Join 3,427 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Capital Knows no Border
June 21, 2014 8:42 AM   Subscribe

On Thursday, Wikileaks (previously) released the text (wikileaks) of a 19-page, international trade agreement being drafted "in secret" in Geneva by representatives of more than 50 countries, entitled the Trade in Services Agreement.

Wikileaks said of the agreement:
“The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers,” WikiLeaks said in a statement. “The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.”
Proponents of the agreement claim it is an update to the 1995 General Agreement on Trade in Services (wikipedia).

Australia's trade minister Andrew Robb says Australia will not enter into a new global trade deal in services if it undermines the strength of the banking and financial services sector.

More from Democracy Now!
posted by Roger_Mexico (81 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Once more, the rising economies of the BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa -- are all absent, and the clear intent, as with TTIP and TPP, is to impose the West's terms on them. .
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:15 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Rather, the clear intent is to impose the will of Western companies on other non-Western countries.

These are not unanimous decisions of the people of these Western countries, otherwise this wouldn't be a secret. This is the will of major multinational corporations.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:21 AM on June 21 [30 favorites]


... and the beat goes on.

it's preferable not to be in the dark about it but really ... what to do with the info?
posted by steveare at 9:29 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


It's actually refreshing to hear news that international business interests are conspiring against us, instead of governments.

I mean, no less distressing, but at least it's a different thing to be terrified of.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:35 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


you guys should read the text wikileaks released. It has a few problematic things in it (data controls, restrictions on postal insurance) but WRT to financial services in general its not particularly interesting. Basically provides for open access on the basis of equal treatment from regulators - but doesn't attempt to control regulation.

The Guardian article is pretty amusing. "well I haven't read it, but if it does this we'll be angry" It doesn't do that.

If you fundamentally dislike the GATT and the WTO and unregulated trade, then of course you'll reasonably take issue with it, but the financial services section isn't particularly bad at its core.
posted by JPD at 9:36 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


LORI WALLACH: So, the headnote on the front page, which is what you’re referring to, what they’re saying there is, the actual agreement, once it was adopted, would become public, because, for instance, in the United States, it would become federal law. All of our domestic policies would have to be conformed to meet it.

If this is indeed the case, I'd be curious to see how the hard line Republicans balance out handing over legislative powers to foreign corporations and if a UKIP style faction arrives that pushes shadings outside interference.

Actually, who am I kidding, as long as there's a buck in it, the Kochs will see it pushed through.
posted by arcticseal at 9:46 AM on June 21



It's actually refreshing to hear news that international business interests are conspiring against us, instead of governments.

I mean, no less distressing, but at least it's a different thing to be terrified of.


variety being the spice of terror
posted by philip-random at 9:49 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


It's actually refreshing to hear news that international business interests are conspiring against us, instead of governments.

Is it really? I thought it was pretty well understood that our whole problem is that international business interests have been conspiring to capture the governments to use against us as part of a vertically integrated strategy.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:50 AM on June 21 [15 favorites]


And their PR tool for capturing the state has been alienating people from their own governments so it's easier to take control of the political processes themselves.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


Of course it would have to be public. It has to be approved by the Senate for the US to become an adherent to the treaty.
posted by JPD at 9:56 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


“The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.”

Given the a mound of data farming the US has done in the last decade or so, (and most likely aided and abetted by most other governments) I'm amused that people would be comfortable with this.
posted by edgeways at 9:57 AM on June 21


If the illuminati have been able to reduce an international trade agreement to a mere 19 pages, then that will represent an extraordinary improvement in politico-bureaucratic efficiency.

(I read this draft yesterday after the Wikileaks press release and was disappointed that the actual document doesn't fulfill the promise of obscure corporate forces colluding to destroy financial regulatory structures.)
posted by chavenet at 9:58 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I'm amused that people would be comfortable with this.
They aren't. That's only a US proposal. The EU proposal reserves the right for countries to determine what is and is not acceptable. The US proposal is much more "Everything can be transferred in and out"
posted by JPD at 10:01 AM on June 21


It's actually refreshing to hear news that international business interests are conspiring against us, instead of governments.

I'm sorry, did you see a clear distinction that I missed? This is the government doing the corporation's dirty work. From the last link in the post: "An international services agreement has the potential to create trading conditions that enable services industries to achieve their full potential. " In other words: "You play by our rules now - rules that you don't know, and that are severely slanted towards us, but hey, at least we're all playing by the same rules!"

It's economic Calvinball. Welcome to the 'Free Market': if you don't like the outcome, move the goalposts. As was said in an earlier thread, "Even the market doesn't believe in the market.
posted by eclectist at 10:06 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]



If the illuminati have been able to reduce an international trade agreement to a mere 19 pages, then that will represent an extraordinary improvement in politico-bureaucratic efficiency.


Who knew the illuminati were so concerned about Post Offices selling insurance?
posted by JPD at 10:11 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary. "

--Adam Smith the ol' grandaddy of modern Capitalism.
posted by symbioid at 10:13 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


Has anyone here other than people skeptical of the idea actually mentioned anything remotely concerning the Illumanati? Why does that nonsense keep coming up?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:14 AM on June 21


"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary. "

this isn't about international trade or trade agreements.
posted by JPD at 10:17 AM on June 21


“The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.”

Only to benefit some.

I've been practically begging US companies to make use of my international data and they want none of it. Of course the reason is that they can systematically discriminate against me as an immigrant and charge far higher interest rates and deny housing due to my lack of a US credit history. Meanwhile they refuse to accept my credit history from two countries with far sounder and better regulated financial sectors

Global trade wants to have everyone's cake, eat it, and then charge them usurious fees for the crumbs.

People should be as free as capital is.
posted by srboisvert at 10:18 AM on June 21 [13 favorites]


JPD: you know full well there's no difference. Trade is trade. Now that borders are more permeable and business is international in scope, there are only more opportunities for sneaky BS.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


And thus governments aid and abet the 1% even more minimalising the difference between mainstream left and right so that so called democracy becomes an even bigger farce. And us peons ..... oh look there's a world cup on.
posted by adamvasco at 10:21 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Well, insurance is a financial commodity? Post offices may or may not be a public good? Selling insurance is a market? Money is involved?

Finance Capitalism likes to step in and do shit where it can make a quick buck, so if it can create a new market (or expand the existing one; depending on what you mean by "market" (selling place or product being sold)), and if it can find a way to help create that market in the first place (rather than wait for it to be born or created via legal means outside their control), they would most assuredly attempt to influence it in the most embryonic stages possible to place it in a more favorable position towards their own control/influence. Doing such a thing in a secret, that affects a large portion of the populace, and indeed, uses the public good of the Post Office as a back door, I would say most assuredly should be considered a public issue from the very beginning.

Illuminati? Ha, yeah, whatever. Just because we think Capital can be powerful, and they can scheme together doesn't mean we believe in bullshit conspiracy theories. Some of us just see how power works in general. Fuck the conspiracists. This is a "conspiracy" only in that they "breathe together" their intent to influence a legal scenario without the public's consent, but it is most assuredly not some grand global design by centuries old bankers families (always supposedly Jewish, of course)... It's just the nature of how power works and each generation has its own thing it deals with and shit happens unexpectedly and they will go ahead and try to deal with it as they see fit. It's most assuredly undemocratic (unless you count democracy as white, property owning males who have a specific amount of allowable property in order to obtain access to these deliberations; Real democracy, like we've fought for with people of color and women and non-property owning males and people under the age of 21, being able to vote... yeah, that's for chumps... )

'ey, I just woke up, time to get some breakfast.
posted by symbioid at 10:21 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


you guys should read the text wikileaks released. It has a few problematic things in it (data controls, restrictions on postal insurance) but WRT to financial services in general its not particularly interesting. Basically provides for open access on the basis of equal treatment from regulators - but doesn't attempt to control regulation.


Bullshit. Read provision X.17. It makes clear that a nation's regulatory measures designed to protect investors, depositors, or financial service users (e.g., consumers) cannot trump the accord.
posted by yarly at 10:25 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


X.17 just says we have to apply our regs evenly to both domestic and foreign institutions.
posted by jpe at 10:34 AM on June 21


X.17.2 is clear:
Where such measures do not conform with the provisions of this Agreement, they shall not be used as a means of avoiding the Party’s commitments or obligations under the Agreement.

In other words, feel free to pay your debts and manage your financial systems as you see fit, as long as those payments and management don't interfere with the treaty.

It's a weird mix of amusing and disturbing to see this get defended. The richest, greediest people in the world have conspired in secret to force sovereign nations to participate in their ever-expanding need to acquire more of the world's future production value through financial speculation.

Of course they're doing this all for our benefit and we have nothing to worry about at all.
posted by Revvy at 10:42 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


as long as those payments and management don't interfere with the treaty.

Which treaty is about providing national treatment to other countries. IOW, "we don't like those icky foreigners" won't be permissible grounds for imposing regulation.
posted by jpe at 10:46 AM on June 21


Read by itself, sure, it can mean that. Read in context with 17.1.b, it quickly becomes scary.
Article X.17: Prudential Measures

1. Notwithstanding any other provision of the Agreement, a Party shall not be prevented from [PA, EU: taking] [US: adopting or maintaining] measures for prudential reasons, including for:

a) the protection of investors, depositors, [PA, US financial market users], policy-holders or persons to whom a fiduciary duty is owed by a financial service supplier; or

b) to ensure the integrity and stability of a Party’s financial system.

2. Where such measures do not conform with the provisions of this Agreement, they shall not be used as a means of avoiding the Party’s commitments or obligations under the Agreement.
I read that as meaning:
Even if the measures you want to take are to "ensure the integrity and stability" of your country's financial system, you can't take those measures if they would otherwise interfere with the treaty.

Anyone else getting the feeling that this might have a lot to do with what happened in Iceland?
posted by Revvy at 10:58 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Global finance has built up a ton of goodwill in the past 20 odd years, using their power to help people, build nations, and create strong and transparent insertions that work to maximize human innovation and possibility. Thus, we should allow them to pass any laws and treaties they want as they are clearly the guardians of not only the equitable system they have created, but the world in general.
posted by chaz at 11:00 AM on June 21 [10 favorites]


The treaty is aimed at making sure foreign providers are treated similarly to domestic ones. So if prudential regs treat them disparately, then they'll violate the treaty.

put differently, we can't use prudential regulation as a fig leaf for discrimination against foreigners.
posted by jpe at 11:02 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Has anyone here other than people skeptical of the idea actually mentioned anything remotely concerning the Illumanati? Why does that nonsense keep coming up?

Because wikileaks paints the whole thing as "secret" rather than, say, "a proposed draft."

The idea that 50 countries are secretly passing documents around that will decide the financial future of the world is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream. I'm sure wikileaks is patting itself on the back vigorously for exposing it.

The truth is more mundane. The group conspiring to decide the financial future of the world holds regular meetings and is pretty upfront about it. Like any other group a lot competing proposals get written and passed around. They're part of the process of reaching a final agreement.

The contents of those proposals (like this one) are interesting and I'm glad that wikileaks got their hands on one. But they're only "secret" in the sense of not being intended for general release and wikileaks is being a bit melodramatic in implying otherwise.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:04 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


put differently, we can't use prudential regulation as a fig leaf for discrimination against foreigners.


A foreign speculator's business interests are more important than the financial stability of an entire country?
posted by Revvy at 11:13 AM on June 21


A foreign speculator's business interests are more important than the financial stability of an entire country?


Article X.17: Prudential Measures

1)Notwithstanding any other provision of the Agreement, a Party shall not be prevented from [PA, EU: taking] [US: adopting or maintaining] measures for prudential reasons, including for:
the protection of investors, depositors, [PA, US financial market users], policy-holders or persons to whom a fiduciary duty is owed by a financial service supplier; or
to ensure the integrity and stability of a Party’s financial system.

2)Where such measures do not conform with the provisions of this Agreement, they shall not be used as a means of avoiding the Party’s commitments or obligations under the Agreement.

(my addition) - Provisions meaning "equal access regardless of nationality"

i.e. you can't say banks owned by locals can have X leverage and banks owned by foreign nationals can only be x/2 levered. But X can be whatever you want it to be.
posted by JPD at 11:23 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


The treaty is aimed at making sure foreign providers are treated similarly to domestic ones. So if prudential regs treat them disparately, then they'll violate the treaty.

put differently, we can't use prudential regulation as a fig leaf for discrimination against foreigners.
posted by jpe at 11:02 AM on June 21 [+] [!]


But there is an excellent reason to discriminate against foreign entities. Offshoring the accounts and management systems of financial service providers makes it EXTREMELY difficult to investigate, examine, and enforce the laws of the nation.
posted by yarly at 11:24 AM on June 21 [8 favorites]


JPD: you know full well there's no difference. Trade is trade. Now that borders are more permeable and business is international in scope, there are only more opportunities for sneaky BS.

except that quote is about collusion and oligopolies.
posted by JPD at 11:25 AM on June 21


But there is an excellent reason to discriminate against foreign entities. Offshoring the accounts and management systems of financial service providers makes it EXTREMELY difficult to investigate, examine, and enforce the laws of the nation.

I'm not sure I understand what you are saying? You don't offshore accounts and management systems of financial service providers. You mostly can't in the US - the regulators don't allow it.
posted by JPD at 11:28 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Exactly - regulators don't allow it. Will they be forced to allow it under the treaty? Will requiring that companies open their books and produce documents and witnesses in the US be held to discriminate against foreigners?
posted by yarly at 11:30 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Anyone else getting the feeling that this might have a lot to do with what happened in Iceland?

I'm hard pressed to understand how this would have anything to do with Iceland. Actually it makes a repeat of the Icelandic issues in the UK and the NL more likely.
posted by JPD at 11:31 AM on June 21


Tell Me No Lies: "The group conspiring to decide the financial future of the world holds regular meetings and is pretty upfront about it."

Yeh, even the FPP has in secret in scare quotes.

World trade is important but on paper kind of dull. The WTO has been working on various "rounds" for years. The Uruguay round took 8 years to complete. The Doha round, started in 2001, still isn't finished. The basics of trade are pretty obvious but getting 150+ of the world's countries to agree on details is like herding GATTs.
posted by chavenet at 11:33 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Exactly - regulators don't allow it. Will they be forced to allow it under the treaty? Will requiring that companies open their books and produce documents and witnesses in the US be held to discriminate against foreigners?

No - saying everyone can't do something isn't discriminating against anyone
posted by JPD at 11:35 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Exactly - regulators don't allow it. Will they be forced to allow it under the treaty?

Looks like they can require a "commercial presence" (ie, be physically located in the country) for anything except the services enumerated in the cross border trade section (which is mostly reinsurance junk)
posted by jpe at 11:37 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


A "commercial presence" could be nothing more than a PO box. Very tough for regulators to actually figure out what is happening if the real operations are located overseas.
posted by yarly at 11:42 AM on June 21


See, people tend to get mad at me when I say this, but things like this are why the one thing that makes me most optimistic about the future is climate change.

Because within the next 50-100 years, I think it's going to render this kind of high-level abstraction on a global scale not just irrelevant but simply impossible. And there's nothing they can do at this point to stop it. It appears to be a limiting factor on a civilization run amok.

Perhaps to phrase it more personally, how did I get to this point from being a total technological utopian as a younger man who was just waiting for space colonies and the democratization of everything through cheaper computers and the Internet interpreting censorship as damage and routing around it and all that shit? Did technology really fundamentally change from a liberating force into a controlling and destructive one, or is this just me in the first stages of turning into a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn?

Either way, fuck all this shit and get off my lawn.
posted by Naberius at 11:43 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


ITT: many people with who have never read a single paragraph of an international trade treaty before acting as if they were experts as to what the ultimate meaning and ramification of clauses of an unpublished draft of international trade treaty will actually be.

I mean this is sad. There is literally not a single source with any credibility giving any reasoned commentary on these drafts linked anywhere in this thread - yet apparently the motivations, meaning and implications of a complex international treaty are already crystal clear to the musicians, traffic planners and software developers of metafilter? :(
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:47 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


It seems weird to lob a comment in like that. No one's writing an academic article here. I happen to think most of the links in the post are problematic, but its a fine post. The rest is just a discussion.

The draft itself is for a legal document quite readable.
posted by JPD at 11:54 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


A "commercial presence" could be nothing more than a PO box.

What constitutes a commercial presence is left to the countries.

That's in the black letter of the draft treaty.

@ Another Fine Product: I'm a lawyer and took two classes on international trade in law school, and I'm sure others have looked at these professionally or avocationally.
posted by jpe at 12:00 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I have plenty of questions about the meaning and implications of the treaty. Unfortunately, they're caused by my clarity about the motivations.
posted by Revvy at 12:02 PM on June 21


Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory: "the musicians, traffic planners and software developers of metafilter? :("

Eponysterical.
posted by chavenet at 12:13 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


The comment that feels wierd to you & Eponysterical is the one that suggests reading international trade treaty drafts is hard and drawing extreme conclusions from it probably not advisable?- not the one that says they feel optimistic about climate change because it might cause the collapse of civilisation and they consider that a good thing? Welp ok…
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:15 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


No, it's the one that characterizes Mefites as a certain type of person with certain type of experience/education.
posted by chavenet at 12:39 PM on June 21


I mean this is sad. There is literally not a single source with any credibility...

I notice you didn't bother to add anything to remedy that situation.
posted by klanawa at 12:45 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


The aliens are already here.
posted by Twang at 12:52 PM on June 21


No - saying everyone can't do something isn't discriminating against anyone

It is if you operated in way that gave you a huge head start and are now pulling the ladder up behind you. Or you got a huge head start due to other reasons and those behind you would benefit from the thing that is no longer allowed.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 1:20 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Even if the measures you want to take are to "ensure the integrity and stability" of your country's financial system, you can't take those measures if they would otherwise interfere with the treaty.

Wouldn't it be a rather strange treaty if it included a clause that said you didn't have to abide by the treaty if you decided that, on second thoughts, you kinda didn't want to? I mean, the whole point of international treaties is to get everyone to agree to abide by common rules, even if they happen, in certain cases, to be against their self-interest.

Now, if this were a story of how a sovereign nation were being pressured by more powerful nations to agree to a treaty which will harm its interests, I can see how that would be troubling. If it were a story about a treaty that will weaken international safeguards of some kind or promote some sort of bad behavior, that too would be troubling. But we seem to be being asked by many commenters in this thread to react with horror simply at the notion of there being an international treaty that demands of its adherents that they abide by the terms of the treaty--as if that, in itself, is somehow nefarious.

Would we have the same reaction if we were talking about, say, an international treaty on the reduction of greenhouse gases? "OMG, this treaty says you can't duck out on your obligations even if you decide that it would be in your economic interest to do so!" Nope, I guess we'd have to go to Fox News for that conversation.
posted by yoink at 1:32 PM on June 21 [8 favorites]


If the treaty limits the sovereignty of our own gov't to regulate things, isn't it also a bit reasonable for us to ask how and why and to expect to at least have some informed consent or involvement in the process? Sure, it may not be appropriate to respond with indiscriminate fear, but is it really that hard to see why complete indifference isn't necessarily the best response either?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:46 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


If the treaty limits the sovereignty of our own gov't to regulate things, isn't it also a bit reasonable for us to ask how and why and to expect to at least have some informed consent or involvement in the process?

Is there any reason this treaty won't go through the normal approval process for treaties, Senate approval and all that? Are people really concerned about Congress moving to approve things too quickly for public debate?
posted by dsfan at 2:12 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


PATRIOT Act?
posted by Revvy at 2:17 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Can someone read it and then tell me whether I should be outraged?
posted by RedShrek at 2:39 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Regular contingent of mefite apologists telling me not to worry because the elite have shit on lockdown and everybody's best interests at heart? CHECK.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:15 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


When capital can move more freely than people, people will get screwed.
posted by pmb at 3:19 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


being drafted "in secret"

I haven't read the linked treaty draft articles properly but just to point out that there is nothing unusual or inherently sinister about an international treaty being drafted and negotiated in secret. It's also arguably necessary but I'm sure open source idealists would strongly disagree.
The final proposed treaty will of course have to be ratified by the national governments participating, many of them having to pass it through elected and democratic legislatures, while others do not. If the ratification process is closed and there's no proper debate in the democratic countries , that's deeply worrying for those countries' publics. But that's not what I'm seeing here so far
posted by Bwithh at 3:47 PM on June 21


in the democratic countries

Maybe you haven't been paying attention, but over the last 40 years or so the "democratic countries" have been anything but. At least in the Popperian sense of an open society. What we currently seem to have are rubber stamp democracies where moneyed interests take primacy over the interests of the constituents that the elected representatives have ostensibly been elected to represent.

This has been discussed at length by many social commentators over the last several decades. The fact the the MSM has not been covering said debates is not really an excuse for pretending they don't exist.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:56 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Regular contingent of mefite apologists telling me not to worry because the elite have shit on lockdown and everybody's best interests at heart? CHECK

Total number of people in this thread saying "the elite have shit on lockdown and everybody's best interests at heart"? 0.

How about actually pointing to some specific thing in this draft treaty that you think will have a bad effect? You know: "this clause, if ultimately adopted in the final treaty, and assuming the treaty is ratified and goes into effect, will have such-and-such a bad outcome for these reasons"? Because so far all we've got is an entirely circular argument: "this MUST be bad because things like this are BAD and if you don't agree then you obviously like BAD people and must be bad TOO!"
posted by yoink at 4:16 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


The idea that 50 countries are secretly passing documents around that will decide the financial future of the world is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream.

Except that it's true. Rep. Mark Pocan has been trying to get access to the (similarly transnational and similarly secretive) TPP draft documents ever since he got into Congress (took over Tammy Baldwin's house seat 18 months ago) and they won't give them to him, not even an elected representative of the American people. He can only come into the trade negotiation offices and examine them in person. He is prevented from making any copies or taking any notes.

Pocan, Grayson, et al. wrote a letter last year; in October Pocan was finally allowed to view the draft.

I don't know what you think transparent is, but that sure isn't it.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


I don't know what you think transparent is, but that sure isn't it.

It's a negotiation between sovereign nations about what ought and ought not to be included in a treaty that will not be implemented unless debated, voted on and signed into law by the legislatures of the various treaty nations. Are you really suggesting that there is no such thing as "transparency" unless every single part of the negotiation process is conducted on live TV?

Of course you have to be able to have confidential discussions in which you bargain your various positions backwards and forwards or no nations would ever arrive at any agreements of any kind. If the legislature, in the end, thinks that the various government representatives did a poor job in negotiating the treaty and that signing on to it will not be in the country's interest, they're free, of course, to reject the treaty and send everyone back to the drawing board.
posted by yoink at 4:51 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Now, if this were a story of how a sovereign nation were being pressured by more powerful nations to agree to a treaty which will harm its interests,

Well, from the perspective of someon outside the US, this looks much like our much-vaunted 'free trade' agreement with the US did, and the current also-secret TPP did - a chance for huge US-based multinational interests to drag a country's regulatory environment down to the debased and compromised standard of the US, aided by our fucking stupid neoliberal govts.

The biggest tobacco companies in Australia, for example, are currently suing us in Hong Kong because we put cigarettes in plain packages and it's illegal and anticompetive (Arguably) and some treaty terms.

Australia has much more rigorous laws around financial advice, products and services than the US; this is a naked attempt to get those watered down or done away with completely.
posted by smoke at 4:52 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


I should add, or financial regulations prevented Australia from having an equivalent "Sub-prime" crisis in the mortgage market, despite having a soaring property market, and thus played no small role in the fact our country didn't just escape the GFC, but emerged without even a quarter's recession to it.
posted by smoke at 4:58 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Why is that relevant?

This treaty wouldn't have stopped those regs.
posted by jpe at 5:13 PM on June 21


Here's one problem with TPP oversight, yoink: treaties only have to be ratified by the Senate. I can understand why US Representatives might not like the idea of having no say in the matter, or even access to the draft agreement. The people represented by Pocan and his colleagues have a right to know what's being discussed, particularly when the economy is stuck in a rut and there's legitimate fear that TPP will accelerate the loss of jobs to other countries. Or provide still more opportunities for companies to hide money and dodge their fair share of taxes. Or eliminate legal remedies against companies that do things like trash the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe TPP doesn't do any of those things, but I'm not willing to trust the Senate not to push it through in a rush before leaving town one Thursday afternoon when it's already so compromised by the monied interests. If it's such a good deal for us then there shouldn't be so much reluctance to explain why.
posted by wintermind at 5:41 PM on June 21


Problems with the TPP, as outlined by Professor Jane Kelsey of the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland:
The rules apply to measures that ‘affect’ the supply of financial services through foreign direct investment (commercial establishment) or offshore provision by remote delivery or services purchased in another country (cross-border). They also aim to ‘discipline’ governments in favour of a light handed and self-regulatory model of financial regulation. The substantive rules target what the financial services industry sees as obstacles to its seamless global operations, including:

1. limits on the size of financial institutions (too big to fail);
2. restrictions on activities (eg deposit taking banks that also trade on their own account);
3. requiring foreign investment through subsidiaries (regulated by the host) rather than branches (regulated from their parent state);
4. requiring that financial data is held onshore;
5. limits on funds transfers for cross-border transactions (e-finance);
6. authorisation of cross-border providers;
7. state monopolies on pension funds or disaster insurance;
8. disclosure requirements on offshore operations in tax havens;
9. certain transactions must be conducted through public exchanges, rather than invisible . over-the counter operations;
10. approval for sale of ‘innovative’ (potentially toxic) financial products;
11. regulation of credit rating agencies or financial advisers;
12. controls on hot money inflows and outflows of capital;
13. requirements that a majority of directors are locally domiciled;
14. authorisation and regulation of hedge funds; etc….
link
posted by wuwei at 6:34 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


That's fucking ridiculous. *The treaty expressly states countries can regulate.*
posted by jpe at 6:39 PM on June 21


.
posted by jpe at 6:47 PM on June 21


There's really no need to imagine conspiracies to get to this kind of result. People just happen to be very good at putting their principles aside and finding solutions to immediate problems. Motives don't even matter, we optimize problem spaces to whatever our immediate goals are, without regard for anything else. We don't really care why or how whatever we do works, as long as it works (as determined by whatever arbitrary metrics we've set for ourselves beforehand). I doubt anyone involved in these kinds of negotiations is really thinking much further than the end of their own nose. As for Obama, I doubt he really even understands this stuff any better than the rest of us do (no offense, but the guy's not from the kind of background that understands money well enough to feel comfortable with the subject of high finance and his personal history doesn't suggest any particular financial acumen), but it would be nice if there were even some expectation the public would get a real chance to understand and consent to these kinds of agreements. People who only deal with problems abstractly have a way of overlooking complications that would be obvious to anyone looking at them from closer to the ground.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:02 PM on June 21


Bwith: I haven't read the linked treaty draft articles properly but just to point out that there is nothing unusual or inherently sinister about an international treaty being drafted and negotiated in secret.

Neither have I, but one of the concerns here in Canada about the TPP is that, like other treaties we've negotiated in secret, the TPP contains clauses allowing foreign corporations to seek remedies before tribunals when the corporations feel that our (democratically implemented) regulations interfere with their business. This is a problem because see the recent Corporations are People Too thread. Worse, in Canada our Conservative government has a history of lying about the implications of such clauses, and a general pattern of incompetence regarding similar negotiations. (I'm no expert, but that's the way it's been presented by concerned groups whom I trust.)
posted by sneebler at 7:38 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Australia's trade minister Andrew Robb says Australia will not enter into a new global trade deal in services if it undermines the strength of the banking and financial services sector.

A classic example of "answer the question you want to answer, rather than the one you were asked."

Australia passed through the Global Financial Crisis without much pain. It might be because China was gobbling down our exports, but it might also be because our banking system is dominated by four very large banks. They're large because, as a matter of policy, Australia's financial regulations shield the "four pillars" from being taken over. They have effectively grown to their maximum size, because the market isn't expanding and most smaller banks have already been consumed.

The managers of these large banks are salivating at the idea of being able to take over foreign banks. This would let the Big Four grow, and increase the managers' wealth and power. It wouldn't do anything for Australia except expose us to foreign financial crises and, perhaps, allow them to merge and leave us with fewer than four large banks. But that's only if things go wrong, and the banks' response is, as always, that they will not allow things to go wrong.

So will the trade deal "undermine the strength of the banking and financial services sector"? Not according to the financial sector itself: bigger banks and more globally diversified banks are arguably stronger. But it will increase the level of risk in our financial system, and reduce our government's ability to rescue things in the event of a crisis. Those are the things that a finance minister should be addressing, and I think he's avoiding those issues.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:45 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


"this MUST be bad because things like this are BAD and if you don't agree then you obviously like BAD people and must be bad TOO!"

That's not what I was saying. What I was pointing out is that there is no way in hell anyone here on metafilter can be sure how a complex agreement like this will play out in the wild, but still we have a the ususal suspects berating anyone who might have second thoughts about the agreement.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:39 AM on June 22


> acting as if they were experts

I mean, really. It's not like we've had two decades worth of experience with race-to-the bottom NAFTA, GATT, WTO, WIPO or anything.
posted by one weird trick at 4:29 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


What I was pointing out is that there is no way in hell anyone here on metafilter can be sure how a complex agreement like this will play out in the wild, but still we have a the ususal suspects berating anyone who might have second thoughts about the agreement.

Nobody "berated" anyone for "having second thoughts." What several of us objected to was the strident assertion that this must obviously be something bad based--as you now admit--on nothing whatsoever. Yeah, there's "no way in hell anyone here on Metafilter can be sure how a complex agreement like this will play out in the wild." Indeed. Especially given that it's not even an "agreement" yet--it's draft documents working towards a proposal that will be debated publicly before it ever becomes an "agreement."

I have precisely zero opinions about whether this treaty would be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. I simply am not well enough informed about the issue to have any such opinions. I'm open to persuasive argument that it's either (given the nature of these sorts of deals I'm prepared to predict with some confidence that it will be good in some ways and bad in others and that the real nub of the question will be in figuring out if the good outweighs the bad). What I objected to in this thread was the kneejerk "OMG, the Cabal is visiting its Evil Machinations upon us again!!" tone of the comments in the absence of any attempt, at all, to even address the specific terms of the treaty or any attempt to analyze what effects, good or bad, it might probably have.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on June 22


Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:18 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


Nobody "berated" anyone for "having second thoughts."

That's not how it read to me.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:25 PM on June 22


What several of us objected to was the strident assertion that this must obviously be something bad based--as you now admit--on nothing whatsoever.

I'll be the first to admit my own ad hominem for being cynical, skeptical, and suspicious regarding the motivations for such a treaty and the language in it.

Saying that there's nothing whatsoever behind the suspicions of myself and a whole lot of other people is to ignore the recent and continuing avarice of an entire industry.
posted by Revvy at 6:09 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Yeah. Smoot-Hawley 4ever!
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:36 PM on June 22


« Older Eric Meyer is an expert on the Cascading Style She...  |  Lou Reed Lou Reed... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments