Zach Carter, Amanda Terkel, and Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reported today that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is opposed to a critical part of the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), “which would give corporations the right to sue sovereign nations over laws or regulations that could potentially curb their profits.” They said that her policy position is included in her book Hard Choices. Carter, Terkel, and Grim said it “was confirmed to HuffPost by a spokesperson for her presidential campaign.”
The three authors of the HuffPo article noted that Obama and congressional Democrats have been “locked in a bitter public feud over TPP — a deal between 12 Pacific nations — with much of the controversy derived from concerns it will undermine regulatory standards.”
They included the following excerpt from Clinton’s book Hard Choices in their HuffPo piece:
Currently the United States is negotiating comprehensive agreements with eleven countries in Asia and in North and South America, and with the European Union. We should be focused on ending currency manipulation, environmental destruction, and miserable working conditions in developing countries, as well as harmonizing regulations with the EU. And we should avoid some of the provisions sought by business interests, including our own, like giving them or their investors the power to sue foreign governments to weaken their environmental and public health rules, as Philip Morris is already trying to do in Australia. The United States should be advocating a level and fair playing field, not special favors. (Emphasis added.)
Carter, Terkel, and Grim:
Obama’s TPP deal would be enforced by a process known as “investor-state dispute settlement,” which allows foreign companies to attack domestic laws or regulations before an international tribunal if they believe those rules unfairly curb investment returns. Those tribunals can’t directly overturn laws, but they can impose hefty fines on the countries they rule against.
Financial watchdogs and environmental activists are particularly concerned the process will be used to stymie future rulemaking with the threat of international fines. Congress often considers trade commitments when debating domestic legislation, at times diluting or derailing it. Foreign countries have halted anti-smoking rules over ISDS lawsuits.
Obama has vigorously defended ISDS against criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others, insisting it is necessary to protect American companies abroad.
Last week, Obama told reporters, “In a lot of countries, U.S. companies are discriminated against, and going through their court system would not give them relief. The notion that corporate America is going to be able to use this provision to eliminate our financial regulations and our food safety regulations and our consumer regulations — that’s just bunk. It’s not true.”
Carter, Terkel, and Grim said the Australian case that Clinton referenced in her book…is instructive. They explained, “The Australian government enacted legislation that would require tobacco products be sold only with plain, simple packaging that includes health warnings — labeling the tobacco companies objected to. Philip Morris Asia is suing Australia under a different free trade pact, using a similar ISDS provision, arguing that the Australian law is cutting into its profit. It’s easy to see how laws in, say, New York City, would be similarly targeted.”
Carter, Terkel, and Grim continued by saying “environmental watchdogs are concerned corporations will use TPP to undermine environmental protections abroad.” They added that although “ISDS provisions have existed for a long time, companies didn’t really take advantage of them until the 21st century. As Warren noted in an op-ed for The Washington Post, less than 100 ISDS cases were initiated between 1959 and 2002, while 58 were filed in 2012 alone. Warren and others are not only worried the U.S. might lose ISDS cases, but that expanding the ISDS regime will prevent governments from enacting future regulations.”
Hillary Clinton Agrees With Elizabeth Warren On Trade Dispute With Obama (Huffington Post)