Free speech, including the right to protest, can no longer be taken for granted. According to a newly-released WikiLeaks video (below), multinational corporations have already successfully sued governments on the basis of corporate profits being affected by certain laws. And as the international trade negotiations continue in secret, this corporate power will expand and exert greater control over governments and citizens. These were among one of the bomb shells of the WikiLeaks video detailing international trade negotiations that most citizens are not aware of.
WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization, has made headlines for information it has made public since 2010.
The YouTube video, titled “WikiLeaks – The US strategy to create a new global legal and economic system: TPP, TTIP, TISA,” explores three international agreements being negotiated in secret.
TheWikiLeaksChannel, the official WikiLeaks YouTube channel, hosts the video, which includes comments from investigative journalists as well as Julian Assange, editor in chief, WikiLeaks.
The U.S. Seeks To Dominate The Globe
“It’s the United States saying, there may be another power in the world, but we will be the ultimate power,” says John Pilger, an investigative journalist.
John Hilary, executive director of War On Want, an international organization that fights poverty, says the new trade agreements are the future template for all future trade deals. “And that means the rewriting the rules of the global economy,” he says.
And that means for everybody.
The video provides historical background for the current trade negotiations, beginning in the 1950s. After the second world war, the U.S. accounted for half the world’s economy. “It (the U.S.) was able to write the rules of international trade to its advantage,” the narrator notes. The WTO (World Trade Organization) came into being in this context, and the U.S. was able to dictate rules that favored U.S. business.
As economies like China and Indiajoined WTO, the organization became a more democratized arena and the U.S. found it harder to control its decision making. “The U.S. felt it needed a new strategy to maintain its global dominance. So in the classical American style, they went big.”
To bypass the WTO, powers behind the scenes are creating the biggest international agreement ever. It’s called the three “big Ts”: The Transpacific Partnership (TTP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) “And they’re all being negotiated in secret right now.”
“We only found out when WikiLeaks was able to leak part of them,” Pilger says in reference to the trade negotiations.
Hilary notes China is excluded, as is Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa. “They’re all excluded because those are the emerging economies.”
A ‘Geopolitical War’
Matt Kennard of Centre for Investigative Journalism says what’s not often understood is that these agreements are part of a “geopolitical war.” “This is a new war which is taking place within the United States and China,” he says.
The United States is very scared of the rise of China. So it has moved to militarily encircle it through what is called the pivot to Asia and now it’s moving to doing that economically.
“The basic idea which comes across from reading U.S. strategy papers is the construction of a new grand enclosure,” Assange states. “And to put inside this grand enclosure the United States, 51 other countries, 1.6 billion people, and two-thirds of global GDP. To integrate Latin America away from Brazil and towards the United States. To integrate Southeast Asia away from China and towards the United States. And to integrate Western Europe, pulling it away from Eurasia as a whole and towards the Atlantic.”
Also read: Search the WikiLeaks Hacking Team Dump
TTIP: Clouded In Mystery
Looking specifically at the three agreements, Assange notes that the TTIP remains clouded in mystery.
Among the three big T’s, WikiLeaks has revealed four chapters of the TPP which affects 12 countries and the Americas and Southeast Asia.
WikiLeaks also released and obtained information about the TISA which affects 52 countries including the EU.
“But nearly all of TTIP is still secret,” Assange says.
“Nobody knows what’s being negotiated in our name,” Hilary says. “So you have these far-reaching deals which can completely change the face of our economy and our societies. And yet even elected parliamentarians know nothing about it.”
Big Corporations Have Access To Talks
This is a problem the big corporations don’t share, the video notes. “The world’s biggest corporations don’t have the same problem,” the narrator says. “They have been receiving VIP access from day one. And have had abundant influence in the negotiations.”
“People, the likes of you and I, are excluded,” says Pilger.
Governments to a great extent are excluded. Those who are included are the multinational corporations.
“These agreements are basically corporate ownership agreements,” Kennard observes. “The funny thing about free trade agreements as we understand them is that they often have nothing to do with trade in these sense of the mutual lowering of tariffs. What they are about is enshrining an investor-rights regime in the respective countries and ensuring the corporations can run wild in their respective economies with very very little regulation or impingement by government or authority.”
How Governments And Citizens Fare
Claire Provost of the Centre for Investigative Journalism expands on the impact the agreements can have no governments and on average citizens. “These treaties will have huge, huge implications, literally for almost every critical issue that an individual citizen or community would care about,” she says. “Health, education, the environment, privacy, access to medicines, I mean the list could go on.”
One of the most criticized aspects is a system called the investors states dispute settlement or ISDS. This is secretive international tribunal that allows companies to sue states for anything that they can claim affects their investment.
“If a protest affects their profits, they can sue,” Provost says.
If laws affect their profits, they can sue. If new regulations might impact where or what they want to do with their money they can sue.
“This is a new power which will be handed over to U.S. corporations to sue the governments of Europe in a parallel judicial system which is available to them only alone, so people have no access to it, domestic firms have no access to it, governments have no access to it, It’s just their foreign investors, in this case, U.S. corporations,” Hilary notes.
Corporations Sue Governments
Based on ISDS history, critics argue European state sovereignty and democracy are at serious risk. Previous lawsuits the video notes include Swedish company suing the German state for $3.7 billion for phasing out nuclear energy. British American Tobacco sued Australia for passing a law limiting cigarette advertising. A French company sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage.
“What is so scary about this is that corporations want to lock in their power,” Kennard says. “So that they not only want increased power but they want to make it possible for sovereign governments to reverse the changes which are going to give them power.” For example, TTIP, if it passes, with ISDS in it, the privatization of the national health service which is happening in the U.K. can never be reversed.
“What is democratic about an enormous imposition of power on countries whose citizens have no way of knowing what’s going on, of debating it, or influencing their government in its decision?” Pilger asks. “That’s antidemocratic.”
“The history of these agreements shows that they’re very difficult to change unless people can see what’s in them,” Assange says. “And that’s why they’re kept secret. And when their contents are revealed, it generates an opposition.”
WikiLeaks has had “considerable success” delaying the TPP and opening up the debates around it, and the TISA, by releasing the secret draft text, the video notes. “Our publication of an earlier proposed U.S./EU agreement, the ACTA, killed it entirely. Helped the world become a more transparent place. Do your part. Go to WikiLeaks.org/ttip-reward.”
Images from Shutterstock.