Leaked IP text & US Congress revolts against Fast Track
Yet another leaked text of the intellectual property chapter was posted on Wikileaks today, dating from the end of the Brunei round in August. It includes the positions of all 12 countries and reveals a massive gulf between US demands and a bloc of other countries, including New Zealand. The US still has place-savers for several highly controversial further demands, notably on biologic products, which involve genes and living cells.
Analyses of the text are available from KeiOnline and Public Citizen Access to Medicines.
‘As we have consistently said, the obsessive secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes leaks inevitable. It is in the national interest, and the interests of democracy, for the parties to release the draft texts of all the chapters now to allow informed analysis, democratic input and assessment of the risks’, said Professor Kelsey.
In a second, stunning blow to the TPPA negotiations, 151 of the 201 Democrat members of the US House of Representatives today released a letter to the President that formally declared their opposition to giving him “fast track authority’. Others may follow.
The letter states ‘we will oppose “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.’
Fast track, otherwise known as Trade Promotion Authority, would require Congress to accept the final TPPA deal or reject it, in toto, and not to cherry pick the parts they want and block what they do not like. No major deal has gone through Congress in recent decades without fast track.
The Democrats’ pledge means Obama would have to rely on Republicans, with whom he has been consistently at war over, most recently on the debt ceiling. Earlier this week 22 Republicans signed a similar pledge.
According to the New York Times yesterday, “Other members have signaled their opposition independently, meaning that roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of House members have signaled, sight unseen, that they do not support the regional trade pact.”
The TPPA parties want to conclude a deal by the end of 2013. Even if Congress was willing, there is no chance of fast track being approved this year. The House of Representatives has only 15 sitting days left for 2013 before they go on a month-long New Year break.
‘In a sane world, this declaration from members of Congress would see the chief negotiators abandon their planned summit in Salt Lake City next week’, said Professor Kelsey.
‘Their goal is to prepare the platform for Trade Ministers to engage in serious horse-trading in Singapore from 7-9 December’.
But Professor Kelsey warns that ‘without fast track, Obama can’t deliver on any political trade-offs. For New Zealand, and other governments, to proceed in that context is playing Russian roulette with our futures’.
The attached memorandum provides further information.
The largest margin by which any recent US President got fast track through the House was 27 votes. One passed by two votes and one failed. Opposition spanned party lines.
President Obama first said he wanted Congress to give him Fast Track during State of the Nation address in February 2013. Eight months later he still has not introduced a bill.
A bipartisan team of four senior members from the Finance and Ways and Means committees have been working on the draft bill for months, but have not yet agreed.
The toxic battle over the debt ceiling in October will resume in February 2014.
The Tea Party has already launched its anti-fast track campaign, and opposes the Trade Adjustment Assistance programme that provides extended unemployment benefits and job retraining to US workers who lose their jobs to trade.
There is a backlash among members of Congress against unprecedented limits on their access to the negotiating process and draft text (although they still have more access than any New Zealand MPs have.)
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years. Their priorities, often linked to campaign funds, range across dairy, tobacco, pharmaceutical monopolies, mining, environment, offshoring of jobs, food safety, and re-regulating the finance industry. All are key areas in the TPPA negotiations.
He Should Lay A Complaint About Being Left Out
John Key says that he’s allowed to wear big boy’s pants because New Zealand is a member of The Club (Five Eyes, formally known as the UKUSA Agreement), which he says means that the intelligence agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don’t spy on each other’s countries. He reckons it specifically means that the US National Security Agency (NSA) does not spy on him.
To which the Anti-Bases Campaign says – pull the other one, John, this one’s got a bug in it.
Of course the NSA spies on its “allies and friends” in Five Eyes. Why wouldn’t they? They’re spying on all their other “friends”.
ABC says its dollars to doughnuts that NSA has been, is, and will be spying on Key. So will the other Big Brothers in Five Eyes. Indeed it is highly likely that the NSA will have subcontracted the job to one of the allied agencies to spy on the smallest of the small fry.
But don’t just take ABC’s word for it that the NSA spies on its Five Eyes allies, or that the constituent agencies are used to spy on other member countries. After all, we might be “anti-American conspiracy theorists with an axe to grind”.
No, take the word of one of the spooks who worked inside the system. And we’re not talking about Edward Snowden.
In 2001 (just after 11/9, as it turned out) ABC organised a national speaking tour by former Canadian spook turned author, Mike Frost. We did so because he had written, in 1994, an insider’s book called “Spyworld: Inside The Canadian And American Intelligence Establishments”.
Here are some relevant extracts from Bob Leonard’s review of it in our newsletter Peace Researcher.
“Mike Frost is not the first spy to spill the beans... But Frost’s is the only firsthand account (to our knowledge) of the inner workings of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its Canadian sibling agency just over the border, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). Frost was an employee of the CSE for 19 years and spent plenty of time at NSA as well in training and liaison.
“Embassy collection even involves the Americans spying on the Canadians. In his many trips to College Park for NSA briefing, Frost learned of techniques for disguising antennas on the roofs of embassies. He and his colleagues quickly concluded that Canada was not immune to NSA spying. ‘The Americans don’t care who they commit espionage against, on the principle that they may get something that’s useful to their country. They routinely collect foreign intelligence against everybody’.
“In 1983, CSE was asked to spy for GCHQ at the behest of Margaret Thatcher. ‘…it seems as if Margaret Thatcher [then British Prime Minister] thinks two of the Ministers in her Cabinet are not ‘on-side’… She wants to find out if they are’. CSE carried out the intercepts: ‘We never stopped to question the morality of doing what amounted to dirty tricks for a partisan politician, for her very personal reasons, in a foreign land. After all, we weren’t spying on Canadians…that time anyway’”.
So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. And why would Margaret Thatcher ask GCHQ to subcontract Canadian intelligence to spy for her within Britain, on her own Tory Cabinet colleagues, no less? So that British intelligence would have plausible deniability, if the spying was discovered.
Frost also revealed that Canadian intelligence spied on the US, for trade and economic reasons. He detailed how CSE bugged the car phone of the US Ambassador to Canada to find out what the US would charge China to sell it wheat. And then Canada successfully underbid the US. This was seen as a routine State aid to Canadian business.
The examples given by Frost happened decades ago, when Communists, not terrorists, were used as the justification for the spy agencies crimes and abuses, but the only things that have changed since then is that spying on allies and friends has become more extensive and systematic. It has got worse, not better.
So, John Key is kidding nobody when he reckons that NSA doesn’t spy on him. It is also guaranteed that they will be spying on NZ’s Ministers and trade officials in connection with the secret talks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The US will want to know things like how hard NZ really will fight to gain the “holy grail” of dairy products access to the US, and how hard NZ will fight to save Pharmac which the US drug transnational corporations want rid of.
It’s no defence to say “everyone’s doing it”. So, does that mean that the GCSB is using Waihopai to bug Obama’s mobile phone? That’s a very likely scenario, isn’t it?
New Zealand needs to close Waihopai and the GCSB, get out of the international criminal enterprise which is Five Eyes, and develop a truly independent defence and foreign policy.
ABC’s message to John Key is – you’ve spent too long away from Christchurch. Forget about Five Eyes; learn from Cantabrians and become one eyed.
Time to resist?
Overseas Investment Office
NOT OF GOOD CHARACTER COMPLAINT AGAINST PERSON OWNING AND/OR CONTROLLING WELLINGTON ELECTRICITY
Dear Ms McClure,
The ground for our complaint against Mr Li Ka-shing, the person owning and/or controlling Wellington Electricity (through his Cheung Kong Group) is that of systematic non-payment of tax, both in New Zealand and Australia.
For supporting evidence, see this Dominion Post article and click on this link for a further Stuff article on the subject.
Here is an extract from that latter article.
"Some wealthy multinationals are thumbing their noses at the taxman and are not paying their fair share of tax, according to Labour. An example is the Wellington power lines company which appears to take an ‘optional’ approach to paying tax, says the Party's Associate Finance spokesman David Clark. Companies Office documents show Inland Revenue is auditing the books of the company, Wellington Electricity, which is linked to Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing. Other firms in Li's Cheung Kong group also face an A$776 million unpaid tax bill in Australia, though that is being appealed. Wellington Electricity has paid no company tax since its sale by Auckland-based Vector in 2008 for $785 million. The tax losses came despite healthy profits at operating ‘ebit’ level of close to $50m a year in 2012. Clark claimed the lines company looked to be avoiding tax and was an example of ‘those who are wealthy finding it optional to pay tax in New Zealand’. The electricity lines company may not be doing anything illegal, but getting around the law, ‘doesn't make it right’, he said. A tax expert, who declined to be named, said Wellington Electricity's high debt levels effectively meant it paid no tax. The debt looked ‘very aggressive’ and it was perhaps no surprise IRD was carrying out an audit of past tax years".
|Download copy of the letter|
Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa
Box 2258, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
how the US stamps its supremacy on the Pacific region
The US is keen to convince its Pacific friends to fear a spy-friendly Beijing.
Washington’s spying network is far more widespread than anything coming from the
(from the Guardian)
Above is a video of activists working in the coalition FlushTheTPP.org dropping multiple banners from the US Trade Representatives Building in Washington, DC to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The groups sought to expose the secret negotiations that have been ongoing throughout the five years of the Obama administration and mobilize people concerned about workers, the environment, banking, food, water, Internet freedom and other issues to take action to oppose the TPP. The TPP will give large transnational corporations absolute power over our lives and make them more powerful than governments.
Government Plays Monkey To Rio Tinto’s Organ Grinder
|“…it has us by the balls and has continued to squeeze ever since. It is corporate welfarism, but somehow doesn’t attract the same vindictiveness as the sickness beneficiary”.|
CAFCA says you could have knocked us down with a feather. So, Rio Tinto is not going to close down its Bluff smelter as it threatened to do a few months ago (and has threatened to do every time it feels that its charmed existence in New Zealand is going to become less cushy). Instead, it has condescended to keep it open - but only guaranteed that until January 2017.
And, having rejected the Government’s offer of a taxpayer subsidy a few months ago (because that offer wasn’t for a long enough period), it has now condescended to accept a “one off incentive payment” of $30m of taxpayers’ money.
The icing on the very big cake for Rio Tinto is that the threat to close a few months ago was a tactic to try to pressure Meridian over its power price contract, on which the ink was barely dry and which only took effect in January. So, now it has “negotiated” a new rate (secret, of course, like the smelter’s power price rate always has been for half a century), but one which Tony Ryall says returns “the price of power paid to around pre-2013 levels”. In other words – the Government has wiped the new, higher power rate which Meridian had taken a year to negotiate.
Rio Tinto commenced its blackmail of the Government knowing that it held the aces – Meridian is next off the block in the Government’s underwhelming garage sale of public assets. If the smelter closed, that would have wiped Meridian’s biggest customer, the smelter being the country’s single biggest user of electricity and left the Government working out what to do with a surplus of electricity, fully one sixth of the total output, and no further excuses not to cut the exorbitant rates charged to domestic consumers by the profit-driven electricity market. Power prices might have had to go down! Heaven forbid – there’s no profit in that for the power companies and no big fat salaries and bonuses for their CEOs. That would “send the wrong signals” to the all-important market.
Rio Tinto continually does this in the knowledge that it has always been deemed “too big to fail” by the succession of Governments, both National and Labour, that it has effortlessly outmanoeuvred for 50 years.
It pays a top secret super cheap price that is not available for any other user and all it does is export electricity from NZ in the form of alumina, while being subsidised by all other electricity users. The smelter is the textbook example of corporate welfare in New Zealand. It is the biggest bludger in the country.
This latest handout is in addition to the massive taxpayer subsidy it has been receiving continuously for 50 years, in the form of the Manapouri power station built with public money for its exclusive use (and let’s never forget that men died building that); and the cheapest and most secret power price rate in the country bar none.
Rio Tinto won the 2011 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating In Aotearoa/New Zealand (and was runner up in 2012, 2009 and 2008). The 2011 Roger Award Judges’ Report concluded that the company has a 50 year history of “suborning, blackmailing and conning successive New Zealand governments into paying massive subsidies on the smelter’s electricity; dodging tax, and running a brilliantly effective PR machine to present a friendly, socially responsible and thoroughly greenwashed face to the media and the public”.
The extremely detailed Financial Analysis reveals that the smelter’s claimed benefits to NZ, namely annual export earnings of “around $1 billion” are, in fact, overstated by four fifths.
The full, damning, 2011 Roger Award Judges’ Report can be read here.
The 2012 Judges’ Report is more succinct: “…it has us by the balls and has continued to squeeze ever since. It is corporate welfarism, but somehow doesn’t attract the same vindictiveness as the sickness beneficiary”.
In short, it is a liability to New Zealand, not an asset.
This smelter constitutes a crime against the people of New Zealand and has done for its entire existence.
In the national interest, it must be closed and the sooner the better.
Meantime, the Government can proceed with its sale of Meridian (remember that, “Mum and Dad investors”, you’ve already paid $30m of your own money before you get granted the privilege of buying something you already own), and the issue of the future of the smelter can be put off until January 2017.
But, wait – 2017 is election year. What a coincidence. Rio Tinto will keep the blackmail script handy for that. This must be the only sideshow act where the monkey feeds the peanuts to the organ grinder.