Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#27 / TPP

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is housed in the Executive Office of the President, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) is "an ambitious, 21st century trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with eleven other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). When complete, TPP will unlock opportunities for American workers, families, businesses, farmers, and ranchers by providing increased access to some of the fastest growing markets in the world."

That sounds pretty good! And if you listened to the President's 2015 State of the Union speech, you will probably remember that the President is backing the TPP big time. The terms of the proposed treaty are not yet final,  and since the negotiations are taking place in secrecy, no one not corrected to the negotiating team actually knows exactly what is being suggested. Furthermore, if the President gets his way, there isn't going to be much real debate on the terms of the treaty once negotiations are concluded. The President wants "Fast Track" authority from Congress, so the Congress will have to cast a single up or down vote on the deal that the President delivers. If "Fast Track" authority is granted, Congress will not be able to demand changes to the treaty as part of the process of Congressional review. Counterpunch thinks that would be a mistake!

Other individuals and organizations are also not pleased with the TPP, and are specifically not pleased with the President's demand for "Fast Track" authority. Public Citizen has roundly denounced the process:

Although it is called a "free trade" agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP's 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.

The TPP would even elevate individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations, empowering them to privately enforce new rights and privileges, provided by the pact, by dragging governments to foreign tribunals to challenge public interest policies that they claim frustrate their expectations. The tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation to the foreign corporations for the "expected future profits" they surmise would be inhibited by the challenged policies.

Friends of the Earth, a group I mentioned yesterday, is also opposed: 

Every time the White House wants to get approval for a new trade deal, they first seek “Fast Track” trade negotiating authority from Congress. Fast Track legislation would strip Congress’ capacity to intervene on trade deals, and force the deals through both houses on a quick up-or-down vote, with no amendments, even when the U.S. trade representative ignores congressional negotiating objectives. Essentially, the Fast Track authority sidesteps the democratic safeguards the Constitution established, allowing the USTR to rush deals past our representatives. Despite the fact that new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Boehner, and U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman want to push Fast Track ... through Congress, many members from both the left and right do not support suspending their Constitutional rights and obligations. We must not trade away democracy and the future of the planet.

The TPP is of, by, and for business. That's what it is all about. As in so many other cases, the government is seeking to advance business opportunities as though that were the reason that government exists at all. 

Not true! In terms of national purpose, democracy trumps business every time. 

But business wins when the advocates of democracy don't fight. Here's another place where we are going to need to pick a side!

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  1. This is more evidence of the increasing shift of the United States government from a representative republic to a corporate oligarchy. It also reflects the shift of power from sovereign governments to trans-national corporations, many of which have a larger economy than many countries.

    In a culture dominated by the philosophies of personal consumerism, corporate capitalism and situational morality, there are no alternative sides to choose from. The dominant culture is like water to a fish: it is so ubiquitous we are unaware of its presence and its effects on the way we think.

    Few citizens (<10%?) of the United States are aware of TPP, and few of those who are aware have any understanding of its implications. Within the dominant philosophies, TPP is considered a good thing!

    Democracy would trump business if it were practiced in the United States. Unfortunately, this is not the case; we abandoned democracy a century ago and proceeded to place corporations in power over legislative handmaidens and a puppet Presidency. This leaves the citizens with no pathway to power, as the electoral process is co-opted by corporate funding, corporate technological tinkering, and corporate control of access to information.

    There is only one alternative left.

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS8dNzRhMgk


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