Planet Not For Sale

TPP: Limiting the U.S. Government’s Ability to Control Rising Drug Costs

Eyes on Trade - 28 August, 2014 - 20:06

This is the third post in a three-part series on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could increase medicine prices in the United States.  Click here for the first post's introduction to the problem, and here for the second post's outline of new rights that the TPP would give to Big Pharma. 

A leaked draft TPP annex with the Orwellian title “Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” would set broad limits on governments’ prerogatives to negotiate or mandate lower drug prices, including for taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ and military health programs. Pushed by U.S. negotiators, these proposed TPP rules would conflict with existing and proposed policies to reduce healthcare costs for seniors, military families and the poor.

Rolling back medicine cost savings for U.S. veterans:

The U.S. government uses automatic price reductions to secure lower drug costs for U.S. veterans who benefit from health programs administered by VA. U.S. law allows VA to access drug prices at 24 percent below average market prices, and requires drug companies to offer these reduced prices for VA-administered programs as a condition for their medicines being included in other government health programs.

However, this cost-saving mechanism could run afoul of the proposed TPP annex, which requires government drug reimbursements to be based on “competitive, market-derived prices,” or on a system that “appropriately recognizes[] the value” of the drugs. The government-mandated price-setting system for VA programs would be subject to challenge as not being “competitive” and “market-derived.” VA-secured prices that fall significantly below the prices of patented drugs also could be challenged under the TPP as not “appropriately recognizing” drugs’ value. These TPP provisions, if enacted, could expose the U.S. government to challenges before international tribunals for not rolling back policies that cut healthcare costs for veterans and taxpayers.

Threatening policies that make medicines more affordable for the poor:

U.S. federal and state governments currently use several methods to tamp down the prices of drugs provided to low-income families through Medicaid. For example, the U.S. federal government requires drug corporations, as a condition for having their drugs covered by Medicaid, to sign discount agreements that oblige the firms to provide the state and federal governments with rebates to lower the cost of the drugs. These rebates have resulted in a 45 percent reduction in Medicaid spending for brand-name drugs.

State governments can further cut costs by, for example, negotiating lower prices with drug companies in return for placing their medicines on a Preferred Drug List (PDL) – a list of medicines that the state’s Medicaid program will cover without requiring prior authorization from a doctor. States have calculated substantial cost savings from usage of PDLs: New York saved an estimated $381 million in one recent year, while Texas saved an estimated $115 million and Utah saved an estimated $434 million.

Such Medicaid cost containment measures could be challenged under the TPP. Leveraging the government’s buying power to set prices could be attacked as not being “market-derived” or as “appropriately recognizing” the value of patented drugs. Some argue that the TPP provisions would primarily target federal policies, while Medicaid is administered by state governments. But even if limited to federal policies, the pact’s proposed terms directly contradict Medicaid’s federal cost control efforts, such as requiring drug firms to sign discount agreements. And state-level tools like PDLs could still be challenged under the TPP as part of a program created and controlled by the federal government.

Challenging Obamacare cost reductions for seniors:

Before implementation of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, seniors faced a gap in Medicare drug coverage. After passing a given threshold of drug costs, Medicare beneficiaries went from having to pay 25 percent of a drug’s cost to having to pay 100 percent out of pocket, until reaching a second threshold at which Medicare again covered most costs. Closing this “doughnut hole” was a key objective of the Affordable Care Act, which required drug manufacturers to offer a 50 percent drug price discount to Medicare beneficiaries within the coverage gap if they wanted their drugs to continue being covered under Medicare. As a result of this discount and a gradual increase in Medicare coverage, Medicare beneficiaries within the coverage gap were only responsible for 47.5 percent of brand-name drug costs in 2013 and will be responsible for only 25 percent by 2020.

But under the TPP, the requirement for drug companies to halve the price of their drugs within the coverage gap could be challenged for neither reflecting “competitive market-derived” prices nor “appropriately recognizing[] the value” of patented drugs. The Obama administration’s TPP healthcare annex thus threatens the cost savings that the administration’s own signature health law has provided to seniors.

Chilling future reforms that could further reduce healthcare costs for retirees:

Governments in countries ranging from New Zealand to Japan have kept healthcare costs in check by leveraging the government’s large purchasing power for taxpayer-funded public health programs to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations. In contrast, for Medicare, which covers more than 50 million Americans, the U.S. government is barred by law from directly negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations.

Many policymakers, healthcare professionals and even President Obama have called for changes to this law so that the government could ask drug companies to provide lower prices in exchange for getting subsidized access to millions of Medicare recipients. Other reform proposals, including legislation now pending, would have the federal government set maximum prices for drugs covered by Medicare (as it does for health programs provided to veterans) or require that drug companies provide drug rebates (similar to the rebates required under Medicaid). Indeed, the White House itself has proposed requiring drug companies to pay Medicaid-like rebates to providers for treating low-income Medicare beneficiaries. The administration estimates this would deliver $117 billion in savings over 10 years.

However, the TPP presents an obstacle to these proposals to control soaring Medicare costs. All of the above-mentioned policies involve direct government intervention in price setting, conflicting with the TPP requirement for market-derived prices, and inviting challenges for failing to “appropriately recognize” the value of patented drugs. 

Undermining drug discounts for underserved communities:

Under a program known as 340B, the U.S. federal government enables nongovernmental health centers – including migrant health centers, homeless health centers, children’s hospitals and family planning centers – to offer their diverse constituencies more affordable drugs. The federal government requires pharmaceutical firms to offer discounted drug prices to 340B-covered health centers via rebates, as a condition for having their drugs covered by Medicaid.

As a federally-run program that mandates below-market prices, the program could be challenged as a violation of the proposed TPP rules requiring drug prices to be market-derived or to reflect the value of patented drugs. In addition, the leaked TPP annex would require the U.S. government to allow pharmaceutical corporations to appeal drug pricing decisions such as the rebate amounts set under the 340B program, though they have very limited appeal rights for such decisions under U.S. domestic law. The TPP would thus give pharmaceutical corporations a new means of challenging 340B policies that reduce drug prices for underserved populations. 

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Whose Century Is It?: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Food and the “21st-Century Trade Agreement”

Language:  English Author(s) (external):  Adam Needelman File:  2014_08_22_TPP_AN.pdf The future of trade deals? In the final year of the George W. Bush presidency, the U.S. entered into negotiations to establish a gargantuan new trade deal. The negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently involve 12 countries—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—together comprising 40 percent of the world economy and a third of global trade.1 In pro-TPP rhetoric, the deal is marketed as a “21st-century trade agreement.”2 But the deal isn’t as futuristic as its boosters want you to believe; rather, it’s a massive double down on the strategies and philosophies of...

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TPP: Expansive Rights for Big Pharma, Expensive Medicines for U.S. Consumers

Eyes on Trade - 26 August, 2014 - 18:59

This is the second in a three-part series on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could increase medicine prices in the United States.  Click here for the first post's introduction to the problem. 

Leaked draft intellectual property texts for the TPP reveal broad monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations, which elevate the costs of medicines and medical procedures. Inserting these sweeping corporate privileges into the pact would undermine U.S. efforts to make healthcare more affordable.

Some of the leaked TPP monopoly protections for Big Pharma could require scrapping the Obama administration proposal to save more than $4 billion on biologic medicines. Biologics – the latest generation of drugs to combat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases – are exceptionally expensive, costing approximately 22 times more than conventional medicines.

Under U.S. law, pharmaceutical corporations enjoy monopoly protections for biologic drugs, even in the absence of a patent, for a 12-year period of “exclusivity.” During these 12 years, the Food and Drug Administration is prohibited from approving more affordable versions of the drugs, inflating the cost of these life-saving medicines as pharmaceutical firms accrue monopoly profits.

To lower the exorbitant prices and the resulting burden on programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the Obama administration’s 2015 budget would reduce the exclusivity period for biologics from 12 to seven years. The administration estimates this would save taxpayers more than $4.2 billion over the next decade just for federal programs.

However, at the request of Big Pharma, U.S. trade negotiators are demanding the 12-year exclusivity requirement for biologics in the TPP. This would lock into place pharmaceutical firms’ lengthy monopolies here at home. That is, Obama administration negotiators would effectively scrap the administration’s own proposal to save billions in unnecessary healthcare costs and lock in rules that would forbid future presidents or Congresses from doing so.

Investor Privileges: Empowering Big Pharma to Directly Attack U.S. Health Policies

Another TPP text - the leaked draft investment chapter - reveals that the deal would grant foreign firms the power to skirt domestic courts, drag the U.S. government before extrajudicial tribunals, and directly challenge patent laws and medicine cost containment policies as violations of their new TPP foreign investor “rights.”

The tribunals, comprised of three private attorneys, would be authorized to order unlimited taxpayer compensation for domestic policies perceived as undermining pharmaceutical corporations’ “expected future profits.” Effectively, this system would elevate individual pharmaceutical firms to the same status as the countries that may sign the TPP, empowering such firms to privately enforce the public agreement.

Such extreme “investor-state” rules have been included in past U.S. “free trade” agreements, forcing taxpayers to pay firms more than $430 million for toxics bans, land-use rules, water and timber policies and more. Just under U.S. pacts, more than $38 billion is pending in corporate claims against patent policies, pollution cleanup requirements, climate and energy laws, and other public interest polices.

This includes a $500 million claim that U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly launched in 2013 against Canada’s legal standard for granting patents. The firm is demanding compensation because Canadian courts enforcing Canadian patent law ruled that two of Eli Lilly’s medicines failed to meet the Canadian standard to obtain a patent, which requires demonstrating a drug’s promised utility. This is the first attempt by a patent-holding pharmaceutical firm to use the extraordinary investor privileges provided by U.S. “trade” agreements as a tool to push for greater monopoly patent protections.

The TPP would vastly expand the investor-state threat to U.S. public health policies, given the thousands of corporations based in TPP countries that would be newly empowered to launch cases against U.S. laws on behalf of any of their more than 14,000 U.S. subsidiaries

Stay tuned for post #3 on yet another way that the TPP could limit the U.S. government's ability to control rising drug costs. 

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TPP: The “Trade” Deal that Could Inflate Your Healthcare Bill

Eyes on Trade - 21 August, 2014 - 18:11

Much has been said about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to raise medicine prices in TPP developing countries, thanks to the deal's proposed expansion of monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations.  

Less has been said about the proposed TPP rules that could increase medicine prices in the United States.  

Americans pay far more for healthcare than people in any other developed country, even though U.S. life expectancy falls below the average for developed countries. A major contributor to our bloated healthcare costs is the high prices for medicines in the United States. According to the Government Accountability Office, U.S. drug prices increased more than 70 percent faster than prices for other healthcare goods and services over 2006-2010. As a result, millions of Americans cannot afford the medicines they need to live healthy lives.

Soaring drug prices also drive up the amount that taxpayers must pay to fund public health programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and programs covering the U.S. military and veterans. Indeed, rising healthcare costs are the number one contributor to the U.S. government’s projected long-term budget deficits.

To try to combat the twin problems of unaffordable healthcare and unsustainable deficits, U.S. federal and state governments already use several tools to tamp down the cost of drugs – for Medicare, Medicaid and for military healthcare under TRICARE and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Many more such cost containment policies have been proposed.

Yet, the TPP threatens to chill such proposals and even roll back existing policies to rein in exorbitant medicine prices. Leaked draft TPP texts – an intellectual property chapter, investment chapter and healthcare annex – contain expansive rules that would constrain the ability of the U.S. government to reduce medicine prices. Getting these terms into the TPP was a key objective of large U.S. pharmaceutical corporations that stand to reap monopoly profits from expansive patent terms and restrictions on government cost containment efforts. This incentive may explain why pharmaceutical corporations have lobbied Congress for the TPP more than any other industry.

The TPP’s threats to the affordability of U.S. healthcare have spurred major groups that have not traditionally taken part in trade policy debates to warn against the TPP’s provisions. For example, AARP – representing more than 37 million Americans over the age of 50 – joined unions and consumer groups in a November 2013 letter to President Obama to express “deep concern” that texts proposed for the TPP would “limit[] the ability of states and the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs.” The groups concluded that the TPP could “undermine[] access to affordable health care for millions in the United States and around the world.”

Stay tuned for post #2 on specific TPP threats to affordable U.S. healthcare: Expansive Rights for Big Pharma, Expensive Medicines for Consumers.

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Tar Sands: How Trade Rules Surrender Sovereignty and Extend Corporate Rights

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Patrick Tsai File:  2014_08_21_TarsSands_PT_f.pdf Introduction Neoliberalism exacerbates climate change and codifies the subjugation of indigenous communities through trade agreement rules that allow corporations to control natural resources and challenge government regulations. Liberalized trade and economic regimes promote policies that incentivize unrestricted extraction and access to resources without adequate consideration for maintaining social and environmental integrity. These policies result in systemic mismanagement of natural resources. Currently, free trade negotiations on energy focus primarily on unconventional fuels, characterized by notably higher life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional oil. Tar sands are a form of...

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Maine Agriculture and Food Systems in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Language:  English File:  2014_07_07_MaineTradePolicyAssessment_KHK.pdf Executive Summary The negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began with a series of bold assertions that it would serve to jump start the two ailing economies, resulting in rising economic growth and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic. Tariffs are already quite low. The bigger challenge—and the real target—is the very different approaches to regulation. Past experiences with free trade, such as those under the North American Free Trade Agreement, give reasons for concern. It is impossible to accurately predict the real impacts of changes in tariff and non-tariff barriers on specific sectors of agricultural production in Maine. The bigger question may be how the changes that could result from TTIP would affect the state’s food...

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Advocacy = Results: Proposal to Disguise Offshoring Shelved after Groundswell of Opposition

Eyes on Trade - 12 August, 2014 - 15:00

Can one person make a difference?  Hard to say.  But apparently 26,000 of them can. 

About a month ago we warned of an administration proposal to reclassify U.S. corporations that offshore their manufacturing as “factoryless goods” manufacturers.  Calling Apple a “manufacturer” – though its iPhones are made in Foxconn factories in China – defies common sense.  But why does it matter? 

Because it would mask the erosion of U.S. manufacturing incentivized by offshoring-friendly policies, including a raft of unfair trade deals.  The Orwellian proposal would undermine efforts to replace more-of-the-same policies with a fair trade model. 

Under the proposal, reported U.S. “manufacturing” jobs and wages would balloon overnight, as brand managers and programmers would suddenly be counted as “manufacturing” workers.  The broad reclassification initiative would also deceptively deflate the large U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.  U.S. imports of made-in-China iPhones would not be tallied as manufactured goods imports but as imports of Foxconn's “services,” while iPhones exported from China to, say, Europe would actually be rebranded as “U.S.” manufacturing exports.  

During an official period to comment on the proposal, Public Citizen, many labor groups, and other allies invited people to send their two cents to the administration.  The response was overwhelming. 

In short order, about 26,000 people filed comments in opposition to the “factoryless goods” proposal.  The last time the administration tried to implement this proposal, they received 10 comments.

This past Friday, the administration responded.  This announcement appeared in the Federal Register:

“Given these initial research results and the large number of public comments submitted on the topic of FGPs [Factoryless Goods Producers], OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] here announces that the FGP recommendation will not be implemented in 2017.” 

If you submitted a comment, congratulations.  According to the administration, your voice of reason contributed to a chorus that helped convince the administration to rethink the wisdom of categorizing firms that do not manufacture anything as U.S. manufacturers.  Advocacy, as it turns out, can work. 

Please place your hand above your back and pat vigorously.  But don’t break out the champagne glasses.

Thanks to the groundswell of public opposition (and the contributions of some clear-minded naysayers within the administration), the “factoryless goods” proposal has been shelved.  But it has not been dustbinned. 

OMB makes clear that the “factoryless goods” fantasy will likely emerge again, albeit in a different form:

“Without the deadline imposed by the 2017 NAICS revisions, the relevant statistical agencies will now have the opportunity to complete the additional research, testing, and evaluation needed to determine the feasibility of developing methods for the consistent identification and classification of FGPs that are accurate and reliable. This process will also be informed by questions raised in public comments. Results of this research, testing, and evaluation could lead to a different FGP proposal for consideration or implementation.

As "factoryless goods" proponents regroup and decide what to do next, we will remain vigilant.  Future bouts of pressure will likely be needed to keep our data, and the policymaking that it informs, free of distortion.  As we push to change our trade policies, we will need to keep pushing against efforts to simply change our numbers. 

But for now, kudos.  

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From GMO to SMO: how synthetic biology evades regulation

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_07_18_Synbio_SS.pdf Products derived from synthetic biology (popularly called synbio), a rapidly growing new technology, are beginning to enter the marketplace without a regulatory framework in place that provides for pre-market safety assessment of its unique risks to health and the environment. In the very near future, a host of food and agricultural products could be on the marketplace without labeling and in natural ecosystems without biosafety controls or indeed, understanding about the effect of Synthetically Modified Organisms (SMOs) on biological diversity. This fact sheet gives a short overview of synbio, a few of its applications to food, agriculture and consumer products, and an explanation of the U.S....

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Central America Crisis Belies CAFTA’s Empty Promises

Eyes on Trade - 1 August, 2014 - 18:07

 

“…[the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is] the best immigration, anti-gang, and anti-drug policy at our disposal…”

--Representative Tom Davis, July 27, 2005 – one day before Congress passed CAFTA

“Something must be happening that children and their mothers are now leaving for the United States in busloads…People are saying, ‘There’s no future here.’”

--Miriam Miranda, Honduran human rights leader and recent kidnapping survivor, July 30, 2014

 

Nine years ago this week, the polemical Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was passed by the House of Representatives…in the dead of night…by a single vote.  

CAFTA proponents promised the deal would reduce gang and drug-related violence in Central America, boost economic development, and diminish the factors pushing Central Americans to migrate to the United States. 

Such promises already sounded hollow when they were voiced in 2005.  Today, as thousands of Central American children leave their homes and risk their lives to try to make it to the United States, CAFTA’s promises have proven tragically empty.  

When trying to secure passage for CAFTA’s expansion of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model to five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic, the Bush administration and corporate lobbyists could not rely on the standard promises of job creation and deficit reduction that had proven false under NAFTA.  Instead, they launched a barrage of political arm-twisting and horse-trading to convince members of Congress to vote against the anti-CAFTA opinions of their constituents.  

Many CAFTA backers also resorted to selling the deal as a pathway to peace and prosperity for Central America.  Here is Representative Tom Davis (R-Va.) speaking on the House floor in favor of CAFTA on July 27, 2005:

“…we need to understand that CAFTA is more than just a trade pact. It's a signal of U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity for our neighbors. And it's the best immigration, anti-gang, and anti-drug policy at our disposal…Want to fight the ever-more-violent MS-13 gang activity originating in El Salvador but prospering in Northern Virginia? Pass CAFTA …Want to begin to ebb the growing flow of illegal immigrants from Central America? Pass CAFTA.

One day later, Congress passed CAFTA.

Nine years later, gang and drug-related violence in Central America has reached record highs and the “growing flow” of immigrants from Central America has surged.

On Wednesday, Miriam Miranda, coordinator of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to congressional staff about the rampant violence and unrelenting poverty in her home country and its neighbors. Miriam spoke not only of the skyrocketing homicides and widespread gang and paramilitary control in Honduras, but the economic instability undergirding such violence.

The issue is not theoretical for Miriam – just two weeks ago she survived an attempted kidnapping by armed men.

I asked Miriam what she would say, if given the opportunity, to the members of Congress who had promised CAFTA would spur development and reduce violence and migration pressures in Central America. She responded:

“It’s more than evident with what has happened in the last eight to nine months – this massive exit from Central America – that these policies that they have implemented are completely mistaken. They don’t respond to our needs…We have to question this model of development – development for whom?” 

Not only did CAFTA fail to stem violence and migration from Central America as Rep. Davis and other proponents promised. The deal appears to have actually contributed to the economic instability feeding the region’s increase in violence and forced migration.

That’s the conclusion reached by the 67 members of Congress’ Progressive Caucus, who included CAFTA in their recent summary of the root causes of the refugee crisis occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border: “free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have led to the displacement of workers and subsequent migration from these countries.”

How has CAFTA led to displacement and migration?  Under CAFTA, family farmers in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have been inundated with subsidized agricultural imports – mainly grains – from U.S. agribusinesses. Agricultural imports from the United States in those three CAFTA countries have risen 78 percent since the deal went into effect. 

While agricultural exports to Central America represent a small slice of U.S. agricultural corporations’ business, they present a large threat to the livelihoods of small-scale Central American farmers who cannot compete with highly subsidized and mechanized U.S. firms. When Mexico experienced a similar surge in agricultural imports under NAFTA, more than 2 million Mexican farmers and agricultural workers lost their livelihoods and migration to the United States doubled.  

In the lead-up to CAFTA, development groups like Oxfam warned of such displacement, stating that when considering the impacts on Central American rice production alone, CAFTA threatened the livelihoods of up to 1.5 million people in the region.  Central American immigrant advocacy groups like CARECEN, CONGUATE, and SANN also raised such concerns early in the CAFTA negotiating process, but were ignored by the Bush administration.

Certainly the economic instability and violence plaguing Central America, and the resulting surge in migration to the United States, cannot be pegged on CAFTA alone. The causes of the crisis are manifold, and many have been amply discussed.  But though CAFTA did not singlehandedly spark this fire, it appears to have contributed to the kindling.

And clearly, CAFTA has utterly failed to deliver on the far-fetched promises used by Rep. Davis and other proponents to sell the controversial deal to a skeptical Congress back in 2005.  I wish Representative Davis, and all those who voted for CAFTA, would have been there on Wednesday to hear Miriam’s words.  

I wish the same for the members of the Obama administration who are now pushing to expand the NAFTA/CAFTA trade model across the Pacific under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  As with CAFTA, some are trying to sell that deal with rosy promises that it will spur development in TPP countries. 

In the words of Miriam, development for whom?  

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Leaked document reveals US-EU trade agreement threatens public health, food safety

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Andrew Ranallo Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_07_24_TTIPLeak_PR.pdf WASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors, mostly corporate representatives, can read and comment on draft negotiating texts. According to the IATP analysis accompanying release of the...

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Analysis of the draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) chapter on food safety, and animal and plant health issues (proposed by the European Commission, as of June 27, 2014)

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2014_07_24_TTIP_SPS_Analysis.pdf Trade agreements have a profound influence on how regulations to protect public health and how we produce food are developed, implemented and enforced or not enforced. U.S. and EU food safety regulations in the US and the EU often set the bar for such standards around the world. There is much at stake in the wording of trade agreements, but remarkably, draft negotiations texts remained undisclosed to the public affected by the trade related food safety chapters in those texts. Instead of a public debate about appropriate protections for health and the type of agriculture we want, these negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, and heavily influenced by corporate trade advisors whose...

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Administration Flooded with 26,000 Comments Opposing Proposal to Disguise Offshoring of U.S. Manufacturing

Eyes on Trade - 22 July, 2014 - 17:13

Broad Reclassification Plan Would Count iPhones Made in China as U.S. Exports; Data Tricks Would Artificially Inflate U.S. Manufacturing Jobs, Deflate Manufacturing Trade Deficits

More than 26,000 people nationwide have submitted comments opposing Obama administration proposals that would severely distort U.S. job and trade data by reclassifying U.S. corporations that offshore American jobs as “factoryless goods” manufacturers. Under a broad data reclassification plan, much of the value of U.S. brand-name goods assembled by foreign workers and imported here for sale would no longer be counted as imported goods, but rather as manufacturing “services” imports. This would deceptively deflate the U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.

The “factoryless goods” proposal, designed by the administration’s Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC), also would, overnight, falsely increase the reported number of U.S. manufacturing jobs as white-collar employees in firms like Apple – now rebranded as “factoryless goods producers” – would suddenly be counted as “manufacturing” workers. This shift also would create a false increase in U.S. manufacturing wages and output.

“The only reason you would classify an iPhone made in China as a U.S. export is to hide the size of our massive trade deficit,” said James P. Hoffa, Teamsters general president.

“To revive American manufacturing jobs and production, we need to change our policies, not cook the data,” said Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “We need to reform the trade policies that have incentivized offshoring and resulted in decades of trade deficits and millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs offshored, not cover up the evidence that our current trade policy is not working.”

One element of the proposed economic data reclassification plan would rebrand U.S. imports of goods manufactured abroad, such as Apple’s iPhone (which is assembled in China by a firm called Foxconn) as “services” imports rather than imports of manufactured goods. And if Foxconn exported iPhones to other countries, the proposed reclassifications would count the iPhones manufactured in China as U.S. manufactured goods exports, further belying the real U.S. manufacturing trade deficit. 

The economic data reclassification initiative, if implemented, could further undermine efforts to bolster U.S. manufacturing by producing a fabricated reduction of the U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.

“These Orwellian data rebranding proposals would hide the damage wrought by past trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement, greasing the way for more-of-the-same, job-killing, deficit-boosting trade deals,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

The comments submitted by concerned individuals include:

  • “Reclassifying jobs that have been and continue to be shipped overseas under the euphemism ‘factoryless goods’ is an insult to the citizens of the United States who want real manufacturing jobs, and know that the TPP and other NAFTA-style trade deals are not in our best interest.” – Susan Marie Frontczak, Boulder, Colorado
  • “Put the tricks aside. It's time to address the bad trade policies that have led to incentivized offshoring, rather than play with rebranding.” – Merill Cole, Macomb, Illinois
  • “NAFTA and GATT were a really bad idea ... TPP is worse ... and ECPC as a cover-up for unfair trade policies is just ridiculous. Bring manufacturing back to the US and stop this unfair trading with other countries.” – Aaron McGee, Madison, Wisconsin

This month, 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman, demanding that he immediately begin to provide Congress with accurate U.S. trade data. The letter followed an admission by USTR staff that the agency was providing Congress with uncorrected raw data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. That data includes “re-exports,” which are goods produced in foreign countries that pass through the United States without alteration before being sold abroad.

Each month, the U.S. International Trade Commission provides corrected trade data that removes the foreign re-exports, but USTR has chosen not to use this data. By using the uncorrected data, the USTR can misleadingly appear to make more than half the $177 billion 2013 NAFTA goods trade deficit “disappear.” The USTR does this by, for instance, counting goods that are imported from China, that are not altered in the United States and that are then “re-exported” to Mexico as “U.S. exports” to Mexico.

Congress’ demand for accurate trade data from the USTR and the administration’s distortionary data reclassification proposals come as administration officials seek support for two controversial trade and investment pacts now under negotiation: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The administration’s push to obtain Fast Track authority for those pacts has met strong opposition from both parties in Congress and from more than 60 percent of the U.S. voting public. 

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Proposed U.S.-China Treaty Would Expose U.S. Laws to Extrajudicial Attacks by Chinese Corporations, Incentivize More U.S. Job Offshoring

Eyes on Trade - 21 July, 2014 - 21:33

Chinese Acquisitions, Establishment of U.S. Subsidiaries Growing at 80 Percent Annual Rate with 820 Major Deals Totaling More Than $37 Billion Since 2000

At a time of rapid growth in Chinese acquisition of U.S. firms, establishing the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) discussed during this week’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is an especially terrible idea, said Public Citizen.

The treaty’s investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS) would empower Chinese corporations invested here to directly challenge U.S. public interest safeguards before extra-judicial tribunals that could order payment of U.S. Treasury dollars to compensate the firms for U.S. laws that they claim violate their new treaty rights.

Over the past five years, there has been a surge in Chinese corporations acquiring or creating U.S.-based subsidiaries, with such deals growing at an annual rate of 80 percent. Since 2000, Chinese corporations have acquired or installed about 820 U.S.-based firms in deals totaling more than $37 billion. Nearly 90 percent of these deals, by value, were Chinese takeovers of existing U.S. companies. Not included in these numbers are many instances of Chinese firms purchasing controlling shares of U.S. companies’ stock.

“How could it be in our interest to empower the ever-greater number of Chinese firms operating here – many owned by the Chinese government – to circumvent U.S. courts and challenge our financial, environmental, health and other public interest policies before foreign tribunals empowered to order payment of our tax dollars to these Chinese firms?” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “A U.S.-China BIT would invite a wave of attacks on our domestic laws by Chinese corporations through a system of private foreign tribunals that are a threat to our sovereignty and solvency.”

By providing new special protections and rights for U.S. firms that relocate to China, the treaty would remove many of the costs and risks of relocating and incentivize another wave of American job offshoring to China.

Under a U.S.-China BIT’s investor state dispute settlement provisions, Chinese corporations with U.S.-based operations and firms with significant Chinese investment would be empowered to drag the U.S. government before extrajudicial tribunals and demand taxpayer compensation for a broad array of non-trade-related policies. These tribunals, composed of three private attorneys, would be authorized to order unlimited U.S. taxpayer compensation for alleged losses to the Chinese firms’ “expected future profits” on the basis of claims that U.S. policies violated the firms’ sweeping, BIT-granted foreign investor “rights” not available to U.S. firms.

For example, thanks to its purchase last year of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, the Chinese corporation Shuanghui International could take advantage of a U.S.-China BIT’s investor privileges to challenge new U.S. food safety standards before a foreign tribunal. And Sinopec, a Chinese corporation that acquired a 50 percent stake in 850,000 acres of oil and natural gas leases owned by Chesapeake Energy last year, could use a U.S.-China BIT to skirt U.S. domestic courts and directly challenge future climate or fracking regulations.

Corporations directly controlled by the Chinese government have been responsible for about half of the Chinese acquisitions and other investments in U.S.-based firms to date. Experts have testified before Congress that expanded Chinese control of U.S.-based companies is guided not only by market forces, but also by Chinese government strategy. Under a U.S.-China BIT, the Chinese government would be able to use state-owned enterprises doing business in the United States to directly challenge U.S. domestic laws on the basis of substantive investor “rights” that are even more expansive, and more threatening to domestic regulations, than those found at the World Trade Organization. 

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

A Farmer and Landowner Guide to Pollinators and Neonicotinoids

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Tara Ritter Jim Kleinschmit File:  pollinators.pdf Pollinators are essential to the environment and our food supply. Nearly one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat relies on a pollinator, and they have been shown to boost crop yield and quality, providing clear economic benefits to farmers. Most people know that bees are pollinators, but there are many others, including butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, bats and hummingbirds. They carry seeds and pollen between plants, facilitating plant reproduction. Without them, we would lose much of our food supply, put wildlife food and habitat at risk, and compromise plants that stabilize soils against erosion and buffer waterways. Yet pollinators throughout the U.S....

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Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Erin McKee VanSlooten Author(s) (external):  JoAnne Berkenkamp, Madeline Kastler, Lynn Mader, Cisa Keller, Cara Johnson-Bader, Bev Bauman, Juli Seehusen, Jenny Breenand Whitney Ulvestad File:  2014_07_16_F2CC_Curriculum_f.pdf Inside this curriculum package, you will find activity ideas and resources for implementing Farm to Childcare at your  childcare center. Many of these resources are ready to use, while some are examples that offer opportunities for you to customize to your own context. Lesson planning charts are provided to help you introduce the children at your center to locally grown food items and concepts. Download the full curriculum.

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Farm to Childcare: Highlights and Lessons Learned

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Erin McKee VanSlooten Author(s) (external):  JoAnne Berkenkamp, Madeline Kastler and Lynn Mader File:  2014_03_21_F2CCCurriculum_highlightsLL_f.pdf Introduction: About our Experience with Farm to Childcare In late 2011, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) began exploring a potential collaboration with New Horizon Academy (NHA), a for-profit childcare provider, to jointly design and conduct a pilot Farm to Childcare (F2CC) program in Minnesota. Together, we developed and launched a Farm to Childcare pilot program in 14 NHA childcare centers in June 2012 and then expanded the program to all 62 NHA centers in Minnesota in June 2013. Through this publication, we are sharing...

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New Farm to Childcare curriculum connects youngest eaters with fresh local fruits and vegetables

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Andrew Ranallo File:  2014_07_15_F2CCCurriculum_PR.pdf Minneapolis – The new Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package released today gives childcare providers a roadmap to start their own Farm to Childcare programs in order to connect young children with locally grown, minimally processed foods and the farmers who grow them. The curriculum was developed for preschool-age children by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in partnership with childcare provider company New Horizon Academy (NHA) with support from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The curriculum and associated materials include practical, experience-tested strategies to try out new approaches in child care settings including menu...

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Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Civil Society Organizations Oppose U.S.-EU ‘Trade’ Pact Proposals That Would Undermine Chemical Safety Protections

Eyes on Trade - 10 July, 2014 - 14:24

111 Consumer, Health, Environmental, Labor Groups Warn Trade Ministers About TTIP Proposals That Would Endanger Public Health

In a letter today, a broad array of major U.S. and European chemical safety, health, environmental, labor, consumer and other organizations expressed strong opposition to proposed rules for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that could chill or roll back robust chemical safety standards on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The letter was sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and EU Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht, in advance of the sixth round of TTIP negotiations, which are to begin in Brussels next week.

“EU and U.S. trade policy should not be geared toward advancing the chemical industry’s agenda at the expense of public health and the environment – but that appears to be exactly what is currently underway with TTIP,” the letter states. “The presence of toxic chemicals in our food, our homes, our workplaces, and our bodies is a threat to present and future generations, with staggering cost for society and individuals.”  

“U.S. and EU negotiators appear to have bought the chemical corporations’ argument that this so-called ‘trade’ deal should go well beyond trade and target our safeguards from toxic chemicals as ‘barriers to trade,’ which could continue public exposure to hazardous substances in unsafe workplaces, toxic lakes and rivers, and tainted food and toys” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and one of the letter’s signatories. “If the U.S. and EU governments want to have any hope of stemming the controversy surrounding this proposed pact, they must reverse course and keep our chemical safety protections out of their closed-door “trade” negotiations.” 

At next week’s TTIP negotiations, draft text will be presented for the first time for several of the proposed pact’s chapters that could directly undermine strong chemical safety rules. The texts will be kept secret from the public during negotiations, but the rules that would be established would be binding on the United States and EU member nations, with trade sanctions or cash fines ordered against domestic policies that do not comply with TTIP rules.

The letter highlights specific TTIP proposals that the U.S. and EU governments and industry interests have put forward that could chill U.S. efforts to strengthen chemical regulations while weakening tighter EU chemical protections. This includes a U.S. proposal for regulatory coherence that could “thwart the timely promulgation of important regulations” and an EU Regulatory Cooperation Council proposal that would require regulators to calculate “chemical regulations’ costs to transatlantic trade, not the benefits of such protective laws for society.” 

The letter also rejects a controversial proposal – opposed by U.S. state legislators, some EU member states and a transpartisan array of U.S. and EU civil society groups – to include “investor-state dispute settlement” terms in the TTIP. Already inclusion of such terms in other pacts has empowered corporations to circumvent domestic courts and directly challenge controls for the use of hazardous substances, pollution cleanup requirements and other chemical protections before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order unlimited taxpayer compensation for violations of broad foreign investor “rights.” Such extraordinary provisions, according to the letter, “would force the public and their representatives to decide between compensating corporate polluters for lost profits due to stronger laws, or continuing to bear the health, economic and social burdens of pollution.”

The letter concludes by criticizing the negotiations’ lack of transparency: “In a deal where fundamental changes to sub-national, national and regional policies and lawmaking processes are being proposed and negotiated, the non-disclosure of TTIP negotiating positions or texts is inexcusable and inconsistent with the principles of a modern democracy.” 

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Let’s Just Pretend We Didn’t Offshore Manufacturing

Eyes on Trade - 3 July, 2014 - 13:03

Is an iPhone made in China and exported to Europe a U.S. export?

Is an Apple executive a manufacturing worker?

Yes, and yes.  At least those could become the answers if a new proposal afoot among some in the administration is allowed to take effect.  Federal agencies grouped under the bland-sounding Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) are proposing to radically redefine U.S. manufacturing and trade statistics. 

Under the proposal, U.S. firms that have offshored their production abroad – like Apple – would become “factoryless goods” manufacturers.  The foreign factories that actually manufacture the goods – like the notorious iPhone-producing Foxconn factories in China – would no longer be manufacturers, but “service” providers for the rebranded “manufacturing” firms like Apple.

It appears the administration has been reading Orwell

But the problem with this proposed redefinition is not merely that it offends common sense.  The “factoryless goods” proposal would deceptively deflate the size of reported, but not actual, U.S. manufacturing trade deficits, while artificially inflating the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs overnight.

While some details of the proposal remain open-ended, one thing is clear: this maneuver would obscure the erosion of U.S. manufacturing.  It would disguise the mass-offshoring of U.S. middle-class factory jobs incentivized by NAFTA-style trade deals.  It would undermine efforts to change the unfair trade and other policies that have led to such decline.  

To boost U.S. manufacturing jobs and production, we need to switch our policies, not our numbers.

The ECPC is accepting comments on their “factoryless goods” proposal until July 21.  If you’d care to offer your thoughts, click here.
  

The 3 Big Distortions of the "Factoryless Goods" Proposal
  

1.  The proposal would result in a fabricated reduction of the U.S. manufacturing trade deficit by rebranding imports of U.S. manufactured goods as “services” imports, according to recent explanations offered by officials of ECPC member agencies.  The redefinition would not affect all U.S. trade statistics, but it would distort some of the most widely-reported numbers (those calculated on a balance of payments basis), misleading the public and policymakers alike.

Take, for example, a scenario in which Apple ships iPhone parts to China to be assembled in a Foxconn factory and then sent back to the United States to be sold here.  Currently, the value of the imported iPhone minus the lesser value of the exported parts counts as a net U.S. import of a manufactured good.  This reflects the fact that Apple offshored its iPhone manufacturing to China.

But under the ECPC proposal, Foxconn, now called a “manufacturing services provider,” would not be described as having manufactured the iPhones but as having provided services to Apple.  As a result, the net U.S. import of manufactured goods resulting from Apple’s decision to offshore would be reduced. In its place would be an import of Foxconn’s factory “services.”
  

2.  The proposal would treat some goods exported by foreign factories as U.S. manufactured exports.  Take a scenario in which Apple ships iPhone parts to China that are assembled by Foxconn and then shipped to the European Union (EU).  Currently, Apple’s export of parts to China counts as the only U.S. export in this scenario. 

But the ECPC proposal, according to officials of ECPC member agencies, would instead count China’s export of the fully-assembled iPhones to the EU, less the cost of any imported parts, as a “U.S. manufactured goods export.”

The absurd logic of this rebranding is that while China manufactured and exported the iPhones, they count as U.S. manufactured exports because they were under the control of a U.S. brand.  This Orwellian proposal would spell an artificial increase in U.S. manufactured exports (on a balance of payments basis), further belying the real U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.
  

 3.  The proposal would spur a disingenuous, overnight increase in the number of U.S. “manufacturing” jobs as white-collar employees in firms like Apple – now rebranded as “factoryless goods producers” – would suddenly be counted as “manufacturing” workers. 

This change would also create a false increase in manufacturing wages, as many of the newly-counted “manufacturing” jobs would be designers, programmers and brand managers at “factoryless goods producers” like Apple. 

Reported U.S. manufacturing output would also abruptly and errantly jump, as revenues from firms like Apple would be lumped in with the output of actual manufacturers. 
  

This proposal defies common sense.  It would dramatically distort U.S. trade, labor and gross domestic product statistics.  Goods manufactured abroad and imported into the United States are not something other than manufactured goods imports.  Goods exported from foreign factories do not become “U.S. exports” when they are produced for U.S. brands.  And jobs in which workers spend zero time actually manufacturing anything are not “manufacturing jobs.”  

The offshoring of U.S. manufacturing under years of unfair trade policies cannot be undone with a data trick.  The hoped-for “renaissance” of U.S. manufacturing will come through new policymaking informed by accurate data, not politically convenient distortions.  

Categorie: Planet Not For Sale

Bonos de deuda, CIADI, Tribunal de La Haya y demandas internacionales: reflexiones sobre lo que puede pasar en plena pelea con los buitres tras el pago

Blog de Javier Echaide - 28 June, 2014 - 00:51
Desde hace cerca de 10 días la tinta no para de correr. Se ha escrito usándola de a litros y el motivo nuevamente es la deuda pública. En el día de ayer, el gobierno argentino anunció el pago por unos US$ 1.000 millones en Nueva York bajo concepto de servicios de deuda en el último día hábil frente al vencimiento de su pago en cuotas a los bonistas que acordaron dentro del canje de los años 2005 y 2010, y que son poco más del 92% de los acreedores.

El pago se hizo incluso con una orden de embarjo sobre su cabeza, emitida por el juez Thomas Griesa de jurisdicción norteamericana, y sobre quien cayó la causa que iniciaron los otros bonistas: los que no ingresaron al canje y que equivale al 7% de los bonistas, a lo que en estos días se los asigna como lo que son: "fondos buitres".

Ayer, el Ministro de Economía Axel Kicillof, en un fuerte comunicado anunció este pago. Hasta hace un par de días atrás Argentina prácticamente "rogaba" por un espacio de negociación ante el juez Griesa. Este espacio era posible durante el período que fue previo al dictado de la sentencia de Griesa, pero ninguna de las partes -ni los fondos buitres, ni Argentina- apostaron por él, esperando la decisión de la Corte Suprema norteamericana para determinar si habría o no de tomar el caso dada las efectivas repercusiones del mismo más allá de la deuda argentina.

Griesa había aprobado la medida cautelar de embargo sobre los fondos que Argentina depositara para así actuar de acuerdo a las leyes estadounidenses sobre las que los bonos de deuda cedían la jurisdicción soberana nacional en favor de tribunales extranjeros, en este caso de Nueva York. Es un tipo de cláusula muy usada en los bonos de deuda, pero no por ello admisible al modo de ver de quien suscribe.

De nuevo la prórroga de jurisdicción

La jurisdicción de un país es uno de los atributos de su soberanía. Es la capacidad de poder dirimir conflictos dentro de su territorio. Es la potestad que el Estado se guarda para intervenir judicialmente como un poder público e independiente frente a todas las personas -físicas y/o jurídicas- que actúen en su propio territorio. Es decir "acá mando yo".

Argentina, así como muchos otros países, han incurrido desde 1976 en adelante en una práctica que -por los evidentes resultados- demuestra un altísimo riesgo, y es el entregar esa parte de soberanía a juzgados de otros Estados, cediendo así su inmunidad de jurisdicción. La inmunidad de jurisdicción, que ahora parece volver a reclamarse según el comunicado oficial de ayer, es la imposibilidad de que el Estado sea llevado a juicio ante los tribunales internos de otro Estado extranjero. Claro, al lector inmediatamente tiene que sorprenderle que estas palabras contradigan abiertamente el hecho de que todo el juicio sobre los bonos de deuda en poder de los fondos buitres que no entraron al canje (holdouts) esté siendo decidido en un tribunal de Nueva York y con ley norteamericana, tal como reconoce el mismo comunicado ("bonos bajo ley extranjera" sic). De este modo nos encontramos bajo un caso de prórroga de jurisdicción, que no es más que una forma de cesión de la soberanía de un Estado.

El problema ya está hecho. Y se sigue haciendo. Más que la responsabilidad de tal o cual gobierno, lo preocupante es la lógica de pensamiento seguida ininterrumpidamente por los expertos en estos temas: "si uno no prorroga la jurisdicción en estas cosas nadie comprará esos bonos". Y entiendo que el error reside, precisamente, en que ésa es la forma de pensar de los acreedores. Se piensa en los beneficios de ellos y no en los perjuicios que significa para el país la entrega de uno de los aspectos esenciales de la soberanía del Estado, lo cual constituye un verdadero problema para quienes, en definitiva, recae el peso de la deuda externa: el pueblo argentino.

Así es cómo se ha incluido esta cláusula (muchas veces llamada "Cláusula Martínez de Hoz") en los bonos de deuda emitidos por la dictadura militar de 1976, en los bonos de los años ´80, en los bonos del Plan Brady de los ´90, en los del "Megacanje" del 2001 (estafa que hoy intenta no prescribir para continuar siendo investigada por el Estado y bajo la cual Domingo Cavallo es procesado), así como los del canje del 2005 y del 2010, respectivamente. Porque todos estos bonos tienen "ley extranjera", lo cual constituyen un problema serio a futuro de acuerdo con la experiencia que estamos viendo por estos días.

El CIADI

Pero no sólo eso. La prórroga de jurisdicción también figura en los 58 tratados bilaterales de protección de inversiones (comunmente llamados TBI) que Argentina firmó con una serie de Estados, y de los cuales se encuentran en vigencia 55. En este caso, la cesión de jurisdicción de los TBI es en favor de un orgaismo internacional: el CIADI, que es el centro de arbitraje internacional donde las empresas transnacionales inversoras en el país pueden demandar al Estado argentino. Por cierto, el CIADI también tiene sede en EE.UU., en Washington, en las oficinas del Banco Mundial.

Allí, en el CIADI, es a donde un conjunto de bonistas italianos dedició emplazar su demanda para el cobro de una indemnización tras la crisis de 2001 y tras la reestructuración de la deuda en 2005. Nucleados en una causa común ("Abaclat y otros c/ República Argentina", caso Nro. ARB/07/5) y coordinados por el lobista italiano Nicola Stock, su reclamo fue presentado ante el CIADI -y no ante la justicia estadounidense- diractamente en febrero de 2007. El tribunal arbitral, compuesto por tres miembros -uno de ellos nombrado por Argentina, el otro por los demandantes y el tercero de común acuerdo- se constituyó en febrero de 2008 y el caso se encuentra aún pendiente por un monto de US$ 2.700 millones. El lobby en cuestión está institucionalizado en la llamada American Task Force Argentina, con spots que muchas veces alcanzan puestas en escena dignas de Oliver Stone, aunque con un componente ideológico muy distinto por cierto. Algunos analistas etienden que el laudo arbitral debería ser emitido por estas semanas, con lo cual lo que está ocurriendo con los bonos de los fondos buitres en el juzgado de Griesa viene mucho a "embarrar la cancha".

Hasta el momento, Argentina, ha optado por contiuar con esta práctica. De hecho, por las señales (y más que "señales", actos) que han podido observarse, Argentina no ha optado como viable el alejarse de este tipo de mecanismos, por el contrario.

En medios de masiva circulación se ha publicado que la demanda de los bonistas italianos en el CIADI "no tendría ningún efecto real, ya que los supuestos beneficiarios tendrían que recurrir ante la justicia para que un tribunal de esa órbita pueda hacer valer esos derechos." (Página/12, "Buitres que vuela bajito", 26/06/14). Y efectivamente tal fue la posición que Argentina sostuvo. Sin embargo, ese mismo diario se ocupó oportunamente de informar públicamente el fin de dicha posición el 19/10/13, cualdo el Estado argentino decidió unilateralmente pagar 5 demandas del CIADI al mismo tiempo, calificando tal decisión como que "El CIADI empieza a ser historia antigua" (sic). Hoy vemos lo lejos que estamos de aquella aseveración... Resulta difícil -o al menos sería caprichoso-, con 5 demandas pagadas, seguir sosteniendo el "ningún efecto" de las demandas en el CIADI para la Argentina, que las ha utilizado como "gesto" más que simbólico para acercarse a los mercados financieros internacionales, a EE.UU. para un voto favorable de nuevas líneas de préstamos (que no se dieron) y de la justicia estadounidense, de cuyos resultados ya conocemos.

¿Cómo es que los vuitres italinos pueden demandar ante el CIADI en vez de hacer como los vuitres de NML que lo hicieron en los tribunales de Nueva York? Buena pregunta. Argentina ha firmado todo ceciendo jurisdicción a granel, por "el miedo a...": miedo a que los bonistas no tomaran los bonos, miedo a que nos calificaran como un país de alto riesgo, miedo a enfrentar un estado de cesasión de pagos, miedo a la crisis, miedo a "caernos del mundo". Miedo o -a estas alturas- costumbre. Una triste costumbre, vale decir, de repetir la rórroga de jurisdicción sin analizar lo que implica ni sus riesgos. A hacerlo como algo ya aceptado, recurrente, "normal". Quizás por eso Argentina haya firmado el acuerdo entre YPF y la petrolera estadounidense Chevron por la explotación en Vaca Muerca prorrogando la jurisdicción en favor de los tribunales de París. Quizás por eso Argentina mantiene, sin denunciar ni anular, 55 TBIs que habilitan jurisdicción en favor de tribunales internacionales como los del CIADI. El tema es que ahora pueden sentirse los riesgos que implican la ceción de jurisdicción en favor de leyes extranjeras, y el gobierno obligadamente tiene que estar tomando nota de esto.

Aspectos jurídicos del comunicado

Uno de los pasajes más importantes del comunicado de ayer, empero, no fue el anuncio del pago post factum, sino algunas consideraciones jurídicas sobre derecho internacional que éste incluyó.

El primero, obviamente, es el reconocimiento de la jurisdicción cedida: se trata de "bonos bajo ley extranjera" pero que fueron emitidos por el Estado argentino.

El segundo: "Este pago se realiza en virtud de la decisión soberana de la República Argentina, que ratifica en este acto su firme e irrestricta voluntad de cumplimiento, (...)". No son sólo palabras. Más allá de la cuestión política de que Argentina insiste en pagar la deuda, lo que allí se observa es la calificación de este pago como un acto soberano, un acto iure imperii según la doctrina y jurisprudencia nacional e internacional.

Previo a los años ´60  y ´70 la doctrina y la jurisprudencia internacional entendía que la inmunidad del Estado era absoluta y que no se podía llevar a un Estado ante ningún tribunal extrajero sin su consentimiento. A partir de dichos años la doctrina a nivel internacional sobre inmunidad del Estado empezó a relativizarse dependiendo del tipo de acto que el Estado realizara. Este cambio de criterio tiene pros y contras. Dentro de los pros, permite que un Estado extranjero responda ante incumplimientos de contratos en territorio nacional por actos que podría efectuar cualquier particular (actos de gestión o iure gestionis). En Argentina, el fallo Manauta c/ Embajada de la Federación Rusa, de 1994, es un caso de referencia: se trató de un empleado en una publicación de la Embajada de Rusia en Buenos Aires que fue despedido y reclamaba justa indemnización y haberes caídos. Manauta planteó su caso como cualquier otro trabajador despedido en forma injustificada: planteando una demanda ante un juzgado laboral en los tribunales argentinos. El problema radicaba en quien era el demandado: la embajada es una representación de un Estado extranjero dentro del territorio nacional, la cual posee inmunidades otorgadas por el Estado territorial para el buen desenvolvimiento de sus relaciones diplomáticas con nuestro país. Por ende, el demandado no era ese “brazo” sino el cuerpo todo: Rusia. Se trataba de una demanda contra Rusia (un Estado extranjero) dentro de la jurisdicción nacional argentina, lo que significaba el sometimiento de la soberanía rusa a la justicia argentina. Algo en principio incompatible.


El caso llegó ante la Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación (CSJN) quien se hizo eco de los cambios doctrinarios a nivel internacional y falló en favor de Manauta basándose en la distinción entre los actos iure gestionis–que debían admitir una caída de la inmunidad soberana del Estado ante los tribunales locales, ya que se trataba de una actividad que podía ser asumida de igual manera por un particular privado, como es el caso de un contrato de trabajo- de lo que podían ser actos de imperio (iure imperii) o actos soberanos del Estado, que solamente podían ser efectuados por el Estado como expresión de dicha soberanía. En mayo de 1995, luego del fallo Manauta, se sancionó la Ley 24.488 sobre inmunidad del Estado ante tribunales extranjeros y que recepta la doctrina tomada en el fallo de la CSJN y que permite que un particular pudiera llevar a juicio a su empleador aunque fuera un Estado extranjero y reclamar su indemnización -aunque cabe destacar que para poder hacer efectivo ese cobro debe probarse el carácter de particular del destino de los fondos del Estado y así no sólo derribar la inmunidad de jurisdicción sino también su inmunidad de ejecución (la imposibilidad de poder ser embargado, por ejemplo) de la cual también goza todo Estado-.
Pero no todo son flores. La relativización de la inmunidad soberana de Estado también favoreció a los acreedores internacionales en materia de deuda externa, pues en definitiva son -al igual que el pobre Don Manauta- particulares privados con obligaciones sin cobrar de un Estado extranjero.
Recurrentemente salen a la luz las amenazas en torno a los embargos internacionales que Argentina debe enfrentar por su deuda: el temor a que nos embarguen el avión presidencial, las embajadas, stands en ferias internacionales, etc. Si los Estados no gozaran de inmunidad para el cumplimiento de sus fines públicos, todas estas amenazas serían ciertas. Así como es jurídicamente imposible (además de inmoral) el entregar en prenda la bandera nacional o el hipotecar la Casa de Gobierno, las embajadas tampoco pueden embargarse o rematarse siempre que figuren dentro del patrimonio público del Estado, cumplan tal fin, y no hayan sido objeto de cesiones en materia de jurisdicción.
El comunicado de ayer refuerza la idea de que el acto de pago es un acto soberano (iure imperii) y por ende no debería ser objeto de compulsiones (con esto, de paso, se excluye el temor a aplicar la clausula RUFO que es sólo aplicable a actos voluntarios) que le caben a un privado común, como ser una medida cautelar como el embargo. Empero, el Estado ya cedió su jurisdicción soberana sobre esta cuestión cuando designó a la justicia de Nueva York (de donde es Griesa) como el foro aplicable.

Un tercer aspecto jurídico es que Argentina entiende que ya pagó. Pero en derecho "quien paga mal, paga dos veces", como dice la máxima jurídica. Efectivamente Argentina pagó, pero no a los bonistas sino a un fondo fiduciario, un fideicomiso, tal como también se reconoce en el comunicado. "Pagar" no es solamente cumplir con la obligación de deshacerse del dinero, también es saber que se lo estoy dando a quien le debo y que él efectivamente lo cobra. Un pago no se hace al vacío sino a la mano del acreedor, y si por alguna cuestión ese dinero no llega a esas manos el pago está mal hecho y está en mi responsabilidad como deudor asegurarme de que pagué bien y a quien correspondía, si no debo realizar de nuevo el pago. Si el pago se lo hago a un tercero (un fideicomiso, por ejemplo) y ese tercero no cumple con el mandato, yo tengo un derecho de reclamarle al tercero por incumplimiento -y podré iniciar una acción judicial con él- pero eso no me exime de mi deber de pago con mi acreedor, quien no cobró. Por lo tanto tendría que pagar de nuevo y demandar al tercero que intervino e incumplió.

Está claro que la situación es insólita. De hecho, esta tarde el juez Griesa retuvo el pago efectuado ayer por Argentina, pero no embargó dichos fondos. Se desconoce bajo qué concepto es que el magistrado decidió esta "retención" que resulta suspensiva del acto de pago-y-cobro de los servicios de deuda. Parece que los libretos son nuevos en este campo, incluso para un magistrado federal octogenario como el que actúa. De hecho, el propio juez es quien a estas horas está recomendando reintegrar el dinero a la Argentina. Con ello se cae el argumento -si cabían dudas- de que el pago se hizo efectivo.

Argentina jugó una carta fuerte con este acto. Y el caso está sirviendo de laboratorio jurídico-político-económico del mismísmo sistema financiero internacional.

Ir a la Corte de La Haya y reclamar responsabilidad internacional

Otro aspecto jurídico importante y que no fue tomado demasiado en cuenta fue el hecho de que Argentina advirtió a los EE.UU. que las consecuencias de los actos por su poder judicial le podrían implicar caer en responsabilidad internacional, lo cual es interesante como argumento. "Esta decisión soberana de la República Argentina implica advertir respecto de las concecuencias de sus actos a los Estados Unidos por la responsabilidad internacional que le cabe por las decisiones de su Poder Judicial (...)" e involucra también a terceros en esta misma advertencia.

Hace unos días, una radio me entrevistó preguntándome si Argentina podía ir a la Corte de La Haya (la Corte Internacional de Justicia o CIJ) para demandar a los fondos buitres. Mi respuesta fue negativa, pues solamente pueden acudir a la CIJ Estados miembros del Estatuto de dicha Corte y de la ONU. Existe una segunda función no contenciosa de la CIJ pero que está reservada para las consultas que puderan hacer organismos internacionales ante casos concretos. Sin embargo, la posibilidad planteada por el comunicado sí es posible pues se trata de una demanda entre Estados: Argentina puede demandar a EE.UU. por un caso de responsabilidad internacional por actos de sus poderes y funcionarios públicos, en este caso el Poder Judicial y un juez federal.

En el derecho internacional existen dos tipos de responsabilidad internacional de Estado: los referidos a actos ilícitos (responsability) y los referidos a actos no prohibidos por el derecho interacional (liability). Los casos de responsabilidad del Estado por actos ilícitos en el derecho internacional está regulado por la Resolución 56/83 del año 2001 de la Asamblea General de la ONU. En la misma se plantea el cumplimiento de solamente dos requiscitos para encontrar un caso de responsabilidad: a) que se dé frente a la violación de una norma internacional; y b) que ese acto u omisión que resulta violatorio de una norma sea atribuible al Estado que es reclamado.

La pregunta es: ¿cuál sería la norma internacional violada en este caso? En el comunicado se mencionan el Carta de la OEA (Art. 61), la Carta de la ONU (Art. 2, Inc. 1 y 4), el convenio constitutivo del FMI (Art. 4), y el derecho de reclamar "ante el Tribunal Internacional de La Haya como sujeto de derecho internacional", punto que veremos más adelante.

En principio: 

- El Art. 61 de la Carta de la OEA habla de la reunión consulta de Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores, que habrá de celebrarse para resolver problemas de carácter urgente y de interés común para los Estados americanos. Pero, en principio, el ámbito para resolver estas controversias debería ser el que se invoca, es decir la ropia OEA, no la ONU. La CIJ podría actuar subsidiariamente, pero no es seguro que acepte su competencia en el caso.

- El Art. 2 de la Carta de la ONU establece los siete propósitos de la organización. El 1ro es que la ONU se basa en el principio de igualdad soberana de todos sus miembros. El 4to habla de la abstención de recurrir o amenazar con el uso de la fuerza contra la integridad territorial o independencia política de cualquier Estado. No resulta este el caso, pues "uso de la fuerza" significa lo que se encuentra regulado en el Capítulo VII de la propia Carta de la ONU: una intervención armada, y Argentina no está bajo amenaza de una invasión. El gobierno enteinde que el fallo de Griesa está violentando el principio de igualdad soberana, pero ha sido la propia Argentina la que cedió la soberanía para que Griesa pudiera actuar como si fuera un particular común.

- El Art. 4 del Convenio de Bretton Woods del FMI habla sobre las obligaciones referentes a regímenes de cambio. Las obligaciones generales establecen que todo país miembro: i) hará lo posible, teniendo debidamente en cuenta sus circunstancias, para orientar sus políticas económicas y financieras hacia el objetivo de estimular un crecimiento económico ordenado con razonable estabilidad de precios; ii) procurará acrecentar la estabilidad fomentando condiciones fundamentales y ordenadas, tanto económicas como financieras, y un sistema monetario que no tienda a producir perturbaciones erráticas; iii) evitará manipular los tipos de cambio o el sistema monetario internacional para impedir el ajuste de la balanza de pagos u obtener ventajas competitivas desleales frente a otros países miembros, y iv) seguirá políticas cambiarias compatibles con las obligaciones a las que se refiere esta Sección. Los motivos para una presentación aquí son muchísimo más técnicos. El FMI, de hecho, funciona como un "organismo especializado" de la ONU. No veo cómo la CIJ podría ocupar el lugar de órgano sancionatorio en un aspecto tan específico como es el convenio de un organismo especializado, pues debería ser el propio FMI quien debería actuar. Claro, allí las decisiones se toman de acuerdo al monto de las cuotas de los Estados miembros y es el propio EE.UU. quien solo ostenta el 17%, es decir el voto mayoritario.

Otro problema que se dispara es saber si la Corte Internacional de Justicia es el lugar adecuado para presentar estos reclamos. La cuestión no es tan automática pues la CIJ no es una "corte suprema internacional", como muchas veces suele indentificársela. Por ejemplo, una de las conclusiones interesantes del fallo de la CIJ sobre el caso "Pasteras sobre el Río Uruguay" entre Argentina y Uruguay fue que la CIJ se declaró competente para tomar casos sobre temas ambientales, como era el reclamo por contaminación que Argentina sumó en la demanda y que finalmente la Corte desestimó por falta de pruebas. Por ende, la CIJ puede tomar casos cuya competencia no está del todo definida, pero también puede rechazarlos del mismo modo.

En cuanto al hecho de reclamar "como sujeto de derecho internacional" ante la CIJ, no entiendo que sea viable que este reclamo por violación de una norma, que es uno de los requisitos centrales para incurrir responsabilidad internacional. EE.UU. -el juez Griesa en este caso- no está cometiendo en forma directa una violación sino que toma decisiones siguiendo las normas estadounidenses que Argentina oportunamente adoptó en sus bonos de deuda por prórroga de jurisdicción.

Sin embargo, es cierto lo que se menciona en el comunicado que "Acatar una sentencia no puede exigir el incumplimiento de las obligaciones asumidas." Argentina tiene muchas obligaciones. No puede, por ende, exigírsele que viole una norma para cumplir con otra. Y este párrafor puede ser bien tomaro para criticar mucho del sistema jurídico internacional, absolutamente fragmentado y muchas veces con obligaciones cuyos efectos resultan contrapuestos a otras normas. Valga como ejemplo el deber del Estado de respetar el derecho humano al agua potable versus las obligaciones que el mismo Estado asume en los tratados de protección de inversiones (TBI) y que protegen a las empresas prestatarias de servicios de agua mantener sus concesiones aún cuando puedan brindar agua con altos niveles de nitratos a los permitidos, como fue en caso "Aguas Argentinas" que la transnacional Suez ganó a la Argentina en el CIADI.

En derecho internacional es posible ser responsable y tener que indemnizar frente a casos en que incluso se está cumpliendo con todas las normas internacionales. Son los casos de responsabilidad sine delicto o por actos no prohibidos. Empero, en el sistema internacional aún no tenemos una norma aprobada por los Estados que regule este tipo de responsabilidad y que perfectamente podría caberle a EE.UU. por colocar en riesgo de quiebra a la Argentina o la desestabilización del sistema internacional. El tema en ese caso es el "riesgo". El mero riesgo no constituye responsabilidad: allí tiene que haber daño. Argentina debe argumentar muy bien, esta vez con pruebas, la existencia de daño probado para no caer en situaciones con finales como el de las pasteras.

Como vemos de todo lo que puede obtenerse de su lectura, este es sin dudas uno de los pasajes más importantes del comunicado del gobierno nacional.

Colofón

Hay mucho para revisar y reflexionar. Continuar en el presente estado de situación, pretendiendo mantener obligaciones que resultan contrapuestas en sus efectos, es sostener la hipócrita aseveración de que el Estado lo puede todo. Cuando se deniegan reclamos salariales o aumentos presupuestarios y se insiste en "honrar" los compromisos internacionales en materia de deuda, se está frente a estos casos, y ahí el Estado opta.

Está claro que esto excede el embrollo jurídico y la falacia filosófica liberal de que persiguiendo cada uno su conveniencia todos estaremos tendiendo hacia el bien común a todos. Los fondos buitres persiguen su conveniencia, y lo hacen afectando los intereses potenciales de todos los Estados, del sistema financiero y de la comunidad internacional. Así, ellos cobrarán, aunque el mundo reviente. El problema es, consecuentemente, político y da muestras de las enormes necesidades existentes en materia de derecho internacional. Si los Estados no se hacen cargo de estas necesidades de regulación, de este desarrollo progresivo del derecho internacional, ese lugar lo ocuparán políticamente otros actores mucho menos transparentes y mucho más oscuros.

Quizás lo más interesante es que se tome conciencia real (y entiendo que hasta cierto punto esto comienza a verse) de que los Estados tienen que retomar las riendas de este sistema internacional, pues son ellos los legitimados y únicos encargados de fijar las reglas para regular una variedad de vacíos legales que existen hoy en el derecho internacional. Sobre esos espacios vacíos, sobre esa "a-legalidad", es que los vuitres del sistema financiero actúan. Si no, seremos espectadores de un festín donde el manjar ha de ser nada menos que nuestro futuro.
Categorie: Planet Not For Sale