Planet Not For Sale

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. 

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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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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.” 

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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.  

Categories: 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.


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.


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.
Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Axel Kicillof informó el pago a los bonistas que adhirieron al canje

Blog de Javier Echaide - 26 June, 2014 - 15:36
Se reproduce aquí el comunicado oficial que realizara hoy en conferencia de presna el Ministro de Economía, Axel Kicillof, respecto del pago de servicios de deuda realizado pro la República Argentina a los bonistas del canje.

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Axel Kicillof informó el pago a los bonistas que adhirieron al canje

Blog de Javier Echaide - 26 June, 2014 - 15:36
Se reproduce aquí el comunicado oficial que realizara hoy en conferencia de presna el Ministro de Economía, Axel Kicillof, respecto del pago de servicios de deuda realizado pro la República Argentina a los bonistas del canje.

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Corporate America’s Mysterious Affinity for the Number 700,000

Eyes on Trade - 25 June, 2014 - 15:16

The Chamber is at it again.  As negotiations drag and support flags for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come up with a new number to sell the controversial deal to a skeptical Congress and U.S. public: 700,000. 

That’s the number of U.S. jobs that the corporate alliance claims could be created by the sweeping pact opposed by a diverse array of members of Congress, small businesses, and labor organizations for its threats to, well, U.S. jobs. 

How did the Chamber get this number?  They don’t say. 

The Chamber blog post proclaiming the six-digit figure simply says it is “based on the methodology and outcomes” of a Peterson Institute study that used outsized assumptions to produce miniscule projections for the TPP’s economic impact.  Under the most optimistic scenario the authors could envision, the study projected a 0.13 percent increase in U.S. GDP under the deal –- a fraction of the estimated GDP contribution of the latest version of the iPhone. 

But the Peterson Institute study did not project what this tiny economic impact would mean for jobs.  It is unclear how the Chamber pulled a jobs number from a study that did not produce a jobs number. 

We called them to ask.  We were told that no one was there who could answer our question.  Multiple calls and emails later, and we still have no response from the Chamber to solve the mystery of the unsubstantiated statistic.

Here’s one theory on the steps the Chamber took to derive its estimate of the TPP’s prospective impact:

  1. Copy
  2. Paste

This is not the first time the Chamber has used the number 700,000. Indeed, the Chamber appears to have an uncanny affinity for the number when pushing a retrograde, anti-worker agenda. 

When some states raised their minimum wage laws and increased workers’ benefits after the Great Recession, the Chamber commissioned a study finding that such labor laws had cost U.S. jobs.  How many?  700,000

When the Obama administration proposed a tax increase on the wealthy in 2012, the Chamber commissioned a study finding that the proposal would eliminate U.S. jobs…700,000 jobs, to be precise. 

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that the Chamber is using its lucky number once again to push a regressive deal like the TPP. 

But hey, if the copy/paste method works…

Maybe we should take a cue from the Chamber and start using whatever numbers we have lying around.  Let’s see…how many U.S. jobs have been lost under NAFTA to Mexico alone?  Well I’ll be -– the answer is 700,000

Borrowing a card from the Chamber, we hereby project that the TPP will cost U.S. workers 700,000 jobs. 

Okay, obviously it would be ridiculous to pull such projections out of thin air.  And let’s hope that’s not what the Chamber is doing to arrive at its unsubstantiated claim. 

But without an explanation from the Chamber, we are left to speculate.  Maybe they somehow converted Peterson’s miniscule projected GDP gain projection into a much larger jobs gain, errantly ignoring the impact of TPP-spurred inequality.  (The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the likely increase in inequality resulting from the TPP would swamp the small gains projected by the Peterson Institute, spelling a pay cut for 90 percent of U.S. workers.)  

Or maybe the Chamber extrapolated a jobs figure from the study’s export calculations, errantly ignoring the impact of TPP-spurred imports.  (Any study claiming to evaluate the net impact of trade deals must deal with both sides of the trade equation –- in the same way that exports are associated with job opportunities, imports are associated with lost job opportunities when they outstrip exports, as dramatically seen under existing U.S. pacts.) 

In the end, we don’t know how the corporate alliance generated the mystery number behind its TPP cheerleading.  Until we see some evidence, we’re going to take the Chamber’s statistic with about 700,000 grains of salt.  

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

"Argentina quiere seguir pagando su deuda pero no la dejan"

Blog de Javier Echaide - 22 June, 2014 - 20:29
Ese es el título de la solicitada que posteamos, publicada el día sábado 21/06/2014 en el diario norteamericano The New York Times y que aquí reproducimos.

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Nixon Hatched Fast Track, Not FDR

Eyes on Trade - 18 June, 2014 - 18:42

By Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and author of The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority

Amidst the distorted trade data and counterfactual foreign policy claims, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman offered up a bit of revisionist U.S. trade policy history on Monday that must have left the folks listening to his Council on Foreign Relations speech scratching their heads.

No, FDR did not create Fast Track trade authority. And, JFK did not celebrate its renewal.

Invoking those Democratic icons is an interesting strategy, given that a sizable bloc of House GOP members oppose giving President Obama Fast Track.  The extraordinary authority, which Congress has refused to delegate for 15 of the past 20 years, let a president negotiate and sign a “trade” pact before Congress approved it and guaranteed a no-amendments vote in 90 days regardless of whether the pact met Congress’ objectives.

But maybe the target audience was House Democrats, given that only seven of the Democratic representatives have announced support for legislation introduced  early this year to revive the old Fast Track mechanism.

In his speech, Froman noted the 80th anniversary of the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act (RTAA) of 1934 and declared that the trade authority it established was an antecedent of Fast Track, and that it was used by the Roosevelt administration, renewed 11 times by 1962 and toasted by President Kennedy.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp echoed Froman’s insinuations about   Fast Track: “every president, until now, has partnered with Congress to have this powerful tool to negotiate the best possible trade deals for America.” The talking point is also favored by the Business Roundtable and other corporate groups of the Trade Benefits America Coalition: “Trade Promotion Authority is a partnership between the President and Congress…Since the 1930's, such authority has been critical to the opening of new markets…”

Except, in fact, Fast Track was first hatched by Richard Nixon, not FDR. And it only went into effect in the 1970s, not the 1930s.

Due to its unpopularity, Fast Track was only in effect for five of the last 20 years. But that hasn’t stopped U.S. trade growth. Fast Track was only used on 16 of the hundreds of U.S. trade and commercial pacts that have gone into effect since the 1970s. Trade-expansion-focused President Clinton only had Fast Track for two of his eight years in office, after the House voted down his request for the extraordinary authority in 1998. Yet, Clinton’s administration completed more than 200 trade and commercial agreements with diverse countries.

And, that gets us to the TPA sleight of hand. The “TPA” that was established in the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1934 is “Tariff Proclamation Authority.” It has allowed presidents to declare cuts to tariffs – border taxes on goods – within parameters set by Congress. And yes, presidents have had that authority since the 1930s, including Fast-Trackless Clinton.

In contrast, Fast Track – for which “TPA” was not coincidentally chosen as the preferred rebranding – may be Nixon’s most under-appreciated power grab. For the first time in 200 years of U.S. history, Fast Track empowered the executive branch to “diplomatically legislate” changes to non-trade U.S. domestic policy via “trade” negotiations. Until Fast Track, Congress used five different forms of trade authority over the course of the nation’s history to direct executive branch trade negotiators. None of them granted executive authority beyond tariffs.

In contrast, Fast Track turned “trade” pacts into backdoor means for executive branch officials to set policy on an array of matters otherwise under Congress’ or state legislatures’ constitutional authority: patent and copyright laws; immigration policies; food and product safety standards; financial, health and energy service sector rules; and even government procurement terms. U.S. domestic law must be altered to conform to such “trade” pact terms. Failure to do so can result in indefinite trade sanctions against U.S. exports.

For all the focus on Fast Track’s end-game legislative luge-run of a guaranteed no-amendments, limited-debate vote in 90 days, it was the invasion of Congress’ core policymaking prerogatives that has made Fast Track so toxic. Under Fast Track, the executive branch could ignore – and did so under both Democratic and Republican presidents – Congress’ “trade” pact negotiating objectives and still get the expedited approval processes for whatever it negotiated and signed. That’s why the talking point now being passed around that somehow Fast Track is a means for Congress to exercise its constitutional authority is just silly. 

A member of Congress can love free trade and seek new trade agreements and still find unacceptable the concentration of power in the executive branch that is at the core of the Fast Track form of trade authority. The expansive scope of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement now under negotiation spotlights this reality. Of its 29 chapters, only five pertain to traditional trade matters. Most of the rest of the TPP chapters would set policies on subjects otherwise under the authority of Congress and state legislatures, which would be binding on the United States and not subject to amendment absent approval by all signatory countries.

It is not surprising that the prospects for reestablishment of the expansive old Fast Track delegation of Congress’ constitutional trade and legislative authorities are remote. And that is the case whether or not it is conflated with the old TPA, the new TPA or falsely associated with any beloved president.

The real question is whether the old Fast Track process will be replaced by a new trade authority mechanism that is appropriate for the reality of today’s expansive international commercial negotiations. A modern approach would require an expanded role for Congress from start to finish and much more accountability over executive branch negotiators. 

Categories: Planet Not For Sale