…’free trade’, corporate free-for-all? the fault, dear Ralphie, is not in…

…our stars, but in ourselves, that we are neither corporations nor their lackeys…

[As the Bard glowers at this abuse of one of his chef d’oeuvres – clearly, not hors d…]

And the challenge could not be more insurmountable, as Rex-cum-President would hold court among his fawning supplicants, and is interrupted by an interloper, ‘You’re In My House’: Obama Shuts Down Heckler At White House. Lest there be any doubt of ‘L’état, c’est moi!’,

“As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers but not when I am up in the house,” he said later, to laughter from the crowd. “If you are eating the hors d’oeuvres, know what I’m sayin’? And drinking the booze.”

[bold added for emphasis]

Class, real class. Or should that be crass? Clearly, the peasants get the ‘booze’, the ‘elites’, the Dom Perignon, Château Neuf du Pape, and similar ‘unpronounciable’ boissons. (Was there not some ban against French in the US Congress, where ‘French fries’ would become ‘Freedom fries’ and similar asininity?) Hors d’oeuvres for the plebs, not ‘finger food’ – progress?

Yet such an exceptional performance of a graceless but educated ‘elite’ toward an impolite and under-educated illegal (!) that garnered media raves would fail to impress or deter or daunt Ralph Nader.

Nader continues to show fine form. This week he bemoans the fate that is to befall many of the US populace with the progress to passage of the plethora of ‘T’s’ – TPA, TAA, TPA, TTIP. In, King Obama, His Royal Court, and the TPP, one of the observations he makes, one, known to US legislators but ignored,

Only corporations, astonishingly enough, are entitled to sue the U.S. government for any alleged harm to their profits from health, safety or other regulations in secret tribunals that operate as offshore kangaroo courts, not in open courts.

The good news here is that this is a condition that faces very many countries, many weak countries, and no way, no how will the US have to undergo anything remotely similar. After all, which country writes and rewrites (and enforces) the rules, when the rules rule against it? The US and the multinational corporations (MNCs) and, especially, ICSID of the World Bank have not been particularly considerate toward many such countries. (It is already established that the US is a corporate ‘democracy’, with extravagant, media promoted, theatre.)

One case in point is El Salvador, a very poor country with great mining potential, but one with severe water supply problems. Poor country or not, El Salvador is being sued for wanting to prevent further pollution of its already severely contaminated water resources. A recent article from The Guardian is apt,  Lawsuit against El Salvador mining ban highlights free trade pitfalls. We begin to get a picture,

El Salvador is an impoverished country, but its citizens live above riches: the country has an estimated 1.4m ounces of gold buried underground, as well as silver and copper.

It may be surprising, then, that no mining is allowed. In 2008, after mining operations polluted the water supply in San Sebastián, sparking a clean water crisis, then-president Antonio Saca stopped issuing new mining permits. Its legislature has considered and failed to pass an official moratorium or permanent ban on mining since then, but the government has continued to deny all permit applications.

And here is where the Investor-State Dispute mechanism enters. As The Guardian would report,

The Pacific Rim case, which has been ongoing since 2009, has been a mix of public and private. Pacific Rim initially claimed that El Salvador had violated the Central American Free Trade (Cafta) treaty. The tribunal proceedings for the case were streamed on the internet and all documents were posted to the World Bank International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes website.

Then in 2012, the tribunal found that Pacific Rim, as a Canadian company, could not invoke Cafta. The company changed its claim, accusing El Salvador instead of violating its own investment law.

As we see, the corporation exercises the initiative, health or environmental cost irrelevant. TeleSUR would have its take, OceanaGold vs El Salvador: Foreshadowing ‘Trade’ Under the TPP?

The Central American country of El Salvador could be forced to pay US$301 million to Canadian-Australian mining multinational OceanaGold as the two face off in a World Bank investor-state tribunal with proven tendency to favor corporate interests over arguments for protecting national sovereignty, the environment, and human rights.

Where did OceanaGold come from? It is the new name – complicated, this corporation business. And, yes, should El Salvador lose, that US$301M is a hefty chunk of change for the country, some two percent of its GDP.

That has been one area of extreme vulnerability of such countries, though Bolivia has recently enacted law to ‘level the playing field’. Another area concerns Intellectual Property (IP) Rights – patents and copyrights. The medical benefits that flowed from generics in such countries may well be reduced. Dean Baker in his post at Truth-Out, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Drug Patents and President Clinton, makes this point,

There are many serious issues raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the one that may have the greatest long-term impact is its provisions on drug patents. The explicit purpose is to make patent protection stronger and longer. While these provisions are likely to lead to higher drug prices in the United States, they will have their greatest impact in the developing world.

[bold added for emphasis]

No great imagination is needed to envisage the likely impact of any merger among health insurance companies in the US – with the more robust patent protection of ‘free trade’ in force – and the deleterious effects beyond its borders. That the US populace is acquiescent, resigned to a regimen of high health costs and low benefits is no reason, no incentive for other countries to imperil or unravel their own social and economic gains – to benefit corporate, in particular US, interests.

…independent states or serfdom, for whom the bell tolls?…