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Will the Trans Pacific Partnership Empower Polluters to Sue the United States?

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Joseph Stiglitz has enormous concerns over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Primary among them is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement courts that can allow polluters to sue nations for instituting new labor, environmental, or consumer safety standards that undermine corporate profit.

Exactly. It’s a little bit more graphic, because they had the picture of what it did to your lungs. It worked. People started—you know, stopped smoking. Not everybody, but smoking was reduced. Under the provisions of this, TPP-like provision, Philip Morris can sue Uruguay for the loss of their expected profits as result of the regulation. In other words, the view is, they have the right to kill people, and if you want to take away that right, you have to pay them not to kill.

Now, we carved—that provision was carved out, but all the other areas were left in. So they were talking about climate change regulation. We know we’re going to need regulations to restrict the emissions of carbon. But under these provisions, corporations can sue the government, including the American government, by the way, so it’s all the governments in the TPP can be sued for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming. If this provision had been in place when we had discovered that asbestos was bad for your health—you know, under the current provisions, asbestos manufacturers have to pay for the damage that they’re doing. They pay billions and billions of dollars. If the TPP had been in place, we would have to pay the asbestos manufacturers for not killing us. It’s outrageous.

As Stiglitz states here, the TPP is barely about trade at all. It’s an international corporate-rights document. Even if you support the current system of free trade and the global race to the bottom, you should still oppose the TPP. Companies can already move around the globe almost at will. Giving away our rights to create safe, clean, and dignified lives for our citizens and granting huge intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies that will keep affordable medicine out of the hands of the world’s citizens are terrible policies on top of the continued destruction of the American middle class. It’s an unconscionable deal.

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