Even Before TPP And TTIP, US Already Being Forced To Change Laws By Trade Agreements

from the not-so-cool dept

Recently, we looked at how corporate sovereignty provisions undermine democracy by irrevocably binding future governments. The analysis was framed in terms of the UK’s situation, but applied more generally to any country that signs up to investor-state dispute (ISDS) mechanisms in trade agreements. In particular, it applies to the US. And yet in President Obama’s (in)famous TPP speech at Nike a few weeks ago — the one where he claimed some of his “dearest friends” were wrong — he said the following:

[TPP] critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. (Applause.) This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.

But as a post on the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy site points out, just 12 days after Obama made that speech, this happened:

The House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 to repeal in its entirety country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) for beef, pork and poultry. The House vote came in response to a May 18 ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the U.S. had violated global trade rules by requiring supermarket labels on beef and pork to indicate where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered.


Congress has not repealed it because of overwhelming public support for COOL — 90% of Americans support such a measure, according to Consumer Reports. Needless to say, civil society including farm, ranch, consumer, labor and other groups, won’t sit quietly. But the fact is that the U.S. has to change COOL or face trade sanctions (though how significant is unclear). The USTR has already indicated it will encourage Congress to revise COOL.

As that makes clear, alongside the fact that it is quite possible that the US will indeed modify its laws here because of a trade agreement, this would be happening even though the laws in question enjoy huge support among the US public. Which shows that trade agreements can not only force laws to be changed, but can do so with absolutely no regard to what the people in whose name they are supposedly negotiated, actually want.

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Comments on “Even Before TPP And TTIP, US Already Being Forced To Change Laws By Trade Agreements”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It must be specific provisions at play here. In Europe COOL is the standard even on meat. The larger problems here are the number of transits on the way and the miss-labeling happening there. 6 or 7 different jurisdictions are the norm.

Different documentaries has proven horse-meat in beef and animal cruelty in asian feather-industry getting labeled as European welfare feathers etc. Without COOL it would be much more difficult to trace and assure the validity of such claims.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

More like the Disney, the RIAA nad MPAA bought the presidency. After all these are the industry interests secretly negotiating these agreements with legislatures. but I guess you refuse to acknowledge this truth. Keep covering your ears, closing your eyes, and pinning everything on Google. Just because the government is receiving a lot of public resistance towards the laws that the MPAA has paid for which is slowing down the agreement doesn’t mean Google is somehow behind it. Any fool can see who is really in support of these pro-IP laws and it’s not the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if their are any benefits to to this trade agreement. I wonder if yes; their will be some side effects that don’t exactly work out well for the American people, but over all, maybe this agreement be a good thing? Is it possible that we give up something like “COOL” but over all we gain a massive boost to our economy?? Perhaps…. cough…. sorry, HAHAHA!! I just couldn’t keep a straight face, this whole deal is a dog fucking a cat…. wrong from the start…HAHAHAAHA….

How is it not absolutely obvious to all that the elite are orchestrating this entire deal to protect their profits from those meddling people? People who are tired of the elite stealing their countries wealth and bribing corrupt politicians to further enhance their wealth with the very money they are stealing?

I say stealing because when they started out, they were on a level playing field. They competed with everyone else, it was just good decisions that got them ahead. The point where they started bending our legal system, bribing our politicians, and back-dooring massive trade agreements that screw the everyday consumer, is where it really became stealing isn’t it?

Is it too late? With half of the American people latched onto the Government tit (subsidies and such) is their enough left pulling the cart that they can change the direction and maybe even manage to get a few more people to get off the cart and help pull… cough……. AHAHAHAHA, almost kept it together on that one……. AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

With the borders getting flung open and low wage earners pouring into the country driving down the average wage and increasing the percentage of the population on subsidies, the cart is eventually going to come to a screeching halt. God help us when it does.

Richard (profile) says:

US has only itself to blame

As that makes clear, alongside the fact that it is quite possible that the US will indeed modify its laws here because of a trade agreement, this would be happening even though the laws in question enjoy huge support among the US public.

I’m pretty sure that the WTO rules that the US has now fallen foul of were put in place due to US lobbying – perhaps related to the labelling of GM foods.

Monsanto is desperate to force the EU to stop labelling GM foods as such – because consumers won’t buy them and it is shut out or the european market.

The US wants it both ways – force food labelling where it helps US interests – and ban it where it does the reverse.

OF course US consumers do have the means to overturn this – simply stop buying unlabelled meat. It is not harder than to stop buying Canadian or Mexican meat.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: US has only itself to blame

I think a better approach is to not buy meat that you don’t understand. It doesn’t have to be labelled if you can get the information from the butcher.

Even better is to trade quantity for quality. Buy your meat from local producers (to the extent that it’s possible) who produce the meat in a manner that you agree with. It’s more expensive, but the meat you get is much better quality and much tastier. Your overall meat expense doesn’t have to go up — just eat less meat. You probably won’t mind because it will be so much yummier, and if you’re an average American, you will be much healthier for it.

“We become a whole nation of vegans”

I think you meant vegetarians here. Vegans avoid all animal products (like butter, eggs, etc.), not just meat.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: US has only itself to blame

I think a better approach is to not buy meat that you don’t understand.

That was really what I meant- I assumed that meat could still be labelled voluntarily and the good quality local producers would want to label theirs. However if they don’t then it may be possible to get the required information by other means.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s surprising is that the Republicans seem to be even more in favor of fast-tracking these agreements than the Democrats, despite all the hysteria against UN before and letting UN control US and such.

Yet, this is kind of like that, too, but now they seem to have no problem with it, because the companies bankrolling their campaigns have an interest in these agreements passing.

I wish US had real anti-bribing laws. If you directly benefit from a law being passed and you either directly or indirectly (through PAC) donate to a politician passing that law, you should be accused of bribing and the politician of corruption.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Re:

If you directly benefit from a law being passed and you either directly or indirectly (through PAC) donate to a politician passing that law, you should be accused of bribing and the politician of corruption.
That seems to outlaw donating to any candidate you support. Wanna throw some cash to an anti-NSA candidate? Bribery because if he is successful you’ll get spied on less. I do agree that money seems to outweigh the desires of constituents in Congress, but I don’t think banning all campaign donations is the way to go. That makes absolutely sure that the only guys who win will be the super-rich, and then they can screw you even worse because they don’t have to hide behind lobbyists and Congressmen to do their will.

Anonymous Coward says:

This law was brought in to effect to deal with cheaper Canadian meat from coming into the USA’s market. This law when done was in violation of the Free trade Agreements our 2 countries entered intop, but you guys don’t give a shit about if your wrong, look at the BC softwood lumber disputes and you will see that the good ol USA just makes up shit as it goes along and says that is law now , and fuck our agreements we do what we want.

your cool law has only been on the books for a short time, so quit trying to say these agreements are changing your laws, your law makers are changing them, and fuck the trade agreements we have.

Not a smart idea to piss off the people that control most of your water and power for the west coast.

Keep it up USA, you may have no power in California soon.

Merica, Fuck ya!!!!!!!!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Laws aren't the only change

It used to be when testing for certification as a Master Chef (CMC) by the American Culinary Federation, the market basket portion of that test (PDF) included rules to follow guidelines for American Regional Cooking (that does not appear to be the case anymore) in which if you grabbed the rack of lamb out of the basket and it did not have the USDA stamp on it, you failed. I am not aware of why that change was made (or when for that matter).

It was also possible to fail if you chose, say a fruit, that was out of season in the US but was available elsewhere. It appears that now one must use some of everything in the basket, so what is supplied has already considered these things if they are important.

Anonymous Hero says:


“the US will indeed modify its laws here because of a trade agreement”

Yes, well, that is what a treaty does, and that is why it is voted upon by our legislative branch (through fast-track…though it’s not like they’d read the treaty anyway).

So, basically, your story is that the US had to abide by laws our legislative branch passed?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Most American's back new trade deals.

The problem is that these aren’t trade deals that remove trade restrictions these are deals that simply impose laws on nations.

When people hear trade deals they think the removal of trade restrictions and tariffs. In order to get bad trade deals passed that’s what they are being disguised as and most people fall for it.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Most American's back new trade deals.

While it is certainly true that these agreements include more than removing trade restrictions, they do in fact include removing trade restrictions and tariffs and improving market access.
TTIP: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/may/tradoc_152462.pdf

TPP: https://ustr.gov/tpp/outlines-of-TPP

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Most American's back new trade deals.

Kudos for your enthusiastic attempt to sell us a clunker. By all means point out the shiny new coat of paint and the engine’s horsepower rating. Unfortunately, there’s an obvious puddle of fluid underneath the TPP, the tie rods are bent like pretzels, and I can see gears through the hole in the transmission.

If I were King, these guys at the USTR (and all lobbyists, for that matter) would be forced to wear plaid leisure suits to dispel any illusions about who they are and what they’re all about. What’s your color preference, BTW? Peach and lime, or avocado and gold?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Most American's back new trade deals.

“Kudos for your enthusiastic attempt to sell us a clunker.”

Take off your tin foil hat long enough to admit that these agreements do have trade related components in addition to all the garbage that TD and other sites are railing against.


Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Most American's back new trade deals.

Take off your tin foil hat long enough to admit that these agreements do have trade related components in addition to all the garbage that TD and other sites are railing against. FTFY.

I guess hell hath no phony play-acting fury like a used car salesman who’s sales pitch only produces derisive laughter.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Most American's back new trade deals.

I rather suspect that if most Americans actually read and understood the trade deals, they wouldn’t be supportive of them. But they don’t. At best, they read the name of the deal (which is always incredibly misleading or outright deceptive). At worst, they just hear what the news says about the deal, which is even worse than just going by the name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Most American's back new trade deals.

Not sure how one reads a document that is held as “secret” and the public is disallowed to read it for many years into the future.

If the people were made aware of the provisions within the “trade deal” they would not like them. Just look at the reactions to the leaked details.

Dirkmaster (profile) says:

I think everybody's taking this the wrong way....

Obama didn’t lie. In his mind, it will never happen, because after all, laws don’t apply to him anyway. If a treaty says we have to do something the government doesn’t want to do, they’ll just Executive Decree it, say “Because Terrorist and Security, and The Children!” and then ignore it. When was the last time an administration actually did something it didn’t want to do?

OH says:

TPP = Americans Indentured In China

It’s the bi-partisan consensus vs. the USA, liberals and conservatives are all patriotically opposed to these job-destroying trade agreements, Republicans and Democrats are all treasonous for Fast Track and TPP.
Be Careful Americans when you are filling out your paperwork to go over and become an indentured slave, or guest worker or whatever they tell you it is, in China.
Republicans, absolutely not sincere about USA first and USA exceptionalism.
Republicans, absolutely not sincere about small and local govt.
Republicans, absolutely not sincere about being against international agencies such as the UN.
Democrats, absolutely flat out not sincere about supposedly caring about you and me.

John Brinkley says:


This post is downright silly. You claim the WTO “forced” the U.S. to repeal its COOL regulations, then admit that the U.S. hasn’t done so and almost certainly won’t do so. The vote in the House ag committee had nothing to do with the WTO. It was engineered by Republicans who think protecting their agricultural constituents’ profits is more important than consumers’ right to know where their food comes from.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:


Looks like House Agriculture Committee Chair Conaway disagrees with you.

“This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty and restore stability for the United States by bringing us back into compliance,” Chairman Conaway said. “We must do all we can to avoid retaliation by Canada and Mexico, and this bill accomplishes that through full repeal of labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken.”

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