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Obama’s Stupid Sanctions …

… Give Putin New Oil Bonanza

by F William Engdahl

New Eastern Outlook (October 13 2014)

President Barack Obama, or at least the warhawk neo-conservatives pushing him to war everywhere, are beginning to get hit with the boomerang of their stupid economic sanctions against Putin’s Russia. A few days ago, Russia’s largest oil company, state-run OAO Rosneft, headed by close Putin ally, Igor Sechin, announced discovery of a giant new oil field in Russia’s Arctic north of Murmansk. The stupid part comes from Obama’s decision to agree to impose sanctions on Sechin and his company and to prohibit US companies from doing business with them.

On September 27, in a joint announcement, Rosneft and US oil giant, ExxonMobil announced discovery of a huge new oil deposit, the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Kara Sea. For more than two decades Russian oil companies had dreamed of tapping what they believed were huge oil deposits in the Arctic. In 2011 the CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest of the US giant oil companies and the heart of the original Rockefeller oil group, signed a joint venture agreement with Sechin’s Rosneft to drill in the Russian Arctic. Universitetskaya-1 flow data suggests a discovery of between 750 million and one billion barrels of high-quality sweet, light crude oil, worth between 7.5 trillion and ten trillion dollars at today’s price.

The Kara Sea find is only the first in a region that experts say has the potential to become one of the world’s most important crude-producing areas, bigger than the Gulf of Mexico. Estimates are that the exploration region of Rosneft in the Kara Sea, Universitetskaya, the geological structure being drilled, is the size of the city of Moscow and large enough to contain more than nine billion barrels of oil. The first well was the most expensive in ExxonMobil history, costing some $600 million to drill. In a great understatement, Sechin told the press,

It exceeded our expectations. This discovery is of exceptional significance in showing the presence of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.

Discovery of huge oil reserves in Russia’s Kara Sea northeast of Murmansk give a major boost to Putin’s energy geopolitics and a huge defeat to Washington and ExxonMobil.

Sechin said that production of oil from the Kara Sea field could begin within five to seven years. The field discovered would be named “Victory”. There is more than a little irony in that name. Because of the economic sanctions drafted by the US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David S Cohen, as of October 10, ExxonMobil will be forced to withdraw from the Russian project and incur huge losses or violate the US Government sanctions and face severe penalties. The Obama Administration has just scored an own goal (Eigentor?) with its brilliant new precision financial and economic warfare unit inside the Treasury Department.

Bravo, Washington! You have just inflicted major damage on one of the largest corporations in the United States.

When ExxonMobil did the deal with Rosneft, it gambled that the Arctic region, the world’s greatest unexplored potential oil region, could be the company’s salvation in terms of assuring long-term crude supplies. The gamble proved correct and did so just as the stupid Obama Administration bureaucrats imposed sanctions on Sechin and the Arctic project they intended to damage Russia.

Rosneft Now Looks to China

Now with ExxonMobil and most likely MorganStanley as the financing agency to organize the billions needed to expand the drilling next spring, banned by US sanctions, Sechin is turning east to China. Conveniently for Rosneft, ExxonMobil is forced out just after finishing the most complex and difficult part of the project.

On September 1, President Putin personally told the Chinese that he approved Chinese state oil companies taking a financial stake in a major onshore subsidiary of Rosneft, Vankor. It will be the largest Chinese equity deal in a Russian oil company to date. Until the Ukraine crisis and sanctions, Russia had jealously limited foreign share-holding in its state-owned oil and gas companies. That deal deepened the growing energy ties between China and Russia, ironically, the opposite result of what Washington geopolitical Eurasia strategy is intended to achieve.

As US strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski declared in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, US geopolitical policy must be to prevent at all costs a unified Eurasian economic challenge to American global hegemony. Oops, Obama, you may well have done the opposite. That’s what’s quite stupid – you failed to think through the complete consequences and interconnectedness of your actions.

_____

F William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

http://journal-neo.org/2014/10/13/obama-s-stupid-sanctions-give-putin-new-oil-bonanza/

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Shaping the Vietnam Narrative

Controlling the narrative is a key tool for propagandists who realize that how people understand a foreign conflict goes a long way toward determining their support or opposition. So, the US government’s sanitizing of the Vietnam War is not just about history, but the present.

by Marjorie Cohn

Consortium News (October 18 2014)

For many years after the Vietnam War, we enjoyed the “Vietnam syndrome”, in which US presidents hesitated to launch substantial military attacks on other countries. They feared intense opposition akin to the powerful movement that helped bring an end to the war in Vietnam. But in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, George H W Bush declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!”

With George W Bush’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama’s drone wars in seven Muslim-majority countries and his escalating wars in Iraq and Syria, we have apparently moved beyond the Vietnam syndrome. By planting disinformation in the public realm, the government has built support for its recent wars, as it did with Vietnam.

Now the Pentagon is planning to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War by launching a $30 million program to rewrite and sanitize its history. Replete with a fancy interactive website, the effort is aimed at teaching schoolchildren a revisionist history of the war. The program is focused on honoring our service members who fought in Vietnam. But conspicuously absent from the website is a description of the antiwar movement, at the heart of which was the GI movement.

Thousands of GIs participated in the antiwar movement. Many felt betrayed by their government. They established coffee houses and underground newspapers where they shared information about resistance. During the course of the war, more than 500,000 soldiers deserted. The strength of the rebellion of ground troops caused the military to shift to an air war.

Ultimately, the war claimed the lives of 58,000 Americans. Untold numbers were wounded and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. In an astounding statistic, more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war.

Millions of Americans, many of us students on college campuses, marched, demonstrated, spoke out, sang and protested against the war. Thousands were arrested and some, at Kent State and Jackson State, were killed. The military draft and images of dead Vietnamese galvanized the movement.

On November 15 1969, in what was the largest protest demonstration in Washington, DC, at that time, 250,000 people marched on the nation’s capital, demanding an end to the war. Yet the Pentagon’s website merely refers to it as a “massive protest”.

But Americans weren’t the only ones dying. Between two and three million Indochinese –  in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia –  were killed. War crimes –  such as the My Lai massacre –  were common. In 1968, US soldiers slaughtered 500 unarmed old men, women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Yet the Pentagon website refers only to the “My Lai Incident”, despite the fact that it is customarily referred to as a massacre.

One of the most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War is the US military’s use of the deadly defoliant Agent Orange, dioxin. The military sprayed it unsparingly over much of Vietnam’s land. An estimated three million Vietnamese still suffer the effects of those deadly chemical defoliants. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were also affected. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of children, both in Vietnam and the United States. It is currently affecting the second and third generations of people directly exposed to Agent Orange decades ago.

Certain cancers, diabetes, and spina bifida and other serious birth defects can be traced to Agent Orange exposure. In addition, the chemicals destroyed much of the natural environment of Vietnam; the soil in many “hot spots” near former US army bases remains contaminated.

In the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973, the Nixon administration pledged to contribute $3 billion toward healing the wounds of war and the post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. That promise remains unfulfilled.

Despite the continuing damage and injury wrought by Agent Orange, the Pentagon website makes scant mention of “Operation Ranch Hand”. It says that from 1961 to 1971, the US sprayed eighteen million gallons of chemicals over twenty percent of South Vietnam’s jungles and 36 percent of its mangrove forests. But the website does not cite the devastating effects of that spraying.

The incomplete history contained on the Pentagon website stirred more than 500 veterans of the US peace movement during the Vietnam era to sign a petition to Lieutenant General Claude M “Mick” Kicklighter. It asks that the official program “include viewpoints, speakers and educational materials that represent a full and fair reflection of the issues which divided our country during the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia”.

The petition cites the “many thousands of veterans” who opposed the war, the “draft refusals of many thousands of young Americans”, the “millions who exercised their rights as American citizens by marching, praying, organizing moratoriums, writing letters to Congress”, and “those who were tried by our government for civil disobedience or who died in protests”.

And, the petition says, “very importantly, we cannot forget the millions of victims of the war, both military and civilian, who died in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, nor those who perished or were hurt in its aftermath by land mines, unexploded ordnance, Agent Orange and refugee flight”.

Antiwar activists who signed the petition include Tom Hayden and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. “All of us remember that the Pentagon got us into this war in Vietnam with its version of the truth”, Hayden said in an interview with The New York Times. “If you conduct a war, you shouldn’t be in charge of narrating it”, he added.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) is organizing an alternative commemoration of the Vietnam War. “One of the biggest concerns for us”, VFP executive director Michael McPhearson told the Times, “is that if a full narrative is not remembered, the government will use the narrative it creates to continue to conduct wars around the world –  as a propaganda tool”.

Indeed, just as Lyndon B Johnson used the manufactured Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretext to escalate the Vietnam War, George W Bush relied on mythical weapons of mass destruction to justify his war on Iraq, and the “war on terror” to justify his invasion of Afghanistan. And Obama justifies his drone wars by citing national security considerations, even though he creates more enemies of the United States as he kills thousands of civilians.

ISIS and Khorasan (which no one in Syria heard of until about three weeks ago) are the new enemies Obama is using to justify his wars in Iraq and Syria, although he admits they pose no imminent threat to the United States. The Vietnam syndrome has been replaced by the “Permanent War”.

It is no cliche that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Unless we are provided an honest accounting of the disgraceful history of the US war on Vietnam, we will be ill equipped to protest the current and future wars conducted in our name.

_____

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. A veteran of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement, she is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (2009). Her latest book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, will be published in October. She is also co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/18/shaping-the-vietnam-narrative/

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The Ukraine, as We Know It, is Gone Forever

An Interview with “The Saker”

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (October 14 2014)

The Saker is an ex-military analyst who was born in Europe to a family of Russian refugees. He now lives in Florida where he writes the Vineyard of the Saker blog and is a regular contributor to Russia Insider. The international community of Saker Blogs includes, besides the original Saker blog, French, German, Russian, Oceania and Serbian members and will soon include a Latin American member.

-  Mike Whitney

Mike Whitney: Is the United States responsible for the troubles in Ukraine?

The Saker: Yes, absolutely, there’s no doubt about it. While it’s true that the Ukrainian people were unhappy with the corrupt Yanukovich regime, the coup itself was definitely CIA orchestrated. The EU was also involved, especially Germany, but they didn’t play nearly as big a role as the US. The taped phone messages of (US Undersecretary of State) Victoria Nuland show who was really calling the shots behind the scenes.

Mike Whitney: What role did the Obama administration play in Kiev’s decision to launch a war on its own people in the east of Ukraine?

The Saker: A central role. You have to understand that there is no “Ukrainian” power in Kiev. Poroshenko is 100% US-run as are the people around him. The head of the notorious Ukrainian secret police (the SBU), Valentin Nalivaichenko, is a known CIA agent. It’s also true that the US refers to Poroshenko “our Ukraine insider”. All of his so called “decisions” are actually made by US officials in Kiev. As for Poroshenko’s speech to Congress a few weeks ago, that was obviously written by an American.

Mike Whitney: The separatists in the East have been very successful in repelling the Ukrainian army and their Neo Nazi counterparts in the security services. What role has Russia played in assisting the Novorussia militias?

The Saker: Russia’s role was critical. While Russian troops were not deployed across the border, Moscow did allow volunteers and weapons to flow in. And while the assistance was not provided directly by the FSB (Russia’s Federal Security Service) or the military, it was provided by various private groups. Clearly, the Kremlin has the power to help-out when it choses to do so. In one instance, there appears to have been direct artillery support from across the Russian border (in the so-called “southern cauldron”), but most of the aid has been covert. Besides the covert assistance, Russia has also provided intelligence, logistical and political support for the Novorussians. Without Russia’s support, the Novorussians never would have been able to turn the tide in the war.

Mike Whitney: Did Putin send Russian troops to Crimea and illegally seize the area or is that a fiction that’s been propagated in the western media?

The Saker: It’s actually a technicality. Yes, Putin did send Russian troops to Crimea, but no, they never exceeded the limits allowed under current agreements between Russia and the Ukraine. Remember that the Black Sea Fleet was already headquartered in Sevastopol, so there were plenty of troops available locally. Also, there was a large group of local volunteers who perform essential operations. Some of these volunteers were so convincing that they were mistaken for Russian Special Forces. But, yes, at the critical moment, Putin did send additional special forces to Crimea.

Was the operation legal? Well, technically it didn’t violate treaty agreements in terms of numbers, but did it violate Ukraine’s sovereignty. The reason Moscow did this was because there was solid evidence that Kiev was planning to move against Crimea. (possibly involving Turkey and Crimean Tatars). If Putin had not taken the initiative, the bloodbath in Crimea could have been worse than it’s been in Novorussia. Also, by the time Putin made the decision to protect Crimea, the democratically-elected President (Yanukovich) had already been removed from office, which created a legal vacuum in Kiev. So the question is: Should Putin have abided by the laws of a country that had been taken over by a gang of armed thugs or should he have tried to keep the peace by doing what he did?

What Putin chose to do was allow the people of Crimea to decide their own future by voting freely in a referendum. Yes, the AngloZionist propaganda says that they were forced to “vote at the barrel of a gun”, but that’s nonsense. Nobody disputes the fact that an overwhelming majority of Crimeans (95%) wanted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. All the “polite armed men in green” did was make it possible for the people to exercise their right of self-determination, something that the junta in Kiev never would have permitted.

Mike Whitney: What influence does Obama have on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision-making? Is Washington actually running the show?

The Saker: Yes, totally. Obama gives the orders and Poroshenko obeys.

Just as they do everywhere, the US uses local oligarchs to colonize a country. Take for example Russia between 1991 and 1999. It was run by oligarchs behind a drunken figurehead (Boris Yeltsin). Everyone knew that Russia had become a American colony and that the US could do whatever it wanted. It’s the same today.

Yanukovich was no more pro-Russian than any other Ukrainian President. He’s just an oligarch who’s been replaced by another oligarch, Poroshenko. The latter is a very intelligent man who knows that his survival depends on his complete obedience to Uncle Sam.

I wouldn’t put it past the US to dump Poroshenko and install someone else if it suits their purposes. (Especially if the Right Sector takes power in Kiev.) For now, Poroshenko is Washington’s man, but that could change in the blink of an eye.

Mike Whitney: How close is the Obama administration to achieving its goal of establishing NATO bases (and, perhaps, missile sites) in Ukraine? What danger does this pose for Moscow?

The Saker: The only place where NATO bases really make sense is in Crimea, and that option is no longer available. But there’s more to this issue than meets the eye, that is, if the US continues to pursue this provocative policy of establishing NATO bases on the Russian border, then Russia will withdraw from the INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) and deploy advanced versions of the SS-20 (Soviet Nuclear Ballistic Missile) closer to Europe. The point is, US meddling could lead to a confrontation between nuclear-armed adversaries.

Mike Whitney: The European Commission has created a number of obstacles to prevent Russia from building the Southstream pipeline which will diversify export routes for natural gas from Russia to central and southern Europe. Critics have said that the Obama administration is behind the move, and that powerful US energy giants want to either block or control the flow of energy from Russia to Europe. Is this the broader context of the troubles in Ukraine, that is, are we really seeing an energy war unfold in real time?

The Saker: This is an important part of the equation, but not the central one. The central one is the mistaken belief (put forward by Zbigniew Brzezinski) that without the Ukraine Russia cannot be a superpower, and the equally mistaken belief (put forward by Hillary Clinton) that Putin wants to re-create the Soviet Union. For the AngloZionists, the Ukraine is a zero-sum game in which the US must either control the Ukraine or destroy it, but not allow Russia to have it. The problem with this theory is that Russia doesn’t really want or need the Ukraine. What Russia wants is a stable, dependable and neutral partner with which it can do business. Even now, while the Novorussians are demanding full independence, Russia has been pushing a different plan altogether. Moscow wants a unitary Ukraine in which each region would have de-facto autonomy but still be part of the same state.

Powerbrokers in the West are so maniacally obsessed with controlling the Ukraine, they can’t imagine that Russia doesn’t want the same thing. But Russia doesn’t want the Ukraine. It has no need for a broken, dysfunctional, failed state with massive social problems, that will require billions upon billions of dollars to rebuild.

Sure, there are cultural, historical, religious and even family ties between Russia and the Ukraine, but that does not mean they want to run the place. Russia already got what it wanted, Crimea. As for the rest, Moscow’s attitude is, “You broke it, you own it”.

Mike Whitney: What’s the endgame here? Will Poroshnko succeed in keeping Ukraine together and further isolate Russia from Europe or will Ukraine splinter along political lines? Or is there another scenario that you see as more likely?

The Saker: Crimea is gone forever. So is Novorussia. But in the case of the latter, there might be a transitional phase in which Kiev retains some degree of sovereignty over areas in the east.

In the near term, there could be more fighting, but eventually there will be a deal in which Novorussia will be given something close to independence. One thing is certain, that before reaching an agreement on final status, two issues will have to be settled:

1. There must be regime change in Kiev followed by de-Nazification.  Neither Russia nor Novorussia will ever be safe as long as the Nazis are in power in Kiev. That means that these russophobic, nationalist freaks will have to be removed before final status issues can be resolved. The Russians and the Novorussians are somewhat divided on this issue. While the Novorussians want their independence and say “To hell with the Nazis in Kiev”, the Kremlin wants regime change and sees it crucial for their national security. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out in the future.

2. There will have to be a conference of donors.  The Ukraine is basically dead, it’s been reduced to rubble. It will take years to rebuild, and immense sums of money. The US, EU and Russia will all have to contribute. If the AngloZionists persist in their maximalist position and continue to support the Nazi junta in Kiev, the Russians will not pay a single kopeck. Russian aid will go exclusively to Novorussia.

Sooner or later the US and EU will realize that they need Russia’s help. And when they finally figure that out, they’ll work together to reach a comprehensive political agreement. Right now, they’re more preoccupied with punishing Putin (through economic sanctions and political isolation) to prove that no one can defy the Empire. But that kind of bullying behavior won’t change the reality on the ground. The West needs Russia’s cooperation, but Russia isn’t going to cooperate without strings attached. The US will have to meet certain conditions before Moscow agrees to a deal.

Ukraine: “Gone forever”

Though it’s too early to tell, I think the Ukraine as we know it, is gone forever. Crimea will remain part of Russia, while Novorussia will become independent and probably end up in some kind of association status with Russia. As for the rest of the Ukraine, there’s bound to be a confrontation between the various oligarchs and Nazis, after which the pragmatists will appear and lead the way to a settlement. Eventually, there will be some kind of accommodation and a new state will emerge, but I can’t imagine how long it will take for that to happen.

If you want a more systematic analysis of the points above, please see my analysis: http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-russian-response-to-double.html

_____

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/14/the-ukraine-as-we-know-it-is-gone-forever/

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Transatlantic Travesty

Democracy Demands Reform of the TTIP Trading Deal

The Independent Editorial (October 09 2014)

To some of its proponents the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will serve as a panacea for the economic difficulties of the West, one that will boost growth and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It will not only facilitate the tariff-free flow of goods and services across the Atlantic, but will also do away with a lot of regulation and red tape currently strangling business, while protecting the rights of foreign investors when governments choose not to play fair.

But therein lies the problem. Some of the regulations are actually there to protect the consumer. Moreover the safeguards offered to foreign businesses under the treaty appear weighted against the ordinary citizen and their democratically elected governments by allowing corporations to approach tribunals over any measure that might damage future profits.

This could not only impede the imposition of regulations framed, for example, to promote healthy living by restricting cigarette advertising. It could also restrict the ability of governments to reverse privatisations that fail. This is particularly important in this country at a time when the Government is seeking to increase the involvement of the private sector in a host of public services. An exemption has been talked about for the National Health Service (“NHS”), but even if this is set in stone –  and unions fear that it will not be –  what of other vital services?

TTIP could in effect open these services up to a phalanx of American corporations and then protect their interests at the expense of those of the tax-paying citizen. It speaks volumes that US businesses have so far launched 127 appeals to tribunals set up under similar agreements over the past decade.

TTIP might provide an economic boost, but the democratic cost to Europe’s disenfranchised and restive citizenry in its current form is far, far too high.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/transatlantic-travesty-democracy-demands-reform-of-the-ttip-trading-deal-9786034.html

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US Firms Could Make Billions …

… from UK via Secret Tribunals

Exclusive: Previously unreported figures from the UN reveal that US companies had sued other nations 127 times in ISDS cases in the past fifteen years

by Jim Armitage

The Independent (October 09 2014)

Britain faces a real risk of being ordered to pay vast sums to US multinationals under the controversial TTIP trade deal being negotiated between Washington and the EU, an analysis of similar agreements has revealed.

The Government has repeatedly played down concerns that secret tribunals established by TTIP will lead to large numbers of American corporations suing the UK in trade disputes.

But United Nations figures uncovered by The Independent show that US companies have made billions of dollars by suing other governments nearly 130 times in the past fifteen years under similar free-trade agreements.

In one case alone the US oil company Occidental Petroleum successfully sued the government of Ecuador for $1.8 billion. A separate case claiming $6 billion has also be filed. The tribunals are used to rule on disputes between nation states and aggrieved companies.

Read more: TTIP Q&A: What is it – and should we be worried?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/ttip-qa-what-is-it–and-should-we-be-worried-9786225.html

Editorial: Democracy demands reform of the TTIP trading deal

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/transatlantic-travesty-democracy-demands-reform-of-the-ttip-trading-deal-9786034.html

Details of these cases are often kept secret, but notorious precedents include the tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Australia and Uruguay for restricting advertising and putting health warnings on packets.

TTIP has provoked storms of protest from European campaign groups and largely left-leaning politicians. On Saturday, protesters will stage a “day of action” against the proposed deal in hundreds of cities across the UK and Europe.

Critics say the tribunals, held under the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, subvert democratic justice, giving power over foreign citizens to big companies. Hearings are held in private, in international courts at the World Bank in Washington DC, bypassing the legal system of the country being sued, meaning details are often impossible to uncover. In some cases the very existence of the case is not made public.

But the previously unreported figures from the UN reveal that US companies had sued other nations 127 times in ISDS cases in the past fifteen years.

Lord Livingston, the trade minister, has said that ISDS has been “misrepresented and misunderstood”.  He has said the UK is currently signed up to more than ninety ISDS clauses and has never lost a case.

But Alex Scrivener, policy adviser at the World Development Movement, said:

These UN figures show that we shouldn’t be taken in by the Government’s empty assurances about how rarely ISDS is used.

The reality is that corporations have routinely used these mechanisms to aggressively extract billions of pounds from governments around the world for doing things like freezing energy prices, raising the minimum wage or reversing the privatisation of health services.

Most of the US litigation has been brought against poor countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe with which America has bilateral trade relationships.

Unions and NGOs have claimed that TTIP will open the floodgates for ISDS cases that will overturn the decisions of democratically elected governments in Western Europe.

The UN document will heighten those concerns, because they show former Soviet countries with relatively recent free trade deals with the US have already been sued nine times by American companies.

Unions such as Unite, as well as patient representative groups, have been particularly concerned that US healthcare giants could sue future British governments if they seek to reverse the privatisations of the NHS that have been gathering pace in recent years.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

Wall Street financiers like BlackRock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS – over seventy per cent of new contracts are now in private hands. This government has put the NHS up for sale and TTIP finishes the job off by making the sell-off irreversible.

Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said such concerns are “misguided”. Meanwhile, others in favour of the ISDS element of TTIP point out that it will cut both ways: British companies will be able to sue the US government too.

However, in reality, the UN figures reveal that only sixteen cases have ever been filed against Washington DC from companies in any of the 57 countries with which America has free trade deals. None were filed by countries in Europe.

Other pressure groups fear TTIP could result in laxer US regulations on issues such as food standards, and that US labour laws could be forced on European countries – claims that have also been dismissed by the Government.

Proponents of ISDS agreements say they are crucial to give investors the confidence that they will not have their assets expropriated on the whim of future governments. The experience of US investors in countries such as Argentina and Venezuela, where unstable political systems have led to private companies being forcibly nationalised, has highlighted this danger. Investors say local judiciaries may not be impartial in such matters.

ISDS deals are also not new: Britain’s first was struck in 1975 when it set up a bilateral trade deal with Egypt. However, the UN figures emphasise that the number of legal actions being taken under them has increased massively in recent years, with 58 and 56 respectively in 2012 and 2013.

Germany, which is being sued under an ISDS by an energy company over its moratorium on nuclear power, has been particularly vociferous in its opposition. This week, Italy’s deputy industry minister said there were so many sticking points to the TTIP deal that there should be a “plan B”.

“Today it is not possible to reach an agreement that includes ISDS because the Germans will never allow it”, said Carlo Calenda.

Today the European Council bowed to calls to be more transparent about the talks by publishing its TTIP negotiating mandate.

ISDS actions: Controversial cases

* US tobacco multinational Philip Morris sued Australia over new rules demanding plain packaging for cigarettes, and Uruguay for printing health warnings on them.

* Ecuador was sued by US oil giant Occidental  Petroleum after it stripped the company of the rights to explore for oil. Ecuador claimed Occidental was in breach of contract but the World Bank arbitrators ruled in favour of the company.

* Poland and Slovakia were both sued by private health and insurance providers when they attempted to reverse some of the privatisations of their healthcare systems.

* New Zealand withdrew laws on plain packaging after the Philip Morris case, while Canada revoked a ban on hazardous waste exports to the US because of fears it could face an ISDS claim.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/us-firms-could-make-billions-from-uk-via-secret-tribunals-9785924.html

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Hidden Agenda Behind Free Trade Deals

“Everyone but China”

by Don Quijones

Wolf Street (October 14 2014)

“Free trade” is at best a misnomer, at worst an oxymoron: these trade pacts contain surprisingly little related to trade. So, what are they really about?

On Saturday, people hit the streets of Europe to protest the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Deal (TTIP), a hyper-secret, so-called “free” trade agreement that aims to bind together two of the world’s biggest markets that together represent more than 800 million consumers and 45% of global trade.

But “free trade” is at best a misnomer, at worst an oxymoron: TTIP contains surprisingly little related to trade, as Ben Beachy of the Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch explains {1}:

In the TPP deal (DQ: TPP stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently stalled in the US Congress but which Obama seeks to revive {2} during the lame duck session) … only five of 29 chapters have anything to do with what is traditionally defined as trade (that is customs, tariffs and other barriers to trade). [Most are] so-called “non-traditional” trade issues, which would include, for example, the right of a corporation to have a monopoly patent over some drug that it produces, a right that is fundamentally antithetical to free trade.

Indeed, what gets rarely mentioned in the debate is the fact that trade between the US and Europe has never been freer, with the average tariff between the two regions already as low of three percent. Which begs the question: why the sudden need for a new, game-changing transatlantic trade agreement? Especially when you take into account that the TTIP is forecast (by a study commissioned by the European Commission, no less) to provide a paltry 0.1% boost to economic growth in Europe …  over a ten-year-period –  the equivalent of a rounding error!

So, if it’s not about trade, what is the TTIP really about? As I previously reported {3, 4}, one of the primary goals of 21st century trade deals like TTIP is to enshrine into law the corporate takeover of the political, cultural, economic, financial, agricultural, scientific, digital and public space, as well as remove any remaining barriers on the ability of multinational corporations to exploit the world’s resources –  including, of course, its human resources.

But that’s just part of the story, albeit a very important one. There is also a more subtle agenda at work: namely to secure Western domination of the global economy and geopolitical landscape for the foreseeable future.

To achieve that goal, the US and its allies have just one trick left up their sleeve: launching the mother of all trade wars.

EBC: “Everyone but China”

It’s no secret that the Western power complex is growing desperate, with the accelerating de-dollarization of international trade taking its toll, and the slow motion collapse of Europe’s economy. In 2012, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) presented a devastating outlook on the future of US and European power in world affairs, concluding that “by 2030, no matter the power index, developing states will overtake developed states”.

When it says “developing states”, the NIC has one particular state in mind: China. By far the biggest beneficiary of global trade in the last thirty years (most of it thanks to US corporations’ offshoring of manufacturing), China has now outgrown its purpose. Even at the corporate level, China is bossing the ring {5}, boasting the world’s three biggest public companies and five of the top ten. By contrast, Europe –  officially the world’s biggest market –  couldn’t muster a single spot in the top ten, with its two biggest companies, Shell and HSBC, slipping to eleventh and fourteenth place, respectively.

Granted, there’s still a fair chance that China will fail to consolidate its ascendance, especially given the daunting economic, political, social, environmental and demographic challenges it faces. But the Asian behemoth, with its massive export market and 1.3-billion-strong internal market, represents by far the greatest threat to US global dominance.

In order to counter that threat, the US and its “allies” have decided, it seems, to isolate China, first from its own back yard (through the TPP and, of course, the US Pentagon’s “Asian Pivot”), then from the West (through the TTIP and TISA), and ultimately from the rest. In the words of Timothy Garton Ash, a British historian, and strong advocate of global “free” trade [It's worth noting that he's also a board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations]:

One way of thinking about [TTIP and TPP] is to see it as the Widest West Web, though the definition of the west [as includes] Japan, Peru, Brunei and Vietnam is wide indeed. Another way to describe it is EBC: Everyone But China.

In sum, as the Dutch think tank and diplomatic academy Clingendael {6} puts it, the new geopolitical formula would look like this: TTIP + TPP = EBC.

A New World Trade Order?

However, it’s not just China that might be excluded from the “benefits” of this new trade order. So-called “third countries” from around the world could end up losing access to both the European and North American markets. As such, the pressure on these countries – especially small ones – to sign similar such agreements with the EU or the US is almost unbearable.

Take the case of Ecuador, whose left-wing government is now on the verge of signing a “free” trade deal with the EU. It also once scorned the IMF, refusing to pay a significant chunk of its national debt on the grounds that it was illegitimate.

According to President Rafael Correa, in the case of the free trade deal with the EU, his government has little choice in the matter. With its direct neighbours to the North and South (Columbia, Peru and Chile) already full-fledged members of the Pacific Alliance –  a mini-Latin American Union that is widely seen as a precursor to the Trans Pacific Partnership and which already enjoys strong bilateral ties with the EU – Ecuador stood to lose a great deal of its current trade with the EU due to the preferential conditions enjoyed by its neighbours.

The EU brought to bear every pound of its diplomatic weight on negotiations. “Ecuador has no choice but to sign the agreement. Otherwise it will end up isolated”, warned the European Commission’s chief negotiator, Peter Thompson, in one of a series of diplomatic cables recently leaked to the Spanish daily El Diario {7}. The leaks also show that the EU threatened to withdraw vital development aid from Ecuador in the event that Rafael Correa’s government refused to sign the treaty. It also demanded that Ecuador withdraw its application to join Mercosur, Latin America’s largest trade bloc.

Countries around the world face the same existential dilemma: either sign up to a trade deal that goes against their basic national interest, threatening to transfer what remains of their sovereignty into the hands of a Global Corporatocracy still dominated by North American and European companies (accounting for 1,135 of Fortune‘s Global 2,000); or risk eternal isolation from two of the world’s biggest markets?

For decades now, the rulers of the West, with the US in the driver’s seat, have slowly, incrementally, almost imperceptibly reconfigured the global economic landscape. Not a single one of us has been consulted along the way. As the first general secretary of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, said in 1996,

We are no longer writing the rules of interaction among separate national economies. We are writing the constitution of a single global economy.

That constitution of which Ruggiero speaks, and with which our leaders seek to supplant our respective national constitutions, protects the exclusive rights of only one type of citizen – the multinational corporation. And the economy it enshrines into law is an economy in which increasingly the rest of us have little or no place.

_____

Meet the secretive powers behind the trade negotiations that, beyond any democratic controls, attempt to rewrite US and EU laws and regulations to their liking. Read {8}.

Links:

{1} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui0NL3bb21o

{2} http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/momentum-for-the-trans-pacific-partnership-needs-to-be-revived/2014/09/30/6fa7290a-480f-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html

{3} http://ragingbullshit.com/2013/11/02/warning-the-global-corporatocracy-is-almost-fully-operational/

{4} http://ragingbullshit.com/2014/06/21/the-global-corporatocracy-is-just-a-few-strokes-of-a-pen-from-completion/

{5} http://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2014/05/07/the-worlds-largest-companies-china-takes-over-the-top-three-spots/

{6} http://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/The%20Geopolitics%20of%20TTIP%20-%20Clingendael%20Policy%20Brief.pdf

{7} http://www.eldiario.es/internacional/Europa-Ecuador-TLC-comercio-cables_0_309369531.html

{8} http://wolfstreet.com/2014/07/22/the-corporatocracy-driving-the-secretive-eu-us-trade-agenda/

{9} http://ragingbullshit.com/

Don Quijones is a freelance writer, translator in Barcelona, Spain and editor at Wolf Street. Mexico is his country-in-law.  Raging Bull-Shit {9} is his modest attempt to scrub away the lathers of soft soap peddled by political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media. This article is a Wolf Street exclusive.

http://wolfstreet.com/2014/10/14/the-hidden-agenda-behind-the-new-free-trade-deals-everyone-but-china/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Lie Machine

2014/10/18 1 comment

by Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy (October 11 2014)

I have come to the conclusion that the West is a vast lie machine for the secret agendas of vested interests. Consider, for example, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (“TTIP”) and the Transpacific Trade and Investment Partnership (“TPP”).

These so-called “partnerships” are in fact vehicles by which US corporations make themselves immune to the sovereign laws of foreign countries in which they do business. A sovereign country that attempts to enforce its laws against an American corporation can be sued by the corporation for “restraint of trade”. For example, if Monsanto wants to sell GMO seeds in France or US corporations wish to sell genetically-modified foods in France, and France enforces its laws against GMOs, the Transatlantic Trade Partnership allows France to be sued in jurisdictions outside the courts of France for “restraint of trade”. In other words, preventing the entry into France of a prohibited product constitutes restraint of trade.

This is the reason that the US has insisted that the Transatlantic and Transpacific Partnerships be totally secretive and negotiated outside the democratic process. Not even the US Congress has been permitted knowledge of the negotiations.

Obviously, the Europeans and Asians who are agreeing with the terms of these “partnerships” are the bought-and-paid-for agents of the US corporations. If the partnerships go through, the only law in Europe and Asia will be US law. The European and Asian government officials who agree to the hegemony of US corporations over the laws of their countries will be so handsomely paid that they could enter the realm of the One Percent.

It is interesting to compare the BBC‘s coverage (October 10) with that of RT (October 11). The BBC reports that the aim of the Transatlantic Partnership is to remove “barriers to bilateral commerce” and to stimulate more trade and investment, economic growth and employment. The BBC does not report that the removal of barriers includes barriers against GMO products.

Everyone knows that the European Commission is corrupt. Who would be surprised if its members hope to be enriched by the American corporations? Little wonder the European Commission declared that concerns that the Transatlantic partnership would impact the sovereignty of countries is misplaced.  {1}

RT, which is restrained in reporting truth because it operates inside the US, still manages to come to the point in its headline:

No TTIP: Mass protests slam US-EU trade deal as “Corporate power grab”.

All over Europe people are in the streets in mass rallies against secret agreements by their corrupt governments for Washington to take over their lives and businesses. RT reports that

… social networks have been mobilized for a mass campaign that has been calling on Europeans and Americans to take action against “the biggest corporate power grab in a decade”.

RT quotes a leader of the demonstration in Berlin who says the secret agreements “give corporations more rights they’ve ever had in history”. As we all know, corporations already have too many rights.

Protests are planned in 22 countries across Europe – marches, rallies and other public events – in over 1,000 locations in UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, The Czech Republic and Scandinavian countries.

Did you hear about this latest American corporate power grab from Fox “News”, CNN, New York Times, London Times, ABC? Of course not. Did you hear about the massive protests against it? Of course not. You only hear what the interest groups permit you to hear.

RT reports that the main aim of the international protests is “to reclaim democracy” and to put an end to the secret deals that are destroying life for everyone but the American corporations, organizations now regarded worldwide as the epitome of evil. {2}

These phony “trade agreements” are advocated as “free trade removal of tariffs”, but what they remove are the sovereignties of countries. America is already ruled by corporations. If these faux “trade agreements” go through, Europe and Asia will also be ruled by American corporations.

URLs in this post:

{1} http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29572475

{2} http://rt.com/news/195144-europe-protests-stop-ttip

Copyright (c) 2013 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/10/11/lie-machine-paul-craig-roberts/

Categories: Uncategorized
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