15 May 2015   Leave a comment

The US Congress is apparently rethinking its earlier vote opposing fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade agreement currently being hammered out by 11 Pacific countries.   We actually know very few of the details of the pact as it has been decided thus far since all the discussion have been secret.  One of the most troubling details that we do know about concerns protections for investors.  These clauses are known as investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions which allow investors to sue governments if policy changes or even court rulings substantially affect the value of their investment.  An example of how these tribunals can be used can be found in Argentina and Uruguay where both states passed legislation to reduce smoking and the tobacco companies went to the ISDS and claimed that they should be compensated for the profits lost from these measures.  The cases are still pending.

The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) is an ambitious attempt to map news events all across the globe in real time.  The project monitors new events in more than 65 languages and takes in 600,000 to a million news stories every day.  It then maps the stories geographically and shows “heat maps” of what is going on in the world.  It now has a data base that goes back 30 years and is constantly being refined.  I recommend going to the site and looking at the maps–verbal descriptions do not convey the process well.

US Secretary of State John Kerry  is going to Beijing to try and head off a military confrontation in the South China Sea.  The fact that the Secretary of State himself is going is an index of the seriousness of the matter.  As China continues to build up isolated reefs in contested waters, the US is sending naval vessels to ensure freedom of navigation in the sea.  The hard-line Chinese newspaper, Global Times, made this statement about US actions:

“But if it ventures to violate the bottom line, the US will make the South China Sea a powder keg. Washington will be too naive to think that China will exercise forbearance and self-restraint in that scenario. It should keep in mind that China is a major power with nuclear weapons, and there is no way that US forces can take reckless actions in the South China Sea. Considering China’s proximity to this area and determination to defend its sovereignty, the US, although equipped with the strongest military forces, will stand no chance of overwhelming China. Besides, the long-term chaos will eventually deprive the US of its patronage to other countries in the region, which will only be victimized by the war.”

We will keep an eye of this.

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Posted May 16, 2015 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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