Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Vote in April on Fast Track & TPP?


How "The Mouse" Sees TPP (source)

by Gaius Publius

A what-to-expect note on TPP. There will be several battles; the first is coming in the Senate Finance Committee, likely in April, with a vote on "Fast Track" enabling legislation. ("Enabling" legislation means Fast Track enables TPP by disabling Congress's ability to debate and amend it.) If Fast Track passes out of committee, it will go to the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the House. If Fast Track passes both houses of Congress, TPP will be introduced. If Fast Track fails at any of these points, TPP will never see the light of day (unless Wikileaks leaks more of it).

Therefore, the first chance we have to kill TPP is to kill Fast Track in the Senate Finance Committee. (To help that effort, see the last few paragraphs below, about Sen. Ron Wyden. Then send him a nice note discussing his re-election.)

The White House Thinks TPP Will Pass

According to this piece in The Hill, the administration thinks Fast Track will succeed in the Finance Committee and Congress as a whole, while left-leaning (pro-worker) forces are pushing Democrats hard to defeat it. The Hill reports this about the administration's view (my emphasis throughout):
An Obama administration official said Wednesday that lawmakers will pass fast-track within the next month.

“We believe that the votes are there to move forward," said Catherine Novelli, undersecretary of State for economic growth, energy and the environment, in Singapore.

"We do expect it to be passed soon, within the next month or so,” she said, according to a Reuters report.
They might be right. There may be enough NAFTA-style (mainly bought) congresspeople in both parties to get Fast Track out of committee and passed on a floor vote in both houses.

Progressives Are Pushing Back Hard

Or maybe not. Left-leaning (populist and pro-worker) groups and all labor unions are opposed. The group Credo is being particularly aggressive in their opposition:
Petition urges Hillary to oppose Obama on trade

Liberal groups are pushing Hillary Clinton to oppose the Obama administration’s ambitious trade agenda and swing momentum their way.

Credo Action unveiled a petition on Thursday calling on the former secretary of State and Democratic presidential front-runner to publicly oppose trade promotion authority (TPA), also known as "fast track," and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

We can get a huge boost in our fight to stop this secret trade deal, which is being negotiated behind closed doors by the governments of a dozen countries in collusion with corporate interests, if the next leader of the Democratic Party publicly goes on record against fast-track and the TPP now,” the petition says.

Credo argues in the petition that the trade deal is in trouble because of the work of activists who have taken the fight to voters.

Clinton has yet to play her hand on the issues. While she has acknowledged that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — a deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, ushered through Congress — likely hurt U.S. workers, she has shown no signs of opposing the current agenda.
Actually, Clinton has shown many signs of supporting neo-liberal "free" trade in general.

This is good strategy on Credo's part, since Clinton is front-and-center these days due to her widely expected candidacy announcement (note that there are no ifs in Credo's phrasing, "the next leader of the Democratic party"). She's also front-and-center due to her widely reported ties, in this Warren Wing moment, to Wall Street and Big Money in general. Ultimately the question becomes:

In a Warren moment, does Hillary Clinton support the money or the people?

The question is a sword that cuts two ways; it attempts to force Clinton's hand and also the Senate's. From that mentioned petition:
What does Secretary Clinton really believe on trade? If she wants to be president, she must commit to us that she stands for and with us.

As First Lady, she reportedly supported North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[1]

As a senator, she voted for numerous free trade agreements, but she also voted against giving President George W. Bush Fast Track authority — the same authority Bill Clinton employed during the 1990s to pass NAFTA and that President Obama is now requesting.[2]

As a candidate in 2008, she criticized NAFTA and swore to do things differently.[3] But then, as Secretary of State, she actively helped to pass the very deals she vehemently opposed as a candidate, including the job-killing Korea agreement, and a free trade agreement with Colombia – a country notorious for its horrific labor rights and unionist assassinations.[4] And, she was a vocal promoter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty back in 2011.[5]

As Clinton makes the move towards her near-certain presidential campaign in her pursuit for the nomination of the Democratic Party, now is the time for her make it clear where she stands on a trade deal which has been called "NAFTA on steroids" – for good reason. If Secretary Clinton wants to become President Clinton, she must come out and oppose Fast Track authority for trade deals like the TPP.
That petition is here, by the way. If you want to do a progressive good deed — by pressuring Clinton and money-led senators as well — feel free to lend your name by signing it.

DC Democratic Leaders Want a "Path to Yes"

Mainstream Democrats — and I include "progressive" Nancy Pelosi here (who also supported Social Security benefit cuts) — are still seeking "a path to yes" on TPP. From the same Hill article:
Democratic leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) have said they want to find a way to “yes” on the trade deals.

But first her caucus intends to closely examine whether the TPP is good for U.S. workers.
This is both the problem and the "out," the hoped for "path to yes." Finding a way to declare TPP somehow "good for U.S. workers" is all the ground cover any money-financed Democrat needs to follow the yellow brick road and vote Yes on Fast Track. I'm hearing that Pelosi is not actually in favor of TPP (via private pushback against this earlier article), but vehicles like The Hill keep printing otherwise. If Nancy Pelosi wants to make these articles say something different, I suspect she knows how to do that — tell them to print something different. I'm sure they'd be glad to.

TPP Is the Next Piketty Battle

TPP is the next "Piketty battle" in the war between the Rich and the Rest, and it's a major one. NAFTA involved three countries. TPP, at last report, involves twelve:

Nations whose governments want to sign TPP. Indonesia
is considering it as well. You can see the original
"NAFTA Three" in the upper right. (Click to enlarge.)

The Hill is aware of how critical this fight is (as you should be as well):
Meanwhile, the trade debate is hitting at a critical time for lawmakers up for reelection or chasing a bid for the White House.

Labor unions and other groups opposed to fast-track are pressuring Democrats to bring a halt to the trade agenda or face backlash at the polls.

“I don't think anyone can credibly argue that America's trade policies are accomplishing our key national objectives — whether you point to our chronic current account trade deficits, our unsustainable net international debt, or the broader labor market data on wage stagnation and growing inequality,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a Thursday op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“If we keep at it, this could turn out to be a decent deal for us.”
Does that last sentence, attributed to Trumka, frighten you? It did me until I looked up the source and found his next sentence:
"If we keep at it, this could turn out to be a decent deal for us. But that won't happen with fast track."
On reading the whole source paragraph, it seems Trunka thinks that adding provisions to "fix weak rules of origin that China will exploit" and others to "address climate change and rebalance the pro-Wall Street tilt in the financial services, procurement, and food safety chapters" — that somehow this kind of language will make TPP a good deal.

It won't. Here's how that fantasy of NAFTA-enforced environmental regulations — used to sell NAFTA to the unwary — actually plays out:
After over ten years, it is now evident that in many ways NAFTA’s environmental initiatives were flawed from the outset, sundered by decisive weaknesses within its institutional frameworks and intentionally imprecise mandates. These only compounded the problems of insufficient funding and support for environmental efforts. Several specific shortcomings are particularly noteworthy. First off, in relative terms, NAFTA’s environmental institutions are painfully under funded: the CEC’s original $9 million budget has remained unchanged. Furthermore, the language of the agreement framing the institutions was made intentionally murky. The use of non-binding, toothless phrases like “fostering protection,” underscores the NAEEC’s fundamental lack of regulatory authority. What few rules do exist regarding monetary fines or sanctions are practically dormant, and serve more as a symbolic gesture than as a means of enforcement.
This is the way any progressive-friendly selling points will end up: underfunded, underdefined, unenforced.

But if Trumka wants to make Fast Track his bottom line, he's helping kill TPP for good, environment-protection "mandates" or not. TPP is so toxic that its authors don't want its text to become public until four years after it's signed. That's a toxic treaty. Without Fast Track, TPP is dead.

To which I add only this: Wonderful news; now please help. Those votes are coming soon. You can start with Sen. Ron Wyden, the pro-TPP Democratic gatekeeper (enabler) for "free trade moderates" in the Senate. Why Wyden? See here. Ron Wyden's contact information is here:

Senator Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717

If TPP passes, on the economic front it won't matter who's president. And if the "first woman president" abets sending yet more jobs to Asia in order to send yet more money to billionaire cash accounts ... maybe we need a different "first woman president." Or none at all until we find a good one. Just a first-woman-president thought...


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At 1:02 AM, Blogger John said...

Without Fast Track the TTP is dead in the same legislature that is considering Fast Track.
Yet there is some mystery whether Fast Track can be snuffed.

Conclusion, congressional leadership is to rank-and-file-congress as congress itself is to the American population. Certainly not news but its always extremely annoying to be reminded of it.

John Puma

PS I've already explained to Wyden, a few times, why I would never vote for him again so my "leverage" is infinitesimally infinitesimal.


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