Diego, California.

In solidarity,

Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
TX BlueGreen Apollo Alliance
Ilana Solomon
Sierra Club Labor & Trade Program
Bob Cash
Texas Fair Trade Coalition

(Dallas and Ft. Worth Sierrans stand with officers and staff from CWA District 6 and Local 6215. Credit: Herb Keener)

Gala, Rally and March Videos:

The Yes Men honor US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk
with the “2012 Corporate Power Tool” award:
Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club
Becky Moeller, Texas AFLCIO
Brent Taylor, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Claude Cummings, Jr. and Nancy Hall, Communication Workers of America
Sanya Reid Smith, Third World Network
Judy Lerma, National Nurses United
Parks Stearns, Occupy Dallas
Lori Wallach, Public Citizen/Global Trade Watch
Arthur Stamoulis, Citizens Trade Campaign
Thanks to all our rally sponsors who worked so hard to make this a successful event: Austin Central Labor Council, Citizens Trade Campaign, Code Pink, Communications Workers of America District 6 and Local 6215, Dallas AFL-CIO Council, Dallas Peace Center, Friends of the Earth, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and IBEW Local 20, Elevator Constructors Local 21 International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Local 745, MoveOn.org Dallas, National Family Farm Coalition, National Nurses United -Texas,  North Texas Jobs with Justice, Occupy Austin, Occupy Dallas, Occupy Texas, OPEIU,  Public Citizen, Lone Star and National Sierra Club, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas State Building Trades Council, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers,  United Students Against Sweatshops, Welcoming Immigrants Network and many others.

Dave Cortez
Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance
512-477-6195 (office)
Twitter: @TXBlueGreen
David.Cortez (at) SierraClub.org
Check out our green jobs plan for Texas: The Texas BlueGreen Apollo Program
And a National, 21st Century jobs plan: 
Jobs21! – Good Jobs for the 21st Century 

We Won’t Get Fooled Again: How Unfair Trade Threatens Texas’ Environment

Why should any Texas enviro care about trade? Let me tell you a bit about what the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is, and why you should be concerned as a boot-wearing Southern green activist.

Today through May 18th in Dallas, as negotiators representing nations and corporations from across the world meet behind closed doors for the 12th round of talks on the TPP, a coalition of union members, environmentalists, occupiers, and consumer advocates will be there to shine a light on the backroom deal.

The TPP is a massive, new international trade and investment pact between the United States and countries throughout the Pacific Rim like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru, Australia, and eventually Japan.  Instead of being debated out in the open, the TPP has thus far been negotiated in the shadows. Approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been given special “cleared advisor” status to review negotiating documents and advise negotiators.  Meanwhile, the general public has been barred from even reviewing what U.S. negotiators have proposed in our names.

So how does this tie into the Texas environmental community? Texas is home to the Barnett and Eagle Ford shales – some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. Countries participating in TPP negotiations rely heavily on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), and stand to benefit from provisions in TPP that would open the floodgates for expanded US production and exports of LNG.  In a recent  letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the Sierra Club’s natural gas and labor & trade departments urged Kirk to ensure that the TPP does not allow for export of substantially increased quantities of domestic liquefied natural gas (LNG) without proper analysis and adequate protections for the American public.

Furthermore, we are concerned about language in previous FTAs that lets foreign corporations sue governments directly — in private and non-transparent tribunals — for unlimited cash compensation over almost any domestic law (environmental or otherwise) that the corporation argues might hurt its profitability.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune discussed this issue in a recent blog post citing:

“By the end of 2011, corporations (including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill) had brought 450 disputes worth hundreds of millions of dollars against the governments of 89 countries. Many of those cases directly targeted environmental and other public interest laws.”

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, come rally and march with us in order to let negotiators know that Texans want fair trade that protects both our environment and workers, and that we won’t get fooled again by bad trade deals.

TPP Out of the Shadows!

Rally and March for Good Jobs, Affordable Medicine & a Healthy Environment

Saturday, May 12 * 1:00pm

Addison Circle Park * 15650 Addison Rd * Addison, TX


Click here to reserve your free seat on a bus from San Antonio or Austin

Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
512-477-6195 (office)

David (dot) Cortez (at) SierraClub (dot) org