Jan 15, 2014 - Economic Colonialism: Free Trade, the Obama Administration & the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal by Matt Remle

Twenty years ago, the Zapatista’s burst onto the global stage with their January 1st, 1994 uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. Central to the Zapatista uprising was deep poverty amongst the regions indigenous populations, continued incursion on remaining lands and resources and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA, which went into effect on January 1st, 1994, was viewed as a serious threat to Indian farmers who worried it would lead to a land grab of their few remain lands by multinational corporations and lead to a flooding of the Mexican market of cheap U.S. imports.

Prior to NAFTA, plots of land had been permanently deeded to Mexico’s Indian farmers, one of the victories of the Mexican revolution led by Emiliano Zapata. NAFTA required that Mexico change its constitution to allow for foreign ownership of these lands, as well as, for the plots to be able to be seized and sold by creditors. Additionally, NAFTA opened the flood gates for heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural products to be dumped into the Mexican market.

Emiliano Zapata

Twenty years after the uprising, the Zapatista’s fears about the impacts of NAFTA have been realized, as the twin assaults from losing land to multinational corporations and the flooding of the Mexican market with cheap food imports, led to the displacement of an estimated 2 million Indian famers off their lands.

Indian farmers migrated in mass to large cities looking for employment sometimes taking, in supreme irony, agricultural jobs for U.S. multinationals in Mexico, or migrating north across that imaginary border into the U.S.

NAFTA proved to be a death sentence for Indian farmers, as predicted by the Zapatitas.

Another one of NAFTA’s controversial aspects is found in Chapter 11, its investor rights chapter. Chapter 11 allows for foreign investors, who believe their profits are being harmed due to another countries environmental and/or public health regulations, to be able to sue governments for damages, all of which are conducted in a secretive trade tribunal system.

The U.S. Metalclad Corporation, a waste-disposal company, famously won a $16.5 million dollar settlement when it sued Mexico for not allowing the reopening of one of its waste disposal systems that had been found to be contaminating local water supplies.

Since NAFTA’s passage, the United States in particular, has become a champion of free trade deals around the globe with more than a dozen free trade agreements signed with numerous countries and dozens more proposed.

Currently, the Obama Administration is engaged in “secretive” negations with 11 other Pacific Nations around the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP). Secretive in the fact that the Obama Administration has kept the negotiations classified effectively keeping even Congressional staffers from seeing the text of the negotiations. What little known of the TPP comes from Wikileaks.http://wikileaks.org/tpp/

Anti-TPP protest photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/blinkofanaye/7984403241/

The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Combined with another Obama trade initiative between the U.S. and European Union (EU), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), TTIP and the TPP would cover more than 60 per cent of the global GDP.

If passed, the TPP, would allow multinational corporations to be able to directly challenge foreign nation’s laws and regulations where they felt such laws and regulations negatively impacted their profit motive. Think NAFTA’s chapter 11 on steroids.

TPP has drawn global protests

Despite the secretive negotiations, several members of Congress have pushed for the fast tracking of TPP, including Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont).

These free trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the proposed TPP and TTIP, and their ability to allow multinational corporations and investors to trample Nation’s sovereignty in the name of profit are nothing more than the rebranding of a modern day form of colonialism, economic colonialism.

Anti-TPP protest in Tokyo March 2013. Reuters

As Native peoples, we are keenly aware of foreign peoples imposing their will and might on our lands, resources, and livelihood in the name of exploitation, profit, and colonialism. With ever increased encroaching on our remaining lands and resources we should remain vigilant in protecting and preserving what little remains.

These trade agreements and their ability to rewrite environmental protections and regulations remind me of the 1st Nations struggle against the Harper regime in its rewriting of clean water protections for tar sands exploitation.

We mustn’t be naïve in believing that the colonial system that is the U.S. government is set up to do anything but benefit the goals of colonialism. While we might be able to “elect” congressional members who are more supportive of tribal needs and interest, we must refrain from spending too much time and energy on trying to “reform” the colonial system, for its interest are to serve its interest.

For the sake of Maka Ina and our grandchildren to come, we must began to devote our energies in creating, building, and fostering true indigenous freedom and sovereignty in the way that our ancestors knew. We should push for energy and economic independence away from the colonial government of the United States.

In the same vein we need to stand in true solidarity, as both Sitting Bull and Tecumseh visioned, with all our indigenous relatives across Maka Ina as colonialism, disguised as Free Trade, spreads around the globe.

To learn more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal go to http://stoptpp.org/

Mitakuye oyasin
Wakinyan Waanatan (Matt Remle)

Last Real Indians