A Hollow Core: Left's Concern Trolling on Progressive Trade Pact Exposes Rank Hypocrisy

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you have heard the howls from the Loud Left about sending George Bush and Dick Cheney to the Hague to face war crime charges in the International Criminal Court, a Court that the United States is not party to. That the United States is not party to it also came under heavy liberal criticism - and in my judgment rightly so - when the Bush administration formally withdrew US intent to ratify the ICC.

The critics on the Left were no less scathing when President Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto protocol, and equally harsh to Bush's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (aka START II). And for what it's worth, I agreed with the Left's positions then.

So it may appear to you that the Left's loudest representatives - and the "progressive movement" as claimed by its loudest representatives - is all for international law, international cooperation, and international accountability.

Not so, it appears, when it comes to trade. In some disappointing news, the Progressive Left's new hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren has joined forces with the AFL-CIO to try to derail President Obama's negotiations with Asian partners to form the Transpacific Partnership (TPP, for short), a new trade agreement. Their - newest, no doubt - strawman is a provision they say could undermine American sovereignty. CNN reports:

Warren is spearheading a growing liberal push to undercut Obama’s attempt to negotiate free trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and the European Union. Her beef: Corporations could gain the ability to challenge countries’ laws under a complicated provision that’s routinely tucked into new deals.

The innocuous-sounding “investor-state dispute settlement mechanism,” critics on both the left and the populist right fear, would be like an independent, international court, with the power to force the U.S. government and American corporations to abide by its rulings.

Right, and we all know how much the Left hates independent, international courts. Oh, wait...

The problem with this line of gasping for straws is that it is both false and disingenuous. The so-called "investor-state dispute settlement mechanism" is part of nearly all trade deals, and it provides for a way to resolve differences should investors from one country have one with the government of the other party. From Wikipedia:

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is an instrument of public international law, that grants an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government... If an investor from country “A” (“Home State”) invests in country “B” (“Host State”), both of which have agreed to ISDS, and the Host State violates the rights granted to the investor under public international law, then that investor may bring the matter before an arbitral tribunal.

According to Wikipedia, ISDS is part of some 2,750 international trade agreements, including the Energy Charter Treaty and NAFTA.

ZOMG NAFTA! See, we told you it was bad! Everybody freak out!!!!

Except that not a single claim brought by foreign entities against the United States under Chapter 11 of NAFTA - the part of the trade agreement that contains the specific arbitration provision - has ever been successful. Not one. Oh, and by the way, the Obama administration has won each and every enforcement action they have brought to the World Trade Organization. Every last one of them.

To argue that this same administration that has used international legal tools to expand the reach of American exports is now engaged in selling out American sovereignty at the behest of foreign investors is as absurd as it is offensive. To suggest that a dispute resolution provision that has been part of international trade agreements for a very long time has suddenly become a challenge to national sovereignty is little more than absurd fearmongering.

Just what exactly is wrong with an international pact having an international enforcement mechanism? Is it not the epitome of American Superiority Complex that Warren and the AFL-CIO are sharing with the fervent Right in their ridiculous attempt to stir up nationalistic indignations against the President as he negotiates what looks to become the most progressive trade agreement in American history?

Trade isn't something to be afraid of or avoid, on a level playing field. Isolationism will not help us grow. So why, might I ask, is a labor union and a labor advocate so against an agreement that will expand the right to unionize and ban child and force labor simply because of a standard enforcement mechanism?

Elizabeth Warren didn't write a letter to the foreign parties being negotiated with for TPP. But with the exception of the GOP traitors' Iran letter, someone at some point will have to explain to me how Elizabeth Warren and AFL-CIO's efforts to derail as-yet undisclosed American negotiations with foreign governments on trade is all that different from the constant Republican attempts to interfere in sensitive security negotiations by the US administration with foreign governments.

And for the boader Leftist movement, someone, at some point, will have to explain to me why it was okay to advocate for sending Bush and Cheney to the Hague bypassing American courts but it's suddenly not okay to write rules of international enforcement into an international trade agreement. Someone, at some point, needs to explain why the idea of an independent enforcement body was great for Kyoto but suddenly a dealbreaker for trade.

Lastly, with all due respect, if we are going to talk about American sovereignty and independence, we can't do so without facing a simple fact: without a Pacific trade pact (with countries that are responsible for 40% of global economic activity), increasingly, China and not the United States will get to write the global rules of trade. How, might I ask the Left's battle-ready parties, will that work out for American leadership and sovereignty?

It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make sense, because the the whole thing - from a union actively campaigning against the expansion of labor rights to non-Americans and a to Senator fearmongering about "sovereignty" all adds up to simple math: concern trolling and rank hypocrisy.



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