Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Democratic Congressional Candidate Jason Ritchie Makes The Case For Opposing TPP


In the new video above, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, asserts, "The only sure way to stop excessive risk-taking on Wall Street-- so that you don't risk losing your job or your savings or your home-- is to put an end to the excessive economic and political power of Wall Street by busting up the big banks."

And in a new Senate report, Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements Elizabeth Warren punched back hard at the absurd contentions from the White House about how simply wonderful the Republican trade agenda is that Obama is shilling for. "The President," explains the report, "claims the TPP will have 'higher labor standards, higher environmental standards,' and 'new tools to hold countries accountable.'" Problemo: every administration has been promulgating the same damn lies.

In 1993, President Clinton claimed that “the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] is the first agreement that ever really got any teeth in environmental standards, any teeth in what another country had to do with its own workers and its own labor standards... There’s never been anything like this before.”

In 2005, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman claimed, “[t]he [Central American Free Trade Agreement] has the strongest labor and environmental provisions of any trade agreement ever negotiated by the United States.”

In 2007, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab claimed that the Peru, Colombia, and Panama trade agreements contained “unprecedented protections for labor rights and environmental standards.”

In 2010, President Obama said that the South Korea agreement included “groundbreaking protections for workers’ rights.”

In 2011, the White House insisted that the Colombia trade agreement “include[d] strong protections for workers’ rights, based on the May 10, 2007, bipartisan Congressional- Executive agreement to incorporate high labor standards into America’s trade agreements.” President Obama said in 2012 that “this agreement is a win for our workers and the environment because of the strong protections it has for both-- commitments we are going to fulfill.”

A few months later, the White House made nearly identical claims about the Panama Free Trade Agreements. 
 However, the history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. FTAs lags far behind the promises. This analysis by the staff of Sen. Warren reveals that despite decades of nearly identical promises, the United States repeatedly fails to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards in free trade agreements.

Again and again, proponents of free trade agreements claim that this time, a new trade agreement has strong and meaningful protections; again and again, those protections prove unable to stop the worst abuses. Lack of enforcement by both Democratic and Republican presidents and other flaws with the treaties have allowed countries with weaker laws and standards and widespread labor and environment abuses to undermine treaty provisions, leaving U.S. workers and other interested parties with no recourse. This analysis finds:

The United States does not enforce the labor protections in its trade agreements. A series of reports by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as reports by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of State, document significant and persistent problems with labor abuses in countries with which we have FTAs. While GAO acknowledged progress by partners in implementing commitments and by agencies in tracking progress and engaging on problems, their analysis concluded that the USTR and DOL “do not systemically monitor and enforce compliance with FTA labor provisions,” and that the U.S. agencies generally have not been “identifying compliance problems, developing and implementing responses, and taking enforcement actions.”

The U.S. pursues very few enforcement actions. Prior to 2008, the Department of Labor had not accepted a single formal complaint about labor abuses in free trade agreements. Since then, the Obama administration has conducted in-depth investigations into complaints and issued fact-finding reports and recommendations. However, DOL has accepted only five claims against countries for violating their labor commitments, and it only agreed to restart the first ever labor enforcement case under any free trade agreement in 2014, six years after the initial claim was filed. This reveals both the cumbersome nature of complaint process and the overall enforcement problems with these agreements.

Widespread labor-related human rights violations. The United States has 14 free trade agreements with 20 countries. While some of these countries have made progress in improving labor conditions, problems with labor rights and other abuses are widespread. U.S. agencies or other investigators have identified significant problems with use of child labor or other labor-related human rights abuses in 11 of the 20 countries.

Failure to curb even the worst abuses. Case studies of several countries that have signed U.S. free trade agreements reveal continuing horrific labor abuses. Guatemala was named “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists” five years after entering a trade agreement with the U.S. In Colombia, despite the existence of a special “Labor Action Plan” put in place to address long-standing problems and secure passage of the Colombia FTA, 105 union activists have been murdered and 1,337 death threats have been issued since the Labor Action Plan was finalized four years ago.
Yesterday Paul Krugman made it clear why he's sickened by all the lies woven around the big TPP fallacy.
One of the great blog posts of all time was from Daniel Davies, who declared-- apropos of Iraq-- that
Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.
It’s a good dictum; and if you see a lot of lies, or at least misdirection, being used to sell a policy you should be very, very concerned about said policy.

And the selling of TPP just keeps getting worse.

William Daley’s pro-TPP op-ed in today’s Times is just awful, on multiple levels. No acknowledgment that the real arguments are not about trade but about intellectual property and dispute settlement; on top of that a crude mercantilist claim that trade liberalization is good because it means more exports; some Dean Baker bait with numbers-- $31 billion in trade surplus! All of 0.2 percent of GDP!
Right now that excessive economic and political power Wall Street has accrued in the last few decades is going towards shoving another bad trade deal down America's throat, the TPP. Conservative Democrats beholden to Big Business have joined the Republicans to screw over America's working families. Progressive and populist congressional candidates, like those endorsed by Blue America, are among the few standing up behind Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson and a few other brave legislators opposing Obama's headlong rush into another NAFTA-like bad deal. 

One is Jason Ritchie, from the Seattle suburbs (WA-08). Ritchie is locked in an electoral struggle with a Republican incumbent, Dave Reichert, who is gung-ho on giving Obama fast-track power. Ritchie penned this guest post for us today.

We Can Do Better Than The TPP
by Jason Ritchie

Trade is essential in the global economy and accounts for more than 40% of Washington State’s economy. A good trade deal can grow our middle class and create living wage jobs. But we must demand transparency and accountability or we risk repeating the mistakes of the past.

Trade is balanced when two equal partners create a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services that respect each other’s laws, grow each other's economies and create stronger ties. Good trade policy will work equally well for businesses, workers, families and communities.

But that’s not what the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP is about.

Based on the leaked sections of the trade agreement, the TPP favors global corporations and will extend the decline of America’s middle class. We would be risking our ability to protect what’s left of our American manufacturing base, jeopardizing our right to fight against unfair trade practices, endangering our ability to fight against unfair currency manipulation, and allowing other countries to set our human rights and environmental standards.

Transnational corporations negotiated the Trans Pacific Partnership in secret-- the same corporations that consider the middle class simply another commodity to be traded. It’s incumbent on the supporters of the proposal to outline who stands to benefit from the trade agreement and why. To date, this hasn’t happened.

This isn’t a question of partisan loyalty. There are Democrats and Republicans on each side of the TPP issue. This is a question of transparency and accountability.

I was born and raised in Michigan. Many in my family worked in the auto industry and belonged to the United Auto Workers. My family and their coworkers built a prosperous region with good schools, solid public infrastructure and a strong sense of community. I know the benefits of good paying middle-class, living wage jobs and a vibrant manufacturing base. I am a product of living wage jobs and I am now a creator of living wage jobs.

I know the consequences of trade deals that are not based on our middle-class values and are negotiated by transnational corporations to the sole benefit of their shareholders. I lived through what the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA did to my family, my community and my country and I will not let that happen again with the proposed TPP.

I am pro-trade and pro-transparency and accountability. Demanding transparency and accountability doesn’t make one opposed to trade. It makes one an active participant in our democracy. It’s time to slow down, drop the recriminations and start demanding answers to questions.

Let’s work for a trade deal that grows our American middle class, protects our currency, our human rights and environmental standards and puts family needs above corporate profits.

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