Why the USA can shove their TPPA/TTIP up their arse

The world doesn’t really like the United States. Why is that, one might wonder?

Not a soul can or will dispute the role that the United States play in our world, and acknowledgement is duly given to the important contributions made by the US in areas such as culture, history and technology. But what the US do not seem to want to understand is that they do not own the place. Continuous interference in other countries’ affairs, telling them what to do, forcing them to do things they do not want to do, even invading them purely for own interest, well…let’s just say that the 11/9 events were not a nice thing but the US had it coming.

If the USA wish for the rest of the world to like them a bit more then the first thing they should learn is that “leadership” means “servitude”. The second thing is that respect cannot be claimed; it must be earned.

Here is a “thought of the day”; something to ponder about tonight when sitting in your Swedish armchair, drinking French wine in front of the Mexican fireplace burning Canadian pine trees: In the fiscal year 2012/13, the total defence budget of the USA was 3.48 trillion. That is a number so big, it is almost incomprehensible. Written out it looks like this: US$ 3,480,000,000,000. To put this number into perspective: that is enough money to give every single person on this planet – EVERY SINGLE PERSON – a tin of baked beans plus half a loaf of bread, EVERY DAY. That’s a lot of beans.

Of course, it is never a task of any Government to feed people other than in emergency situations, plus it would be disastrous for global methane levels. But the comparison does lead to the following ponderability: assume the first option is to spend money to provide food to people in countries you have disagreements with, and the second option is to use that same money to invade and occupy said countries. Which one of those options would gain the respect and admiration of the population, and which one would make them want to crash a plane into your building  decapitate you at the first opportunity? (flying planes in buildings is sooo 2001, so hence the change to decapitation. More up-to-date).

divider And just when the general opinion about the USA was slowly starting to improve slightly, they throw a big fat “fuck you” the TPPA/TTIP in the face of countries that are supposed to be their allies.

Before we continue, let’s insert a quick disclaimer here: the entire TPPA/TTIP is actually rather complex material, because it is a massive agreement that covers a vast array of things. It is impossible to give a summary that fully explains the TPPA without cutting a corner here and there. But it IS possible to nutshell the TPPA/TTIP entailment and why New Zealand nor the European Union (or any other country for that matter) should sign this agreement. It’s shockingly simple to explain, actually.

What is this TPPA/TTIP?

It is a “trade” agreement between the United States and other countries. The word “trade” is written between quotes because these agreements cover a lot more than just open trade, but more about that later.

TPPA stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Don’t be fooled by the word “partnership” in there, it really is an agreement between the USA on one side, and – as far as the USA are concerned – as many countries as possible on the other side. New Zealand is not the only country threatened by the TPPA, others are Australia, Brunei, Chili, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is exactly the same, except it is an agreement between the United States and the European Union. Yes, that’s right: countries in Europe have absolutely no say in it at all, it is the   undemocratically appointed elected  European Union that’s negotiating. I’m sorry, what was that you said again, US assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland?

But let’s focus on New Zealand here. Do you remember what the parting gift of the last labour government (1999-2008) was? Indeed, the free trade agreement between China and New Zealand, allowing the New Zealand market to be flooded with cheap “made in China” stuff, putting New Zealand companies out of business. And, as a side note, remember boys and girls that this CNZFTA isn’t actually in full effect yet. The provisions of this CNZFTA are gradually phased in over 12 years, fully coming into force in 2019.

The basic principles of the TPPA are just like that: it opens up the NZ market so that US companies can dump their stuff here. And the other way around: NZ companies could export to the US markets as well. In theory. But if you want to know how that works in reality, just ask Canada or Mexico.

What is so dangerous about the TPPA/TTIP?

There are three reasons why signing the TPPA is a bad deal for New Zealand (or any other country): extent, regulations and jurisdiction.

1) extent

The TPPA/TTIP agreement covers a lot more than just trade of goods. The agreement covers agriculture, it covers the chemical sector, it covers transport and logistics. It covers taxes, the finance sector and tendering processes. It even covers healthcare and immigration. The exact extent of the TPPA is way too complex to summarise here, but rest assured: any sector that plays any role in the economical structure of either country will be covered by this agreement.

The concept of free trade is one thing, but the concept of complete market assimilation is something else.

2) regulations

Part of the TPPA is an elimination of differences in product regulation. While sounding good in principle, what it means is that the US products on sale in New Zealand will have been produced in accordance with US regulation – not New Zealand regulation.

This is not a claim that everything made in New Zealand is better, but it is definitely true that US companies have a well-above-average tendency to … how to put this politely…budget more money for their marketing and legal departments than their product quality department. Is that a polite enough way to describe it? Well, probably not, but you get the idea. And whilst this might not be an issue for products such as lightbulbs or dishwashing cloths, it does become a lot more problematic when it comes to, say, foodstuffs or medicine.

Decennia worth of painstakingly built consumer trust and New Zealand quality reputation will be worthless overnight. Not even starting on the public health risks.

3) jurisdiction

Jurisdiction. Or, to describe it differently: what happens if there is a disagreement about something covered by the TPPA? Well, in that case the ISDS comes into play.

ISDS is a part of the TPPA and stands for Investor State Dispute Settlement. This means that in case of disputes, it is not companies or individuals that can be taken to court, but it is the COUNTRY.

If the Mad Butcher (a New Zealand chain of quality butchers) opposes the sale of US chlorinated chicken meat in New Zealand because it is harmful for the public health, then US chicken producers can sue the New Zealand government for compensation of the financial damage. If you think that this example is quite far fetched, think again.

But wait, there is more! With the TPPA in place, any disputes are settled without even the slightest involvement of any form of judge, jury or court – be it domestic or international. Instead, disputes are settled BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by three lawyers: one lawyer of the company making the claim, one lawyer of the country that wants their laws to be respected, and one lawyer which is chosen by the other two. International business claims on this scale tend to be fairly large (millions of dollars), so the risk of bribery of these lawyers does not only seem almost unavoidable; it seems to be encouraged. And because – we’ll say it again here – all sessions and documentation are closed, we will never know – not the ruling, not the voting, not who the lawyers were, not how much money was involved, not even the arguments used pro and con.

In summary

What is the TPPA/TTIP? It is an agreement which allows US companies to sell inferiour stuff on New Zealand markets, it threatens to put New Zealand companies into bankruptcy and New Zealanders out of employment (did we mention yet that “import of qualified labour” is part of the agreement?), it allows US companies to jeopardize product quality and safety standards, it allows US organisations to freely exploit any and all of New Zealand’s natural resources. On top of all that: if any New Zealand individual or organisation complains, opposes or announce they don’t want this to happen, then the New Zealand government can immediately be sued for vast amounts of money decided behind closed doors by only three people – at least one of which is paid by the claimant and the other two can very easily be “persuaded”.

That is what the TPPA is: a hostile takeover by a foreign nation – without a single shot fired.

If you want to know more, and/or if you want to know what you can do to stop this, here you go:

For the TPPA (if you’re in South America, Asia or Oceania): itsourfuture.org.nz

For the TTIP (if you’re in Europe): stop-TTIP.org

Tell the USA they can take their TPPA/TTIP/ISDS, and go fuck themselves.

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