Monday, December 9, 2013

Barack Obama's Business

Recently, Huffington Post published a story about Obama's role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA. Newly released (and heavily redacted) memos from the talks show that the United States is taking a very aggressive, pro-business stance in the talks. Their position would open up a whole new range of powers for businesses on the global stage, and would, by extension, limit the powers of consumers and countries to respond.

Based on the memos, which are linked in the above article or can be read here, it seems that the US is bullying other countries into what they want, though these other nations are resisting. At first glance, it appears that Obama and his administration are taking a very strong stance in favor of multinational business at the expense of the nations and people involved.

Other news agencies have been slow to pick up the story, and many are simply taking their info from Huffington Post at this point. That's all well and good, except for one thing: Huffington Post had to go back and add a bit to their story. Here's what they included:

“These are not U.S. documents and we have no idea of their authorship or authenticity,” a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said. “Some elements in them are outdated, others totally inaccurate.” The spokesman declined to specify which parts were outdated or inaccurate

That is a very important point to make, because it raises two possibilities. One, the US is lying about some elements of the memos being "outdated" or "inaccurate." Two, the contents of the memos are not accurate, and is being released as a way to disrupt the talks or discredit the US.

I don't know which it is, but either one is plausible to me. It's no secret that Obama has been much more friendly with big business than his left-wing supporters would like. It's also not a secret that the Obama administration has taken a strong stance in these talks before. If the administration really is trying to ramrod its ideas through on this agreement, at the expense of the other nations involved (not to mention we the people), that's incredibly concerning. If our largest, most powerful companies are granted even more power on the world stage, it will result in less power and control for individuals and governments to keep them in check.

On the other hand, it is likely that this memo could be produced by a different nation in the talks, or some other organization, as a means to tarnish the US position and gain some measure of leverage over them. Because the US is the main party to these discussions, gaining some measure of power over them would be ideal for lesser countries. If the spokesman from the Office of the US trade rep is being honest, it would indicate that the US has perhaps softened its position and is working more agreeably with the other nations involved.

Either way, the memos are disturbing, as they indicate that the United States is still engaged in talks that would seek to empower multinational corporations to overstep individual governments. While I believe in streamlining and making sense of our regulations on business, I don't believe that they should have the power to overstep a government to realize more profits.

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