23 September 2015

Uruguay is Now My Favorite Latin American Nation

Last year, they legalized Marijuana, and now they have regected the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) international trade deal:
Often referred to as the Switzerland of South America, Uruguay is long accustomed to doing things its own way. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state. It also has an unusually large middle class for the region and unlike its giant neighbors to the north and west, Brazil and Argentina, is largely free of serious income inequality.

Two years ago, during José Mujica’s presidency, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana in Latin America, a continent that is being ripped apart by drug trafficking and its associated violence and corruption of state institutions.

Now Uruguay has done something that no other semi-aligned nation on this planet has dared to do: it has rejected the advances of the global corporatocracy.


Earlier this month Uruguay’s government decided to end its participation in the secret negotiations of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). After months of intense pressure led by unions and other grassroots movements that culminated in a national general strike on the issue – the first of its kind around the globe – the Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez bowed to public opinion and left the US-led trade agreement.


TiSA involves more countries than TTIP and TPP combined: The United States and all 28 members of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.

Together, these 52 nations form the charmingly named “Really Good Friends of Services” group, which represents almost 70% of all trade in services worldwide. Until its government’s recent u-turn Uruguay was supposed to be the 53rd Good Friend of Services.

TiSA has spent the last two years taking shape behind the hermetically sealed doors of highly secure locations around the world. According to the agreement’s provisional text, the document is supposed to remain confidential and concealed from public view for at least five years after being signed. Even the World Trade Organization has been sidelined from negotiations.
But thanks to whistle blowing sites like WikiLeaks, the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, crucial details have seeped to the surface. Here’s a brief outline of what is known to date (for more specifics click here, here and here):
1.TiSA would “lock in” the privatization of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands.
2.TiSA would restrict signatory governments’ right to regulate stronger standards in the public’s interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses.
3.TiSA would limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry, at a time when the global economy is still struggling to recover from a crisis caused primarily by financial deregulation. More specifically, if signed the trade agreement would:
  • Restrict the ability of governments to place limits on the trading of derivative contracts — the largely unregulated weapons of mass financial destruction that helped trigger the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis.
  • Bar new financial regulations that do not conform to deregulatory rules. Signatory governments will essentially agree not to apply new financial policy measures which in any way contradict the agreement’s emphasis on deregulatory measures.
  • Prohibit national governments from using capital controls to prevent or mitigate financial crises. The leaked texts prohibit restrictions on financial inflows – used to prevent rapid currency appreciation, asset bubbles and other macroeconomic problems – and financial outflows, used to prevent sudden capital flight in times of crisis.
  • Require acceptance of financial products not yet invented. Despite the pivotal role that new, complex financial products played in the Financial Crisis, TISA would require governments to allow all new financial products and services, including ones not yet invented, to be sold within their territories.
4. TiSA would ban any restrictions on cross-border information flows and localization requirements for ICT service providers. A provision proposed by US negotiators would rule out any conditions for the transfer of personal data to third countries that are currently in place in EU data protection law. In other words, multinational corporations will have carte blanche to pry into just about every facet of the working and personal lives of the inhabitants of roughly a quarter of the world’s 200-or-so nations.

As I wrote in LEAKED: Secret Negotiations to Let Big Brother Go Global, if TiSA is signed in its current form – and we will not know exactly what that form is until at least five years down the line – our personal data will be freely bought and sold on the open market place without our knowledge; companies and governments will be able to store it for as long as they desire and use it for just about any purpose.
Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, Uruguay doesn't count for a whole lot, the whole country has a population is less than that of Los Angeles, but it is the first time that any country involved in the negotiations has pulled out, and should make it easier for another nation to take this step, which means that that standing up to the interests of the US, which are primarily to support data brokers, pharma, IP restrictions, and the banksters.

This is a good thing for the people of Uruguay, and if it leads to more countries pulling out of this agreement, it will be a good thing for the world.


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