Written by John Lounsbury
GEI contributor Joseph M. Firestone has published an e-Book (Kindle Edition) today which has a first day free download at Amazon.com. The title of the book is “Declarations of Dependence: Trade Tyranny, Sovereignty, and Democracy“. Review of the book follows below.
Here is the book summary from Amazon.com:
Declarations of Dependence discusses a range of issues surrounding the three trade agreements being negotiated by the Obama Administration and numerous nations around the world. It uses a critical approach to consider them, and especially the recently passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It places special emphasis on the likely governmental impacts of the trade agreements, including their implications for the consent of the governed, separation of powers in the United States, sovereignty at all levels of government, democracy, the potential development of fascism arising at the national level due to the influence of global corporate rule, and other governmental issues. These impacts are the most important ones among many, because they are the key to all the others, such as the impact of the agreements on jobs, labor, inequality, and sustainability.
The book also evaluates whether “fast-track” is a real barrier in defeating the trade agreements or is a ruse and a fraud. It emphasizes a variety of justifications for the TPP and other trade deals, while challenging the very fundamentals of their “free trade”- based justifications, with a more comprehensive perspective on trade agreements as instruments of public purpose. Finally, it places the trade deals in the broader context of the multi-decade conflict between democracy and neoliberalism, and locates the trade agreements as part of this struggle and the continuing efforts of neoliberalism to master and rule over political democracy.
John Lounsbury’s review:
Joe Firestone has been a prolific writer on the subject of free trade agreements. Here he summarizes what he has learned about such treaty arrangements and how they have the potential to remove national sovereign powers, transferring environmental and citizen protections from governments and subjecting them to determination by corporate interests. One of the most dangerous aspects of these treaties, according to Firestone, is the establishment of the right of corporations to sue governments for any action which might restrict their profits. In principle a corporation could block a government from having any law that would protect their citizens from harmful effects of the corporation’s products. The same exposure exists for a law which protected the environment (laws which limited pollution, for example).
Firestone directly challenges the often repeated claim that these treaties are win-win situations. He writes (location 173) that for recent trade agreements “there have been winners and losers and on balance the losers have been most people, and the environment, and the winners have been the 1%.” He criticizes the blanket of secrecy that covers the “negotiation” of these treaties and the open-endedness of what they authorize for future government actions that can occur without further public or legislative action, or even awareness.
He discusses the possibility that corporations could collect hundreds of billions of dollars in the future under these treaties to compensate for loss of profit caused by laws that saved lives of those who would have died from the harmful effects of the company’s products. (location 462).
The destruction of monetary sovereignty of a country is another possibility Firestone discusses (location 557). The provision for settlement of claims awarded to a plaintiff may be in “a freely usable currency” which could serve to create debts of the U.S. in a currency not the U.S. dollar. This could turn the now monetarily sovereign U.S. into a monetary slave like Greece. This is further discussed at locations 661-713.
Firestone discusses how these “free-trade agreements can undermine the consent of the governed” (destroy what vestiges of democracy remain) – see locations 585-650.
The book specifies a “24-point indictment” of trade deals – locations 792-894.
As the book unfolds Firestone develops the concerns mentioned above in greater detail. This is a very readable yet thorough and comprehensive presentation of what many opponents of deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal (TTIP) currently under development have as focal concerns and objections. He suggests that the direction of governance projected from the proposed treaty changes is toward a regime of Fascism and “totalitarianism” – locations 1104-1187.
This excellent book covers many bases, including the relationships (and lack of same) to classical economic concepts (such as Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage – location 1600 – and what is generically referred to as “neoliberalism” – locations 2103-2156).
For anyone who wants a comprehensive overview of arguments being presented in opposition to the current rounds of “free-trade” agreement negotiation, they can do no better than this book. It is efficiently organized, competently researched and written in a clear, readable manner. For someone with some familiarity with the topic the book can be read within about two hours. For anyone who has been out of the “information stream” for TPP and/or TTIP and the related trade agreement considerations the book can be read and understood in as little as 3-4 hours.
I highly recommend this book.