NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations completed in Atlanta, says White House

Nego­ti­a­tions on the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, an unprece­dent­ed trade pact that has been devel­oped in secret by diplo­mats rep­re­sent­ing eleven nations as well as lob­by­ists for large, multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, have final­ly been com­plet­ed, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion announced this morning.

“This part­ner­ship lev­els the play­ing field for our farm­ers, ranch­ers, and man­u­fac­tur­ers by elim­i­nat­ing more than 18,000 tax­es that var­i­ous coun­tries put on our prod­ucts,” claimed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in a statement.

“It includes the strongest com­mit­ments on labor and the envi­ron­ment of any trade agree­ment in his­to­ry, and those com­mit­ments are enforce­able, unlike in past agree­ments. It pro­motes a free and open Internet.”

“It strength­ens our strate­gic rela­tion­ships with our part­ners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st cen­tu­ry. It’s an agree­ment that puts Amer­i­can work­ers first and will help mid­dle-class fam­i­lies get ahead.”

“Once nego­tia­tors have final­ized the text of this part­ner­ship, Con­gress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will have months to read every word before I sign it.”

Reac­tion to the announce­ment poured in, and much of it was negative.

The Ford Motor Com­pa­ny, one of Amer­i­ca’s tra­di­tion­al Big Three automak­ers, said it would oppose the pact, and law­mak­ers from Michi­gan echoed the com­pa­ny’s con­cerns that the TPP does­n’t address cur­ren­cy manipulation.

“To ensure the future com­pet­i­tive­ness of Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing, we rec­om­mend Con­gress not approve TPP in its cur­rent form,” Ford said in a statement.

Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders issued a state­ment harsh­ly crit­i­ciz­ing the TPP.

“Doc­tors With­out Borders/Médecins Sans Fron­tières (MSF) express­es its dis­may that TPP coun­tries have agreed to Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment and multi­na­tion­al drug com­pa­ny demands that will raise the price of med­i­cines for mil­lions by unnec­es­sar­i­ly extend­ing monop­o­lies and fur­ther delay­ing price-low­er­ing gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion,” the respect­ed non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion (NGO) said.

“The big losers in the TPP are patients and treat­ment providers in devel­op­ing coun­tries. Although the text has improved over the ini­tial demands, the TPP will still go down in his­to­ry as the worst trade agree­ment for access to med­i­cines in devel­op­ing coun­tries, which will be forced to change their laws to incor­po­rate abu­sive intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty pro­tec­tions for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal companies.”

U.S. Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont, who is seek­ing to suc­ceed Barack Oba­ma as the next Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, blast­ed the pact almost imme­di­ate­ly and said he would do all he could to defeat it in Congress.

“Wall Street and big cor­po­ra­tions just won a big vic­to­ry to advance a dis­as­trous trade deal. Now it’s on us to stop it from becom­ing law,” Sanders said in an email to his sup­port­ers, going on to explain what is known about the TPP.

“Not a lot of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates would use their cam­paigns to influ­ence leg­is­la­tion being con­sid­ered in Con­gress,” Sanders not­ed. “Some can­di­dates haven’t even expressed an opin­ion on this crit­i­cal issue, which, frankly, I don’t real­ly under­stand. But as I’ve said before, this cam­paign is not about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clin­ton, or Jeb Bush — it’s about the needs of the Amer­i­can people.”

“And we need a new approach to trade in this coun­try — one that ben­e­fits work­ing fam­i­lies and not just the CEOs of multi­na­tion­al corporations.”

The Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion (EFF), also vowed to oppose the TPP.

“We have no rea­son to believe that the TPP has improved much at all from the last leaked ver­sion released in August, and we won’t know until the U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive releas­es the text,” said the EFF’s Maira Sut­ton in a blog post.

“So as long as it con­tains a retroac­tive 20-year copy­right term exten­sion, bans on cir­cum­vent­ing DRM [dig­i­tal restric­tions man­age­ment], mas­sive­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate pun­ish­ments for copy­right infringe­ment, and rules that crim­i­nal­ize inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists and whistle­blow­ers, we have to do every­thing we can to stop this agree­ment from get­ting signed, rat­i­fied, and put into force.”

The AFL-CIO indi­cat­ed it would wait to pro­nounce final judg­ment until the text was released, but expressed its dis­plea­sure with the way the TPP was draft­ed.

“We are dis­ap­point­ed that our nego­tia­tors rushed to con­clude the TPP in Atlanta, giv­en all the con­cerns that have been raised by Amer­i­can stake­hold­ers and mem­bers of Con­gress. The Admin­is­tra­tion had a hard time reach­ing this deal for good rea­sons: it appears that many prob­lem­at­ic con­ces­sions were made in order to final­ize the deal. We ask the Admin­is­tra­tion to release the text imme­di­ate­ly, and urge leg­is­la­tors to exer­cise great cau­tion in eval­u­at­ing the TPP.”

“As we’ve said, rush­ing through a bad deal will not bring eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty to work­ing fam­i­lies, nor will it bring con­fi­dence that our pri­or­i­ties count as much as those of glob­al cor­po­ra­tions. We will eval­u­ate the details care­ful­ly and work to defeat this cor­po­rate trade deal if it does not mea­sure up.”

Top Sen­ate Repub­li­can Mitch McConnell, who helped secure pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion to fast-track the TPP for Oba­ma, pledged to sub­ject the pact to “intense scruti­ny”.

Repub­li­cans con­trol Con­gress, so if they want­ed to, they could pass TPP on their own. Sen­ate Democ­rats would not be able to fil­i­buster, because fast-track guar­an­tees a vote in both hous­es of Con­gress, and pre­cludes any amendments.

How­ev­er, it’s unlike­ly that Repub­li­cans will be unit­ed on TPP. In the House, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Repub­li­cans refused to vote for fast-track leg­is­la­tion, both on the first go-around (which failed) and the sec­ond (which succeeded).

If the tea par­ty wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty with­holds its votes on final pas­sage of the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, the admin­is­tra­tion would need some Democ­rats to cross over and vote yes in order to win approval for the agreement.

We have no doubt the admin­is­tra­tion will vig­or­ous­ly lob­by the same Democ­rats who vot­ed for fast-track (like Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Maria Cantwell, and Pat­ty Mur­ray) to sup­port the Trans-Pacif­ic Partnership.

But because the TPP is behind sched­ule (nego­ti­a­tions were fin­ished lat­er than the admin­is­tra­tion want­ed), a vote will not hap­pen until 2016 — smack in the mid­dle of the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing sea­son, and in an elec­tion year.

As the old adage goes, in pol­i­tics, tim­ing is every­thing, and the TPP will be land­ing in Con­gress at a time when con­gres­sion­al and pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are look­ing to secure sup­port from the respec­tive bases of their par­ty for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The Repub­li­can base can’t stand Barack Oba­ma and is reflex­ive­ly opposed to any­thing he pro­pos­es. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic base, mean­while, is sick of los­ing jobs to grand trade schemes that failed to live up to their billing (like NAFTA).

That will make it very hard for the admin­is­tra­tion to pro­cure votes.

Hillary Clin­ton could play a deci­sive role. She has already announced her oppo­si­tion to the Key­stone XL pipeline, hav­ing got­ten tired of the White House­’s dither­ing on the mat­ter. If she comes out against the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship, it could make it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult for the White House to sell TPP to skep­ti­cal Democrats.

As Oba­ma has said sev­er­al times, he’s nev­er going to face the vot­ers again. He’s run his last cam­paign. In a year and a half, he’ll be out of office, nev­er to return. He can pur­sue what­ev­er agen­da he wants with­out wor­ry­ing about the elec­toral fall­out. Democ­rats in Con­gress sim­ply don’t have that luxury.

Even if they did, though, their alle­giance should be to the peo­ple of this coun­try, not to pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions. Trade deals that fat­ten the bot­tom lines of giant firms at the expense of work­ing peo­ple should not even mer­it con­sid­er­a­tion from any Demo­c­rat who tru­ly believes in the val­ues expressed in the par­ty’s platform.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma claims TPP is not like NAFTA. We agree that TPP is dif­fer­ent — it’s unprece­dent­ed in size and scope — but that does­n’t mean it’s bet­ter. In fact, we believe it has the poten­tial to be worse. It all depends on what’s actu­al­ly in it.

The admin­is­tra­tion pumped out mul­ti­ple pro-TPP “fact sheets” this morn­ing which were fair­ly light on facts, but very heavy on plat­i­tudes and pro-trade rhetoric.

We are not inter­est­ed in those mate­ri­als. We want to see the actu­al text of what will be sub­mit­ted to Con­gress so we can eval­u­ate it for ourselves.

If it turns out the agree­ment is what we sus­pect it to be (anoth­er give­away to pow­er­ful multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions) we will be unequiv­o­cal­ly opposed.

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One Comment

  1. Bernie Sanders Fights NAFTA in 1993 and TPP in 2015!

    “Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agree­ment. It is part of a glob­al race to the bot­tom to boost the prof­its of large cor­po­ra­tions and Wall Street by out­sourc­ing jobs; under­cut­ting work­er rights; dis­man­tling labor, envi­ron­men­tal, health, food safe­ty and finan­cial laws; and allow­ing cor­po­ra­tions to chal­lenge our laws in inter­na­tion­al tri­bunals rather than our own court sys­tem,” Sanders said.

    Watch Bernie’s pas­sion­ate speech on YouTube

    # by Barbara Dayan :: October 6th, 2015 at 12:01 AM
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