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.
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.
Congress has not repealed it because of overwhelming public support for COOL -- 90% of Americans support such a measure, according to Consumer Reports.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.