Category Archives: Fast Track

They’re Fast-Tracking the Future, TPP Style, but We Can Stop Them

Pres fast track Theyre Fast Tracking the Future, TPP Style, but We Can Stop Them

 
The “TPP,” or Trans-Pacific Partnership, is our nation’s newest proposed trade deal. It was negotiated without democratic input, and they’re trying to ram it through Congress the same way. Like NAFTA before it, the TPP would kill jobs. It would also cause lasting harm to democracy, here in the United States and around the world.

Continue reading «They’re Fast-Tracking the Future, TPP Style, but We Can Stop Them»

 

There has been an understandable sense of outrage over the Obama administration’s attempt to ram the most extreme trade deal yet through Congress with a “fast-track” provision that forbids amendments or filibustering. Representatives who have had very little chance to review the bill will be expected to vote on it without the chance to change it.

Dave Johnson has rounded up some of the latest reactions from across the political spectrum, including objections from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress over its lack of “transparency” (Leader Pelosi’s term). And it’s true that the treaty’s provisions have been kept secret from everyone — everyone, that is, except for the 600 corporate lobbyists and executives who’ve been reading it all along.

The imbalance of power which this reflects doesn’t end on our nation’s shores.

In this insightful analysis of TPP negotiation records released by WikiLeaks, doctoral candidate Gabriel Michael illustrates the ways in which the United States has been at odds with the rest of the world — or, at a minimum, has held substantially different positions from other nations in a number of key areas.

This graph from Michael summarizes the relative positions of the nations involved:

 

 

When it comes to this deal, “We Are Not the World.” As Mr. Michael notes, “the TPP is anything but an agreement amongst ‘like-minded’ countries, as the United States trade representative has described it.”

The U.S. differs most sharply from the other nations on matters of intellectual property. TheWikiLeaks documents show that every other country in the negotiations stood against American intellectual property demands. But the U.S. also has significant disagreements with the other nations on matters of law, rulemaking, and the environment.There’s evidence that the United States is pushing back on climate change and resisting other forms of environmental protection. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed concern that the United States may be attempting to restrict financial regulations, and has taken a position on the topic of tobacco.

President Obama’s negotiators also fought for the right of corporations to sue foreign governments over their laws and regulations. Australia has objected to this provision on the grounds that it gives corporations equal status with independent nations – but, as we will see, that’s implicit in much of the TPP process.

Our government isn’t just trying to push through a draconian treaty. It’s working to make it even worse.

But why  is the U.S. so sharply out of alignment with the other countries negotiating this treaty? Probably because it’s the nominal home of some of the world’s largest corporations. (They’re “nominally” American because, although they’re typically run by Americans, they tend to employ most of their workforces and pay their taxes — if at all in — other nations.)

The U.S. negotiators’ hard-line positions conform closely to the interests of these nominally American corporations. Whether it’s Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, tech, Hollywood, major polluters like the oil companies, or risk-taking financial institutions on Wall Street, the American negotiators have been fighting for their interests — while disregarding the interests of the taxpayers who pay their salaries.

Although these negotiators were appointed by Democrats, their positions don’t seem to differ from those taken by Republican Administrations. That reflects a political system which is increasingly being corrupted by campaign cash, and by the post-political work opportunities which American-run multinationals can offer sitting politicians.

It’s not unfair to say that the flaws in this treaty reflect the flaws in our democracy.

It’s easy to understand why President Obama and his team want to “fast-track” this deal. Not only are its provisions unpopular with the general public, but any changes that Congress might make would then have to be negotiated with all of the treaty participants. And that list of participants isn’t restricted to the nations who will become this treaty signatories if it is passed.

The real negotiations, the toughest give-and-take, has almost certainly not been among sovereign nations but among “sovereign” corporations. That’s why hundreds of corporate representatives saw this treaty before any elected representatives did. In many cases, they were the ones doing the wheeling and dealing. Rice producers, dairy corporations, financiers, corporate beef, Big Pharma, and manufacturers of textiles, footwear, and technology … they had to negotiate with their governments, and perhaps with each other as well.

Here’s food for thought: Fast-tracking could become the model for a new and profoundly subversive model of governance — one in which elected government becomes little more than an afterthought to corporate-backed deal-making. It’s not hard to imagine a dystopian future where this becomes the norm.

In the right hands it might make a good science-fiction novel: a world in which individual governments, treaty organizations and even the United Nations have been replaced by a new governing body comprised entirely of corporate representatives. Think of it as a World Financial Parliament or a Global House of Corporate Lords, where the only “voting” the rest of us do happens when we watch a movie, play a video game, or take a prescription medication.

And even when we do, we don’t really have much of a choice at all.

But the fight isn’t over. Congress is reluctant to pass this unpopular bill, especially in an election year. That makes public pushback especially important right now. An impressively broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future, has come together to oppose fast tracking the TPP. You can get more information and take action here.

Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

RT TPP 1 Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

Operatives of top global corporations, which spend great amounts of cash to lobby Congress, are also part of a small group in the US outside the Obama administration that can access working plans on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Continue reading «Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress»

According to data analyzed by government transparency advocate MapLight, current members of Congress received around US$24 million in the last ten years from organizations represented on an exclusive industry board, created and staffed by Congress. This board has inside access – such as not even granted to members of Congress, much less the public – to the highly-secretive negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which promises to give powerful industry players more clout over global trade rights.

The United States is currently in negotiations with 11 other Pacific Rim nations on the lucrative trade pact known as theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which aims to liberalize trade among the signees. Among the contentious issues in the TPP is that the agreement stipulates new powers for multinationals that would allow them to challenge country laws in privately run international courts. Washington has endorsed such powers in previous trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but conditions in the TPP could grant multinational more powers to challenge a wider range of laws. Under NAFTA several companies including Dow Chemicals and Exxon Mobil have sought to overrule regulations on fracking, oil drilling, and drug patents.

“The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter,” said a memo from one of the participating countries obtained by the Huffington Post.

Ultimately, the pact would give corporate entities much more influence over commerce, elevating“individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations,” consumer rights advocate Public Citizen says on its website.

Thus far in the multi-year negotiations of TPP, a small cadre of people have had open access to the working documents involved in the various sections of the trade pact. On the contrary, members of the US Congress, for example, must visit the offices of the United States Trade Representative to review the provisions. They are not allowed to bring anyone with them, nor can they make copies of any documents pertaining to the working agreement.

Yet aside from those in the Obama administration, only members of the United States Trade Representative’s advisory system, including the 18-member Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (ITAC-15), can freely access TPP negotiation documents on intellectual property.

Members of the ITAC-15 include representatives from companies like GE, Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson, and entities such as the Recording Industry Association of America, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The ITAC-15 does not include public advocacy organizations, academics or any non-industry experts.

The industry trade advisory system was created and staffed by members of Congress. In fact, the ITAC-15 is made up of several top political spenders that have offered millions of dollars to influential Congress members in recent years, data organized by MapLight shows.

MapLight found that – from Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2012 – the 18 organizations that have representatives on the ITAC-15 gave almost $24 million to current members of Congress in that time period via political action committees, among other avenues that are legally required to be disclosed.

AT&T has given over $8 million to current members of Congress, more than any other ITAC-15 entities.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has been given $433,350 from ITAC-15 organizations, more than any other individual in Congress.

Congressional Democrats have gotten $11.4 million from the organizations, while Republicans have received $12.6 million.

A handful of Congress members sponsoring legislation that would give the Obama administrationmore power over the congressional process of approving TPP – barring amendments to the pact, for example – have received a total of $758,295 from the ITAC-15 groups. These members include: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus ($140,601), Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch ($178,850), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp ($216,250), House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes ($86,000), and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions ($136,594).

Meanwhile, a new report released this week showed that US corporations spent $185 million in 2012 alone via nonprofit groups that are not legally required to divulge either their sources of funding or how they spend that money.

“Ranking among the biggest donors are energy giant Exelon Corp., health insurer WellPoint Inc. and technology titan Microsoft Corp.,” the Center for Public Integrity said in its findings.

“The millions of dollars in corporate expenditures highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity’s research flowed to more than 1,000 politically active nonprofits, from major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pro-business alliances such as the Fix the Debt Coalition.”

 

Source: RT

SOTU: President’s Base Opposes Fast Track for TPP

hdr content SOTU: Presidents Base Opposes Fast Track for TPP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2014
1:47 PM

CONTACT: Citizens Trade Campaign

Arthur Stamoulis, (202) 494-8826 ormedia@citizenstrade.org

Continue reading «SOTU: President’s Base Opposes Fast Track for TPP»
WASHINGTON – January 27 – Over 550 labor, environmental, family farm and other organizations traditionally associated with President Barack Obama’s political base sent a letter to Congress today opposing Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other pending trade agreements. The letter comes just a day before the President’s annual State of the Union address. Corporate interests that fought the president’s re-election are lobbying for him to use the speech to call on Congress to enact Fast Track authority for the TPP. The President’s political base and many congressional Democrats stand in united opposition, emphasizing that the TPP threatens to exacerbate American income inequality.”Income inequality and long-term unemployment are serious problems that the job-killing TPP would only worsen,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which organized the letter. “Calling for Fast Track in the State of the Union would undercut positive proposals to battle growing income inequality and create middle class jobs which are expected to be the central focus of the President’s speech. As short-sighted as such a call would be, even more short-sighted would be for Congress members on either side of the aisle to answer it, as they’re the ones who would be dealing with the political repercussions this November.”The 564-organization letter urges Congress to oppose “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act” (HR 3830/S 1900), legislation which would revive the 2002 Fast Track “trade promotion authority” mechanism that expired in 2007. The bill was introduced on January 9 without a Democratic sponsor in the House by Ways & Means Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI), and by outgoing Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate.”After decades of devastating job loss, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy,” the letter reads. “To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements… [The Camp-Baucus bill] is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people. We oppose this bill, and urge you to do so as well.”Among the signers are labor unions like the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Autoworkers (UAW), United Brotherhood of Carpenters, United Steelworkers (USW) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU); environmental organizations like 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club; family farm organizations like the National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union and the Western Organization of Resource Councils; consumer groups like Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, National Consumers League and Public Citizen; and hundreds of others.

During last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama claimed that the TPP would “boost American exports.” He made similar claims in his 2011 State of the Union speech with respect to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, urging Congress to pass that pact. U.S. exports to Korea declined ten percent in the first year of that agreement, while American-job-displacing imports from South Korea increased. The 37 percent increase to the U.S. trade deficit with Korea in the pact’s first year equated to a loss of 40,000 U.S. jobs.

Trade negotiators have missed repeated self-imposed deadlines for completing the TPP, and more than three-quarters of House Democrats and a bloc of Republican House members have signed letters expressing their opposition to Fast Track for the agreement.

“Americans cannot afford a ‘NAFTA of the Pacific.’ Fast Track would ensure that the Obama administration’s proposals for the TPP are never exposed to public scrutiny until after the pact is signed, amendments are prohibited and changes become all but impossible,” said Stamoulis. “Rubber stamping such a far-reaching agreement sight unseen is no way for Congress to create public policy.”

Citizens Trade Campaign is a coalition of labor, environmental, religious, family farm, civil society and consumer organizations united in the pursuit of social and environmental justice in trade policy. Formed in 1992 to reform NAFTA, our more than fourteen million combined members support trade policy that reflects the interests of a majority of people in America, and across the world.

A PDF copy of today’s letter opposing Fast Track can be found online at: Letter sent today opposing Fast Track
Citizens Trade Campaign Links:

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