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Truthdigger of the Week: Lori Wallach

Posted on Oct 5, 2013
Democracy Now!

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating. Nominate our next Truthdigger here.

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The extreme want of coverage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in even the independent, alternative press is a testament to the near-complete domination of politics and the news media by transnational corporate interests. This was made possible—and we could say, was achieved—by the gradual, long-standing and ongoing economic starvation of journalists, editors and publishers who do not work under the aegis of those interests. Were it not for a relatively small group of committed professionals and other concerned people, we’d know even less.

If like many news readers you haven’t been informed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a hyper-secret multinational trade accord born in the darkened basement of neoliberalism. It has the full support of Democratic President Barack Obama, who, along with its other promoters, describe it as a way to “modernize” the international economy. That language should give you pause. Modernization is the same advertisement U.S. Treasury leaders Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner slapped on the 1999 act that repealed Glass-Steagall, legislation from the 1930s that placed a barrier between mom-and-pop and investment banking, and for almost a century prevented a repeat of the Great Depression. “Modernization” is code for deregulation and its full register of economic horrors, including depressed wages, high prices, lost jobs and unnecessary and increasing danger for workers and the environment, and deregulation is what the TPP is all about.

Few people outside the international cabal hatching the scheme seem to know this with the force and precision of Lori Wallach. Wallach is a lawyer and the founder and director of Global Trade Watch, an arm of the U.S. public advocacy group Public Citizen that has monitored the major trends and consequences of economic globalization—the driven and increasing interdependence of international markets and economies, to the conspicuous benefit of major Western corporations—since 1995. For the last two decades, she has shared her expertise on the impact of international trade deals such as NAFTA and CAFTA on “jobs, off-shoring, wages, the environment, public health and food safety” with legislators, civil society groups, scholars, journalists and activists around the world.

Over the years Wallach has appeared on nearly every major news network and been quoted extensively in leading papers. In advance of Secretary of State John Kerry’s appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Indonesia next week, where he’ll affirm the American government’s interest in the developing trade contract, Wallach appeared on “Democracy Now!” on Friday to give viewers a concise run-through on what is publicly know about the deal. “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman introduced the topic as follows:


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“The TPP is often referred to by critics as ‘NAFTA on steroids’ and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompass 800 million people—about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto.”

Wallach filled in the blanks: “[O]ne of the most important things to understand is it’s not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.”

“For instance, there are the same investor privileges that promote job offshoring to lower-wage countries. There is a ban on Buy Local procurement, so that corporations have a right to do sourcing, basically taking our tax dollars, and instead of investing them in our local economy, sending them offshore. There are new rights to, for instance, have freedom to enter other countries and take natural resources, a right for mining, a right for oil, gas, without approval.”

“And then there’s a whole set of very worrisome issues relating to Internet freedom. Through sort of the backdoor of the copyright chapter of TPP is a whole chunk of SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that activism around the country successfully derailed a year ago. Think about all the things that would be really hard to get into effect as a corporation in public, a lot of them rejected here and in the other 11 countries, and that is what’s bundled in to the TPP. And every country would be required to change its laws domestically to meet these rules. The binding provision is, each country shall ensure the conformity of domestic laws, regulations and procedures.” (Italics added.)

“Now, the only reason I know that level of detail is because a few texts have leaked, and I have been following the negotiations and grilling negotiators from other countries to try and find between the lines what the hell is going on; otherwise, totally secret.”

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