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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Spell Possible Legal Troubles for Pasadena

Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Spell Possible Legal Troubles for Pasadena

by Pasadena Independent
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President Barack Obama. - Official White House Photo

President Barack Obama. – Official White House Photo

By Nick Kipley

Last week, on June 25th, the U.S. Senate voted 60—38 in favor of allowing President Barack Obama to “fast-track” a measure known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; if passed, this agreement would form a NAFTA style free-trade region between the U.S. and the EU, effectively creating the wealthiest tariff-free trade zone on the planet. Proponents of the bill claim that the Keynesian theory gluing this bill together is sound, and argue that if there were truly unrestricted trade between the U.S. and Europe, it would result in huge profits for investors and corporations and claim that—even though they never truly open this next point up for debate—the wealth should naturally trickle down to the service sector: for the benefit of all its perpetual part-timers, intern-serfs, and trust-fund hipsters.

This news comes pieced together from Wikileaks documents, left-wing bloggers, and the Irish Farmers Journal as no major American news outlet seems to want to touch on an issue that might come across in a negative way to the huge conglomerates that own every major American news outlet.

This is partly because, if granted, the TTIP would allow for huge conglomerates to be able to move at an even more rapacious speed.

Also, this agreement would allow large businesses to sue entire countries in private tribunals run by corporate lawyers, if said offending country were to do anything to interfere with the aforementioned businesses’ ability to make endless cash.

Known as an “investor-State Dispute Settlement” this rule would allow large corporations to sue countries.

John Hilary, in “TTIP: A Charter For Deregulation An Attack On Jobs, An End To Democracy,” writes that American corporation Philip Morris is currently suing the Australian government for billions of dollars over a recent public health policy that makes it mandatory for all cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging (which P.M. claims “infringes” on the company’s “intellectual rights”), while also simultaneously suing Uruguay over the Central American country’s measure to cover 80% of all cigarette packaging in graphic health warnings. Hilary also writes of a Canadian mining company suing El Salvador for the amount of money they think they would have made in gold due on land they didn’t technically own because the citizens of El Salvador rose up against the idea of the mine, as gold is separated from the ore using a process involving lots of arsenic, and that arsenic can eventually wind up in the water table.

The power for Philip Morris and other companies to begin bullying autonomous nations comes from rules passed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, another NAFTA-style trade agreement mired in debate after it became apparent to the people of many Pacific Rim nations that, if passed, they could end up having to indirectly divert their tax dollars into the wallets of some huge cigarette company as punishment for having voting on a measure for more “no smoking” signs.

So why does this matter for Pasadena? As the 710 freeway was once a promised trade corridor from the Port of Long Beach/L.A. up through the San Gabriel Valley and into the Central Valley, any group of powerful shipping magnates headed by a large corporation—like the one headed by the Danish company Maersk which shut down the port and blamed it on the workers earlier this year—could, in theory, sue the State of California for an “obstruction,” or, “failure to deliver,” on their mid-20th century logistical promise of dissecting Alhambra and South Pasadena with an eight-lane highway.

The ensuing court battle would drag state taxpayers through the mud for months while reminding them of the fact that the goods moved through Southern California’s twin ports brings in something like 17% of the U.S.’s GDP.

Fearing job losses and hemorrhaging money, the democratic process to hold back the freeway would be pushed effortlessly aside by the State in some sinister special election in which CA taxpayers would be forced to decide the fate of the region to appease rapacious corporate interest. And although this all is purely speculative, would a tobacco company suing taxpayers for billions be considered a reality, or more like a punchline to an anecdote about what greed can warp people into thinking and doing?

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