Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Obama Partners Up With Big Business And The Republicans To Screw Over American Workers With The TPP


If there's one lesson Obama should learn from Bill Clinton's presidency, it's around NAFTA, which has been a catastrophe for the American middle and working class-- and pretty much everyone else it's impacted other than a handful of oligarchs and plutocrats. Instead, Obama is determined to deliver for Big Business the same way Clinton did. Like Clinton, he's partnering up with Republicans on horrendous trade policy, namely the TPP. Obama, apparently, thinks the TPP is an opportunity to make a legacy mark. I guess... but a really bad one, like Bill Clinton's on NAFTA.
Obama is facing increasing pressure from the other countries, particularly Japan, to win approval from Congress for fast-track authority, which would allow him to pursue a final deal that could not be changed by lawmakers before a vote on Capitol Hill. Current Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blocked a nascent push from the White House last year over fears of blowback from labor unions and other liberal groups.

Administration officials think they have a better chance to win approval for fast-track authority from a Republican-controlled Congress, but in his remarks Obama acknowledged that skepticism remains significant in both parties.

“It is somewhat challenging because of... Americans feeling as if their wages and incomes have stagnated” because of increasing global competition, Obama said. “There’s a narrative there that makes for some tough politics.”

Obama said that in talking about the merits of TPP, along with a smaller U.S.-European trade pact, he has urged Democrats not to view it in the same frame as past deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The president said the TPP aims to boost workers’ rights and environmental standards for businesses in some Asian nations.

“Don’t fight the last war,” Obama said.

Labor officials took issue with the president’s remarks and vowed to fight the administration’s trade push.

“It’s a little bit insulting for him to say anybody who is not in agreement with a particularly flawed trade deal he put on the table wants to maintain the status quo,” said Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff for the AFL-CIO. “We promise not to fight the last war if he promises not to put the last version of the trade deal on the table.”

Even among Republicans, Obama’s task to win support for his trade pacts remains fraught. Some House conservatives said they are opposed to granting the president more unilateral authority in the wake of his executive action two weeks ago to defer the deportations of up to several million undocumented immigrants.

“They don’t want to give him power certainly with the [Environmental Protection Agency]. They don’t want to give him power on human rights. They don’t want to give him power on health care. Do they want to give him power on international trade?” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has expressed concerns about the trade deals, said at the Council on Foreign Relations this week.

Brown said that Obama could face opposition from “an interesting coalition of sort of progressive Democrats and anti-Obama tea party Republicans.”

Sunday, chief negotiators from the 12 TPP countries-- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam-- convened in DC to put the finishing touches on their agreement so that it's all wrapped up early in the New York and the Republican-controlled Congress can pass it for him. McConnell has already said he's on board. Grassroots protests against TPP are assiduously ignored by the corporate media. In this agreement, getting rid of Net Neutrality, for example, is a construct by Big Business and their political allies of getting rid of trade barriers. The secret agreement is chock full of sneaky provisions meant to do end-runs around American public opinion and sovereignty.

Although Sherrod Brown and other progressives have led this battle in the Senate, House Democrats have been stirring as well. This was the statement Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijlava issued on TPP:
Free trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership must be negotiated in the open with Congressional oversight and input from the working people most affected by the policies at stake. Secret negotiations are not the way to cut a deal that will cost American jobs and slash wages.

The APEC summit ended today without a final deal agreed upon, which is yet another self-imposed deadline negotiators missed. The reason is simple: the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far from the ‘21st-century trade agreement’ it’s been called—it amounts to a corporate handout at the expense of workers in all negotiating nations. We urge American negotiators to fight for the best interest of working families-- not the world’s richest corporations.

We stand with the hard working people fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership and demand the public be told what’s happening behind closed doors.
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT): "The administration refuses to change its approach to secret negotiations and is pushing to send a final package to Congress with almost no ability for us to scrutinize it. Enough is enough: no more offshoring, no more NAFTA-style trade deals." Democrats in manufacturing states are especially incensed-- and ready to fight Obama. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said Obama can expect House Democrats to fight him "tooth and nail." And, speaking of nails, this morning Alan Grayson (D-FL) told me that the TPP is "the final nail in the coffin of the middle class in this country." 

UPDATE: Making It Clearer

The TPP represents a tradition of trade deals that are organized to wreck the bargaining power of ordinary Americans versus the bargaining power of Wall Street predators. Other deals like this include the Columbia free trade deal, which was paired with a commitment by the Columbia government to stop the killing of unionists (which has not stopped), and the deal with Panama, which was paired with a commitment by the Panamanian government to stop being a tax haven for anonymous flows of cash (which they have not).

The administration knows all of this. But for them, the TPP is not really about economics, but geopolitics. The administration wants to use the TPP as leverage against China. Though China is a real threat to the U.S., and it picks off our industrial base strategically, the TPP is a dumb counter to China's growing power in the Pacific (and in the U.S.). NAFTA-style deals that prioritize a low cost and risky supply chain at the expense of genuine stability of our industrial systems cannot work to make the world safer. They are designed to do the opposite. If the government wanted to stop China, it could start by stopping the Chinese from supplying electronic components to U.S. military subcontractors. But that's not happening. Instead you have the TPP. Ridiculous.

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At 10:28 AM, Blogger DocP said...

Why isn't this treason?


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