21 June 2003

American Sovereignty, Free Trade, and Jobs

Many Americans shepherd their ire on the United Nations as a evil force of tyranny intent on destroying the sovereignty of U.S. government. Meanwhile, a more sinister entity and its offshoots have already encroached on U.S. laws and superceded the legislative acts passed democratically elected representatives. Special trade tribunals, who meet behind closed doors and unbeholden to citizens, are empowered to solve "trade disputes" and their rulings can force governments to amend domestic legislation or face heavy fines.

Thus far, many cases presented to these "free trade" tribunals are pending. Last August, in one of the more notorious cases, Methanex Corp vs. California, the NAFTA tribunal ruled against the Canadian chemical company's lawsuit for $1 billion. Methanex claimed a California ban of the gasoline additive MTBE, which was polluting drinking water, hurt their sales of Methanol. Of course, there's no such thing as "precedent" to effect future tribunal rulings, since it's not an open judicial system based on codified law. As per standard modus operandi of the Bush administration to embrace hypocrisy at every turn, while embarking on a campaign to curtail lawsuits from injured citizens aka Tort Reform, they are championing the expansion of the "corporate lawsuit" mechanism, via FTAA and "fast track" trade promotion authority.

As jobs continue to be exported offshore, cries from the impacted American workers grow louder to implore government measures to address the problem. While these pleas are greeted mostly by indifference from American legislators, some states have begun to pay heed to their constituents. But they are being met by preparatory PR strikes from developing countries resorting to edicts of free trade law to support their stance. The Indian press is full of articles on the rising sentiment in the U.S. against outsourcing:

"There is a need to put together a cogent case outlining how the American states considering the bill against outsourcing to India stand to lose in a net lose-lose proposition," said the Assocham survey.

"The business case needs to be put together on how much will the states lose in additional costs per call that are taken in the U.S. or Britain versus taken in an off-shore destination like India."

The industry lobby group urged the government to make case under the World Trade Organisation agreements that the bills against outsourcing would act as trade barriers and not allow a fair movement of services.



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