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. 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.”

  2. 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.”

  3. “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/

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.”

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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”.

  14. 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!!!

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