Now Even Some GOP Members Reject Fast-Tracking A Bad Trade Deal

Dave Johnson

Giant corporations are trying to get Congress to give up its Constitutional obligation to consider and amend a trade treaty that requires our country to give up its sovereignty. Many organizations and legislators — including many Republicans — don’t appear to be falling for this one.

TPP And Fast Track

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a giant “trade” agreement that isn’t really about trade. Most of this agreement is about deregulating corporations, pushing the largest corporations to a status that is equal to and even above the power of countries to oversee what they can do. The agreement is being negotiated in secret with corporate involvement but consumer, labor, environmental, human rights and other groups are not at the table so they are not even in the game. We don’t really know what is in the agreement, but the secrecy and lack of representation by non-corporate stakeholders, as well as leaked documents, tell us this is likely not something that is going to be for the benefit of 99% of us.

The administration is trying to complete TPP by the end of the year. This means that the lobbyists for the giant multinational corporations are engaged in bribing persuading Congress to pass “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority so they can push this deal through.

Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), if passed by Congress, bypasses the Constitutional obligation of Congress to oversee and carefully consider trade agreements. If Fast Track passes, Congress must vote on whatever trade agreement is handed to them without amendment, in a rush with little discussion, and with an “up or down” vote. Period. This enables the corporations to launch a carefully-timed massively-funded media-hysteria shock and awe campaign to make it appear that the public is demanding this treaty be passed, and to swamp any ability to oppose it.

Fast Track is not necessary to pass trade agreements, but it is necessary to push through bad trade agreements that kill jobs and enrich the 1% at the expense of the rest of us and the planet.

GOP Group Opposes Fast Track

Tuesday a group of 22 Republican members of the House circulated a letter opposing Fast Track TPA. In the letter the Representatives declare, “we do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for ‘Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.’ ”

On Wednesday a group of Democratic house members will announce and circulate a similar letter. (Last year more than 130 Democratic members of the House signed a DeLauro/Miller letter asking for transparency and Congressional consultation on TPP. No transparency and consultation has been forthcoming.)

Pharma

Last week the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Consumers Union and other health and consumer groups sent a letter to President Obama to express “deep concern” that TPP will thwart efforts to control healthcare costs. Public Citizen’s Eyes on Trade blog explains, in 38 Million Retirees Join Workers and Consumers to Say No to “Trade” Deal Terms that Would Make Medicine More Expensive,

Big Pharma is urging the administration to include measures in the TPP that would increase costs by expanding pharmaceutical monopoly protections. The TPP measure under consideration, a 12-year period of data exclusivity protection, would allow brand-name companies to obtain an automatic monopoly on biologics even in the absence of patent protection.

During this period, access to cheaper versions of the drugs would be restricted, as governmental regulatory bodies would be prohibited from relying upon the brand-name company’s clinical trial data to approve biosimilars – more affordable versions of the high-cost drugs.

Telecoms

This is just one of the sections of TPP, put there by the giant pharma companies to protect their dominant position from competition and regulation. Another group of giant corporations attempting to use TPP to put down competition and regulation is the telecoms. These companies were unable to get Congress to scrap “net neutrality” and give them control of the internet or to restrict internet freedom with laws like SOPA. So they are using TPP to try to get an end-run around US sovereignty and democracy by writing provisions that favor corporate control into the agreement.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking people to write to your lawmaker and ask for full and public debate on TPP. Click here and they will direct your message to the right member of Congress.

Here is a Democracy Now interview with Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch about the TPP and how it could affect our use of the Internet.

Tobacco

TPP overrules a government’s ability to protect its citizens if those protections might limit corporate profits. So there is a “controversy” over how TPP deals with tobacco. Many countries want to be allowed to protect their citizens and continue anti-smoking campaigns. TPP would prohibit countries from doing this because doing so limits tobacco company profits. As a result of public concern there is talk of “carving out,” or making a special exception for tobacco.

So tobacco, which currently kills 440,000 Americans each year, might get a carve-out because so many people are aware of the harm it does. But other corporate harms? Not so much, no carve-outs, and too bad for any country that wants to protect its own citizens if doing so limits corporate profits.

The “controversy” is that the giant corporate interests negotiating TPP say if this treaty can “carve out” tobacco as too dangerous, this will only encourage the peasants and their puny governments to fight for other rights as well.

Elites Push For TPP

Earlier this month the NY Times editorial board appeared to endorse the TPP, even though the NY Times has not and can not publish a copy of the agreement so its readers can see what is in it. This week in Salvaging Obama at the NY Times Bill Keller tells Obama that to “salvage” his Presidency he has to toss democracy aside and “crack some heads” to get TPP negotiated.

The biggest item awaiting some Washington juice is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an immense, stalled, Asian free-trade agreement that would do more to counter burgeoning China than any number of battleships.

Like most free-trade agreements, it has opposition, from critics who fear it would insufficiently protect labor, consumers, the environment and intellectual property. It’s time for the administration to cut some deals, crack some heads and open up those Asian markets.

Right, never mind those labor and environmental and consumer groups. Never mind that this country was supposed to be of, by and for We the People. To “salvage” his Presidency Obama should “crack some heads” and “cut some deals” to hand even more of our country over to the giant corporations.

PS Kick Seniors, Too

In a further example of elite opinion that disregards We the People, Keller’s confused op-ed rightly says that deficits are under control and “the immediate and urgent problems are sluggish growth and too few jobs.” But to fix this he says Democrats should make a “deal” with Republicans and agree to “slow the long-term growth of entitlements a little by, say, employing a more realistic cost of living formula.” In other words, cut Social Security. What? Note that the “more realistic” cost of living formula he is talking about specifically cheats old people because their cost of living increases faster than other people’s. An honestly “realistic” cost-of-living adjustment for seniors would increase what they get, not “slow the growth” of the program.

So what if millions of low-income seniors are badly hurt by a “deal” that cuts what little they get. Never mind the actual citizens affected. This is the same elite, anti-democracy thinking that promotes terrible deals like TPP.

Resources

Please visit these organizations:

Flush the TPP

Eyes on Trade

Expose the TPP

Stop TPP

Tradewatch

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