Tobacco Firm Sues Australia over Plain Packaging

Confirms Risks of TransPacific Partnership Deal
‘Philip Morris has found a backdoor
 route to protect its profits.’

Tobacco giant Philip Morris announced today that it will use a foreign investment treaty to sue the Australian government for introducing plain packaging tobacco laws.

‘This is exactly what we have been warning could happen if US firms are given powers to sue the government under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,’ said Professor Jane Kelsey of the University of Auckland Law School.
‘Indeed, this case shows the risks already exist. The Howard Government rejected the inclusion of investor-enforcement powers in the Australia US Free Trade Agreement in 2005. The Australian Labor Government is committed to rejecting similar powers in the TPPA. But Philip Morris has found a back door route to protect its profits.’

Philip Morris is a US company. In a classic exercise of treaty shopping, it is using an obscure Bilateral investment Treaty that Australia signed with Hong Kong in 1991 to bring the case in an offshore international tribunal and seek billions of dollars in compensation for lost revenues.

New Zealand has a similar bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong that was signed in 1995. Ironically, submissions on updating that as part of the New Zealand Hong Kong free trade agreement close on 30 June.

A classic exercise of treaty shopping
‘clearly not enough to stop these powers being
included in a TPPA. All New Zealand’s trade
and investment agreements that have investor-state
enforcement powers need to be revisited’
‘The champions of these agreements dismiss concerns that they could be used to challenge public policies that are in the national interest, such as tobacco controls, offshore mining regulation or stricter telecommunications laws.’

‘They have claimed that there isn’t a problem because similar powers exist in some of our other agreements, and have never been used against us – like our 1995 agreement with Hong Kong.’

‘This development should send shock waves through the Parliament, local government and ordinary citizens’, warned Professor Kelsey.

‘It’s clearly not enough to stop these powers being included in a TPPA. All New Zealand’s trade and investment agreements that have investor-state enforcement powers need to be revisited as well.’

 Text from Media Release from Jane Kelsey

Salvadoran Activist Killed After Protesting Mining Project

An update, from Democracy Now, on the struggle against mining in El Salvador where an environmental activist has been killed after speaking out against a mining project in a northern region.

Juan Francisco Duran Ayala is the latest in a string of activists to be killed after denouncing the Canadian gold mining company, Pacific Rim, in its efforts to mine the area of Cabañas. A community youth radio station, Radio Victoria, has also received repeated death threats for covering the story. Lisa Fuller represents the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).

Corporatism Dominates US Diplomacy

One of WikiLeaks' greatest achievements has been to expose the exorbitant amount of influence that multinational corporations have over Washington's diplomacy. 

One of the most significant scourges paralyzing US democracy is the merger of corporate power with elected and appointed government officials at the highest levels of office. Influence has a steep price-tag in American politics where politicians are bought and paid for with ever increasing campaign contributions from big business, essentially drowning out any and all voices advocating on behalf of the public interest.

Millions of dollars in campaign funding flooding Washington's halls of power combined with tens of thousands of high-paid corporate lobbyists and a never-ending revolving door that allows corporate executives to shuffle between the public and private sectors has blurred the line between government agencies and private corporations.

This corporate dominance over government affairs helps to explain why we are plagued by a health-care system that lines the pockets of industry executives to the detriment of the sick; a war industry that causes insurmountable death and destruction to enrich weapons-makers and defense contractors; and a financial sector that violates the working class and poor to dole out billions of dollars in bonuses to Wall Street CEO's.

Checkout the whole story: 

Source  AlterNet