By Doug Porter
The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations have agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, one promising to set international commerce standards affecting 40% percent of the world’s economy.
The deal culminates years of negotiations setting up mechanics for a global economy as the basis for future prosperity. These negotiations never involved questioning the premise of neo-liberal policies as the foundation for economic development in the years ahead. In a nutshell, this means “marketplace” will be the final arbiter in the global economy.
The rules of the economic game, as laid out in previous trade-pacts, are seen by the left as driving forces in the widening of economic inequality. This, along with parochial and nationalist concerns on the right, sets up the Trans Pacific Pact (TPP) as a defining political battle as the US heads into an election year.
TPP: By the Corporation, for the Corporation
The terms of the fast-track legislation passed by the Congress earlier this year dictate that the text of a trade agreement be published 30 days after the president gives notice of his intent to sign the deal. The public has 60 days to review it, and then the International Trade Commission, an independent agency, has up to 105 days to produce an economic impact assessment.
Under this scenario, it will be four months before Congress could vote on the package.
From the Washington Post:
Lawmakers will not be allowed to amend or filibuster the TPP deal, but the vote will come during the presidential primary nominating contests. Candidates from both parties have lambasted U.S. trade policies as contributing to a reordering of the American economy that has led to a growing income gap.
Opponents of the deal, including labor unions, environmental groups and liberal Democrats, have pledged to mount a final campaign to block the accord on Capitol Hill. They have criticized the TPP as a regulatory framework aimed at protecting the interests of large multinational corporations while doing little to protect worker rights and the environment. U.S. officials have said that there are chapters in the agreement with enforceable provisions to do just that.
The inescapable fact is that these chapters with “enforceable provisions” have been written under the tutelage of 605 corporate lobbyists.
Nation Magazine publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel explained what to expect in an op-ed piece last spring:
…Our corporate-defined trade policies contribute significantly to the reality that, as Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz writes, “the real median income of a full-time male worker is lower now than it was 40 years ago.”
With tariffs already low, current trade treaties are focused less on tariffs and trade than on “harmonizing regulations” for investors. But these regulations concern worker rights, consumer and environmental protections, economic policies that are the expression of our democracy. Too often, “harmonization” is simply an excuse for corporations to institute a race to the bottom.
U.S. negotiators forcefully demand other countries pay a price for greater access to the U.S. market. But that price generally involves one or another corporate lobby, not the interests of the American people. So our drug companies get protections against the introduction of generic drugs, driving up prices abroad. Our agribusiness gets protection for its genetically altered foodstuffs. Wall Street gets rules making the sale of arcane derivatives easier.
TPP: Opposition on the Right
House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign threatens to unravel the coalition of center-right and establishment Republicans that passed Fast Track legislation. Given President’s Obama’s position that this deal would be one of his crowning achievements, how can any teahadist Congressman vote for it?
Here’s the explainer from Salon:
Conservatives disfavored trade promotion authority for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that it gave Obama expanded powers. But there’s an under-the-radar issue here: immigration. Far-right conservatives believe the deal will bring a flood of foreign workers into the U.S. and override federal immigration laws.
This may be dubious but it’s caught the ear of the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP presidential nomination – Donald Trump.
TPP: Opposition from the Left
The big player on the left in opposition to TPP is organized labor. At this point, they remain highly skeptical about any deal made by the administration.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“We ask the Administration to release the text immediately, and urge legislators to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP,” the AFL-CIO said in a statement. “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.”
President Obama will pitch his case to labor at a Wednesday town hall on the future of worker organizing.
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was certain he wasn’t going to like what’s on the table:
“I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision to move forward on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will hurt consumers and cost American jobs.
“Wall Street and other big corporations have won again. It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense.
Here’s the Washington Post’s take on the other leading Democratic contenders:
— Joe Biden’s job as vice president requires him to be a cheerleader for the agreement. He will stress its protections for workers and the environment, along with enforceability provisions that allow the U.S. to punish countries that don’t follow them. He can also note that the administration was initially reluctant to engage and held out for the best possible deal.
— Hillary has lurched to the left on trade since running for president, and she could seize on TPP as a wedge if Biden decides to run. Obama was to Hillary’s left on trade in 2008, but he became more pragmatic after taking office. In mid-June, Hillary announced that she would have voted against giving Obama fast-track authority. “I will judge what’s in the final agreement, but I hope that it can be made better,” Clinton said at the time.
TPP: Grass Roots Opposition
The Citizens Trade Campaign, leaders of the grass roots opposition to TPP, also responded to news of an agreement by negotiators, with executive director Arthur Stamoulis saying, in part:
Whatever deal trade ministers struck behind closed doors, the TPP continues to face serious trouble in Congress. Put simply, the political clock has run out for this pact. Heading into 2016 and beyond, Congress members know that American voters are not going to accept a massive trade agreement with undemocratic countries that offshores jobs and drives down wages.
For the better part of a decade, Americans have been telling the administration what sorts of provisions the TPP would need to ensure it benefits working families, instead of just corporate profits. Over all that time, negotiators have granted hundreds of well-connected corporate lobbyists access to TPP texts, but have refused to tell the American people what they’ve been proposing in our names. As such, we’ve had corporations guiding secret negotiations with human rights violators like Malaysia, where millions are victims of human trafficking, and Vietnam, where you can go to jail for requesting better working conditions — while the American people have been shut out of the process.
Now that a deal has reportedly been agreed upon, Congress should insist that it and the public receive immediate access to any and all TPP text.
The benchmarks Congress will now have to consider include: Does the TPP include labor and environmental standards, rules of origin and currency safeguards strong enough to protect human rights abroad and good-quality jobs here at home — or will the pact ship jobs overseas and reduce wages for American workers? Does it establish a floor, rather than a ceiling, when it comes to food and product safety — or will it expand imports from countries where food is often found to contain banned toxic chemicals? Does it make medicine more affordable — or will it increase the price of prescription drugs for seniors, veterans and others by enabling big pharmaceutical companies to prevent the sale of life-saving generic medications?
Leaked texts, and the TPP negotiating process itself, suggest the public is going to be unhappy with the answers to those questions. Americans have consistently demanded a “fair deal or no deal” on trans-Pacific trade. Given that the completed TPP agreement is unlikely to be fair to anyone but CEOs and Wall Street executives, expect a tidal wave of voters to demand “no deal.”
On to some other news….
ICYMI- The Pope’s Meeting With That Woman
Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her supporters were all over the media last week touting a meeting with the Pope. The idea was to give her credibility as a homophobe some legitimacy.
As it turns, Pope Francis did have a private audience in Washington… with a former student of the pope, Yayo Grassi, an openly gay Argentine along with his longtime partner and some friends…
Meanwhile, the Catholic insider who set up the encounter with Davis is in trouble.
From the Huffington Post:
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who arranged the Pope’s meetings in Washington (including the one with Kim Davis), is expected to be held responsible for blowback resulting from the meeting with Davis. According to the New York Times, Viganò is “likely to be removed at the first respectable opportunity” if blowback from the meeting with Davis continues to build.
San Diego Assemblywomen Making a Difference
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez ending the practices of strip searches of juveniles by law enforcement officers of the opposite sex.
Investigative reporting by former City Beat scribes Kelly Davis and Dave Maass on what could only be described as juvenile injustice in local jails was the basis for creating the law.
When you stop and think about it, it’s really sad that it takes passing a law to get the San Diego County Sheriffs to do the right thing.
And it’s also sad that Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber had to fight hard for the Governor’s signature on a bill requiring police to collect data on stops.
As a local ACLU activist noted:
An independent analysis shows that unarmed black men are seven times more likely than unarmed white men to die by police gunfire nationwide. California leads the nation for the highest number of people killed by law enforcement this year. Dr. Shirley Weber authored the new law with the goal of formulating policies that would reduce these statistics, and, she hopes, set an example for other states.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Law enforcement organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police and the 65,000-member Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, had asked Brown to veto the bill, AB 953, arguing among other things that its reporting requirements would be burdensome to police and costly to taxpayers.
Yeah, well…the fact police advocates won’t even admit the possibility that racial profiling goes on speaks volumes about why such a law is needed. Y’all been saying this racism thing is fixed for too long now. The black kids getting killed at a disproportionately higher rate would also beg to differ, if they could.
On This Day: 1969 – “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” debuted on BBC television. 1988 – In a debate between candidates for vice president, Democratic Lloyd Bentsen told Republican Dan Quayle, “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” 2004 – Some 2,100 supermarket janitors in California, mostly from Mexico, won a $22.4 million settlement over unpaid overtime. Many said they worked 70 or more hours a week, often seven nights a week from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. Cleaner Jesus Lopez told the New York Times he only had three days off in five years.
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