WASHINGTON -- 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 Party during 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."
In a statement provided to HuffPost, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative downplayed the concerns.
"This administration is committed to ensuring strong environmental, public health and safety laws," said USTR spokesperson Nkenge Harmon. "Nothing in our TPP investment proposal could impair our government's ability to pursue legitimate, non-discriminatory public interest regulation, including measures to protect public health, public safety and the environment."
Words like "legitimate" and "nondiscriminatory" can have flexible interpretations among international tribunals, however, which have recently ruled that U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labelling and anti-teen smoking efforts are unfair barriers to trade, according to prior trade pacts. The new investment rules, for instance, extend to government contracting negotiations, eliminating so-called "Buy American" preferences for domestic manufacturers.
USTR has previously stated that it does not comment on the terms of an allegedly leaked document.
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.
Why anybody would give that failure 4 more years is beyond me.
He is the worse president we have had in my 83 years.
Answer by Natesmom507 at 10:07 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
We know Obama is a complete failure. We don't know about Romney yet. Why stick with the guy that we know is a failure.
Answer by Natesmom507 at 10:36 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Answer by agentwanda at 1:11 AM on Jun. 14, 2012
Answer by DJDNY at 10:27 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Good thing we have transparency in government now!
Answer by Iamgr8teful at 10:44 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 11:01 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Answer by Mom-2-3-Girlz at 10:11 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Answer by LostSoul88 at 10:23 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Short of DNA results showing that he is a direct descendant of Bush, I don't see his staunch supporters dumping him or even refusing to vote for a POTUS at all. Look at all of the Bush policies that they all hated and he has continued and even expanded. If that wasn't enough for him to lose his supporters than nothing likely will.
Or maybe they just hate Romney. I really don't know.
Answer by QuinnMae at 11:08 PM on Jun. 13, 2012
Answer by okmanders at 2:37 AM on Jun. 14, 2012
Next question overall
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