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. 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).

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.
    *

  6. 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.”

  7. 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.

    1. “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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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!

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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