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Before the Zombie Apocalypse—These 4 Trade Deals Were Ravaging the World!

This time of year, the fabric that separates our world from prowling ghouls is at its thinnest. But what really keeps us at YES! Magazine up at night are the international trade agreements constantly being negotiated by the United States and its partners—each one more terrifying than the last.

These deals have a way of favoring corporations over people.

How can something as pleasant-sounding as “free trade” be more threatening than a zombie apocalypse? The devil’s in the details, and the fine print on some of these agreements is enough to curdle a bucket of blood.

Whether it’s blocking a ban on chocolate-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids, or rolling back post-2008 regulations on Wall Street, these deals have a way of favoring corporations over people. They’re not popular, as you might imagine, and in some cases people’s movements have been able to stop them in their tracks. In response, proponents of the deals have attempted to slip under the radar by conducting negotiations in secret.

Here are four of the scariest deals—and why they're so abominable.

The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 as a re-imagining of an earlier group called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is the mother of all trade bodies and sets the rules for the flow of goods and services between countries. The WTO claims its goal is to “improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries.” But critics say what it really does is force poor nations to open their markets to wealthier ones, who themselves often bend the WTO’s rules.

The WTO also gives companies a place to complain about regulations enacted by democratically elected governments. It has found fault with laws protecting public health, the environment, workers' rights, and other things that would affect industries’ bottom line. Recent rulings have objected to producers labeling certain kinds of tuna as “dolphin safe;” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes that entice kids; and labels that inform consumers what country meat products originated in. The WTO says such labels violate the rights of Mexican and Canadian farmers to a level playing field. The United States sometimes refuses to comply—but risks trade sanctions when it does so.

Perhaps most frightening of all, the WTO (along with NAFTA) has spawned a whole new brood of bilateral and regional deals that take the same approach to trade and development.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if approved, would promote trade between the United States and the European Union.

The deal has some bright spots—for example, it would universalize the plugs for electric cars. But American negotiators are also pushing hard to overturn Europe’s ban on imports of U.S.-grown genetically modified crops. Meanwhile, European negotiators and bankers are trying to set Wall Street free from regulations passed after the financial crisis of 2008. According to the nonprofit research group Public Citizen, they want to roll back the Volcker Rule, which restricts U.S. banks from the riskiest investments, and to block efforts to limit the size of banks.

When President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1993, he sold it to the people of the United States as a job creator. “NAFTA means jobs,” he said. “American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.”

More than 20 years later, the agreement’s dark side is showing. The U.S. government’s own Trade Adjustment Assistance program acknowledges that nearly 900,000 workers in the United States have officially lost their jobs due to the relocation of businesses to Canada or Mexico under NAFTA. Meanwhile, exports of cheap U.S. corn have damaged the livelihoods of Mexican farmers and driven huge waves of migration. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States more than doubled from 4.5 million to 9.8 million.


The Trans Pacific Partnership, if approved, would unite 12 Pacific Rim countries into the world’s largest free trade area, comprising 40 percent of the global economy. When he spoke about the TPP in 2011, President Barack Obama, who has made the deal's passage a major objective of his administration, sounded a lot like Clinton in 1993. Obama said the deal “will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people.”

But leaked sections of the agreement’s secret text show the TPP taking more controversial stances—and it has its tentacles on a breathtaking variety of issues. On health care, U.S. negotiators seem to be working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, trying to extend the rights of patent-holders to charge more money for medicines. On labor, the TPP makes it easier for companies to move manufacturing to low-wage Vietnam, but offers no enforceable provisions to prevent abuse. On the environment, it preserves the status quo, doing little to prevent the illegal logging and overfishing that are taxing the forests and oceans of the region.

Last but not least, advocates of a free Internet are up in arms over sections in the TPP’s intellectual property chapter they say would significantly diminish the free speech rights of web users.

James Trimarco wrote this article and Marc Palm created the comics for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. James is a web editor at YES! and you can follow him at @JamesTrimarco. Marc is an un-schooled artist who has been self-publishing comics and graphically designing since the mid-90's. Find more of his work at

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Categories: Economics

ShareHub: at the Heart of Seoul's Sharing Movement

Shareable Magazine - October 29, 2014 - 07:36

In 2012, Seoul publicly announced its commitment to becoming a sharing city. It has since emerged as a leader of the global sharing movement and serves as a model for cities around the world. Supported by the municipal government and embedded in numerous parts of everyday life in Seoul, the Sharing City project has proven to be an inspiration to city leaders, entrepreneurs, and sharing enthusiasts around the world.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/29 - São Paulo Running Out Of Water, ECB Won't Accept Low Inflation Passively

Chris Martenson - October 29, 2014 - 07:26
  • Sao Paulo running out of water as rain-making Amazon vanishes
  • Paying thousands before health insurance even kicks in
  • Colorado health-insurance buyers may get smaller tax credits in 2015
  • State health insurance costs to jump $40 million in 2015
  • Child poverty rates soar in world's richest countries
  • BOJ Chief Takes Political Heat as Skepticism Grows
  • Japan finance minister: to consider stimulus steps after examining third-quarter data
  • Euro Outflows at Record Pace as ECB Promotes Exodus
  • Sweden cuts interest rates to record low of 0% to boost inflation
  • Noyer: ECB Won't Accept Low Inflation Passively

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Categories: Economics

Keeping Squirrels Out of Your Garden

Chris Martenson - October 28, 2014 - 11:34

Some great tips and ways to help protect your garden from squirrels and other urban garden pests.

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Categories: Economics

Report: US Cities Criminalizing Sharing Food with Homeless

Shareable Magazine - October 28, 2014 - 09:18

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon. Article cross-posted from Common Dreams. Authored by Nadia Prupis.

As the number of U.S. cities criminalizing sharing food with the homeless continues to rise as a result of burdensome requirements on food pantries and individuals, rights groups are condemning the cities for their focus on punishment over solutions.

Categories: Economics

300,000 People Weigh In On the Future of the Internet

Shareable Magazine - October 28, 2014 - 07:41

The Internet is an incredible tool that enables people around the world to connect, share and co-create. But the ever-looming threat of big business and government putting restrictions on our freedom to share online is very real and could impede the things we value most about the Internet.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/28 - Against The Grain, The Push to Get Low-Income Students Through College

Chris Martenson - October 28, 2014 - 07:35
  • Ebola And The Vast Viral Universe
  • Ebola, Natural Cures, And Panic: A Rant
  • Which Hazard Is Better Contained: Ebola or Extreme Economic Inequality?
  • A New Push to Get Low-Income Students Through College
  • Doug Casey’s Views on the Military/Police, Education, Markets & Manipulations
  • The End of the Crisis for Now: America Is Awash in Energy
  • Against The Grain
  • Arctic melt means more severe winters likely, for now

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Categories: Economics

About that Shale Oil 'Miracle'…

Chris Martenson - October 28, 2014 - 05:16

It's been said that humans are rationalizing -- not 'rational' -- animals. The deep truth in that statement is that we humans have strongly-held beliefs that color the information we take in an accept. We're often guilty of recognizing only the data that supports those beliefs while rejecting the rest.

For example, today most people place a great deal of faith in the potential for technology to fix whatever predicaments society may face in the future. And they support that view with cherry-picked data, while conveniently overlooking evidence suggesting technology is instead a sword with two edges.

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Categories: Economics

The Hard Facts About Shale Oil

Chris Martenson - October 28, 2014 - 05:15
Executive Summary
  • Why prices under $100 per barrel just aren't cash flow positive for shale oil producers
  • VIDEO: all you need to know about the shale oil industry
  • Why the Boom/Bust cycle is swinging to 'Bust' for shale companies
  • Why a prolonged 'Bust' in oil prices will create massive economic shockwaves

If you have not yet read Part 1: About That Shale 'Miracle'... available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

The Shale Reality

Now, let me build on the case that not only are shale companies not profitable at $50 per barrel oil, but they are often not profitable at prices nearly 100% higher than that.

I’m not about to make the case that all shale operators are unprofitable or about to go bust on the plays, but I am going to make the case that any sweeping statements like “technology will bring us Shale 2.0” are utterly adrift from the evidence at our disposal.

Let’s go back to September 2014, before any oil price weakness had crept into the picture.  At that point in time, according the WSJ author, the shale operators should have been swimming in cash.

Well, that’s just not the case. And some of them were losing their shirts:

Sumitomo’s US shale oil foray turns sour

Sept 29, 2014

Sumitomo Corp of Japan has drawn a line under its disastrous two-year foray into shale oil in the US, with writedowns connected to the project almost completely erasing its full-year earnings.

On Monday, Sumitomo, the fourth biggest of Japan’s trading companies by market capitalisation, said that an impairment loss of Y170bn ($1.6bn) on a “tight oil” project in west Texas would form the bulk of Y240bn of charges for the fiscal year to March 2015.


Hmmmm. I guess Sumitomo just failed to use enough smart technology or something, because otherwise how is it possible to lose $1.6 billion at a time when oil was solidly priced in the $100 range?

Sarcasm aside, the truth is that it’s all too easy to lose money in the shale plays, something I believe is already completely indicated by the negative free cash flows of the industry. 

In fact, that negative free cash flow evidence tells me that...

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Categories: Economics

Living the New Economy Convergence Draws Passionate Crowd

Shareable Magazine - October 27, 2014 - 21:29

For four days this past week, hundreds of activists, speakers, panelists, thinkers, visionaries, and caring citizens came together in Oakland, California for the first annual Bay Area Living the New Economy Convergence. Over breakfasts, lunches, presentations and round tables, they discussed ideas and tools for shifting away from the current profit-driven system and into a new economic paradigm, one that puts people and ecology at the heart of business models.

Categories: Economics

Living on the Edge @unMonastery

Shareable Magazine - October 27, 2014 - 10:11

Arriving at the unMonastery in Matera, Italy after so many months revived me. I felt as a saint being greeted so effusively as I made the rounds of the building where the unMonasterians once resided and would once again for the duration of the social innovation conference, Living on the Edge 4 (#LOTE4), the theme of which would

Categories: Economics

VIDEO: Chris on Good Morning Peru

Chris Martenson - October 27, 2014 - 10:10

Chris and I landed in Peru late last night, and just a few short hours later, Chris joined the cast of 
"Good Morning Peru" to talk about the changes the Three Es are bringing to all countries around the globe:

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/27 - The Decline Of CA Agriculture, How China And Gold Will Shape The Future

Chris Martenson - October 27, 2014 - 08:40
  • The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails
  • How China And Gold Will Shape The Future
  • An American Dream Deferred
  • Nurse Held in Ebola Quarantine Will Be Allowed to Go Home, Christie Says
  • Under Pressure, Cuomo Says Ebola Quarantines Can Be Spent at Home
  • Saudi Arabia: Producing More Crude, Selling Less?
  • Deflation in the euro zone is all too close and extremely dangerous
  • The Decline of California Agriculture Has Begun

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Categories: Economics

Can New Work Really Work?

Shareable Magazine - October 27, 2014 - 08:19

On a recent Monday morning at 9 a.m., when most of America was heading to the office, a bookish, unassuming, middle-aged man named Blair Evans gave a talk about the work he’s been doing in Detroit. Work that, if manifested in the way he and his team are planning, has the ability to profoundly change Detroit, and the world.

Categories: Economics

Economics As If Future Generations Mattered

Shareable Magazine - October 27, 2014 - 07:56

Photo credit: Cia de Foto. Cross-posted from On the Commons, authored by Kaitlin Butler and Carolyn Raffensperger.

Categories: Economics

How Municipalities Can (and Should) Support the Solidarity Economy

Shareable Magazine - October 27, 2014 - 07:35

The Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a multi-faceted alternative to traditional capitalism made up of coops, sustainability initiatives, gift economics, community organizations, fair trade projects and more. Around the world, there is a strong and growing solidarity movement, but in order for SSE initiatives to thrive, they need support.

Categories: Economics

Off the Cuff: The War On Savers

Chris Martenson - October 26, 2014 - 11:58

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and John Rubino discuss:

  • The State of Silver
    • Notes from this year's Silver Summit
  • The War On Savers
    • Further exploration of the Fed's 'financial repression'
  • The Inevitable Market Crash
    • More predictable than ever
  • The Broken American Dream
    • Out of the reach for most now

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/26 - Institutional Fish Ate Your Pension Plan, Paying Till It Hurts

Chris Martenson - October 26, 2014 - 08:49
  • Institutional Fish Ate Your Pension Plan
  • No court hearings for civil cases 
  • As Insurers Try to Limit Costs, Providers Hit Patients With More Separate Fees
  • Off-grid German village banks on wind, sun, pig manure
  • Finland keen to tie-up with India in cleantech, ICT, education

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Categories: Economics

NASA: Revisiting Our Vulnerabiity To Solar Flares

Chris Martenson - October 25, 2014 - 15:10

Dr Guhathakurta returns to the podcast this week to discuss a large-scale solar flare that nearly hit Earth back in July of 2012 (a direct hit missed us by about 1 week), as well as to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the warning system we have in place to alert us to such dangers, and the continuing vulnerability our system have to such an event.

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Categories: Economics