Tag: TPP

Jun 23

Fast Track Advances

This afternoon the Trade Promotional Authority passed cloture by a hair, 60 – 37 setting it up for passage on Wednesday

The Senate on Tuesday voted to advance President Obama’s trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority.

The 60-37 motion sets up a vote on final passage on Wednesday. If the Senate approves fast-track or trade promotion authority (TPA), it would then be sent to Obama’s desk to become law.

Fast-track authority would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The White House wants the authority to conclude negotiations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.

Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track in Tuesday’s vote, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a major legislative victory. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) voted against the procedural motion.

The bill will then go to President Obama’s desk for his signature. However, the bill is being moved forward does not contain the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) measure that would provide financial aid and job training to workers who lose their jobs due to foreign competition. TAA, in truth, is a sucker deal

For starters, the money in TAA is a pittance, compare to the direct damage that this deal will do to American workers. And it does nothing to protect consumers and citizens from the other elements of the deal that weaken regulatory standards.

Trade Adjustment Assistance is not really about doing much for workers. Mainly, it’s about giving Democrats who are in bed with corporate elites some political cover. The cover is pretty threadbare.

It also stands little chance of passing in the House, even if the Senate manages to pass it, as House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised. The president has said the he would no sign TPA without the TAA.

Many Senate Democrats insisted their vote on Wednesday was conditional on the passage of separate TAA legislation. The Senate will likely pass that legislation on Wednesday, but the bill faces steeper challenges in the House, where Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it. Obama has said he wants both TAA and the fast-track bill to be enacted. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will deliver the votes necessary for its passage.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama expects Congress to send him the TAA bill this week, but didn’t say whether the president would sign the TPA bill before that happened. House Democrats could join Republicans to vote down TAA, potentially daring Obama to sign fast-track without the program. [..]

(Sen. Patti) Murray, on her way to the Senate floor, told reporters she’d been given assurances by McConnell and Boehner that Congress would take up assistance to workers displaced by the deal. In the prior Senate vote on TPA, which took place in May, Murray had urged Democrats not to vote with McConnell without major concessions from the GOP leader. She and Cantwell ultimately cut a deal with McConnell to get a vote reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. McConnell embarrassed Murray by delivering only a nonbinding vote on the measure.

Democrats now hope to attach a reauthorization to a highway bill as an amendment.

Wyden said Tuesday that Boehner’s late promises helped win votes.

While, eventually, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement will most likely pass the Senate, its fate in the House is unknown sonce the Tea Party caucus opposes any agenda proposed by Pres. Obama. GOP presidential candidates Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are also opposed to the bill and are reliant on the Tea Party votes of their base. Both voted against TPA passage today. If you’re shaking your head in wonder that the sane Democrats would have to rely on the GOP lunatic fringe, you’re not alone

Jun 18

GOP Push To Pass “Clean” Fast Track

Up Date: 6/18/2015 This morning the House passed Fast Track by 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it. It now must return to the Senate because it didn’t include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which failed to pass the House as a separate bill last week. The president has said that the would veto it if it did not include the TAA.

The bill was attached to HR 2146 Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act.

The push is on to get Fast Track passed. After the Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, killed the Trade Promotion Authority by voting against Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Republicans are bringing a “clean” bill to the floor. Well not quite “clean.” This is the latest from Huffington Post

To move a clean fast-track bill, the House Rules Committee attached the legislation Wednesday evening to a firefighter and police retirement bill sent over by the Senate.

Once the clean TPA bill is sent back to the Senate, it will be up to the upper chamber to handle TAA independently. [..]

The plan, according to Democratic and Republican sources, is that after the clean TPA bill is passed and sent to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will then attach TAA to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a separate trade bill involving African countries.

As Republicans revealed their strategy, House and Senate Democrats who had previously voted in favor of fast-track headed to the White House to meet with Obama about the path forward. The question will be whether Republican leaders and Obama can convince Senate Democrats to vote for fast-track on the promise that TAA will reach the president’s desk later. [..]

A Senate Democratic aide confirmed that there is no agreement among Republicans and pro-trade Democrats in the upper chamber about how to move forward once fast-track is sent their way. Talks are expected to continue tomorrow.

Stand by.  

Jun 15

Fast Track Ain’t Dead Yet

This past Friday the House of Representatives passed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), aka Fast Track, by a slim margin of 219 – 211. It did so without the crucial Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill which failed, massively. The TAA is included in the Senate version of Fast Track and without it Fast Track is dead and so, in all likelihood, is the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), its European version, Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services (TiSA) agreements.

In an unusual parliamentary maneuver, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) moved to reconsider the TAA in desperate hope that he can convince enough Democrats and Republicans to change their votes. That doesn’t appear to be possible as Joe Firestone, the managing director of New Economic Perspectives, explains:

Likelihood of Approval of TAA (and Consequently TPA/fast-track) In a Re-vote in the HouseLikelihood of Approval of TAA (and Consequently TPA/fast-track) In a Re-vote in the House

I’ve read every post-mortem on Friday’s TPA result I could find since Friday’s TAA vote. And while there’s a lot of speculation on what will happen if there is a re-vote of TAA on Tuesday, very little of the analysis seems to depart from an explanation of the actual roll call results of roll calls 361 and 362 by Party. [..]

Since, on Friday, the TAA was perceived as the key vote on both the TAA and the TPA, why was roll call 361 so decisively against both, while roll call 362, on the TPA alone was narrowly in favor of the TPA? In other words, why were these votes so at variance with each other? No post-mortem I’ve seen has really considered this carefully, and tried to explain it. But plainly, one’s explanation has to be the foundation for projecting how any re-vote in the House on the TAA/TPA is likely to come out. [..]

In short, even though the mainstream view of the maximum limit of Republican opposition to the TPA was 57, roll call 361 shows 158 Republican votes against it, an entirely unexpected result showing that the Republican leadership has lost touch with their members when it comes to gauging the extent of their resentment against leadership attempts to force trade adjustment benefits and a small tax increase down their throats for the sake of the interests of Wall Street and the multinationals. Republicans might generally support corporations and view small business as one of their important constituencies, but that doesn’t mean they love foreign multinationals and the lemon socialism they are bringing to the table.

On the Democratic side, the Party’s traditional support for trade adjustment assistance was overcome with 144 votes against, because Democrats realized that a vote for the TAA was a vote for the TPA, and the vast majority of them were against that passionately. Not just out of principle, but because 1) Democratic leadership was obviously divided on the issue with the Administration wanting it badly; 2) the formal leaders in the Houses were seemingly neutral, and many other influential Democrats, as well as the rank and file strongly against it; 3) the Democratic Party in the House was probably recognizing that the Administration had lost them the key election of 2010, and made them weaker in 2012 and 2014 then they otherwise would have been, with its insistence on passing and supporting a neo-liberal health care “reform” bill, bailing out the health care insurers, that couldn’t possibly begin to be effective until 2015; 4) the Administration had tried to lead them down a primrose path of more electoral failure with its failed “Grand Bargain” effort to cut the entitlements so important to Democratic constituencies and the identity of the Party; 5) the Administration’s determined effort to pass the potentially very unpopular package of the TPA, followed by the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA agreements would very likely also seriously erode their electoral support with their core constituencies; and 6) in the end, most of the Democratic members may have realized that there was no percentage in them voting against their own perceived interests for the sake of the President’s “legacy” and may, just perhaps, even gotten very angry over being asked to secure this legacy over their potentially very dead political bodies, in return for a TAA bill that would provide some $463 million in such assistance to be divided among a likely one million people and very possibly many more, that projections seemed to show would be put out of work by the contemplated trade agreements. Such Democrats might be forgiven for thinking that an attempt to buy them off with an average of $463 per unemployed person was not a very handsome offer from those wanting to pass the TPA and the subsequent likely trade agreements. [..]

Implications of the Explanations for a Re-vote

I think the explanations suggest that the likely result of any re-vote on the TAA will be similar to the first vote for a number of reasons. First, for Democrats, their will be resentment over the fact that the Republican leadership, with the obvious encouragement of the President isn’t respecting the decision taken by the House on Friday, and is trying to make them go on the record again in rejecting their TPA program. I think they will view this as adding insult to the injury that the Administration has done them by putting them in the position of having to vote on these trade issues in the face of their obvious desire to forget about NAFTA-like trade agreements that have already caused the Party so much grief in the past. [..]

With Pelosi, now publicly on the anti-TPA side and Clinton certainly tending toward that definite position, how many of the 40 Democrats who voted for TAA/TPA will stick with their position? What’s in it for them to support their lame duck president, while remaining in seeming disagreement with their most likely choice for the top of their ticket in 2016? Anyone for those 40 Democrats suddenly becoming 20, or even 5 or 6, come Tuesday?

And on the Republican side, with 158 of them in opposition to the TAA/TPA on Friday, and 54 of them still in opposition to the TPA even when they had a chance to vote on a clean TPA bill which was purely symbolic and did not require them to vote for the hated TAA “welfare,” how many of them do you suppose will now vote for TAA/TPA on the re-vote? They too, will be angry at Boehner and Ryan for making them vote again on the combined TAA/TPP.

So why would that initial 158 Republican votes in opposition suddenly be less than in the first TAA vote? And even if were, and that number fell to say 146 or so in opposition, which is the other side of the coin of Boehner’s statement that he doesn’t think he can produce more than 100 votes for the TAA in the re-vote, even if there still were 20 Democrats who remain in support of TAA, then we would still have 146 Republicans + 168 Democrats or so against the TAA on Tuesday, a vote of 314 against and, at most, 120 votes for.

At Salon, lapsed blogger David Dayen points out the hurdles the GOP leadership must jump to get this to the president’s desk. The options aren’t good:

   Pass TAA on a re-vote. Speaker John Boehner set this up for a vote next week, where they will try to persuade more Democrats and Republicans. Republican support topped out at 93 (votes started moving away from TAA once it was clear it wouldn’t pass), meaning that 124 Democrats would need to give their support. That’s a very tall order, especially now that it’s clearly the only thing standing between the President and his trade authority. Democratic groups, which demanded a no vote on TAA, will surely continue to whip the vote on their side.

   Pass a separate standalone fast track bill. Just the threat of this, leaving Democrats with the President’s trade authority in place and no TAA, might be enough to get TAA passed. But it shouldn’t be. Just because 219 members voted for fast track on a meaningless vote today doesn’t mean they would be there on a standalone vote. Also, there is no way the Senate would concur on a fast-track trade bill without TAA: that would lose too many Democratic votes to pass. So this seems like an idle threat. Mitch McConnell could pass fast track with a promise to pass TAA later, but he’s already done that gambit once, getting fast track forward with a promise of a vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. That promise has been broken, and there’s no reason for Senators to believe McConnell again.

   Make changes to TAA or fast track to get enough Democrats on board: This is what Pelosi was intimating, but it’s hard to see how that could plausibly occur. They would have to get any changes agreed to by the House and the Senate, which opens the process up to a lot of messiness. And even if all the issues with TAA were dispensed with – no paying for the assistance with Medicare cuts, no exemptions for public employees, etc. – the bill has now become the impediment to more corporate-written trade deals that set regulatory caps and facilitate job loss, and liberal Democrats know it. As Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, told the Huffington Post, “You can’t take the politics out of politics.”

   Give Democrats something they want: Nancy Pelosi’s Dear Colleague letter makes this clear: “The prospects for passage (of fast track) will greatly increase with the passage of a robust highway bill.” This means that, if Republicans vote for more infrastructure spending, Pelosi would be likely to supply the votes for trade. But it’s not clear whether this is coming from Pelosi only, or if it would have buy-in from her caucus. She might be making a deal her caucus hasn’t empowered her to make. Plus, that would involve Republicans in the House and Senate agreeing to fund more infrastructure, and nobody knows where the money would come from.

Now add to the mix, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finally addressed the issue:

“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers to make sure we get the best strongest deal possible,” she said. “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.” [..]

Clinton said a final deal must protect American jobs, raise American workers’ wages and protect American national security interests.

“The president actually has this amazing opportunity now,” the Democratic presidential candidate said. “Let’s take the lemons and turn it into lemonade.”

Not as decisive as some would like but clear enough.

The fight to Stop Fast Track and these non-trade agreements is not over by a long shot. We need all hands on deck today and tomorrow before the vote.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.

Jun 12

Don’t Be Fooled! TAA & Other Trade Bills Will Cut Medicare and More

Up Date: TAA has failed to pass the House by a vote of 126 – 302.

The House will now vote on Fast Track.

Up Date: TPA (Fast Track) passed 219- 211.

In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a motion to reconsider the TAA which was tabled for later consideration.

House now voting on the Customs Enforcement Bill.

Up Date: The Trade Enforcement and Customs Act passed 240 – 190.

The vote on the motion to reconsider TAA will take place on Monday June 15. Without it the TPA bill cannot move forward:

Technically, the vote was on a portion of the legislation to renew federal aid for workers who lose their jobs through imports.

A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.

In complex maneuvers to get more Democrats to vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track), Republicans pulled language from the TAA bill that would have cut $700 million from Medicare to offset the cost. Don’t Be Fooled! The Republicans just moved the cuts to another bill that will be attached to Fast Track. From Dave Johnson at Crooks and Liars:

A bill on customs and trade law enforcement is being “loaded up” with amendments that will be attached to the fast-track TPA law, after (and if) fast track passes. These include amendments that would forbid the U.S. from doing anything through the trade agreement to address climate change, restrict actions to fix immigration laws or allow more visas, require trade laws to expand markets for Alaskan seafood, as well as other items intended to “buy votes” for fast-track TPA from reluctant Democrats. The customs bill also tries to get Democratic votes by undoing a provision that cuts Medicare in order to “pay for” trade adjustment assistance for workers who will lose their jobs if TPP passes.

Democrats who vote for the customs bill are voting to approve the ideological amendments added by Republicans. Many Republicans may choose to vote against fast-track TPA if the customs bill does not include the ideological amendments.

In other words, the Medicare cuts are still in the TAA and Democrats must vote for the Customs Bill to change it.

Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, explained to MSNBC host Michael Eric Dyson how these bills will hurt everything from climate change and emigration, to killing jobs and greases the path to passing the TPA. Also on the show discussing how very bad these bills are Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim Keady, director of Educating for Justice.

As Democracy for America puts it this is a trap

The Fast Track plan includes a trap: a $700 million cut to Medicare in order to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and services for people who lose their jobs to foreign trade. Although Trade Adjustment Assistance and Fast Track are two separate bills, they’ve been linked by Republicans.

As the AFL-CIO and other allies are saying right now to House members, the bottom line is clear: A vote for the current Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a vote for Fast Track is a vote to cut Medicare.

This is it. We need all hands on deck — and we need to take drastic action to win.

There are eight Democrats who are still undecided, whose votes could decide whether Medicare gets cut and whether Fast Track passes. Can you give these eight Representatives a call right now? Even if you’re not a constituent, they need to hear from you. It’s that important.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about what we mean we say “it’s a trap,” check out these Medicare attack ads that Republicans ran against Democrats in 2014 — a video made possible by our friends at the Communications Workers of America:

I don’t often agree with DFA these days but they are spot on exposing the GOP agenda.

More from Dave:

The TAA bill has passed the Senate. Senate Republicans cut TAA funding by 21 percent from current levels, excluded public-sector workers from receiving any assistance and required that Medicare be cut to pay for what remains. Yet several Democrats agreed and voted for the bill. Now with the bill before the House, House leadership is trying to lure Democratic votes for the TAA bill by changing the funding from Medicare cuts in the sub-Saharan Africa bill, while retaining the ability to use the recorded TAA vote to cut Medicare against them in the coming elections.

The AFL-CIO has come out against TAA. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has stated his opposition to the TAA bill. Many Democrats who support fast-track TPA will find it political difficult to continue to do so without assistance for the workers who will lose jobs as a result of their support. [..]

This is widely called a “trade” vote, but from what is known about the actual TPP agreement (it’s secret from the public) it is largely about things other than what would usually be understood as trade. For example, one provision called investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) has been leaked to Wikileaks so it is known that it allows corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that interfere with the corporation’s ability to collect current and “expected” profits.

Another leaked provision revives the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that Congress killed a few years ago. Yet another extends patents and copyrights far beyond what Congress has approved.

The Hill has been maintaining a “whip list” of who is for or against the fast-track bill. As of late Thursday, 118 Republicans and 20 Democrats were either declared or leaning “yes” votes. There were 44 Republicans and 135 Democrats declared or leaning “no.” That left 33 Democrats and 83 Republicans in the “undecided” column.

Especially the members who are undecided need to feel the heat from you to vote against fast track. If you have not made that call to your member of Congress, use our click-to-call tool to make that call now.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.

Jun 11

Stop Profits Over Public Health. Stop Fast Track

The House of Representative will most likely begin consideration of the Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track, which would give the president a blank check to negotiate so-called “free trade” agreements.

The House will begin voting on trade legislation on Thursday, setting up a high-stakes vote Friday on a critical bill to give President Obama fast-track powers.

The complicated new process, laid out by GOP leadership late Wednesday night, is designed to address objections from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about how the trade package would be structured on the floor.

On Thursday, the House will first take up a trade preferences bill that includes new offsets to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a related bill that provides aid to workers displaced by trade deals. Those new pay-fors, negotiated by Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would come from increased tax enforcement rather than through cuts to Medicare, which were part of the Senate-passed TAA bill.

The major problem with the TAA “fix” is that it doesn’t fix this:

ANNEX ON TRANSPARENCY AND PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS FOR PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS AND MEDICAL DEVICES

Today, Wednesday 10 June 2015, WikiLeaks publishes the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), along with each country’s negotiating position. The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.

Expert policy analysis, published by WikiLeaks today, shows that the Annex appears to be designed to cripple New Zealand’s strong public healthcare programme and to inhibit the adoption of similar programmes in developing countries. The Annex will also tie the hands of the US Congress in its ability to pursue reforms of the Medicare programme.

The draft is restricted from release for four years after the passage of the TPP into law.

The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that will, if it comes into force, encompass more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Despite the wide-ranging effects on the global population, the TPP and the two other mega-agreements that make up the “Great Treaty”, (the TiSA and the TTIP), which all together cover two-thirds of global GDP, are currently being negotiated in secrecy. The Obama administration is trying to gain “Fast-Track” approval for all three from the US House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, having already obtained such approval from the Senate.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, said:

   It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This “Great Treaty” is descibed by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military’s “Asia Pivot”. The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.

Director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program, Peter Maybarduk, and

John Sifton, advocacy director, Human Rights Watch expressed their concerns about TPP’s provisions increasing corporate controls over public health.

As the Obama administration praises the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backlash continues to grow against the deal. WikiLeaks has just published another section of the secret text – this one about public healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. Newly revealed details of the draft show the TPP would give major pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine, and weaken public healthcare programs. The leaked draft also suggests the TPP would prevent Congress from passing reforms to lower drug costs. One of the practices that would be allowed is known as “Evergreening.” It lets drug companies extend the life of a patent by slightly modifying their product and then getting a new patent

The TPP will raise the costs of healthcare globally:

The TPP section requires countries to share decisions about pricing and regulation of drugs with pharmaceutical manufacturers, provide opportunity for comment on those decisions and create a process through which those decisions can be reviewed at the request of affected companies.

According to an analysis of the leaked document by Jane Kelsey (pdf), a law professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, these rules are enough to expose national health authorities to legal challenges under TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement process, or ISDS. ISDS empowers companies to challenge countries’ domestic laws before a tribunal of international judges if they believe the laws unfairly limit investment. The tribunals have the power to impose significant fines on countries if their laws are found responsible for the investment hardship in question. While pharmaceutical companies could not challenge national health programs’ policies through ISDS, their grievances would be eligible for ISDS if the companies claimed the policies hindered investment.

The clause removed from a leaked 2011 draft promises pharmaceutical companies the right to charge “competitive market-derived prices,” according to New York Times reporting on the TPP section released by Wikileaks. [..]

Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines project, attributed the change to the “unanimous opposition” of non-U.S. TPP negotiating partners, and to U.S. groups like AARP and the labor union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Maybarduk and other advocates argue that despite the lack of explicit price requirements in the new draft, the other TPP pharmaceutical and medical device transparency provisions still expose government drug purchasing programs to new legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies.

“The language previously was a little more specifically designed to attack the reimbursement rates” of government drug insurance programs, Maybarduk told The Huffington Post. “Now it is more about process rather than outcomes,” but the intent to undermine government drug price negotiation remains the same.

In an earlier statement (pdf), Maybarduk expressed concern that the rules would “limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans — and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today.” companies to challenge countries’ domestic laws before a tribunal of international judges if they believe the laws unfairly limit investment. The tribunals have the power to impose significant fines on countries if their laws are found responsible for the investment hardship in question. While pharmaceutical companies could not challenge national health programs’ policies through ISDS, their grievances would be eligible for ISDS if the companies claimed the policies hindered investment. [..]

But Maybarduk worries that USTR’s assurance notwithstanding, the language of the deal is broad enough to leave open the possibility of challenges to current Medicare policy.

The likelihood that TPP would preclude future Medicare policies is even greater, Maybarduk said. He is concerned that enabling Medicare to negotiate bulk drug prices would not be allowed under TPP. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, is currently prohibited from negotiating drug prices, but many health policy experts have touted it as a way to lower costs for Medicare and its beneficiaries.

Read the TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

Read the Analysis by Dr Deborah Gleeson (Australia) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

Read the Analysis by Professor Jane Kelsey (New Zealand) on TPP Transparency for Healthcare Annex here

There is still tome to stop this. This is the current House whip list. Call you representative and give them a piece of your mind. NOW!  

Jun 10

If You Thought TPP Was Bad, You Haven’t Read TISA

The Trade Promotion Authority Act (TPA), aka Fast Track, that the president and the corporatist congress are pushing, covers more than just the TPP.  It will also apply to the equally terrible European TTIP & the Trade In Service Agreement that has just been uncovered by Wikileaks. If you thought TPP was bad, you haven’t read the Trade In Service Agreement. This “trade” agreement is a corporate friendly document that would reshape how everyone in the world does business.

Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex 2014-06-19

Today, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, which covers 50 countries and 68.2%1 of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.

Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures2, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.

TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.

The draft text comes from the April 2014 negotiation round – the sixth round since the first held in April 2013. The next round of negotiations will take place on 23-27 June in Geneva, Switzerland.

Current WTO parties negotiating TISA are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, which includes its 28 member states Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

China and Uruguay have expressed interest in joining the negotiations but so far are not included.

1] Swiss National Center for Competence in Research: [A Plurilateral Agenda for Services?: Assessing the Case for a Trade in Services Agreement (pdf), Working Paper No. 2013/29, May 2013, p. 10.

2] For example, in June 2012 Ecuador [tabled a discussion (pdf) on re-thinking regulation and GATS rules; in September 2009 the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, convened by the President of the United Nations and chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, released its final report (pdf), stating that “All trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the need for an inclusive and comprehensive international regulatory framework which is conducive to crisis prevention and management, counter-cyclical and prudential safeguards, development, and inclusive finance.”

Read the Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex

Read the Analysis Article – Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex

Experts are still pouring over the documents but here is some of the preliminary analysis of what TISA will effect:

Wednesday’s leak provides the largest window yet into TISA and comes on the heels of two other leaks about the accord last year, the first from WikiLeaks and the other from the Associated Whistleblowing Press, a non-profit organization with local platforms in Iceland and Spain.

While analysts are still poring over the contents of the new revelations, civil society organizations released some preliminary analysis of the accord’s potential implications for transportation, communication, democratic controls, and non-participating nations

   Telecommunications: “The leaked telecommunications annex, among others, demonstrate potentially grave impacts for deregulation of state owned enterprises like their national telephone company,” wrote the global network Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) in a statement issued Wednesday.

   Transportation: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), comprised of roughly 700 unions from more than 150 countries, warned on Wednesday that the just-published documents “foresee consolidated power for big transport industry players and threaten the public interest, jobs and a voice for workers.” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “This text would supercharge the most powerful companies in the transport industry, giving them preferential treatment. What’s missing from this equation is any value at all for workers and citizens.”

   Bypassing democratic regulations: “Preliminary analysis notes that the goal of domestic regulation texts is to remove domestic policies, laws and regulations that make it harder for transnational corporations to sell their services in other countries (actually or virtually), to dominate their local suppliers, and to maximize their profits and withdraw their investment, services and profits at will,” writes OWINFS. “Since this requires restricting the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, the corporate lobby is using TISA to bypass elected officials in order to apply a set of across-the-board rules that would never be approved on their own by democratic governments.”

   Broad impact: “The documents show that the TISA will impact even non-participating countries,” wrote OWINFS. “The TISA is exposed as a developed countries’ corporate wish lists for services which seeks to bypass resistance from the global South to this agenda inside the WTO, and to secure and agreement on servcies without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.”

Despite assurances that Fast Track would force the president to reveal the contents of these agreements, it also removes congresses ability to amend, debate or filibuster. Right now, only congress members can view these complex documents. They are not allowed to take notes, ask questions or even discuss the contents amongst themselves, while big corporations are free to read and discuss it. This is not how transparency works, Barrack.

Meanwhile, to promote transparency, Wikileaks is offers $100,000 to anyone who will reveal the missing chapters from the TPP. Only three of the of the 26 chapters have been uncovered so far. It is imperative that Americans and the  world know what our governments are doing in our names.

The Fast Track vote is coming up this week. Help Stop Fast Track

May 15

Democrats Cave to TPP Fast Track But There is Still the House

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Just a day after stopping the fast tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the Senate Democrats cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring it back for another vote:

Under the agreement, the Senate will hold a series of votes on Thursday on three separate trade measures: two standalone votes on bills that reflect Democrats’ priorities, including one that would crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, and then another vote on a bill that would give Obama so-called “fast-track” negotiating authority.

If that sounds like a bad idea, well it is because neither of those bills has the backing from Republicans to pass in the Senate. In the bright side, the exclusion of protection for labor and regulations on currency an manipulation could doom fast track in the House.

Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been able to count on broad and deep support for the trade agenda, which is less about trade and more about smoothing out regulations to benefit multinational corporations. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t have that same luxury when it comes to granting so-called fast-track authority to Obama.  [..]

People close to House leadership say Boehner expects to lose, at this point, roughly 50 Republican votes. Lobbyists and staffers on both sides of the issue said they think such a count is highly optimistic, and that House Republicans realistically have around 140 “yes” votes.

House Republicans start with 245 members and, thanks to two vacant seats, need 217 votes for a majority. Lobbyists and House staffers don’t expect more than 20 Democrats to join with Republicans — the number is said to be at 17 as of now — which would put the tally just shy of the number needed, giving Boehner and Obama a fighting chance to get over the top. But if the GOP is indeed only in the 140s and needs to flip 50 undecided or “no” votes between now and the time of the vote, the challenge is a daunting one. Even getting to 170 would leave trade-bill backers well short.

In such a scenario, lobbyists and operatives say, Boehner would elect not to bring the bill to the floor at all, so as not to set an anti-trade precedent and to spare his members a vote that angers the business community with one decision and the tea party with the other. [..]

The customs enforcement bill would toughen up punishments for businesses and countries that cheat trade rules by underpricing goods, and ban imports of goods made with forced child labor. Somewhat more importantly, the currency manipulation measure within the bill would clamp down on countries that seek to make their goods cheaper by devaluing their own currencies. It’s a major priority for Democrats, but by agreeing to hold a vote on it that’s separate from the fast-track bill, it all but guarantees the House will not take it up.

If House GOP leadership chooses to ignore the bills Democrats demanded votes on in the Senate, and they likely will, House Democrats may try to push the issue.

In the end, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Javier Becerra, said Republicans shouldn’t expect Democrats to help them out on trade.

“I don’t believe that Republican leaders should count on Democrats to bail them out of their bill, Becerra said.

The short of it: even if these bills manage to make it to President Obama’s desk, he will veto them and we will be stuck with another economically devastating trade bill. The Democrats meed to wake up.

May 14

Democratic Rebellion Over Bad Trade Agreements

Cross posted From The Stars Hollow Gazette

In an unprecedented break with the White House, Democrats in the Senate refuse to back fast-track authority for the president. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Nobel laureate in Economics Joseph E. Stiglitz joins”All In” host Chris Hayes after he called the president’s criticism “disrespectful.

The 10 biggest lies you’ve been told about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

David Dayen, Salon

You can call it “misleading” or “offering half-truths,” but when push comes to a shove, these are lies

It’s beneath the dignity of the Presidency to so aggressively paint opponents as not just wrong on the facts, but hiding the truth on purpose. Warren has responded without using the same indecorous tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same self-control. So by way of response, here are ten moments where the President or his subordinates have lied – call it “misled” or “offered half-truths” or whatever; but I’m in an ornery mood so let’s just say lied – about his trade agenda:

1. 40 PERCENT: The President and his team have repeatedly described TPP as a deal involving nearly 40 percent of global GDPThis tells only part of the story. [..

The point is that saying TPP is about “40 percent of GDP” intimates that it would massively change the ability to export without tariffs. In reality it would have virtually no significance in opening new markets. To the extent that there’s a barrier in global trade today, it comes from currency manipulation by countries wanting to keep their exports cheap. The TPP has no currency provisions.

2. JOB CREATION: Saying, as the White House has, that the deal would support “an additional 650,000 jobs” is not true. This figure came from a hypothetical calculation of a report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which the Institute itself said was an incorrect way to use their data. [..]

The deal is actually more about building up barriers than taking them down. Much of TPP is devoted to increasing copyright and patent protections for prescription drugs and Hollywood media content. As economist Dean Baker notes, this is protectionist, and will raise prices for drugs, movies and music here and abroad.

3. EXPORTS ONLY: The Administration constantly discusses trade as solely a question of U.S. exports. A recent Council of Economic Advisors report (pdf) touts: Exporters pay higher wages, and export industry growth translates into higher average earnings. But the Economic Policy Institute points out that this ignores imports, and therefore the ballooning trade deficit, which weighs down economic growth and wages.

4. MOST PROGRESSIVE: Obama has called TPP “the most progressive trade deal in history.” First of all, so did ill Clinton and Al Gore, when talking about NAFTA in 1993. Second, there’s reason to believe TPP doesn’t even clear a low bar for progressive trade deals. [..]

Labor groups can only ask the White House to enforce labor rights violations, and for the past several years, the Administration simply hasn’t. So when Obama says violators of TPP will face “meaningful consequences,” based on the Administration’s prior enforcement, he’s lying.

5. CHANGING LAWS: On the controversial topic of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), where corporations can sue sovereign governments for monetary damages for violating trade agreements that hurt the company’s “expected future profits,” the White House has engaged in a shell game. [..]

Even third-party countries have curtailed regulations in reaction to ISDS rulings, as New Zealand did with their cigarette packaging law, awaiting the outcome of a dispute between the tobacco industry and Australia (a suit that continues despite an initial victory for Australia).

6. NEVER LOST: The White House assumes that the only thing America cares about with ISDS is the upsetting of our own laws. [..]

This is irrelevant. What ISDS does is offer bailout insurance policy to multinational corporations. If they run into discrimination or regulatory squeezing by a foreign government, they can use an extra-judicial process to recoup their investment. Workers screwed over by trade agreements have no ability to sue governments; only corporations get this privilege.

7. WEAKENING DODD-FRANK: Obama reacted strongly to Senator Warren’s charge that a future President could overturn financial regulations or other rules through trade deals. [..]

A future President might find it acceptable, and today’s vote on “fast-track” authority would give trade deals an expedited process, with no amendments or filibusters by Congress, for six years, outlasting the current Administration. Scott Walker or Jeb Bush may decide it’s perfectly appropriate to undermine regulations in trade deals.

8. STOPPING CHINA: President Obama frequently casts TPP as a way to “contain” China. [..]

This is so facile as to be totally meaningless. China is a major Pacific Rim economy, and will have a presence regardless of our actions. As former Clinton Defense Department official Chas Freeman writes, “China has been and will remain an inseparable part of China’s success story.” [..]

9. SECRET DEAL: Obama has angrily dismissed the notion that TPP is a “secret” deal, saying that everyone will have public access to the TPP text for at least 60 days before a final vote. This is not the point opponents are making. The vote on fast track would severely limit Congressional input into the deal. And right now, members of Congress can only see the text in a secure room, without being able to bring staffers or take notes, or even talk about specifics in public. That makes the deal effectively secret during the fast track vote. [..]

10. JUST A POLITICIAN: This idea from Obama that everybody opposing fast-track is acting like a mere “politician,” aside from demonizing the concept of representing constituents, neglects the fact that he’s a politician too. [..]

Since Obama has a large platform and will not publicly debate any opponent on trade, he can float above it all, acting like a principled soul only wanting to better the country rather than a transactional ward heeler. This may be the biggest lie, that Obama’s somehow superior to everyone else in this debate.

 

Jan 17

WikiLeaks: TPP Waters Down Environmental Protections

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

WikiLeaks has released the secret draft text for the entire Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs’ Report.

TPP Wikileaks photo c1_zpscb2e5e0f.jpg  

The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.

When compared against other TPP chapters, the Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise. [..]

The Chairs’ Report of the Environment Working Group also shows that there are still significant areas of contention in the Working Group. The report claims that the draft Consolidated Text displays much compromise between the Parties already, but more is needed to reach a final text. The main areas of contention listed include the role of this agreement with respect to multilateral environmental agreements and the dispute resolution process.

According to analysis by The New York Times, the Obama administration has backed off support of strong environmental protections under pressure from various emerging nations in Asia, who fear that things like pollution controls will make it more difficult for them to develop their economies.

As it stands now, the documents, viewed by The New York Times, show that the disputes could undo key global environmental protections.

The environmental chapter of the trade deal has been among the most highly disputed elements of negotiations in the pact. Participants in the talks, which have dragged on for three years, had hoped to complete the deal by the end of 2013.

Environmentalists said that the draft appears to signal that the United States will retreat on a variety of environmental protections – including legally binding pollution control requirements and logging regulations and a ban on harvesting sharks’ fins – to advance a trade deal that is a top priority for Mr. Obama. [..]

The report indicates that the United States has been pushing for tough environmental provisions, particularly legally binding language that would provide for sanctions against participating countries for environmental violations. The United States is also insisting that the nations follow existing global environmental treaties. [..]

As of now, the draft environmental chapter does not require the nations to follow legally binding environmental provisions or other global environmental treaties. The text notes only, for example, that pollution controls could vary depending on a country’s “domestic circumstances and capabilities.”

The Director of Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, Ilana Solomon released this message about the weak standards and calling on readers to tell congress to reject fast track legislation:

The leaked environment chapter is unenforceable and rife with weak language, according to an analysis of the leaked text by the Sierra Club, WWF, and NRDC.

The leaked environment chapter text falls flat on the standard for environment chapters from the past seven years. Since the May 2007 bipartisan consensus (pdf) on trade by the Bush administration and Congress, the environment chapters of all U.S. free trade agreements have been legally enforceable and included a list of environmental treaties that countries committed to uphold. Today’s leaked text-which is both unenforceable and does not include obligations to uphold commitments made under environmental treaties-does not meet the standard set by Congress.

As Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club stated, “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s. This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues – oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.” [..]

The current state of the environment chapter is completely unacceptable. It’s unbelievable to think that TPP countries have agreed to allow foreign corporations to attack public interest policies in private trade tribunals, but they can’t agree to a binding environment chapter with strong commitments to help protect natural resources.

This text proves why so many Members of Congress don’t want to give the president “fast-track” authority that could help rush the TPP over the finish line with almost no Congressional input. Tell Congress to reject fast track-legislation that would strip Congress of its own ability to ensure that the TPP, including the environment chapter, actually protects communities and the environment. And the TPP governments must stop pandering to the interest of big corporations and get serious about protecting families and the environment.

Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are opposed to fast track of the TPP. Ms. Pelosi told reporters that she has a problem with the lack of transparency, “We want transparency. We want to see what’s going on there.”

Do not let congress fast track TPP approval

 

Jan 15

Fast Track Bill for TPP Hits the Floor

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg The bill to fast track the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was introduced last week

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R) and top Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) on Thursday unveiled the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 that would require a simple up-or-down vote on major trade deals without the opportunity to offer amendments to pertinent bills. [..]

The Obama administration is seeking the heightened authority in trade deals, allowing the Executive Branch to smooth congressional negotiations on accords. The two major deals, both long in the works, that are likely to be subject to such legislation are the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation pact with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The deals would establish the world’s largest so-called free-trade zones.

The US is also working on a services-trade accord with a group of nations that would encompass half of the global economy. [..]

The bill has been negotiated in secret and other than some leaked passages by WikiLeaks, only the negotiators and insider corporations have seen the full proposal which is nearing completion. There is push back in the House of Representatives that may scuttle the president’s plan to push this agreement without any debate or amendments

Late last year, 151 House Democrats signed a letter opposing the so-called fast track scheme, also known as trade promotion authority. Several House Republicans oppose fast track on the grounds that it excessively empowers the executive branch, but many others, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), support the proposal.

“Obama wants to pass it; Democrats in the House want to oppose it,” said one House Democratic aide, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the Democratic position. “Republicans are split ideologically, and want to know why they should take one for Obama.”

Nevertheless, Boehner said at a Thursday press conference that he cannot pass the bill without Democratic help. [..]

Many House Democrats are flatly opposed to the TPP and efforts to ease its passage. House Democrats are often more responsive to liberal interest groups than their Senate counterparts, and many members — including some in the Democratic Party leadership — believe that opposing TPP is good for electoral politics in 2014. While supporters of the deal argue it will increase economic growth, similar recent trade deals have undercut some U.S. industries and weakened global labor protections.

“The president has failed to find someone who is willing to introduce the bill. He’s got over 200 members to cultivate from, some of whom would like to have his support in the next election. But Democratic members are extremely skeptical of this,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost.

“We’ve tried free trade, and not only has free trade not improved the U.S. economy, it’s gutted manufacturing and driven down our labor standards,” he added, citing NAFTA as a prime example. [..]

Progressive groups came out strongly against the trade promotion authority, suggesting that approving it and the underlying trade deal would undercut efforts to curtail income inequality.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to Internet freedom and working families,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of Democracy For America, a grassroots progressive organization, which intends to make trade an election-year issue.

In an interview with Huffington Post, political theorist and linguist Noam Chomsky slammed the agreement as a “neo-liberal assault”

(T)he deal, which is not yet finalized, is “designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.”

Chomsky said it was “a joke” that the deal is designated a “free trade” agreement. “It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke,” Chomsky said. “These are extreme, highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade. In fact, much of what’s leaked about the TPP indicates that it’s not about trade at all, it’s about investor rights.”

The MIT professor also slammed the veil of secrecy that has surrounded TPP negotiations. [..]

As Chomsky noted:

“It’s very hard to make anything of the TPP because it’s been kept very secret. A half-secret, I should say. It’s not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it’s perfectly public. They’re, in fact, writing it. It’s being kept secret from the population. Which of course raises obvious questions.”

If you haven’t done it need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. Even if you have do it again. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.

Jan 08

Free Trade Insanity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When it comes to free trade agreements the US government fits Einstein’s definition to a tee. Twenty years ago congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with expectations that it would improve the working conditions for the poorest workers in southern partner, Mexico. NAFTA is being touted by economists as a great success but for workers, both south and north of the border, NAFTA has been a massive failure (pdf) with hundred of thousands of jobs lost, mass displacement and instability in Mexico and corporate attacks on environmental and health laws. Mexico is NAFTA’s biggest lie.

Currently, the US is in secret negotiations to pass a massive “free trade” agreement with fourteen Pacific Rim nations that would radically change international rules to favor multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been called “NAFTA on Steroids” that could significantly hurt not only workers but their families as well due to watered-down safety provisions when it comes to food and products. It could also drive up prescription drug prices, hurt the environment and reduce Internet freedom. Despite the evidence of the damage that NAFTA has done and breaking his 2008 campaign pledge to oppose such agreements, President Barack Obama is now asking congress to “fast track” passage of TPP which would prevent debate or amendment of the agreement. NAFTA, too, was “fast tracked.” This is just repeating the same mistakes that were made by NAFTA only on a larger scale. In an article at Huffington Post, James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, explains the damage that preventing debate and amendment can bring:

The problem with the TPP is that as it stands, the public doesn’t know what’s in it. Which raises the question how can constituents discuss the proposal with elected officials when they don’t know what they should be concerned about? That, however, seems to be of little consequence to some in Congress.

Congressional committee chairmen who favor free trade have agreed to move forward with considering fast track soon after they return to Capitol Hill this month. They obviously believe they are doing the right thing for America. But is it right that corporations take in all of the gains while hard-working Americans get all of the pain? Is that what this country is really all about?

No one is against trade, just unfair trade. We’ve seen enough lost jobs, shuttered plants and abandoned communities. It’s time to make things in America again. When is the U.S. going to approve an agreement that actually helps its own workers?

Letting people see what is included in the TPP is the first step towards letting them decide which direction the nation should take. The next step is to derail the old fast track and replace it with a process that allows Congress to fully debate the deal and make the TPP work for working families.

The last thing that Americans need is another hit to the working class, we need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. End the insanity. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.

Nov 13

Wikileaks Releases TPP Secret Text on International Property Rights

Cross posted looked The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg Details of a highly secretive, multi-national trade agreement in the works have been published by WikiLeaks, and a warning there will be vast implications for much of the modern world if the contract is approved.

WikiLeaks has released the draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a multilateral free-trade treaty currently being negotiated in secret by 12 Pacific Rim nations.

The full agreement covers a number of areas, but the chapter published by WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights, an area of law which has effects in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and civil liberties.

Negotiations for the TPP have included representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei, but have been conducted behind closed doors. Even members of the US Congress were only allowed to view selected portions of the documents under supervision.

Here is the full text of press release by Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. Both pacts exclude China.

Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy. Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ‘trade advisers’ – lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart – are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.

The TPP negotiations are currently at a critical stage. The Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the US Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013.

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange stated: “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly.” The advanced draft of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, published by WikiLeaks on 13 November 2013, provides the public with the fullest opportunity so far to familiarise themselves with the details and implications of the TPP.

The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The longest section of the Chapter – ‘Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards. The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.

The consolidated text obtained by WikiLeaks after the 26-30 August 2013 TPP meeting in Brunei – unlike any other TPP-related documents previously released to the public – contains annotations detailing each country’s positions on the issues under negotiation. Julian Assange emphasises that a “cringingly obsequious” Australia is the nation most likely to support the hardline position of US negotiators against other countries, while states including Vietnam, Chile and Malaysia are more likely to be in opposition. Numerous key Pacific Rim and nearby nations – including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and, most significantly, Russia and China – have not been involved in the drafting of the treaty.

In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.

President Barack Obama wants to fast track this travesty through Congress which means there would be little or no debate and it could not be amended. This is a dangerous agreement that will endanger sovereign and individual rights, plunge millions of people around the world into poverty and condemn many of them to death by  limiting access to affordable medicines. It is time to stop this. Join the movement to Stop the TPP and send a message to your representatives telling them to reject the TPP.

As an addendum, I suggest you read Yves Smith at naked capitalism to further understand how secret panels would undermine our law and regulations.

Jump below the fold for the text of the 95 page agreement.

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