If The TPP is Such a Great Idea, Why Keep it a Secret?


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

The Obama Administration has been pressuring members of Congress to pass the bill that will give President Obama the “fast track”  authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) agreement without any debate in Congress.  Fast track authority would not allow for any amendments and the bill would remain secret until just before it is voted on.

“President Obama is currently pressing members of Congress to pass Fast-Track authority for a trade and investment agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If Fast Track passes, it means that Congress must approve or deny the TPP with minimal debate and no amendments. Astonishingly, our lawmakers have not seen the agreement they are being asked to expedite.” Nation of Change

This trade agreement, like previous international trade agreements, like NAFTA, is not a partisan issue.  On just about every other piece of legislation that the Obama Administration has introduced to Congress, the Republican majority has stood fast against it.  However, in this instance, Congress appears to be strangely united in its efforts to pass a secret bill that they have not even been allowed to read.

“Since negotiations began in 2005, the public, press, and members of Congress and their staff have been denied access to the TPP meetings and to drafts of the agreement. In stark contrast, according to a 2014 report by The Washington Post, 566 advisory group members can view and comment on proposals. Of these members, 480 represent industry groups or trade associations and dominate the most important committees.” Nation of Change

Why would any member of Congress vote for any bill that he or she have not been allowed to read, yet alone be part of the legislative process? Why does it make sense that corporations and business industry groups would be designing a bill that would benefit anyone other than their benefactors?

The little that we do know about the TPP is not good.

“It is expected that the TPP will include an Investor State Dispute Settlement provision that gives foreign corporations the right to sue governments for lost profits due to laws—such as environmental standards and safeguards for workers—they claim deprive them of revenue they might otherwise have received. Such claims are settled in tribunals comprised of trade lawyers whose identities are secret. The rulings of these tribunals pre-empt national laws and the decisions of national courts and are not subject to review by any national judicial or legislative body.” Nation of Change

According to one source, the TPP will mean a pay cut for the vast majority of American workers.

“The verdict is in: most U.S. workers would see wage losses as a result of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping U.S. “free trade” deal under negotiation with 11 Pacific Rim countries.  That’s the conclusion of a report just released by the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

TPP’s corporate proponents have tried to sell the NAFTA-style deal to the U.S. public and policymakers by claiming that it will result in gains for the U.S. economy.  They often cite a study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics that used sweeping assumptions to project a tiny benefit from the TPP. We brought that study down to size back in January, showing that, even if one accepts the pro-TPP authors’ litany of optimistic assumptions, the much-touted “benefit” from the TPP would amount to an extra quarter per person per day.

As this week’s CEPR report points out, the pro-TPP study projected a meager 0.13 percent increase to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 if the controversial TPP would be signed, passed, and implemented.  By comparison, economists have estimated that Apple’s iPhone 5 contributed a 0.25 – 0.5 percent increase to U.S. GDP.” Public Citizen

While I understand why there should be some secrecy in these kind of trade negotiations initially, when the trade agreement could have profound impacts upon the citizens of the countries affected by it, shouldn’t our representatives be allowed access to the proposed agreements in time to propose and push for changes to protect our domestic economy and laws? When the proposed agreement is projected to give very little to the average American worker who doesn’t lose their job and actually increase income inequality, where is the benefit?  Maybe the answer is “follow the money”.

The Obama Administration should allow or be forced to shine some sunlight on this proposed trade agreement before Congress is forced to give it’s approval without any allowed changes. If it was up to you, what would you recommend be done concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement?

Would you vote on something that you had very little time to review and no opportunity to make changes?

Will American workers and their jobs be protected or will they be lost in the same way that jobs were lost due to NAFTA?  What do you think?

Additional Sources: Reader Supported News


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35 thoughts on “If The TPP is Such a Great Idea, Why Keep it a Secret?”

  1. This is a tough one for all the so called Americans. If you open up the trade systems then you are for freedom and let the chips fall where they may. This follows the any body can make it scenario. If you support limiting the openness of the new treaty then you are against that so called natural freedom that is American but for government. The invitation for hypocrisy is there. Take your place. What a lot of BS.

    1. ” If you open up the trade systems then you are for freedom and let the chips fall where they may. ”

      Under these agreements about 60% of the population loose, while the top few percent make out like bandits.

      It is the freedom of a Nevada crap table – the longer you play the more you loose while the house always wins in the long run.

      Wise up dude. If you work for a living this reduces you alternatives; it reduces your power to negotiate a living wage.

      Why would anyone want the freedom to compete against a worker who lives with his extended family in a small apartment, drives a hoopty if he has a car at all, drinks questionable water, and has no hope of sending his children to college. Oh did I mention, one reason the products he produces cost less than the products you produce is that his factory dumps industrial waste on the ground.

      It may sound like freedom to you. To me it sounds like a license for someone to steel you lunch and give a third of it to someone else. Guess who gets the rest – of your lunch?

  2. When legislatures pass bills their leader wrote without reading and understanding them, they are in a dictatorship.

  3. I agree w/ ItsJo — but one question please – he is dictator now — what is to stop him from becoming Hillary`s V.P — she resign — or what ever — and he become The Tator again??

  4. Thank you for that information. Since this is being kept secret it stands to reason that it is a problem for them if they are trying to screw China. They have their tentacles so deep into the Congress it would screw any attempt to pull a fast one.

    I bet that some of these countries such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea would try to cobble together a trade agreement to try to compete with the Chinese.

    This is very interesting. Thank you for posting this topic.

  5. trooper,
    China is not a party to the proposed TPP and some experts believe the TPP is an attempt by signing parties to thwart the influence of China economically.
    If you click on the last link in my article, it links to report on how many jobs were lost due to NAFTA.

  6. This trade deal smells like it might be a “bail out” of China which is teetering and on the verge of chaos. The cult of personality of President Xi Jinping is causing restive reactions among some of the military and the party and it can go either way.

    I know in my business which is garment manufacturing there is a lot of unrest and trepidation about the “over” industrialization and excess capacity of Chinese factories that are starved for work. They are offering big time inducements to contract work in the mainland. Many garment manufacturers have switched to other countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam because they are offering much better deals. Even some African countries are getting into the game. China is not the only game in town anymore and they are feeling a little heat.

    I don’t care because I manufacture only in the good old USA.

    I wonder what is in this Trans-Pacific deal for China? They hold a whole pot full of our debt. This might be why they don’t want to give up the details.

  7. Here is another study at EPI by Robert Scott that claims job loss in all 50 states due to NAFTA.


    The interesting point of this paper is that he describes his method to estimate job loss.

    Again the most significant problem with this kind of trade agreement is not the loss of jobs. In most situations the range of feasible returns to labor and capital is broad. The actual outcome in terms of wages depends on the bargaining position of the two. These agreements reduce the economic/bargaining power of labor by pitting US labor against labor with lower standards of living in other countries.

    As a result of reduced bargaining power, labor has experienced stagnant or declining real wages despite increases in productivity.

    If bargaining power between labor and capital were roughly equal we would expect productivity gains to be shared. That has not happened.

    The fact is that over decades, US administrations have made conscious choices to undercut the economic well being lower and middle class workers.

  8. “Does someone have independent analysis to show that the U.S. lost jobs through NAFTA?”

    Assertions regarding the effects of NAFTA are diverse and controversial.

    Here is a report from EPI that mentions several adverse effects due to NAFTA including the loss or displacement of nearly 700,000 jobs.


    The link is to a brief summary. The report you want to look at is the PDF that can be accessed from the linked web page.

    Perhaps more important than the actual loss of jobs is the loss of bargaining power with capital due to competition from international workers with lower standards of living.

  9. Of course Obama doesn’t give a damn about the American worker. That is why he want’s to legalize all of the illegal immigrants who will be added to the labor force to keep labor cheap. He would rather see an illegal get a a job than an American. Big business and Obama unite to take the jobs of working people.

    It is the real “Corrupt Bargain” in American Politics,

  10. Does someone have independent analysis to show that the U.S. lost jobs through NAFTA?


  11. We live in a fascist oligarchy. With very few exceptions (I hope there are some exceptions) our political class is thoroughly bought and paid for.

    Trooper has it right. Whores. Just what the price is……is evidently negotiable.

  12. Just another end run around American workers courtesy of the multi-nationals who have decided loyalties to only one thing American — its dollars.

  13. Sunshine? Transparency? Openness? In this administration?

    Well I suppose there is a first time for everything.

  14. One of the many attempts by Obama to bypass Congress and rule by fiat as a Caesar. Supported by the mainstream media as evidenced by the outrage at the letter Senate Republicans sent to Iran. You see they tried to explain that treaties that legally bind the United States have to be approved by the Senate. They told this to Iran because Obama doesn’t care about the Constitution.

    Trade of course is a different matter. Enough Republicans and Democrats have been bought that this will sail by with broad bi-partisan support.

    It is a given that President Obama will violate the Constitution at every turn. It is truly sickening to see Congress acquiesce for money. They are whores. The only question is the price.

    Great post Rafmiester.

  15. BWM2009

    Everything you posted supports my observations. US workers got royally screwed. However, the global corporations that could move workforces anywhere made out like bandits. The problem is that this is simply more of the ‘trickle down’ formula that benefits the top and sprinkles the bottom. It misses for the most part the middle. The mechanics of the thing aside, no move this big and far reaching should be undertaken without a total understanding of all the direct and indirect ramifications. America has to become more protective of its assets, its people.

  16. Started my career in 1983 and one of the first issues I was put on was the U.S./Canada FTA which eventually became NAFTA. Have been doing international trade work since but not so much since 2010. As it was has always been explained to me, secrecy is needed for international trade talks because if there are people at the table other than the negotiators, well, then the negotiators wouldn’t negotiate in good faith or might not even negotiate at all. Similarly, if the U.S. Congress is capable of changing anything that has resulted from a negotiated multiparty agreement then there is no incentive for the negotiators to negotiate. Moreover, Poli-Sci 101 teaches that Legislators shouldn’t be micro managing things under our Constitution, so why should Congressional representatives be at the table during international trade negotiations? They’d only get in the way of the skilled, trained, professional trade negotiators doing the negotiating. As for the advisory panels made up of trade industry representatives, those folks have been serving in that role — industry reps on DOC International Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) — since the original inception of the ITACs. I myself represented industry interests on an ITAC for more than a decade after undergoing a thorough FBI background check and serving as Director of Government Affairs for the industry I served for nearly a decade as well. I knew my members’ issues inside and out. Who else would you want advising any administration on the pros/cons of ongoing multiparty international trade agreements other than the people who live and die for the industry’s they serve? NGO reps instead of corporate reps? Academics? People off the street? By a simple blog post on the White House web site shortly after the first inauguration, the Obama Administration issued orders that anybody registered as a lobbyist in either the U.S. House and/or Senate — which, if applicable, is required by law — would henceforth be barred from service on any advisory panel to the Administrative Branch (including the ITACs). The result being that only those well-funded industry organizations that can afford both a Capitol Hill lobbyist and an ITAC representative — think PhRMA — are able to present their members’ opinions on key legislative and international trade issues simultaneously. That should’ve made room at the ITAC table for NGO reps, academics, and/or people off the street but I am not certain if that’s what happened or not. Might make an interesting case study. One last point, if you don’t think Congress plays a role in international trade involving the United States, then you probably haven’t heard of the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee — both have staffs whose arms are into these negotiations up to the elbows. That’s my two cents worth. But, in closing, U.S. workers got royally screwed by NAFTA but I, for one, didn’t see it coming as it was being negotiated.


  18. We have learned from NAFTA directly and the European Union Trade Agreements indirectly that non-comprehensive moves tend to throw the working conditions out of balance in those countries that do not have an labor-management-government integrated condition. In Germany, corporations are forced by law to place the country and its workers first, then the issues of trade and tariffs are addressed. In China the country maintains that 70% of the manufacturing of imported technology such as heavy turbines for wind and other uses, must be done in China using Chinese labor.

    These vast an overreaching trade agreements will only benefit the US if they are complimented with an eradication of the oligarchical system of government that places global corporate interests ahead of those of the US worker. This necessitates an increase of the minimum wage to well over $10 an hour, corporate incentives as well as controls to keep the manufacturing base that is left in the US and to increase it in the US. What is good for GE is no longer good for the US. What is good for GM is no longer good for the US. This has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt with the reduction of the US auto working force to a quarter of what it was fifty years ago. GE produces locomotive turbines and other work in countries like Brazil, China, and India instead of in the US. This equates to fast profits for GE and lower paying servile jobs for the American worker.

    Universal health care costs at par with competing nations, labor-management-government coordination, and an attempt at eliminating the oligarchical style of government in the US must come before another of these trade agreements. On this one, Obama seems to be wheedling something into his legacy and sucking up to the GOP to get it through. The only reason for secrecy is speed and the only reason for speed is that if Clinton gets in, probably for 8 years she may be smart enough and strong enough to develop this idea properly which will take longer. Obama has done a yeoman’s job at stopping the bleeding caused by the three stooges and their arrogant incompetence but he has failed on a number of issues, decriminalizing pot, reigning in corporate America and the banks, and now this. However, with a GOP President you can bet your last dollar for what it might be worth, that it would be worse.

    I’m disappointed in Obama on this one.

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