Saturday, November 07, 2015

TPP: Yeah, As Bad-- If Not Even Worse-- Than We Expected


Wednesday, the White House finally released the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership dealand, as many of us expected, it's what we feared-- another crappy corporate trade deal like NAFTA. The first Member of Congress I heard from after the text came out was Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, whose been fighting to make this monstrosity better for working families and better for the environment. "I remember," she wrote yesterday, "what happens when we don’t think of the American worker first. My North Carolina family grew up and survived working at the local mills-- making a good living and thriving in the middle class. But those mills closed, and because of bad trade deals like the TPP, the mill workers lost their jobs. To this day, they’ve never fully recovered. That devastation is what keeps me fighting against bad trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP, which ship our good-paying jobs overseas. I fight, even if it means taking on my own party, to show that we need fearless leaders who will stand for what’s right. I’m sick of the promises of good-paying jobs and economic growth that never materialize. And I’m tired of our workers watching their livelihoods disappear. Trade is one of the issues that defines us as Democrats. Progressives like you and me need to speak up now to show we’re not giving up the fight against TPP-- against unfair trade deals that don't respect workers' rights and environmental protections and ship jobs overseas."

Mark Pocan (D-WI) was on the exact same page as Donna. "The release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership text confirms our fears about how bad this trade deal will be for American workers. This deal, which encompasses 40 percent of the global economy, will send more American jobs overseas and lower wages. Our workers will now have to directly compete with workers making pocket change in countries like Vietnam. We should not be surprised that a trade deal negotiated in secret by 600 corporate advisors gives huge sweetheart deals to multinational corporations while producing disastrous results for the middle class. Not only would this deal ship jobs overseas, destroying our communities and local economies in the process, but the deal will also have a widespread effect on issues ranging from drug prices to environmental protections to food safety. It will also almost double the number of corporations with access to special non-judicial courts to challenge state and local laws. In the end the TPP was worse than we thought it would be."

One of the most determined congressional voices against the TPP in the House has been Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson. Yesterday he told his constituents that "It comes as little surprise that a trade deal negotiated in secret has provisions protecting large corporations and banks, but no protection for American workers. Companies like General Electric and Caterpillar are expected to reap millions from TPP, while more American jobs are shipped overseas. This deal will hurt American wages, as our workers will be forced to compete with those from countries who pay as little as $0.65 an hour. It will remove important food safety regulations, endangering everyone. The only winners from this deal will be American corporations and foreign workers-- not the American workers whose lives we should be working to improve. Our trade debt currently stands at $11 trillion. This is money that we owe to other countries. The TPP will just make this worse. This trade imbalance is one of the biggest contributors to wage stagnation, income inequality, and the disappearance of the American middle class. We cannot have a true, and full, economic recovery until everyone is fully benefitting. Deals like TPP are counter to what we as a country should be pursuing."

It's an agreement that Obama is going to pass with Republicans and the Wall Street owned New Dems. That's why it's so dangerous for progressives to back the garbage candidates the DCCC recommends, almost all of whom are corrupt conservative New Dems and Blue Dogs.

I know the corporate candidate the Democratic Establishment hopes to run for president next year says she's now opposed to the TPP (which she once called "the gold standard of trade agreements." I haven't seen a statement from her on the specifics yet. This is what Bernie released Thursday:
Now that the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has finally been released, it is even worse than I thought. It is clear to me that the proposed agreement is not, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements.

"This trade deal would make it easier for corporations to shut down more factories in the U.S. and ship more jobs to Vietnam and Malaysia where workers are paid pennies an hour. The TPP is a continuation of our disastrous trade policies that have devastated manufacturing cities and towns all over this country from Newton, Iowa, to Cleveland, Ohio. We need to rebuild the disappearing middle class, not tear it down.

"The TPP would allow foreign corporations to sue federal, state and local governments in an international tribunal for passing an increase in the minimum wage or any other law that could hurt expected future profits.

"The agreement would threaten American laws that protect the safety of the drugs we take, the seafood we feed our families and the toys our kids play with every day.

"At a time when prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, the TPP would make a bad situation even worse by granting new monopoly rights to big pharmaceutical companies to deny access to lower cost generic drugs to millions of people.

"Outrageously, the proposed agreement includes violators of international human rights, like Brunei, where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death and Malaysia where tens of thousands of immigrant workers in the electronics industry are working as modern day slaves.

"I will do everything I can to defeat the TPP. We need trade policies in this country that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations.”

Even the U.S. Business and Industry Council called the TPP a "very bad deal for America" and Council President Kevin Kearns said it "is full of special deals for various U.S. trading partners, foreign corporations, and multinational U.S. businesses, with little to promote domestic job growth in the United States... The TPP is anything but the free trade agreement it purports to be. The use of the term 'free trade' is simply a codeword designed to attract the support of Congressional Republicans who lurch zombie-like to support anything so labeled, without examining the fine print. A real free-trade deal could be written on a single sheet of paper, with commitments to remove all tariffs and non-tariff barriers of any kind."

These were some of his organization's specific objections:
1. Lax rules on importation of foreign-made autos and auto parts into the United States. TPP lowers the already too low NAFTA parts content standard, and permits Toyota and other Japanese automakers to export vehicles to the United States that contain a large percentage of parts produced in non-TPP countries. And so, other Asian countries such as China, who are not even TPP partners are beneficiaries.

2. False expectations for labor and environmental enforcement among trading partners. The TPP contains labor and environmental chapters hailed by President Obama as the "most progressive ever... These chapters are completely unenforceable. Are we really going to have a fleet of labor rights and environmental inspectors cruising around Vietnam, checking to make sure that every last factory is being fair to its workers and not polluting? Or tramping through the jungles of Malaysia to make sure that the government has put an end to the human trafficking and forced labor camps? No, it's just not humanly possible."

3. A failure to address Value Added Taxes (VAT). All of the other TPP countries except Brunei utilize a VAT taxation system. This is a major trade barrier that imposes a direct tax on U.S. exports, but it is completely unaddressed in the TPP.

4. A complete disregard by President Obama of bipartisan Congressional instructions to address currency manipulation on the part of America's trading partners. While the dollar is the world's reserve currency and is freely traded in markets throughout the world, a significant number of TPP countries manipulate their currencies to give their goods a competitive advantage over American products. "In the TPP, there are only side agreements to discuss currency manipulation via reporting requirements and consultative mechanisms. What these side deals mean is that a country can continue to intervene in currency markets, and then the U.S. can discuss the matter-- without the ability to do anything about it. More chit-chat currency diplomacy."

5. The TPP offers no real benefit for the U.S. economy. A Peterson Institute study shows a minimal 0.4 percent gain for the American economy by 2025. That's hardly enough to start reducing America's immense and growing $18 trillion national debt. And two U.S. Department of Agriculture studies show no net gain whatsoever in agriculture from the TPP. "Why sign the agreement if it doesn't expand the American economy and help reduce the national debt? Two words: Special Interests."

6. The TPP's complex series of rules and regulations serve to benefit each country's 'national champion' companies and industries, with the big winners in the U.S. being the major Wall Street banks, insurance companies, and multinational manufacturer-outsourcers. The TPP has, in addition to 30 main chapters, a total of 58 side agreements (called "side letters.") And Japan alone possesses 14 of these side letters, with each one laying out special conditions for Japanese participation and special deals for Japanese economic sectors. "Free trade? Hardly. Congress should vote a resounding 'no' on this poorly negotiated deal."
Public Citizen detailed some of the aspects of the TPP that are worse than what anyone was expecting and worse than past trade pacts:
The TPP Intellectual Property Chapter would roll back the “May 2007” reforms for access to medicines.
The TPP Environment Chapter would roll back the “May 2007” reforms by eliminating most of the seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements that past pacts have enforced.
The TPP Investment Chapter would expand the scope of policies that can be challenged and the basis for such challenges, including for the first time ever allowing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) enforcement of World Trade Organization intellectual property terms and new challenges to financial regulations.
With Japanese, Australian and other firms newly empowered to launch ISDS attacks against the United States, the TPP would double U.S. ISDS exposure with more than 9,200 additional subsidiaries operating here of corporations from TPP nations newly empowered to launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government. (About 9,500 U.S. subsidiaries have ISDS rights under ALL existing U.S. investor-state-enforced pacts.)
The TPP E-Commerce chapter wouldundermine consumer privacy protections for sensitive personal health, financial and other data when it crosses borders by exposing such policies to challenge as a violation of the TPP limits on regulation of data flows.
TPP “Sanitary and Phytosanitary” chapter terms would impose new limits on imported food safety relative to past pacts. This includes new challenges to U.S. border inspection systems that can be launched based on extremely subjective requirements that inspections must “limited to what is reasonable and necessary” as determine by a TPP tribunal. New language that replicates the industry demand for a so-called Rapid Response Mechanism that requires border inspectors to notify exporters for every food safety check that finds a problem and give the exporter the right to bring a challenge to that port inspection determinations-- meaning new rights to bring a trade challenge to individual border inspection decisions (including, potentially, laboratory or other testing) that second-guesses U.S. inspectors and creates a chilling effect that would deter rigorous oversight of imported foods.
And Chris Hedges calls it "a global corporate coup d’état. Corporations will become more powerful than countries. Corporations will force democratic systems to serve their interests. Civil courts around the world will be replaced with corporate courts or so-called trade tribunals. This is a massive expansion that builds on the worst of NAFTA rather than what Barack Obama promised…"

You can contribute to the crusaders against the TPP mentioned above on their ActBlue pages:

Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson

Mark Pocan

Bernie Sanders

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At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe NOW O-bats will believe the rest of us when we declare Obama to be a most fabulous liar?

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are in the precarious position of needing the GOP to recognize a REAL reason to vituperate/vote against Obumma.

John Puma

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous sglover said...

We are in the precarious position of needing the GOP to recognize a REAL reason to vituperate/vote against Obumma.

I'll go along with the gist, but really, it's not like Obama started the Dem "strategy" of making "we're not Republicans" their "philosophy". "Bulworth" made that plain almost 20 years ago, and that was a response to years of Dem spinelessness and stupidity.


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