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Business supremacy treaties are designed to undermine democracy. They transfer power from states (which can be more or less democratic) to businesses (which don't try or claim to represent the public).
The first method these treaties used was so-called "free trade": making it easy for businesses to move production from one country to another. This pressures countries to compete to offer businesses favorable conditions, such as low wages, poor benefits for workers, weak environmental protection, low taxes (meaning bad education, bad health care, crumbling and toxic infrastructure, and inadequate support for the young, old, disabled and unemployed), and the opportunity to ignore laws (lock fire escapes, steal workers' pay).
Since the 1990s, treaties have proceeded to direct attacks on democracy: authorizing other countries, or even foreign businesses, to sue a country in a special international court for failing to respect the supremacy of business. (When business are allowed to do this, it is called "ISDS", which informally stands for "I Sue Democratic States.") Under ISDS, if a country has a law to protect something important (such as the environment, endangered species, public health, workers' rights, or the general standard of living), the international court can label that a "barrier to trade" and impose fines. The country's "democratic" politicians will then almost certainly decide to eliminate that law.
These treaties also frequently serve the interests of specific industries with harsh restrictions on citizens -- for instance, requiring unjust copyright law.
To recover democracy, we must abolish the business-supremacy treaties.
Big corporations are planning use ISDS clauses to sue many countries for taking Covid-19 emergency measures that cut into their profits.
Governments may be able to argue that the losses were due to Covid-19 and its consequences, rather than to the government actions themselves. But that is not reliable.
This page contains a list of ways business-supremacy treaties have done harm. Most of the items describe specific changes in laws or policies that were imposed through these treaties.
Please email me at rms at gnu dot org if you know of other specific laws in any country, that tried to protect something more important than business profits, that were attacked using a business-supremacy treaty, or that were voted down on the grounds they would conflict with such a treaty.
The article plays for us to sympathize more with her by mentioning that she had six children. It is irresponsible and harmful to have so many children, but a workers' family size is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The system that puts workers in danger of injury, then does nothing to compensate them, is wrong regardless of personal details.
This is what "free trade" does: it enables the multinational to make countries compete to attract production by allowing the worst possible working conditions and workers' rights. Without "free trade", Mexico would have a real compensation system for accidents at work. An accident like this would have increased the company's insurance costs; knowing that, management would have maintained Machine 19 carefully and followed proper safety procedures, and the accident would probably not have happened.
I appreciate the article, but it does wrong to refer to the practice of sharing copies as "piracy". Piracy means attacking ships, which is very bad. Sharing copies is good; what's bad is using legal or technical methods to prevent sharing.
This exemplifies the danger of business-supremacy treaties such as NAFTA to efforts to save the world's ecosphere from fossil fuel.
Bechtel eventually dropped its case, under pressure from organized public opinion. That one victory doesn't make the treaty harmless: we can't always pressure all companies into dropping all such cases.
Pressure from the World Bank was behind the privatization attempt.
Businesses are trying to bully Germany into continuing to use nuclear power.
Converting to renewable energy is a necessity. What would these companies do if there were a Fukushima-like disaster near their factories? Of course, they would demand to place the costs on others and not them, but even after achieving that, it would still hurt their production. When companies demand thier short-term interests override long-term needs, that makes them enemies of society.
These companies deserve to be picketed in other countries.
Every such policy benefits the whole world, even though it benefits that nation or locality especially.
This is a natural consequence of the way it was drawn up. For each area of business, the US government asked the companies in that area what they wanted. The fossil fuel companies asked for policies that will help them.
Fundamentally, control of greenhouse gas emissions is good for the people, so it's what democracy will do if it works right.
The TPP and TTIP can sabotage efforts to avoid global heating disaster.
This stems from the wrong fundamental values of the WTO, which place business profit above everything important.
The TPP would further strengthen the power of businesses to attack measures to protect the environment.
Congress used the budget bill as an excuse to surrender to the WTO: it voted to eliminated country-of-origin meat labeling.
Let's abolish the WTO instead.
How the new business-supremacy treaty CETA would eliminate existing national regulations in Europe.
It would oppress Canada as well.
Canada agreed to a business-supremacy treaty with China that requires building the Unkinder Morgan pipeline. The penalty for not doing so could be even more billions than the cost of building the pipeline, and the government might pay it secretly.
The Energy Charter Treaty, a business-supremacy treaty, threatens to make European countries pay hundreds of billions of dollars in "compensation" for taking explicit action to cut down on fossil fuels.
When a treaty puts the business interests of private parties over the vital needs of society, that must make the treaty invalid.
Oil companies invented the ISDS clause ("I Sue Democratic States") decades ago, and are now using them to make countries pay dearly for their climate defense actions.
If the fossil fuel companies insist on destroying civilization, the victims should not go down without a fight. To save millions of lives, war is justified.
It is a fundamental mistake to call these restrictions "intellectual property" because that leads people to confuse them with unrelated issues such as copyright law. Every time that term is used, it spreads confusion -- so please, don't use it!
I wonder, though, whether this apparent magnanimity will have any practical effect. I don't think there are generic drug factories in countries such as Afghanistan, Rwanda and Cambodia. If the countries such as India that actually make generic drugs are not covered, if GSK continues using patents to prevent the manufacture of generic drugs in those countries, this gift will turn out to be an empty gesture.
It's much worse in the US where Congress, corrupted by the drug companies, tied the government's hands about negotiating prices with the drug companies.
The main reason drugs are so expensive is patent law, imposed by the WTO. This is one of many reasons we need to make big changes in the WTO or else get rid of it. However, the concentration of the drug industry, through many mergers, has given the drug companies greater clout (as has occurred in many other areas of business), and this contributes to the problem. We need to make big companies split up. My tax proposal would be one way to do that.
The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia oppose the push for the WTO to waive patent restrictions and allow all countries to make and use Covid-19 vaccines without paying for the privilege.
It is worth reminding people that the WTO is the reason why most countries allow medicines to be patented. That was a scheme to enrich big pharma companies at the expense of people who can't afford monopolistic prices for drugs. This system represents a decision to kill millions of people, and is one of the reasons why we ought to abolish the WTO.
A special business supremacy treaty specifically for energy infrastructure has a ISDS clause. Under this treaty, countries must pay for permission to adopt climate policies that make foreign-owned fossil fuel infrastructure less useful.
All business-supremacy treaties are instruments to crush democracy. Countries should refuse to sign them, withdraw from them, ideally join together to cancel them out entirely.
For this treaty, one possible last-resort solution would be for countries to declare war on each other and bomb each other's fossil fuel infrastructure, disabling it from functioning. Then they could decline responsibility on the grounds that the damage was an act of war.
I don't suggest bombing the power plant into rubble — that would cause pollution — just destroying some key part of it, without which it does not operate.
Is this idea shocking? There are better ways to stop burning fossil fuels, but it is good to have this fall-back method if the others prove too difficult. Don't say it can't be done!
US proponents of these treaties claim their advantage is to boost exports. If they did that, that would not justify the harm they do to democracy. But they don't really boost exports anyway, not for the US. Even in the narrow terms of trade and "national interest", they are a bad deal.
In general, US export growth has been low wherever the US has a "free trade treaty".
Even when these treaties lead to economic growth, they assure the benefit will go to the rich; working people may become poorer all the while, as wealth and income become more concentrated.
No wonder the think tanks that support the TTIP are funded by plutocrats as a form of "policy laundering".
The multinational corporations can afford to hire thousands of people to push these proposals: some to publish them, others to applaud them, and others to lobby for them.
Part of the article uses the incoherent term "intellectual property". It is always a mistake, without exception, to group together copyrights and patents as if they were a single issue. And that term includes several other laws as well, each very different from the others. If you think they are similar, perhaps you don't know what they really do.
While Obama claims that the proposed free exploitation treaties with Colombia and Korea would increase US exports, its own figures predict the opposite.
The US-Korea "free trade" agreement, if evaluated in the conventional terms of exports and imports, has been a big loss for US exports and US employment.
After the US-Korea "free trade agreement", US exports to Korea have decreased and imports from Korea have surged. In terms of national competition, the agreement was "bad for the US". In those same terms, you could say it was "good for Korea."
This is on top of the harm that the treaty does to both countries by undermining democracy.
Walden Bello, cofounder of Focus on the Global South, summarizes how the WTO arranges "the corporate capture of international trade" based on an ideology disconnected from economic facts.
Alleging that the UK-New Zealand business-supremacy treaty would cause economic losses and undermine climate defense. That's in addition to imposing a sort of race-based censorship.
It could also stop the US from setting up a proper national health service, which it badly needs.
Although the US government did not give in on the ban, other concessions were made.
Uruguay's laws are effective in lowering the rates of smoking.
NAFTA, which followed, did this even more. The TPP does it even more.
The new NAFTA improves many specific points, but its fundamental effect is still to give businesses more power and democracy less power, and thus to transfer income from workers to business owners.
Copyright 2011, 2016-2019 Richard Stallman released under Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 unported