Press-Republican

Business

January 12, 2014

Concerns raised about trade agreement

PLATTSBURGH — Scope the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership by sifting through the Intellectual Property Chapter released last December by Wiki leaks — or cut to the chaff with Mary Alice Shemo.

“What you don’t know will hurt you, in this case drastically,” said Shemo, a Plattsburgh community activist who led a recent rally protesting TPP, which is viewed in some quarters as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on steroids.

TPP is a colossal trade deal between the United States, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru and Mexico. And more can join the treaty party.

SECRETIVE DISCUSSIONS

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has been negotiated in the strictest secrecy since 2008,” Shemo said. “That, in itself, is worrisome. There’s no need for so much secrecy if a trade deal is on the up and up.

“In fact, former United States trade representative Ron Kirk defended the secrecy, saying that if people knew what is in it, they’d object so much that it would never be signed.

“The trade office is negotiating on behalf of the corporations, not the American people,” Shemo said. “It is narrowly focused on maximization of profits for mega-corporations, whose representatives are the only ones that have had input into the text.”

‘TOXIC CONCEPT’

Shemo said TPP masquerades as a free-trade agreement but only five of the treaty’s 29 chapters focus on trade.

“The only thing free about it is the freedom for multi-national corporations to operate just as they please, without restraint, oversight or accountability,” she said.

“The rest is based on the toxic concept of ‘non-tariff barriers to trade,’ meaning anything that corporations even think might interfere with ‘expected future profits,’” Shemo said.

“Food and product-safety laws, clean-air and -water regulations, worker protection and more all come under that rubric.

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