by Rick Boettger
The original Illuminati was a Bavarian secret society, kind of like Yale’s Skull and Bones, created to spread the enlightenment in Bavaria in 1776. It lasted only ten years, but in that short time got people to believe it had such power it survived to mastermind the French Revolution, the Battle of Waterloo, the French Revolution and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination –as well as encouraging a communist plot to hasten the New World Order by infiltrating the Hollywood film industry.
So when I charge something with being a New Illuminati you should suspect me of going all wacky conspiracy-theory on you. But what I have learned about secretive groups with real power to run the world should at least make you pause to reflect.
The biggest international controversy you probably haven’t heard of is over the way corporations can sue entire countries if a law cuts into their profits. Right now we are years into negotiating giant free trade agreements, as big as NAFTA, with a bunch of Pacific nations (the Transpacific Pact, or TPP) and the European Union (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact, confusingly TTIP).
The monster issue blocking especially the European pact is Obama’s insisting on including an extreme arbitration procedure designed to protect corporate profits. You should find the following hard to believe. Basically, starting with NAFTA, hundreds of trade treaties have included an all-important clause:
It allows corporations to sue countries for laws that cut into their profits. A Swedish nuclear energy company has sued Germany for billions of Euros for banning nuclear power plants after the meltdowns at Fukushima. Reynolds sued Australia for anti-tobacco advertising. A French bus company sued Egypt for raising its minimum wage, increasing its payroll costs and cutting into profits. A mining corporation is suing Peru for enacting toxic waste regulations. Really!
It only allows corporations to sue nations, not the other way around. The corporations can only win or not win, and nations can only lose or not lose.
If the corporations win or settle, which they do over half the time, the nations have to pay for the corporations’ lost profits—with taxpayer money. So we pay for private lost profits with our public funds, often through aggregate loans.
The corporations do NOT have to first sue in local courts for relief. They can go directly to an arbitration process that is completely private. Arbitrators earning $600-700/hour make their rulings behind closed doors. Their decisions cannot be appealed. They of course have close corporate ties.
Even if a law serves a clear public interest, such as nuclear safety or tobacco health, that’s tough. If it cuts into corporate profits, the taxpayers of the offending nation have to pay up.
This amazing agreement has another bad acronym, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. Its public purpose is to encourage international investment by protecting investors’ rights from capriciously abusive laws. But there is no evidence it does so: Brazil has wisely rejected the clause in all of its trade treaties, with no loss of investor confidence and commitment.
But once agreed to by governments eager for precious investment and trade, like the U.S., these clauses amazingly have extremely long mandatory terms—decades, such as 30 years in NAFTA. That is, a bad decision made by a Congress like our current one can inflict rulings like those above on everyone down to our grandchildren.
Do you, like 90% of Americans, like to know where your meat comes from? In 2002, Congress enacted a law with a nice acronym, COOL, for Country of Origin Labeling. That’s why I know some of the shrimp for sale here comes from, say, Vietnam. I might choose to distrust some nations or favor buying American.
But one of the secret tribunals just ruled that we are guilty of “imported meat discrimination.” Just for telling us consumers a simple fact! We are appealing, but we not only may have to remove the labels, but pay with our tax dollars for lost profits by big meat packers in Canada and Mexico.
While appealing that ruling, the Obama administration is including a long-term ISDS in its TPP negotiations, without much resistance. But we are also pushing it in Europe, where it might be a deal-breaker. More and more countries are dumping the ISDS from its treaties.
But not us. All power to the corporations! The New Illuminati, anyone?