TPP: Is it the Death of Democracy and the Birth of ‘Corporatocracy’?
By Peter Drew - Independent Journalist
On May 16th the US Senate reversed their decision of two days prior and voted by a margin of 65-33 to allow President Obama and the trans-national corporations to fast-track the authorisation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12 nation trade deal between the US and Pacific Ring partners, including New Zealand and Australia. This highly controversial outcome in the US Senate may end up being one of the most significant votes in the history of New Zealand and Australia. It may well be the beginning of an inevitable and unstoppable process of global change where democracy, national governments, and national sovereignty become a quaint thing of the past and the world moves headlong into a new world order of ‘corporatocracy’.
What is ‘corporatocracy’? It probably isn’t even a real word yet. But perhaps the Oxford Dictionary needs to get it into its next edition, with a definition something like this;
Corporatocracy: A global political system instigated in the early 21st century whereby the maximising of corporate profit becomes the determining factor for all laws and human rights, even superseding those laws of the elected national governments, and superseding the human rights of the people of those nations
Does that sound impossible in New Zealand and Australia, in these bastions of freedom and democracy? The current TPP process is literally the attempted birth of the above definition or corporatocracy. How else could you describe it when the various governments involved in the TPP negotiations are being asked to authorise the biggest trade agreement/legislation in global history and yet the MPs of the governments and the people of those nations aren’t even allowed to know the content of that legislation. The trans-national corporations have written the legislation and our governments are asked to authorise it, but aren’t allowed to know what is in the legislation. Quite an incredible situation, and one that certainly fits our new definition of corporatocracy.
Democratic governments around the world are already hugely influenced by the power of big corporations. We all know that. But there is at least an illusion of governments still being somewhat in the driver’s seat and making decisions. If the New Zealand and Australian governments actually go ahead and authorise the TPP without even being allowed to know exactly what is in the legislation, and without also sharing it with the public, then even the illusion of democratic government of the people will be gone completely.
The world and the human race are at a crossroads right now, and what happens with the TPP may very well be the determining factor as to which path the human race takes. In the medium to long term, the path of corporatocracy can have only one possible outcome. Destruction of the environment and destruction of the only home that we have to live on. That is a mathematical certainty because corporate growth and increasing profit can only ever be finite, and will always be at the expense of the environment. We live on a finite planet, with finite resources. So with corporatocracy it can only ever be a matter of how long before the cancer kills the patient.
What is now known about the TPP has only come to light through WikiLeaks, not by any disclosures to our governments by the corporate architects of the TPP. So why are the architects of the TPP agreement so desperate to be so secretive? What is now known about the TPP is that there will be a new international judgement panel formed where TPP disputes will be resolved. This is not a judgement panel made up by the 12 participating nations. It is a panel formed independently by the trans-national corporations involved in the TPP. The TPP allows the trans-national corporations to sue the government of a nation if that government implements laws which are deemed to be counterproductive to the profits of the corporations involved. The outcome of that legal action against the government would then be determined by the TPP international judgement panel. So the judicial systems of the 12 participating nations will be completely side stepped.
The specific environmental elements of the TPP legislation are of particular concern. Let’s have a look at a working example of how this could potentially impact New Zealand, a nation that has built an international image on a supposedly clean, green, and pure scenic beauty. Global oil companies such as Anadarko have spent the last few years trawling the New Zealand oceans and land in search of significant oil fields. Let’s say for example that an oil company identified a huge untapped oil field directly beneath Milford Sound. That company could make a request to the New Zealand government to set up and drill Milford Sound. The New Zealand government would quite rightly inform the oil company that New Zealand’s environmental protection laws do not allow for this, and that the New Zealand people would certainly not agree to this. The oil company could then sue the New Zealand government for perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of lost profit. The judgement on that legal action will not be heard by the New Zealand judicial system which is accountable to the New Zealand people, in theory anyway. It will instead be heard by the TPP international judgement panel. If that panel decides that the laws of the New Zealand government have resulted in a loss of potential profit to the oil company then the law suit can be upheld and the New Zealand government sued for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars. Essentially New Zealand law will be totally at the mercy of the corporations through the TPP.
This is perhaps a rather extreme example of the TPP in action, but we are already seeing this kind of thing happening with the corporate led process of fracking whereby many governments around the world, including New Zealand and Australia, are prepared to allow our liveable environment and our fresh water drinking reserves to be destroyed literally from under our feet, all in the name of corporate profit for the gas companies. At the moment there is at least still some kind of legal recourse against the fracking industry. But not under the TPP. So this clearly demonstrates just how important the TPP will be and how it completely changes the entire fabric of our society.
What if a cigarette company decides that anti-smoking legislation is negatively impacting their profits? What if laws allowing cheap, natural, herbal remedies were deemed to be counterproductive to the profits of the big pharmaceutical drug companies? Welcome to the world of the TPP and corporatocracy. No wonder President Obama and his TPP associates have been so desperate to prevent our governments and the public from knowing any detailed content and implications of the TPP, and why they have been so desperate to fast-track this through the US Senate to allow for minimal scrutiny and challenge.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The human race is at a cross roads, not a one way motorway to hell. We have a choice, and we can still make a collective decision to take a different path that is more aligned with the good of the people and the planet. New Zealand has a proud history of standing up to international intimidation and doing what is right, no matter what the risk, and no matter what the consequences. New Zealand and Australia just recognised the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli where both countries lost a significant percentage of their entire population. Those who sacrificed their lives died at least in the belief that they were fighting for the freedom and future sovereignty of their country. In the 1980s New Zealand stood out like a beacon to the rest of the world when we refused to bow down to the international terrorist attack on the Rainbow Warrior, and when we defiantly sent the US nuclear warships packing from our waters despite the impact on the ANZUS agreement.
The New Zealand psyche and our history is defined by standing up to the world on these issues and saying no, because we believe it is the right thing to do. This trait seems to be in our DNA. That is the New Zealand way, and right now, perhaps more so than ever before in our history, that attitude, conscience, and action needs to be found once again. Not just by the New Zealand public, but by our MPs and by our media. A line needs to be drawn in the sand somewhere. If that line is not drawn for the TPP, then our country and our future freedom and sovereignty is at great risk.
So, with the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli still fresh in our minds, perhaps now is the time in New Zealand and Australia for the 21st century ANZACs (Australians & New Zealanders Against Corporatocracy) to stand up and ‘fight’ for our countries and say no to the TPP and corporatocracy.