President Obama Trying to “Fast Track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a Trade Pact That Could Be Worse Than NAFTA

President Exec SealSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Know much about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? If you don’t, it’s not your fault. According to Zoë Carpenter (The Nation), Congress hasn’t heard much about TPP either. That’s because this so-called “free trade” agreement is being negotiated in “extreme” secrecy by representatives of twelve different countries—the United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore,  and Vietnam.  Carpenter says that the Obama administration has ignored “repeated calls from legislators to make the process more transparent, while pressing to finalize the agreement this year.”

In his article titled Multinationals Are Plotting to Steamroll What’s Left of Our Democracy to Make Huge Profits, Dave Johnson says that the TPP negotiating process “has been rigged from the start.” While hundreds of representatives of corporate-interest groups have been providing their input— “representatives of labor, human rights, civil justice, consumer, environmental and other stakeholder groups have been kept away from the negotiating table.” Members of Congress have not seen the agreement yet. United States Senators “have been barred from seeing negotiation points or drafts.” The public has been denied any access to TPP negotiating texts. We the people—as well as our elected representatives—are being “kept in the dark” as to what is going on behind closed doors. Yet, “600 corporate advisers” have been involved in the negotiation process. Multi-national corporations like Monsanto and Walmart are helping to craft the agreement.

Most of the information that we have on the TPP trade agreement has come from “drafts leaked by participants dissatisfied with one provision or another.”

In May, Erika Eichelberger provided some information about TPP in her Mother Jones article titled The Biggest Secret Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of, Explained. She says that “trade experts” claim that trade deal negotiations are always conducted under a certain level of secrecy. This supposedly makes it “easier for countries to negotiate amongst themselves without too much noise from advocacy groups and others inside countries.” Bryan Riley, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said, “That is how trade deals have worked…if they are made public, all interested groups can start tearing things apart before it’s even done.”

Eichelberger argues that “there is precedent for releasing proposed trade deal information to the public.” She wrote: “A full draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas was released in 2001 during negotiations on that 34-nation pact; a draft text of the recently-completed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was released; and the World Trade Organization posts negotiating texts on its website.”

David Brodwin, a cofounder and board member of American Sustainable Business Council, claims that TPP is not merely a trade pact because it would protect legacy industries from competition and would strip governments of the means to manage their own economies. Brodwin says that TPP has been “positioned” as a simple trade agreement that would “harmonize tariffs and other trade rules and promote trade among the countries involved.” He says, however, that the pact has been described by critics as a “stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny” and one that could “severely curtail government authority at all levels.”

Writing for The Nation, Lori Wallach said that TPP had been “cleverly misbranded” as a trade agreement by “its corporate boosters.” According to Wallach, that’s why “it has cruised along under the radar” since George W. Bush “initiated negotiations in 2008.” Although the Obama administration “paused the talks” for a while in order to develop an “approach compatible with candidate Obama’s pledges to replace the old NAFTA-based trade model,” the negotiations were restarted where Bush had left off by late 2009.

Wallach suggests we think of TPP “as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny.” She notes that just two of the twenty-six chapters of the pact cover traditional trade matters. She says the other chapters “embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation.” She says TPP includes investor safeguards that would “ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources”—and adds that it would “severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.”

A Broad Range of Special Interest Giveaways

In his article titled Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Is No Deal At All, Brodwin lists some of the “most problematic aspects of TPP”:

Many provisions of TPP have little to do with trade per se. They simply promote the interests of powerful global industry groups and use legal and political mechanisms to limit true competition in the market place. For example:

  • Provisions of SOPA, the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” which was rejected last year by Congress. SOPA would give a competitive advantage to the film industry and other content-creators while restricting innovation on the internet.
  • Provisions that would extend patent protection on pharmaceuticals while restricting governments from negotiating lower prices.
  • Provisions that would privilege major banks and financial institutions over credit unions and the emerging sector of public banks.
  • Provisions that would disadvantage organic farmers and others who adopt safer and more environmentally-sound agricultural practices.
  • Provisions that would extend the dominance of coal and oil and hinder alternative energy producers, by blocking regulations and limiting deployment of smart grid and other infrastructure.

Brodwin added that the TPP pact would even prevent communities from making the decision about whether or not to allow fracking in their area. Some critics have referred to TPP as “NAFTA on steroids.”

Wallach:

Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion. And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date.

At a Senate banking Committee hearing in May, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) cautioned, “There are growing murmurs about Wall Street’s efforts to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership…as [a] vehicle…to water down the Dodd-Frank Act. In other words, trying to do quietly through trade agreements what they can’t get done in public view with the lights on and people watching.”

TPP Tribunals

Countries that are signatories to the trade pact “will have to change their policies to conform to the agreement.” What does that mean? It would require a dismantling of “any regulations, safeguards or incentives” the countries had enacted “to support their economies and provide better lives for their citizens.” In fact, a system of tribunals would be established in order “to hold governments to account.” Corporations would be allowed to sue governments “to demand the relaxation of standards, and could claim damages from governments that failed to conform.”

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership “represents an about-face by President Obama, who as a candidate pledged to replace the NAFTA model with a US trade policy that protected workers and the environment.” OWS notes that some members of the US Business Coalition for TPP—namely Microsft, Time Warner, and Walt Disney—were among top donors to Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

On Fast Tracking TPP & Secrecy

President Obama is seeking Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority for TPP. This would permit Obama to sign the trade agreement “without Congressional approval.” The signed agreement would then be sent to Congress to be “voted on after the fact under a special restricted procedure that forces a vote in 90 days, limits debate, and prevents Congress from responding to public pressure to amend the agreement’s most egregious anti-public interest provisions.” Zoë Carpenter says that allowing “fast-track” authorization, would limit the ability of Congress “to address three major concerns with the TPP: the potentially harmful economic impacts of the deal, the very real prospect of the agreement superseding domestic policy in areas ranging from internet privacy to environmental and financial regulations and an unbalanced negotiating process and its likely outcome, both tipped towards corporate rather than public interest.”

In her Mother Jones article, Eichelberger reported that the secrecy shrouding the TPP negotiations “has some lawmakers and advocacy groups up in arms.” She said that several members of Congress had called on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) requesting the  release of the TPP draft agreement to the public, but to no avail. It seems time is running out for “non-corporate” interested parties to find out what is in the trade agreement before it’s signed by the twelve countries and goes into effect. It hasn’t even been made clear “whether members of Congress will ever be able to see the entire contents of the massive trade deal before it’s finalized.” It appears that the public—and maybe our elected representatives—will remain in the dark until after the Trans Pacific Partnership is a done deal.

Members of the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP

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Dennis Kucinich on Trans-Pacific Partnership

How the TPP can rewrite US domestic laws

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (EFF)

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SOURCES

Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Is No Deal At All (U.S.News)

AFL-CIO Campaigns Against Trans-Pacific Partnership (Firedoglake)

Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Remove What’s Left Of American Democracy (Firedoglake)

Multinationals Are Plotting to Steamroll What’s Left of Our Democracy to Make Huge Profits: We’ve got to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s being drawn up in Washington before it becomes law. (AlterNet)

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Why So Secretive? The Trans-Pacific Partnership as Global Coup (Truth-out)

Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks: Senators Demand Access To Controversial Documents After Leak (Huffington Post)

Monsanto and Walmart Influence Secret TPP Negotiations (New American)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Closed-Door Deal To Establish Corporate Power (Occupy Wall Street)

NAFTA on Steroids: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy. (The Nation)

Keeping a Massive Trade Deal Out of the Fast Lane (The Nation)

The Biggest Secret Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard Of, Explained: The United States is nearing the end of negotiations on a massive free trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here’s what it’s all about. (Mother Jones)

 

90 thoughts on “President Obama Trying to “Fast Track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a Trade Pact That Could Be Worse Than NAFTA

  1. Elaine,

    Thank you once again for a scrupulously, detailed and researched blog post, that provides us with very valuable information. We must remember that Bill Clinton pushed through NAFTA and that centrist Democrats like our President are no more than the velvet glove of Corporatism covering the iron fist of oppression.

  2. “it has cruised along under the radar” since George W. Bush “initiated negotiations in 2008.” … ooh, ooh

    I’m beginning to believe there isn’t a program Junior created that Obama hasn’t eventually fallen in love with.

  3. If this goes through, I will be joining the Tea baggers to seek impeachment of Obama. This is a fundamental threat to us.

  4. Great Article Elaine! It makes you wonder if you should waste your time voting or do what Booker T Washington advised: Stay out of politics, and better yourself, to earn a ‘decent’ standard of living.

  5. Passage of Trans Pacific Partnership Would Be Win for Corporations, Loss for the 99%
    by Jim Goodman
    9/6/13
    https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/06-9

    Excerpt:
    In the early years of the United States we had, and enforced, strong trade tariffs, it was necessary to protect farmers and businesses from unfair foreign competition.

    Now, that we are an Empire, we demand free access to foreign markets for our small businesses and farmers. No, we demand market access for our corporations. Trade agreements are written with the financial interests of corporations in mind.

    This is not new, trade policy, when imposed by an Empire, is not for the benefit of the people, but rather the Empire or those who control it.

    The British Crown instituted the Tea Act of 1773 granting the British East India Company (one of the worlds first multi-national corporations) a monopoly on tea sales to the American colonies, — a bailout policy to get the East India Company out of debt.

    Back then, when people had an interest in governing themselves, the colonists responded with the Boston Tea Party— which was an act of rebellion against corporate control as much as, or perhaps more so, than an act of opposition to British Rule.

    Now, our government, which is supposed to represent the people, places the interests of corporations and banks ahead of the interests of the people.

    The US government has, over the past 20 years, entered a number of international trade agreements. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), FTAA (Free Trade Area of The Americas), WTO (World Trade Organization), CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) and now the Obama administration is intent on fast tracking TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

    We are told that these agreements are a win-win for everyone, but history has shown that someone has to loose. WTO,NAFTA and the rest have done one thing very well, increased corporate profit.

    To increase corporate profits these trade agreements have:

    – moved living wage jobs to economies where they have become slave labor jobs.
    – busted unions and fired union organizers
    – moved food production to wherever food can be produced at the lowest cost
    – increased food imports to the extent that food safety inspections are nearly non-existent
    – aggressively promoted GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and the corporations that produce them
    – pushed US agriculture into a system of commodity cropping and CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations)
    – pushed indigenous farmers worldwide off the land and into urban slums
    – made farm workers and livestock expendable commodities
    – devalued the place of women in agriculture

  6. Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Global Revolt Against Corporate Domination
    Wednesday, 10 July 2013
    By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
    Truthout | News Analysis
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17472-stopping-the-tpp-a-victory-in-the-global-revolt-against-corporate-domination

    Excerpt:
    We are in the midst of an epic battle between the people of the world and transnational corporations. Wealthy governments and corporations are merging in a global system in which private corporations have absolute power over your life. This is a battle the people can win and when we do it will show that we can defeat corporate power on issue after issue.

    The 1999 battle in Seattle to stop the World Trade Organization (WTO) from granting increased power to transnational corporations and the negative consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created broad public awareness about the ways that ‘free trade’ hurts people and the planet. As a result, in the past few decades, the WTO has effectively been unable to move forward with its neoliberal economic agenda. And the United States was forced to move to smaller country-by-country trade agreements, many of which were stopped by public pressure.

    The Obama administration is currently mired in an ambitious project to accomplish both the continuation of the WTO’s agenda and a restructuring of NAFTA in ways that place corporate property rights over protection of people and the environment. Using the friendly term, ‘partnership,’ the administration is negotiating a sweeping free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could potentially involve the entire Pacific Rim as well as a sister agreement with European nations. This is being done largely in secret and in a way that subverts the democratic process.

    Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who now has a lucrative job in the private sector advising transnational corporations for the law firm Gibson Dunn, said that if people knew what was in the TPP, there would be no way to get it signed into law. As he told one interviewer, if the text were made public negotiators would be walking away from the negotiations because they would be very unpopular.

    The new US Trade Representative, Obama’s classmate Michael Froman who worked at CitiGroup, and the more than 600 corporate advisers involved in writing the TPP, have direct access to the text of the treaty, but members of Congress have only limited access and the public and media are excluded. Recent calls for transparency by members of Congress have been denied, so the extent of what we know comes from leaks.

    We do know that the TPP is less about trade and more about entrenching corporate property rights. It will establish a judicial system that gives corporations greater power than sovereign nations and bypasses the democratic process. The TPP will affect the global economy so that corporations control all aspects of our lives from wages, food safety, the price of medications and our rights to clean water and air to Internet freedom and more.

    Corporate Property Rights and Profits Come First

    Protests in Seattle in 1999 were successful in stopping the WTO meetings being held there. The next set of meetings took place in Doha, Qatar, a place of highly restricted access, in 2001. The Doha Round still has not concluded because the member nations have not been able to come to a consensus, particularly because of the unwillingness of the US to give up agricultural subsidies.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership and it’s sister, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, known as “TAFTA”), are the Obama administration’s response to the failure of the WTO. These two treaties will aim to not only give multinational corporations all of the deregulation and legal rights they sought through the WTO, but are intended to go even further. With the inclusion of Canada and Mexico, the Obama administration will live up to its promise to renegotiate NAFTA, but not in the way that he alluded to during his 2008 presidential campaign.

  7. Democracy Now!:

    Leaked “Trans-Pacific Partnership” Draft: Global Corporate Dictatorship (pt. 1/2)

    Leaked “Trans-Pacific Partnership” Draft: Global Corporate Dictatorship (pt. 2/2)

  8. Bron, big surprise that they refused to cite the Domincan Republic for outrageous breach of CAFTA! That is why all of these so called free trade agreements need to either be repealed outright, or radically modified.

  9. I continue to feel that many of the crisises that we get enmeshed in are really distractions so that corporations can destroy our country. Am I just getting to cynical?

  10. pdm,

    Thanks, I have seen Taibbi’s article. I always pick up a copy of Rolling Stone when he has an article in it. I had considered writing a post about the public pension story this weekend–but I decided to go with TPP as I had already done a lot of research on the subject. I still may write a guest blog about the pensions.

    Have you read Taibbi’s book “Griftopia?”

  11. Justice Holmes,

    If you aren’t seeing that pattern, you aren’t paying attention. I had a couple of ideas for columns this weekend that died on the vine from what I call “bloatcreep” – a neologism combining the terms “information bloat” and “scope creep”. “Bloatcreep” is when you start digging into a subject that appears fairly narrow in focus only to find that just beneath the surface, there is a lot more information with a much broader relevance than is appropriate for a short form column or article. Very often when I run into this issue, it’s because of the onion like nature of corporations and/or governmental agencies using nesting (plans within plans) as an obscuring technique. When you peel back the upper layers is when that pattern becomes most apparent. Very much of what passes as news anymore is indeed misdirection. At my grimmest most cynical moments, it reminds me of the following famous film conversation:

    Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that’s not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?

    Neo: No.

    Morpheus: Why not?

    Neo: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.

    Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

    Neo: The Matrix.

    Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

    Neo: Yes.

    Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

    Neo: What truth?

    Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.” [emphasis added]

    But the prison walls I keep glimpsing through the fog of misinformation is for more than your mind. It’s for your whole life. Cynical is inevitable. The reactions of depression, frustration and righteous anger are somewhat more problematic.

    I’m normally a pretty happy person. However, I’ve had a straight month with a steady diet of bloatcreep. It has been a grim diet indeed. My spirit is lagging. Every story I look in to reveals a deeper and darker story behind it, but it’s not the cynical that’s wearing me down.

    It’s the cynical that’s keeping me going.

    That and the words of Buddha (also used by the Oracle in the aforementioned film series).

    Everything that has a beginning has an end.

    No, Justice Holmes. You aren’t too cynical. You’re paying attention. You’re awake. And we need more of that in the world. One cannot fix a problem until one can define its parameters. The first step in that definition process is always “pay attention”.

  12. Congressional Report: US Is Negotiating TPP as if Fast Track Authority Still Exists and its IP Provisions Go Beyond International Standards
    Electronic Frontier Foundation
    9/7/12
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/09/congressional-report-us-negotiating-tpp

    Excerpt:
    Fast Track Authority

    International trade agreements negotiated under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—also known as the fast track authority—are reviewed by Congress under limited debate, on an accelerated time frame and are subject to a yes or no vote by Congress without any amendments. This expedited consideration is conditioned on the President observing certain statutory obligations in negotiating trade agreements, including the notification and consultation of Congress. The purpose of the TPA is to preserve the constitutional role of Congress to regulate foreign commerce in consideration of implementing legislation for trade agreements that require changes in domestic law, while also bolstering the negotiating credibility of the executive branch by assuring that a trade agreement, once signed, will not be changed during the legislative process.

    The CRS starts the report by making an important point in regard to this TPP implementation process, saying:

    “The present negotiations are not being conducted under the auspices of formal trade promotion authority (TPA)—the latest TPA expired on July 1, 2007—although the Administration informally is following the procedures of the former TPA. If TPP implementing legislation is brought to Congress, TPA may need to be considered if the legislation is not to be subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection. Finally, Congress may seek to weigh in on the addition of new members to the negotiations, before or after the negotiations conclude.”

    Although it has expired, the Obama Administration has proceeded to negotiate the proposed TPP as if the TPA were in effect. The fact that the Obama is negotiating TPP without a renewed TPA has raised questions from public interest organizations, academics, and members of Congress in regard to the future constitutionality and implementation of TPP into US law. They have also commented on the credibility of the negotiations and positions pushed forward by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), since there is no assurance that Congress cannot amend any US commitments.

    In a book titled “The Rise and Fall of the Fast Track Authority”, Todd Tucker and Lori Wallach from Public Citizen comment on this fast track mechanism:

    “Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress writes the laws and sets our trade policy. Yet, over the last few decades, presidents have increasingly grabbed that power through a mechanism known as Fast Track. This undemocratic procedure has facilitated controversial commercial pacts like NAFTA and the WTO, which restrict nations’ trade and non-trade policies.”

  13. Gene H. 1, September 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Neo: What truth?

    Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

    ============================
    I like that analogy too (The Matriarch of The Matrix).

    We are all going to have to be “the one” it would seem.

  14. ‘Winning the Race to the Bottom’: Obama Moves to Fast-Track the TPP
    Critics slam highly secretive deal as a tool for U.S. and corporate power
    – Sarah Lazare, staff writer
    9/19/13
    https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/09/19-9

    Excerpt:
    As Obama moves to fast-track the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), critics are blasting the highly-secretive trade deal as “NAFTA on steroids” and a tool for advancing U.S. and corporate power.

    “If impoverishing working people around the world is the goal, then the trade policies like this are working quite effectively,” Chris Townsend, political director for United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), told Common Dreams. “This is the grand-daddy of trade deals, a very destructive project, and it is happening completely under the radar.”

    Meeting with his corporation-heavy Export Council, President Barack Obama declared Thursday he intends to push for renewal of Trade Promotion Authority legislation to allow him to fast-track so-called trade agreements by giving Congress a yes or no vote but taking away powers to amend.

    The statement comes as the U.S. continues negotiations with 11 other countries on the TPP, with the stated goal of wrapping up the deal by the year’s end. The U.S. is also pursuing a similar trade deal with the European Union…

    Leaks have also revealed that the U.S. is pushing to expand the power of pharmaceutical companies to establish monopolies on life-saving drugs—a move that would boost drug prices while cutting access.

    Even laws regulating tobacco companies could end up on the chopping block in this agreement.

    Critics charge that this corporate model of global development deepens inequalities and depresses wages for all countries involved and sets dismal standards in global trade. “I always tell our union members: there’s a race to the bottom, and we’re winning,” Townsend told Common Dreams.

  15. Fast Track
    An Undemocratic Path to Unfair “Trade”
    Public Citizen
    http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=500

    Excerpt:
    Fast Track was an extreme and rarely-used procedure that empowered executive branch negotiators advised by large corporations to skirt Congress and the public and use “trade” agreements to rewrite policies that affect our daily lives – from the stability of our jobs to the safety of our food. Past “trade” deals rammed through Congress under Fast Track have empowered foreign corporations to attack domestic health and environmental policies, enabled pharmaceutical firms to raise medicine prices, and equipped banks with a tool to roll back financial regulation.

    Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is supposed to write the laws and set trade policy. For 200 years, these key checks and balances helped ensure that no one branch of government had too much power. But, over the last few decades, presidents have seized those congressional powers using the Fast Track mechanism. hide

    Fast Track has only been used 16 times in the history of our nation, often to enact the most controversial of “trade” pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Meanwhile, hundreds of less controversial U.S. trade agreements have been implemented without resort to Fast Track, showing that the extraordinary procedure is not needed to approve trade agreements.

    Fast Track allowed the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for “trade” pacts, decide the agreements’ contents, and then negotiate and sign the agreements — all before Congress had a vote on the matter. Normal congressional committee processes were forbidden, meaning that the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy legislation on its own with no review or amendments. These executive-authored bills altered wide swaths of U.S. law unrelated to trade – food safety, immigration visas, energy policy, medicine patents and more – to conform our domestic policies to each agreement’s requirements. And, remarkably, Fast Track let the executive branch control Congress’ voting schedule. Unlike any other legislation, both the House and Senate were required to vote on a Fast Tracked trade agreement within 90 days of the White House submitting it. No floor amendments were allowed and debate was limited.

    Because Fast Track’s dramatic shift in the balance of powers between branches of the U.S. government occurred via an arcane procedural mechanism, it obtained little scrutiny – until recently. Its use by Democratic and Republican presidents alike to seize Congress’ constitutional prerogatives, “diplomatically legislate” non-trade policy, and preempt state policy, has made it increasingly controversial.

  16. I smell BS. Congress doesn’t care to have a say in this – they don’t read trade pacts anyway, they just sign them. Hell, they don’t read most things they sign….

  17. Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides ‘Assault On Democratic Government’
    By Zach carter
    Posted: 06/18/2013
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/alan-grayson-trans-pacific-partnership_n_3456167.html

    Excerpt:
    WASHINGTON — Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration’s transparency record and its treatment of classified information.

    The only publicly available information on the terms of the deal has come from leaks, some of which have alarmed public health experts, environmentalist groups and consumer advocates. According to a document leaked in the summer of 2012, the deal would allow corporations to directly challenge government laws and regulations in international courts.

    Members of Congress have been provided with only limited access to the negotiation documents. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks. The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the full negotiation text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters. Staffers on some committees are granted access to portions of the text under their committee’s jurisdiction.

    “This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost. “They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”

    How and why the administration decides to make information classified has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, after the Associated Press learned that the Department of Justice had been monitoring the records of more than 20 phone numbers — including the personal phones of reporters and editors — as part of a government leak investigation. Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures of two broad National Security Agency surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post have sparked a heated debate over what kinds of leaks should be prosecuted as criminal.

    “What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it,” Grayson said, referring to the draft Trans-Pacific deal. “It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it’s alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away.”

  18. not tryin to take this important article off topic. But check THIS out too

    http://news.yahoo.com/report-nsa-maps-persons-social-connections

    Report: NSA maps out a person’s social connections

    WASHINGTON (AP) — For almost three years the National Security Agency has been tapping the data it collects to map out some Americans’ social connections, allowing the government to identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, The New York times reported.

    Citing documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, the Times reported that the NSA began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine some Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after NSA officials lifted restrictions on the practice. The newspaper posted the report on its website Saturday.

  19. Warren on Trans-Pacific Partnership: If people knew what was going on, they would stop it
    By Eric W. Dolan
    Wednesday, June 19, 2013
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/19/warren-on-trans-pacific-partnership-if-people-knew-what-was-going-on-they-would-stop-it/

    Excerpt:
    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Wednesday voiced her opposition to President Barack Obama’s top international trade nominee because of a secretive free trade agreement.

    “I am deeply concerned about the transparency record of the U.S. Trade Representative and with one ongoing trade agreement in particular — the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” she said on the Senate floor.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been negotiated behind closed-doors for years by trade representatives from Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Though the free trade agreement could have wide ranging consequences on workers and consumers, the public only knows a few details of the treaty thanks to leaked documents.

    “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant,” Warren explained. “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”

  20. Obama’s Covert Trade Deal
    By LORI WALLACH and BEN BEACHY
    Published: June 2, 2013
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/opinion/obamas-covert-trade-deal.html?_r=0

    Excerpt:
    While the agreement could rewrite broad sections of nontrade policies affecting Americans’ daily lives, the administration also has rejected demands by outside groups that the nearly complete text be publicly released. Even the George W. Bush administration, hardly a paragon of transparency, published online the draft text of the last similarly sweeping agreement, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in 2001.

    There is one exception to this wall of secrecy: a group of some 600 trade “advisers,” dominated by representatives of big businesses, who enjoy privileged access to draft texts and negotiators.

    This covert approach is a major problem because the agreement is more than just a trade deal. Only 5 of its 29 chapters cover traditional trade matters, like tariffs or quotas. The others impose parameters on nontrade policies. Existing and future American laws must be altered to conform with these terms, or trade sanctions can be imposed against American exports.

    Remember the debate in January 2012 over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have imposed harsh penalties for even the most minor and inadvertent infraction of a company’s copyright? The ensuing uproar derailed the proposal. But now, the very corporations behind SOPA are at it again, hoping to reincarnate its terms within the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s sweeping proposed copyright provisions.

    From another leak, we know the pact would also take aim at policies to control the cost of medicine. Pharmaceutical companies, which are among those enjoying access to negotiators as “advisers,” have long lobbied against government efforts to keep the cost of medicines down. Under the agreement, these companies could challenge such measures by claiming that they undermined their new rights granted by the deal.

    And yet another leak revealed that the deal would include even more expansive incentives to relocate domestic manufacturing offshore than were included in Nafta — a deal that drained millions of manufacturing jobs from the American economy.

    The agreement would also be a boon for Wall Street and its campaign to water down regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. Among other things, it would practically forbid bans on risky financial products, including the toxic derivatives that helped cause the crisis in the first place.

  21. “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

    Neo: What truth?

    Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

    Gene,

    Amen. However, the curse that goes with waking up is the pain of understanding just how desperate things are. I lived with that a long time but words of the Buddha and other masters have comforted me and given me strength. I have found that one can live and even enjoy life despite the true order of things that surrounds and enslaves us. The first step is always knowledge of the true reality. When more of us “wake up”, with that knowledge we can then do something about it. The “trick” I’ve personally found comes from the words of Baba Ram Dass and Fritz Perls: “Be here now.”

    Being in the “here and now” reminds me of my childhood on a warm summer day when all there was to do was play. The feeling inside me I can only describe as an excited “hum” as I let myself enjoy whatever it was I was doing. You know I’ve gone through a lot in my life and yet remaining in the present allowed me to muddle through, survive and emotionally prosper. I know you are on the same path with me and others like Justice Holmes, we just need to hang in there.

  22. from what I heard on the cato symposium, linked to above, the TPP is not secret at all and is available on one of the other links I posted to above. Some of the provisions, according to cato, are secret but cato is saying these are issues having to do with competitive advantage and not some sinister cabal.

    Free trade is a good thing if it works both ways.

  23. Mike,
    We won’t have to worry about hanging in there if this secret trade deal goes through. However, our kids may not have a rope to hang onto. Scary stuff.

  24. Bron,
    The unfortunate reality is that free trade never is free on both sides and that since the Reagan years, free trade means the US and workers are going to come out as the losers.

  25. Elaine,

    Thanks for the information. Stories like this are primary reason I follow this blog.

    Everybody better just start girding your loins now, cause we’re screwed. Two things I’ve come to believe about Obama:

    1) He simply lacks the experience to oversee a negotiated agreement that approximates, even nominally, the rhetoric of his Hope and Change campaign even if he wanted to.
    2) He really doesn’t want to. I think he’s trying to prove to the plutocracy that a black man can be in a position of high power and not screw things up with a lot of ameliorative social programs, but can, instead, “deliver” for the corporate structure. I’m sure in his mind, he’s promoting the cause of social equality on some level, only more intelligently than Herman “999” Cain. He has become our Judas goat.

  26. J. Holmes,

    On the subject of issue distraction in politics, Matt Taibbi wrote about it “Griftopia”. I’ve mentioned before that DOMA and same-sex marriage, while crucially important to gays and lesbians, are every bit the distraction that steroids in sports are.

  27. Elaine,

    Great work! I linked to it on comments in The Guardian. I hope many people will read it. This is intimately connected with Obamacare and the threat to shut down this govt. The theater of Obamacare will help take out provisions of that bill which actually helped people, leaving behind all the goodies for the health insurance industry. Any benefits to actual people will be stripped out via TPP. Likewise, as we speak, the financial industry is making a killing, betting on various point spreads of the govt. shut down. It is all connected.

    RTC, Obama was chosen for this very task by a group of powerful interests who run things. They knew that a black man would be difficult for white liberals and many black people of all different political persuasions to oppose. Many of us would like to see racial justice in the US. People hoped that would in part be done by the election of a black man to the presidency. The problem is that white liberals and many black people made the mistake of thinking any black man would do for this purpose. Any black man won’t do. We needed a good black man or woman, and by that I don’t mean perfect, flawless, angelic person, but a person who has a good will towards other human beings and the earth. Obama is not that person.

    Obama is a corporate tool. He has been this from the beginning. It has taken many people a long time to wake up to the truth because they were propagandized to believe lies.

  28. Jill:

    He told Joe the Plumber he wanted to spread the wealth. I say he is doing exactly what he said he would do and the outcomes you are seeing are a direct result of his economic and political beliefs which are decidedly not capitalistic and constitutional.

  29. Bron, Under Obama the wealth gap has become even more extreme than under Bush. Obama is an uber capitalist. The TPP is a brutal form of capitalism where the most wealthy are given all the power and protection they demand. Everyone else is ground into the dust.

    We are in the fight for our lives and the very existence of planet earth. The secrecy of the govt./corporate partnership is pervasive. That partnership is spying on all of us, weaponizing planet earth/space, and denying not only our Constitutional rights but stripping the planet of clean water, air and earth. It is literally a scorched earth policy against this planet and it’s lifeforms.

    Bron, I know you are a libertarian but libertarians have to wake up and understand that this is a joint project of corporations (free enterprise) and govt. entities. These powerful corporations are as large of a threat to our liberties and very existence as the govt. In reality, they have become one and the same leviathan.

    We cannot afford to worry about old school political divisions. Those don’t have a meaning in the current environment. We are one people, one planet and we need to work together on behalf of this world and its creatures.

    Secrecy and propaganda as well as use of force are the weapons of the corporate state. Truth, knowledge and a radical joining together of as many people as possible is our only hope.

  30. Gene says: One cannot fix a problem until one can define its parameters.

    Do we agree the problem is big corporate money corrupting politics?

    If that isn’t all, what other prime factors are there?

    Gene says: My spirit is lagging.

    So is mine. Those questions are not intended as a setup to dismissal; they are serious inquiries. What is it, in your view, that makes the problem so damn intractable?

  31. JIll:

    that is why government needs to be seperated from economics. I understand full and have been saying so for years, I get called all types of things when I say it.

    What you see is what happens when goverenment is involved in economics.

  32. Bron,

    What we see happening is a group of powerful people, both in the governments of the world and private corporations colluding to make themselves ultimate in wealth and power. It isn’t just that the govt. is involved in economics, it is that corporations are involved in and controlling governments. There is no separation of these entities at this time.

    I believe there was once more separation in the US. Third world nations have had corporate rule for a very long time. If you look at that corporate rule, it has been vicious. This has been extended into first world nations at this time. We must resist this nexus of power and wealth. We are up against it.

    Tony C. There is a difference now that gives me some hope. I think Snowden’s revaluations have been crucial to creating a space for knowledge and truth.

    I have posted information about the TPP many times on this blog before. Few people seemed to believe it was happening. Obama supporters hated people like me for pointing out such things. Now, many people are much more awake.

    The govt.corporation needs people to be in denial, ignorance or better yet, in full attack mode against people who speak the truth. Their ability to keep the population in those states has lessened. These powerful people rely on secrecy to do their dirty work. That secrecy is being challenged. I don’t know how far that brings us, but it does help.

  33. Bron ALL governments have been involved in economics from the beginning of history of civilization. We learned from the Depression that government is needed to come out of such things. Our founders in fact, subsidized roads, canals, railroads, etc.. Remember the National Road that the Federal government constructed at our founding? In our Constitution it states in the preamble to promote the general welfare!

  34. randyjet:

    no disrespect meant but there are 2 schools of thought on that. My school says the government extended the problem and in fact caused it by regulations/the fed.

    I am not arguing about roads and bridges although I think there is a good case to make for privately funded bridges and roads.

    Actualy, there is ample evidence to show the founders fought against the funding of canals and roads. From my understanding the government funded railroads were a bad deal and didnt do well.

  35. Tony,

    Domestically, big money in politics is most certainly the taproot of the systemic dysfunction, from bad policy to bad law to improper enforcement, all of which lead to inequity and injustice for all to the great benefit of the few. There are some other major contributing factors, certainly, but that is the main problem. One problem, endemic to the Right, is a false belief that a republican form of government was meant to trump representative democracy. Had that been the case, there would have been no structural reason to include the House or indeed to have a bicameral legislature at all. Or even public voting or elections for that matter. Although the word “democracy” does not explicitly appear in the Constitution, it is implicit both in the structure of the government created and encapsulated in the mission statement of government found in the Declaration of Independence, followed by the Preamble and later in the entirety of the 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights that precedes it in the Constitution and such doctrines as the Separation of Powers that are supposed to function to ensure that we remain a government answerable to the people, where the rule of law puts no man above another, and our elected officials are to be held to the same laws as the man on the street.

    Another prime cause is a decline in the general quality of American education which many might (I think rightfully) characterize as deliberate on the part of oligarchs. An ignorant populace is more susceptible to propaganda and other methods of control. As a psychological and legal proposition, it is easier to take or trample the rights of those who do not know what their rights are in the first place.

    Another prime cause is the global rise of corporatism. Corporations have grown – at their own behest by in large – far beyond the scope of what the corporate form (a legal fiction) intended. So far beyond that scope (which was simply to create a mechanism for generating capital to start businesses and as a way to allow that legal fiction just enough personality to contract and own property but in perpetuity so each business would not die with the owner or their heirs) that they are no longer easily susceptible to the the control of any single government, even that of their chartering state, once they grow to be a multi-national corporation. They then use their monied influence to further consolidate their control over policy and further exempt themselves from the rule of law . . . except of course when they have their bought and paid for political lackeys sponsor legislation to their express benefit. This is a large driving factor in the rise of corporatist neo-fascism both here and abroad.

    These other three factors are the “Big Three” that exacerbate and/or drive the taproot of corruption.

    Another problem is simply that of human nature. Like most primates, humans tend to socially organize based on dominance rather than cooperation, despite the scientific evidence dominance behavior causes far more conflict and problems than cooperative behavior solves. But that is a more generalized factor. To stick to the root analogy, this is more of a soil problem. You can include a tendency to greed, egotism and selfishness into that mix that is reflected by and contained in the psychological disorders of narcissism and sociopathy that affect just enough of our species to cause trouble for the rest of us.

    This is not a comprehensive list, surely, but I think it hits the high points.

    In the end, I think it’s the complexity, scale and diffuse nature of the problems that make oligarchy in its various forms problematic to eliminate in creating a society that truly is reflected in a government that works for the betterment of all people and not just the venal egoists who feel the need to hump everything the come along into submission and subordinate to their narrow petty self interests.

    He who dies with the most toys does not win. They still die like everyone else and don’t get to take it with them. The only real division is what legacy does that leave the world with: a better place for all humanity and its children or your broken statue on the edge of a desert like that of Ozymandias.

    Fear of death is ultimately what drives most people to think that they can leave a mark on history. But everything that has a beginning has an end. Even history and memory. And the greatest human who has ever or will ever live is nothing more than a bit of transitory stardust, here for a while, absent for much longer, and ultimately of no consequence whatsoever.

    In the meantime, is there any higher calling than to reduce the misery and suffering of all as much as possible? Is their any better way to accomplish this than by cooperative effort? Is there any better way to gauge what is necessary and mitigate misery and suffering than by democratic consensus and tasking a commonly controlled public body to deploy that mitigation without thought to personal profits and self-aggrandizement?

    I think not.

    But again, the problem is Legion.

    This is no easy task, nor one capable of perfect achievement. Utopia does not exist. Utopia cannot exist. That utopia is impossible though should not stop us from trying to create a eudaemonic society. Life is short. Trying to make it happy and free from suffering and misery for all is an admirable goal. If that cost is at the expense of the narcissists and the sociopaths and the simply greedy? The needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few or the one. To think that the desires of the few or the one outweigh the needs of the many is a recipe for dystopia. And dystopian society is very possible. We see that every day and in the history of every day preceding tomorrow.

    There is no greater fight in the scope of humanity, no matter how ultimately futile, than a good, noble and just cause such as the betterment of the lives of all our fellow beings.

    Or as one might say, “One lives to be of service.”

    The question is of service solely to your own ego or to the greater good of humanity?

    Therein lies both the sickness and the choice to be better.

  36. I believe part of the TPP is to reword the end of the Gettysburg Address to read, ” It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great corporation—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the corporation for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this corporation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from the earth.”

  37. Elaine, outstanding article, and as well the comments have been outstanding. Elizebeth Warren had the money quote from the most pragmatic and essential aspect of the matter.

    ” “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” ”

    If the government is doing things in secret (and just about everything the government is doing is bound up in secrecy now) and knows that if it were known the citizens would not want it then the government just shouldn’t be doing it, any of it. The great virtue of secrecy isn’t with your enemies not knowing what you are doing, it’s with your citizens not knowing what you are doing.

    Since the government and business are now virtually fully merged, as others here allege and I agree, we are not any longer citizens to the government. Our rightful place, or at least our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, the general welfare, as the sovereign interest to our government is turned upside down. Business doesn’t have citizens, business has workers, resources, profit centers and equipment and all of those thing are owned in some part, or totally, by business and as well are exploitable as part of the natural order of things when the business of government is business. This is a world-wide problem and this treaty is a perfect example of the greater, deeper betrayal.
    *

  38. Gene, the “bloatcreep” is killing me, I can’t even comment on many threads because of it. The danger of course is that it fatigues one, saps one’s energy and leaves them completely ineffective to so much as even discuss it. Focus man, focus!

  39. “Domestically, big money in politics is most certainly the taproot of the systemic dysfunction, from bad policy to bad law to improper enforcement”

    Gene,

    Kudos to all that flowed from that comments opening quote.

  40. Gene: Well, we are on the same page.

    I apologize, I have an unfortunate time crunch until Wednesday, I wish I could comment further.

    I will say I think there is a difference between personal big money in politics and corporate big money in politics. I think without the corporate bribery and implicit quid pro quo going on, the personal egomaniacs like Bloomberg, Trump, Romney and Whitman become a sideshow, and wwould not be terribly dangerous if Congress wasn’t so deep in the pocket of corporate interests.

  41. Elaine M i hope you don’t mind but i passed your article and links on to a few other blogs and alternative sites that i read which have large memberships. the world needs to know and understand what is going on and to stop with the bs of being sheeple, deliberately dumb, and/or obtuse to much has come out and happened for the people to keep being determined to live in the lie that muslims are the terrorists and that the corporation has our best interest at heart. if your article and links dont wake up the deliberately obtuse then nothing will

    THANK YOU

  42. RTC:

    I think you give Obama way too much credit. I think he’s looking at his post-White House years, and he wants to be on the side of Big Money and Power. He uses language well, and I’ve taken to reading between the lines when he “speechifies”; when he speaks I hear the outright manipulation of an often gullible public (and media).

  43. Jill:

    I completely agree with your posts. You say what I have been thinking for many years, just so much better than I ever could! Thank goodness for you and all the other posters on this page!!!

  44. Mabel,

    The credit I give Obama is that he believes he’s serving the interests of the many by facilitating the interests of big business, in the belief that big business has the capability to create jobs in sufficient numbers.

    I think the a real test for this president will come about on his decision whether to allow the XL pipeline, given his outspoken commitment to greenhouse gas reduction. I predict he’ll kick the can down the road and leave it to the next administration to decide, and when they allow it, he’ll say, “I told them it was bad for the environment”.

  45. MabelMabel,

    “I think he’s looking at his post-White House years, and he wants to be on the side of Big Money and Power.”

    That’s pretty close to what my husband has been saying.

  46. Trans-Pacific Partnership: The biggest trade deal you’ve never heard of
    A huge but little-known trade agreement could transform America’s foreign relations. What it is and why it matters
    By Matt Stoller
    http://www.salon.com/2012/10/23/everything_you_wanted_to_know_about_the_trans_pacific_partnership/

    Excerpt:
    Who negotiates this agreement?

    The TPP is being negotiated by an agency called the Office of the United States Trade Representative. As with other such agreements, Congress must vote to approve it, most likely under a “Fast Track” provision that prohibits any amendments and limits debate. Trade, though constitutionally a congressional prerogative, is now firmly in the hands of the executive branch. And “trade” negotiations have become a venue for rewriting wide swaths of domestic non-trade policy traditionally determined by Congress and state legislatures.

    The current USTR is a former Dallas mayor and former corporate lobbyist named Ron Kirk. Michael Froman, a deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for international affairs, is also heavily involved. Froman is a disciple of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who followed him to Citigroup, and headed the Obama transition team in 2008. According to journalist Matt Taibbi, Froman apparently led the hiring of Tim Geithner for the Treasury secretary role. The philosophy behind these international agreements thus follow the model laid down during the Clinton administration.

    **********
    Where is Ron Kirk now?

    By JENNIFER EPSTEIN
    4/1/13 11:48 AM EDT
    http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/04/trade-representative-kirk-joins-gibson-dunn-160604.html

    A month after leaving the Obama administration, former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has joined the Dallas office of Gibson Dunn, the law firm announced Monday.

    Kirk told POLITICO that he “will be working with clients of our firm principally on international engagements, in many of the markets I worked in during my tenure as USTR.”

    As the Obama administration ramps up negotiations on a trade deal with the European Union — without a new candidate for USTR nominated by President Obama — Kirk said he will be “cheering from the sidelines” for the talks to succeed. To abide by ethics rules, Kirk said he won’t be lobbying on the deal, but will be working for clients “looking to reach those markets, rather than trying to influence” a treaty.

  47. RTC:

    Thanks for the clarification. I’m worried sick that he will approve the XL Pipeline; that decision would fit with all the about-faces he’s already done. I’d rather that he kicked the can down the road. I’ve noticed that when he gives speeches he seems to use language that gives him the wiggle room to do the opposite of the gist of his speeches.

  48. USTR Nominee Froman Called ‘One Of The Most Egregious Examples Of The Way The Revolving Door Works Between Gov’t And Business’
    from the that-doesn’t-bode-well dept
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130503/14341222941/ustr-nominee-froman-called-one-most-egregious-examples-way-revolving-door-works-between-govt-business.shtml

    Excerpt:
    After posting a bit about Michael Froman, the new nominee for USTR, I was already skeptical that he’d be any improvement over the predecessor, Ron Kirk. After all, Froman was deeply involved in three of the worst free trade agreements that the US has negotiated over the past few years, which more or less set the model for the ambitious and dangerously misguided ACTA and TPP agreements. However, some others have pointed out that it may be even worse, highlighting a Felix Salmon blog post from 2009, in which he calls Michael Froman out as being an “egregious example” of the revolving door problem we’ve highlighted between regulators and the businesses they regulate.

    “[Michael Froman’s] one of the most egregious examples — up there with Bob Rubin, literally — we’ve yet seen of the way the revolving door works between business and government generally, and between Citigroup and Treasury in particular. ”

    That’s troubling, to say the least. Salmon points to a Matt Taibbi piece for Rolling Stone that highlights some very questionable activity on the part of Froman, including keeping his job at Citibank while helping to select the economic team for Obama’s first term… the very folks who would be in charge of regulating Citibank.

    “Leading the search for the president’s new economic team was his close friend and Harvard Law classmate Michael Froman, a high-ranking executive at Citigroup. During the campaign, Froman had emerged as one of Obama’s biggest fundraisers, bundling $200,000 in contributions and introducing the candidate to a host of heavy hitters — chief among them his mentor Bob Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Froman had served as chief of staff to Rubin at Treasury, and had followed his boss when Rubin left the Clinton administration to serve as a senior counselor to Citigroup (a massive new financial conglomerate created by deregulatory moves pushed through by Rubin himself).

    “Incredibly, Froman did not resign from the bank when he went to work for Obama: He remained in the employ of Citigroup for two more months, even as he helped appoint the very people who would shape the future of his own firm….”

    That piece also talks about Froman’s role in getting Timothy Geithner his job at Treasury, right after Geithner helped craft the bailout of Citibank that basically put all the risk on the Fed and didn’t require any Citi concessions or exec changes, despite their own culpability in making a ton of bad investments.

  49. The Trans-Pacific Partnership: We Won’t Be Fooled by Rigged Corporate Trade Agreements
    Wednesday, 02 October 2013 10:15 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis
    http://truth-out.org/news/item/19135-the-trans-pacific-partnership-we-wont-be-fooled-by-rigged-corporate-trade-agreements

    Excerpt:
    This week, President Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where he is expected to announce his goal of having the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed into law by the end of 2013. Obama will host a meeting of the leaders of the TPP nations during the APEC conference.

    The Obama administration has been negotiating the TPP in secret for more than three years. Unlike past trade agreements, the text of the TPP is classified, and members of Congress have restricted access to it. If they do read the text, they are not allowed to copy it or discuss any specifics of it. However, more than 600 corporate advisers have direct access to the text on their computers.

    The final formal round of negotiations was held in Brunei this August, and since then, there have been informal meetings to try and finalize sections of the agreement. As far as the president is concerned, the TPP is entering the home stretch. All he needs now is for Congress to vote to grant him fast track, also known as trade promotion authority, and it’s a done deal. The facts show that the president may be deluding himself or trying to fool everyone else.

    This is because the TPP goes far beyond a trade deal. Only five of the 29 chapters contain provisions related to trade. The other chapters consist of provisions related to patent protections, investor state rights and finance deregulation, among others. The TPP is a backdoor corporate power grab to advance the stalled WTO agenda. Or as Sachie Mizohata writes in Asia Times, “The TPP is a Trojan horse, branded as a ‘free trade’ agreement, but having nothing to do with fair and equitable treatment. In reality, it is precisely ‘a wish list of the 1% – a worldwide corporate power’. “…

    Great Recession Connection

    One of the requirements of the WTO was that Glass-Steagall had to be repealed. This removed the wall that protected traditional banking from risky investments and is partially responsible for the current economic crisis, which started in 2008. Similarly, NAFTA was 1,700 pages, including annexes and footnotes. NAFTA involved only three countries, the TPP includes 12. Congress cannot digest all of this information and consider its implications in such a short time.

    Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its sister, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as TAFTA), for which negotiations began in July, will require fast track to become law. Supporters of the TPP such as the US Chamber of Commerce and, of course, the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) are promoting fast rack with flimsy and false arguments. Basically, they boil down to these points:

    1. The president should have fast track so he can negotiate job-creating agreements and boost trade and the economy.

    2. It’s OK to give the president fast track because Congress is going to include negotiating objectives within the fast track law, and Congress must vote on the agreement.

    3. The president should have fast track because other presidents have had it.

    So, let’s examine the facts. First, despite promises of American jobs, past free trade agreements have actually been huge job losers. NAFTA is responsible for the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs. The recent Korea Free Trade Agreement was promised to bring 70,000 new jobs, but lost 40,000 jobs in the first year alone instead, and Public Citizen estimates that nearly 160,000 jobs will be lost over the first seven years. In total, US free trade agreements over the past two decades have netted a loss of nearly 5 million American jobs.

    In addition to the loss of jobs, free trade agreements have contributed to the stagnation of wages in the United States. American workers cannot compete with extremely low wages in countries like China, Malaysia and Vietnam. A recent study predicts that the TPP will cause wages for 90 percent of American workers to decrease while wealth of the top 1% will soar. How can US workers compete with workers in Malaysia, where the minimum wage is $1.24; Peru, where it is $1.37; or Vietnam, where it is 30 cents? The TPP will increase the race to the bottom that will further impoverish US workers.

    The same study predicts that the TPP will only boost US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 0.1 percent. In fact, free trade agreements do not seem to work at all when it comes to expanding US exports. According to the data, overall the US trade deficit has increased by 440 percent with countries with which we have free trade agreements and has declined by 7 percent with countries with which we do not have agreements. If we look at the outcome of a “21st century trade agreement,” which is how the office of the USTR describes the TPP, like the Korea Free Trade Agreement, we find that “average monthly exports to Korea since the FTA have sunk 11 percent below the average monthly level before the FTA.” TAFTA is expected to increase US GDP by a mere 0.2 to 0.4 percent, which Public Citizen reports, is “a smaller contribution to GDP than was delivered by the latest version of the iPhone.”

  50. Jim Hightower: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is a Corporate Coup in Disguise
    10/2/13
    http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/18231-jim-hightower-the-trans-pacific-partnership-is-a-corporate-coup-in-disguise

    What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars? This nullification of our people’s right to direct expenditures is just one of the horror stories in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

    This is a super-sized NAFTA, the 1994 trade scam rammed through Congress by the entire corporate establishment. NAFTA promised the “glories of globalization”: prosperity across our land. Unfortunately, corporations got the gold. We got the shaft — thousands of factories closed, millions of middle-class jobs went south, and the economies of hundreds of towns and cities were shattered.

    Twenty years later, the gang that gave us NAFTA is back with the TPP, a “trade deal” that mostly does not deal with trade. Of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters! The other chapters amount to a devilish “partnership” for corporate protectionism:

    —Food safety. Any of our government’s food safety regulations (on pesticide levels, bacterial contamination, fecal exposure, toxic additives, etc.) and food labeling laws (organic, country-of-origin, animal-welfare approved, GMO-free, etc.) that are stricter than “international standards” could be ruled as “illegal trade barriers.” Our government would then have to revise our consumer protections to comply with weaker standards.

    —Fracking. Our Department of Energy would lose its authority to regulate exports of natural gas to any TPP nation. This would create an explosion of the destructive fracking process across our land, for both foreign and U.S. corporations could export fracked gas from America to member nations without any DOE review of the environmental and economic impacts on local communities — or on our national interests.

    —Jobs. US corporations would get special foreign-investor protections to limit the cost and risk of relocating their factories to low-wage nations that sign onto this agreement. So, an American corporation thinking about moving a factory would know it is guaranteed a sweetheart deal if it moves operations to a TPP nation like Vietnam. This would be an incentive for corporate chieftains to export more of our middle-class jobs.

    —Drug prices. Big Pharma would be given more years of monopoly pricing on each of their patents and be empowered to block distribution of cheaper generic drugs. Besides artificially keeping everyone’s prices high, this would be a death sentence to many people suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases in impoverished lands.

    —Banksters. Wall Street and the financial giants in other TPP countries would make out like bandits. The deal explicitly prohibits transaction taxes (such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax here) that would shut down speculators who have repeatedly triggered financial crises and economic crashes around the world. It restricts “firewall” reforms that separate consumer banking from risky investment banking. It could roll back reforms that governments adopted to fix the extreme bank-deregulation regimen that caused Wall Street’s 2007 crash. And it provides an escape from national rules that would limit the size of “too-big-to-fail” behemoths.

    —Internet freedom. Corporations hoping to lock up and monopolize the Internet failed in Congress last year to pass their repressive “Stop Online Piracy Act.” However, they’ve slipped SOPA’s most pernicious provisions into TPP. The deal would also transform Internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our “user activity,” arbitrarily take down our content and cut off our access to the Internet. To top that off, consumers could be assessed mandatory fines for something as benign as sending your mom a recipe you got off of a paid site.

    —Public services. TPP rules would limit how governments regulate such public services as utilities, transportation and education — including restricting policies meant to ensure broad or universal access to those essential needs. One insidious rule says that member countries must open their service sectors to private competitors, which would allow the corporate provider to cherry-pick the profitable customers and sink the public service.

    Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, correctly calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a corporate coup d’etat.” Nations that join must conform their laws and rules to TPP’s strictures, effectively supplanting U.S. sovereignty and canceling our people’s right to be self-governing. Worse, it creates virtually permanent corporate rule over us.

    Is it impossible to stop? Nope. There is also a broad, well-organized and politically experienced coalition of grassroots groups, which has stopped other deals and will do it again. We the people can protect our democratic rights from this threat of corporate usurpation. Check out globaltradewatch.org.

  51. “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws

  52. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes

    The only good news is a bunch of the other countries have basically said, “Basta! We are not going to roll back these things.” So the reason there isn’t a deal is because a lot of the other countries are standing up to the worst of these U.S. corporate-inspired demands. You can see the whole lay of this at ExposeTheTPP, http://www.exposethetpp. There are fact sheets on each of the ways, each aspect of your life the TPP could affect. And if you want to get down into the weeds and have long papers explaining and/or information from other countries, you can go to tradewatch.org. That’s tradewatch.org. Between those two sets of information, you’ll see there’s almost no part of your life or the things you care about that this agreement couldn’t undermine. And again, trade is the least of it.

    AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Lori Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. When we come back, President Obama is about to hit a new milestone: two million people deported under his administration. We’ll talk about it. Stay with us.

  53. Correcting prior comment:

    “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes

    LORI WALLACH: The only good news is a bunch of the other countries have basically said, “Basta! We are not going to roll back these things.” So the reason there isn’t a deal is because a lot of the other countries are standing up to the worst of these U.S. corporate-inspired demands. You can see the whole lay of this at ExposeTheTPP, http://www.exposethetpp. There are fact sheets on each of the ways, each aspect of your life the TPP could affect. And if you want to get down into the weeds and have long papers explaining and/or information from other countries, you can go to tradewatch.org. That’s tradewatch.org. Between those two sets of information, you’ll see there’s almost no part of your life or the things you care about that this agreement couldn’t undermine. And again, trade is the least of it.

    AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Lori Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. When we come back, President Obama is about to hit a new milestone: two million people deported under his administration. We’ll talk about it. Stay with us.

  54. Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks Headed For Finish Line Amid Official Secrecy
    The Huffington Post Canada
    By Daniel Tencer
    Posted: 10/04/2013
    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/04/trans-pacific-partnership_n_4039357.html

    Excerpt:
    The Financial Times describes the TPP as being “billed as a 21st century trade deal aimed at setting new high standards for future agreements.” But critics, such as the Council of Canadians, say it sets a new standard for prioritizing “corporate rights” over the rights of consumers.

    Particularly worrying for some consumers’ advocates are reports that the deal will force participating countries to significantly tighten controls over the internet.

    According to consumers’ groups citing an early draft of the deal leaked in 2011, the TPP could mean criminal penalties for even small-scale unauthorized downloading; could result in “three strikes” laws that would see households kicked off the internet for copyright violations; and could mean expanded copyright and patent terms that would mean lessened access to generic drugs.

    The humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders issued a statement on Thursday urging governments “not to make political trade-offs during trade negotiations that will harm access to affordable medicines for millions of people” in the signatory countries.

    Despite moves by the U.S. to soften the drug patent provisions, “this is still a terrible deal that will continue to delay the entry of affordable generic medicines that [Doctors Without Borders] and millions of people rely on,” said Judit Rius, manager of Doctors Without Borders’ Access Campaign in the U.S.

    The consumer advocacy group OpenMedia has launched a campaign opposing the copyright and internet-related provisions in the trade deal, under the moniker “say no to internet censorship.” The group says more than 100,000 people have signed the letter to TPP leaders so far.

    U.S. President Barack Obama is under pressure from industry groups to stick to the provisions being proposed in the TPP, the Financial Times reported last week.

  55. “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

    Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

    The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. Read full press release here” https://wikileaks.org/tpp/pressrelease.html

    Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement:

    https://wikileaks.org/tpp/

  56. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/nov/13/wikileaks-trans-pacific-partnership-chapter-secret

    WikiLeaks publishes secret draft chapter of Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Treaty negotiated in secret between 12 nations ‘would trample over individual rights and free expression’, says Julian Assange

    Alex Hern and Dominic Rushe
    theguardian.com, Wednesday 13 November 2013 13.12 EST

    WikiLeaks has released the draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a multilateral free-trade treaty currently being negotiated in secret by 12 Pacific Rim nations.

    The full agreement covers a number of areas, but the chapter published by WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights, an area of law which has effects in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and civil liberties.

    Negotiations for the TPP have included representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei, but have been conducted behind closed doors. Even members of the US Congress were only allowed to view selected portions of the documents under supervision.

    “We’re really worried about a process which is so difficult for those who take an interest in these agreements to deal with. We rely on leaks like these to know what people are talking about,” says Peter Bradwell, policy director of the London-based Open Rights Group.

    “Lots of people in civil society have stressed that being more transparent, and talking about the text on the table, is crucial to give treaties like this any legitimacy. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to start a debate about what’s in then.”

    The 30,000 word intellectual property chapter contains proposals to increase the term of patents, including medical patents, beyond 20 years, and lower global standards for patentability. It also pushes for aggressive measures to prevent hackers breaking copyright protection, although that comes with some exceptions: protection can be broken in the course of “lawfully authorised activities carried out by government employees, agents, or contractors for the purpose of law enforcement, intelligence, essential security, or similar governmental purposes”.

    WikiLeaks claims that the text shows America attempting to enforce its highly restrictive vision of intellectual property on the world – and on itself. “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly,” says Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, who is living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London following an extradition dispute with Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape.

    “If instituted,” Assange continues, “the TPP’s intellectual property regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

    Just Foreign Policy, a group dedicated to reforming US foreign policy, managed to crowdfund a $70,000 (£43,700) bounty for Wikileaks if the organisation managed to leak the TPP text. “Our pledge, as individuals, is to donate this money to WikiLeaks should it leak the document we seek.” The conditions the group set have not yet been met, however, because it required the full text, not individual chapters.

    Related to the TPP is a second secret trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which ties together regulatory practices in the US and EU. George Monbiot, writing in this paper, referred to the treaty as a “monstrous assault on democracy”. Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio, replied that it “would see our economy grow by an extra £10bn per annum”.

    Campaign group Fight for the Future has already collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition against what it calls the “extreme Internet censorship plan: contained in the TPP.

    Evan Greer, campaign manager for Fight for the Future, said: “The documents revealed by WikiLeaks make it clear why the US government has worked so hard to keep the TPP negotiatons secret. While claiming to champion an open Internet, the Obama administration is quietly pushing for extreme, SOPA-like copyright policies that benefit Hollywood and giant pharmaceutical companies at the expense of our most basic rights to freedom of expression online.”

  57. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/nov/13/wikileaks-trans-pacific-partnership-chapter-secret

    Excerpt:

    “If instituted,” Assange continues, “the TPP’s intellectual property regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

    Just Foreign Policy, a group dedicated to reforming US foreign policy, managed to crowdfund a $70,000 (£43,700) bounty for Wikileaks if the organisation managed to leak the TPP text. “Our pledge, as individuals, is to donate this money to WikiLeaks should it leak the document we seek.” The conditions the group set have not yet been met, however, because it required the full text, not individual chapters.

    Related to the TPP is a second secret trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which ties together regulatory practices in the US and EU. George Monbiot, writing in this paper, referred to the treaty as a “monstrous assault on democracy”. Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio, replied that it “would see our economy grow by an extra £10bn per annum”.

    Campaign group Fight for the Future has already collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition against what it calls the “extreme Internet censorship plan: contained in the TPP.

    Evan Greer, campaign manager for Fight for the Future, said: “The documents revealed by WikiLeaks make it clear why the US government has worked so hard to keep the TPP negotiatons secret. While claiming to champion an open Internet, the Obama administration is quietly pushing for extreme, SOPA-like copyright policies that benefit Hollywood and giant pharmaceutical companies at the expense of our most basic rights to freedom of expression online.”

  58. Obama Faces Backlash Over New Corporate Powers In Secret Trade Deal
    By Zach Carter
    12/8/13
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/08/tpp-trade-agreement_n_4409211.html

    Excerpt:
    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration appears to have almost no international support for controversial new trade standards that would grant radical new political powers to corporations, increase the cost of prescription medications and restrict bank regulation, according to two internal memos obtained by The Huffington Post.

    The memos, which come from a government involved in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, detail continued disputes in the talks over the deal. They reveal broad disagreement over a host of key positions, and general skepticism that an agreement can be reached by year-end. The Obama administration has urged countries to reach a deal by New Year’s Day, though there is no technical deadline.

    One memo, which was heavily redacted before being provided to HuffPost, was written ahead of a new round of talks in Singapore this week. Read the full text of what HuffPost received here. (Note: Ellipses indicate redacted text. Text in brackets has been added by a third party.) Another document, a chart outlining different country positions on the text, dates from early November, before the round of negotiations in Salt Lake City, Utah. View the chart here. HuffPost was unable to determine which of the 11 non-U.S. nations involved in the talks was responsible for the memo. The Obama administration was not available for comment Sunday evening.

    Previously leaked TPP documents have sparked alarm among global health experts, Internet freedom activists, environmentalists and organized labor, but are adamantly supported by American corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Obama administration has deemed negotiations to be classified information — banning members of Congress from discussing the American negotiating position with the press or the public. Congressional staffers have been restricted from viewing the documents.

    One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.

  59. I am totally against the President in trying to push this NAFTA Trade Pact through. Anything that is so secretive and is not told to the American people openly is bad news for this country. Gutless Congress need to stand up for once in their lives and do what is right for the country and stop this from going through. The reason why the country is suffering so much is because you have people in high places who only care about themselves and not the people.

  60. This is one of the scariest things I have ever read.

    Why is it that people – even my own family – do not want to know the truth about what is happening to our country?

    One person i reached out to said to me, “I want to focus on the positive things in life because I just want to be happy and not dwell on negative”.

    How do we “wake people up” when they don’t want to be woken up?

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