Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Investor Is King

If you wondered why the Harper government has gutted Canada's environmental legislation, Frances Russell  provides the answer:

The North American Free Trade Agreement was the first of a New World Order of trade agreements designed, to borrow the words of the Trilateral Commission in 1975, to repeal “an excess of democracy in the western world.” It set a precedent never before dreamed of, let alone achieved, in international trade: the right of private investors to sue nations. And not just for millions, but billions, robbing national treasuries of the means to address the social and economic needs of their citizens and, in many cases, pushing them back into extreme poverty.

The Harperites mission is to make the world safe for investors. What that means in practice is that they seek out and sign "trade agreements" which entrench investor rights through a system of investor dispute mechanisms. And a remarkably small number of people have been laughing all the way to the bank:

NAFTA and its growing ranks of copycats like the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about nothing less than entrenching de facto government by transnational corporations. So far, the corporations are winning. In the process, they’re not just enriching themselves but also a global network of fabulously wealthy lawyers and accountants busy impoverishing governments and their citizens to achieve maximum profits for the multinationals they represent.

The rapacious success — and excess — of these latter-day robber barons can be traced through statistics. The number of investor-state lawsuits has soared from 38 cases in 1996 to 450 in 2011. The amount of money involved has soared, too.

A report titled Profiting From Injustice has documented the extent of the corporate coup:

"(I)t has become clear that the arbitration industry has a vested interest in perpetuating a regime that prioritizes the rights of investors at the expense of democratically elected national governments and sovereign states,” the report’s authors state. “They have built a multimillion-dollar self-serving industry, dominated by a narrow exclusive elite of law firms and lawyers whose interconnectedness and multiple financial interests raise serious doubts about their commitment to deliver fair and independent judgments.”

Investment arbitrators have an inbred bias favouring corporations over states, encourage lawsuits against governments in crisis, promote investment arbitration as a necessary condition for attracting foreign investment and encourage governments to sign investment treaties that use language maximizing possibilities for litigation.

The Harperites are the courtiers of this investor-lawyer elite. And, when they leave government, they will be rewarded -- many times over. Unfortunately, we the plebeians will be left with the bill.

This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.


thwap said...

There power comes from a legal system that they exploit but do not respect themselves when it rules against them.

Anonymous said...

The link to Frances Russell does not work.

Owen Gray said...

These are the people who claim it's time we got tough on crime, thwap -- and then they hire Bruce Carson.

Rules are for other people.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the tip, Anon. I don't know what happened. But it should work now.

karen said...

I know that the fines payable under FIPA are supposed to be secret, but I wonder if the fines under NAFTA are also undisclosed?
For years now, all levels of government have been harping about not having enough money for education, health and infrastructure budgets. I know that corporations get healthy tax rebates. I know that my own community paid for all the road work, sewer, water, electricity upgrade for one big box store, and I suspect also did for a larger group of big boxes a few years later. I am sure that my community is not alone in this behaviour. But ever since I read FIPA I have wondered what of this nature our taxes might be going to.

Owen Gray said...

We have been told that our taxes have gone to keeping the financial system afloat, Karen.

But you'll notice that none of the movers and shakers who brought the system to the brink of collapse -- with the exception of Bernie Madoff -- have been charged with fraud or gone to jail.

We bought a Get Out Of Jail Free
Card for the people who caused the problem.

Anonymous said...

Harper does give billions of our tax dollars to, corrupt greedy banks, mines, giant corporations and Harper's favorite charity big oil. That was seen on the House of Commons TV channel, some time back. Harper also give them, huge tax reductions. Harper does thieve from the people, to give to the wealthiest outfits in the world. What country does insist where, giant wealthy businesses pay their fair share of taxes? They all line up at the trough, and squeal for more money.

Harper and Flaherty of course, blame government spending on the citizens. They slash our services, we pay through the nose for. Harper still collects for those services, from the tax payers. We pay Harper for stealing from us.

Harper has given this country to Communist China. China takes our resources and resource jobs. Harper permits China to sue any Canadians, who get into China's way. China sued in BC, to take the mining jobs. Canada will be as, an occupied country. What rights do Canadians have today?

Canadians have no say in Canada, what-so-ever. Our Democracy is vanishing. Our Civil Rights and Liberties taken from us. Our Freedom of Speech under attack. Our Human Rights are being eroded.

It's in our faces obvious, the evil going on in this country. Provinces are too stupid to see? They will be swallowed up by Communist China, if they don't get the hell out of Harper's Canada.

There is a Chinese person, buying up cheap duplexes and repossessed houses, in a Canadian city. Those places are stuffed full of, hotplates and bare furnishings. Those are for hoards of Chinese taking English. He ships them in, ships them out, and get's ready for the next hoards coming over.

China owns many company's in Canada. China owns the resources and all of the resource jobs. The Chinese are coming over, to take jobs in Canada. They need to know some English, to do so. However, Canadians do slumber on.

Lorne said...

I remember the famous saying by Leona Helmsley, Owen: "Only the little people pay taxes." It seems that 'the little people' are also the ones who have to live with the depredations of the corporate agenda on a daily basis.

Owen Gray said...

And that's the point, Anon. As long as we continue to "slumber on" the injustice will continue.

Owen Gray said...

I had forgotten about Leona, Lorne. But nobody said it better.

The Mound of Sound said...

Fine piece, Owen. Fortunately the free traders are myopic. Theirs is akin to a three pack a day habit, something that almost never ends well. The important thing now is to ensure they're not driving the bus when we reach the icy patch ahead.

I tend to agree with Hedges on this one. The status quo is no longer viable. The only outcome that's certain if we do nothing is chaos.

We have to wrest our politics out of the hands of Harper and the slightly lesser Harpers in the opposition parties.

There's a reason our government no longer speaks to the people except in the most superficial and misleading manner. It's the same reason why the government cloaks itself in secrecy and deceit. That has become the only way they can govern.

If honesty and transparency, the very things Harper promised us, were viable and if Harper actually had policies the public would support, he would have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being open. If only.

Owen Gray said...

The irony, Mound, is that the reason for Harper's secrecy is pretty transparent: he couldn't do what he does under the glare of public scrutiny.

His attempts to hide the changes he's making merely confirm that those changes are happening.