Yes, ‘Free Trade’ and Free Trade – US ‘Journalism’ and Journalism


We have an example of journalism as against ‘journalism’. US economist Dean Baker, more so than others, has been inveighing mightily and continually against the problematic reporting of the ‘journalism’ of the likes of WaPo and NYT, now on issues of ‘free trade’, the TTIP and TPP. Baker reads and responds to such so that others will not have to suffer the indignity or agony. Yet in all this we are pointed to a surprise, and it comes from one of the MSM blogs.

As we will see, Huffington Post, often bulletin board to the corporate Democratic party, is gifted with good journalists – if one has the patience to rummage through the clutter. On the ‘Fast Track’ and TPP and TTIP, its Zach Carter serves as an exemplar on how journalism should be done, something rare in the corporate MSM.

No sooner had Senator Warren highlighted the obvious that even the modestly curious already know, than the US President would plunge deeper into it, and aggressively undermine further his trustworthiness, Obama Fires Back At Elizabeth Warren And Trade Critics, Escalating Democratic Feud.

How Carter distinguishes himself is that he not only reports what the US President says but checks what the President says against the facts, and indicates any discrepancy. And discrepancies there are. One example,

Obama noted the United States has only been sued 17 times in history under such trade enforcement mechanisms, and has won 13 of those cases. That’s true. But it’s also true that corporations have been relying much more on this process in recent years. While the international tribunal cannot overturn U.S. law, it can impose penalties on the United States if it determines a regulation unfairly harms foreign investments. Corporations have increasingly gone through such tribunals to attack environmental and public health regulations abroad.

[bold added for emphasis]

No mere stenography, no regurgitation that misleads those who expect to be informed, and honestly so. Of course, this very vexing issue is but one of the challenges that other much less powerful countries have to contend with in dealing with multinational corporations (MNCs) that receive strong support from their, usually Western, governments.

A cursory comparison should be sufficient to reveal to whom deference should be shown in the areas of expertise and competence. Thus, a prompt and conclusive retort, with input from fellow Senator Sherrod Brown, expert on trade, had to be inevitable. And for his part, HuffPo’s Zach Carter shows he is no ‘flash in the pan’, in this cross-post at common dreams, Elizabeth Warren Tells Obama To Put Up Or Shut Up On Trade. Samples,

“Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules,” Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

Democrats and some Republican critics have been particularly frustrated by Obama’s decision to treat the TPP documents as classified information, which prevents them from responding to Obama’s claims about the pact in detail.

Here the dishonesty is exposed, as the President fails to inform the public of matters such as the secrecy or heavy corporation input in the drafting of the proposed agreements. Carter goes on,

Some of Obama’s claims about TPP on Friday took some creative license with the truth. He said that he wanted a trade deal that would allow American automakers to sell more cars overseas, without mentioning that Ford and autoworker unions do not support the pact. He also said that he had not included any language barring currency manipulation — a key tactic by which Japan and China undercut American production — because it might hamper the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy operations. That scenario would only be possible if the pact defined “currency manipulation” in a particularly bizarre manner.

The meaning of ‘creative license’, clearly a euphemism, becomes apparent as one reads on.

While other countries have had to contend with the World Bank’s ICSID, in existence since 1966, the mechanism now seems to register when it affects the US. However, what makes the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) particularly pernicious to citizens of the affected country is that an investor can demand compensation for loss of future earnings, yes, compensation for loss of future earnings – the the US becomes the ‘Third World’, even as the ‘Third World’ strives to move away from undesirable impecunious ‘serfdom’, outcome of neoliberalism, that ‘Washington Consensus’.

Curious in all this is the mood of indifference or apathy in a US society that boasts so much of its freedom, liberty, and opportunities for all. Yet unrecognised is that its democracy (and political duopoly) is strongly qualified by the word, corporate. Democracy blooms elsewhere, and continues to wither in the US.


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