There have been articles posted recently on the NewNY23rd debating the Trans-Pacific-Partnership trade agreement. Although they focused on many TPP issues, one that I one I find most disturbing is trade agreements have Investor State Dispute Settlement Tribunals. They are three arbitrators that makes final, binding decisions when conflicts arise between multi-national corporations and an Agreement Partner Country. One article described the tribunals “secret, corporate…to protect profits”. The other article compares them to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rep. Reed had Town Hall Meetings last Saturday. I was able to attend the Town of Wheeler meeting. Between discussing audience concerns about the lack of jobs, lack of Fracking, lack of highway salt, lack of a tax base, lack of EMS Volunteers, too much Obamacare, and one bad Iranian deal, Reed’s sidekick Joe, picked my TPP question for our congressman to reply to.
“Could the United States be sued by a country like Viet Nam if we raise our minimum wage, or change an environmental regulation?” After Reed explained the question and trade agreements to the audience he gave the following response
Q: So you are saying that the trade agreement will not trump United States laws?
Reed: That’s my understanding. If the trade agreement is negotiated property, the dispute resolution mechanism s part of the agreement When the Australian Supreme Court came in on that case that is brought up a lot, the Philip Morris case, the packaging with the cigarette case, the Supreme Court said “no”that the agreement doesn’t trump “our law”. Now it is going through this mechanism and in theory…
Q: Australian doesn’t…
Reed: Australia said their laws apply. The agreement does’t go around Australian Laws. Now they are trying to go going through this Dispute Resolution process to say that “we disagree with Australia.” and we are going to let the agreement dictates otherwise. It’s complicated but the bottom line is any agreement we negotiate America’s Law has to be primary. We need to make sure that when we negotiate these things everybody recognizes that we are playing by America’s laws.”
Although Rep. Reed said that in the treaty the Country’s law trumps the negotiated treaty, that “America’s Law is primary”, and “everybody recognizes that we are playing with America’s laws”, he also said that after the Australian Supreme Court made a decision, Philip Morris appealed their decision to the Dispute Resolution Tribunal.
If someone can appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling, then the Surpeme Court really isn’t Supreme. The Tribunal will look the language in the negotiated Agreement, and international law, and decide if the Australian Law is upheld. (Please note: It was reported in a comment to one of the articles that the Philip Morris appointed one of the arbitrator, Australia appointed one and The Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration appointed the third arbitrator.)
Rep. Reed gets summaries of the negotiations but they are still in progress. I understand that the multi-national corporations need to know the rules and each country has different rules. But are trade agreements so important to us that we give a group of three the power to negate our laws?
If the TPP is fast-tracked Congress has to either vote for it, or against it. They an not create amendments. It is either a “Yay” or “Nay”. Will Rep. Reed feel that “America’s Law has to be primary” and vote against this agreement? Or will he only see the profits being made by the multinational corporations change his mind?