fresh voices from the front lines of change







Corporations are busy negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in secret. TPP is a huge, huge treaty that will redefine the rules for interaction between countries and the giant corporations – and not in a way that favors citizens over corporations.

There is a virtual media blackout of news that might inform the public about TPP and the "fast track" process that will be pushed through Congress. Fast track essentially pre-approves TPP before its contents are even revealed.

Meanwhile, people who understand the legal, trade and economic issues involved are sounding warning after warning that something very bad is coming at us. But with everything in Washington obstructed by Republicans, the public has largely tuned out from politics as meaningless to their lives.

Here are a few of the more prominent voices sounding alarms about TPP and the fast-track pre-approval process:

Robert Reich says you should be learning about TPP, in "The Largest, Most Disastrous Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of":

If you haven't heard much about the TPP, that's part of the problem right there. It would be the largest trade deal in history – involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and accounting for 40 percent of the world economy – yet it's been devised in secret.

Lobbyists from America's biggest corporations and Wall Street's biggest banks have been involved but not the American public. That's a recipe for fatter profits and bigger paychecks at the top, but not a good deal for most of us, or even for most of the rest of the world.

[. . .] Anyone believing the TPP is good for Americans take note: The foreign subsidiaries of U.S.-based corporations could just as easily challenge any U.S. government regulation they claim unfairly diminishes their profits – say, a regulation protecting American consumers from unsafe products or unhealthy foods, investors from fraudulent securities or predatory lending, workers from unsafe working conditions, taxpayers from another bailout of Wall Street, or the environment from toxic emissions.

... TPP is a Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits.

David Cay Johnston explains some of the problems with TPP, in "Full speed ahead on secretive trade deal":

The coalition pushing approval consists of multinational corporations eager to escape the rigors of competition, Republican lawmakers who talk free markets but act as enemies of competition and President Barack Obama, as loyal a friend as Wall Street and multinational corporations have ever had in the White House.

... it is a trade-restriction agreement that protects monopolists, large corporations and various state-owned enterprises from the rigors of competition while diminishing worker rights and gutting environmental rules and food safety inspections.

The agreement would even let foreign companies seek damages if U.S. or state rules threaten their profits.

Johnston then warns about the fast-track process:

Obama wants Congress to fast-track the agreement, which would mean perfunctory congressional hearings followed by an up-or-down vote within 90 days, no amendments allowed.

... Secrecy and fast track are not how democracy is supposed to work. They are also a glaring contradiction of candidate Obama’s transparency promises in 2008.

The whole idea of self-governance is that we will hear out every side and come to decisions after reasoned — and even unreasoned — debate. It’s messy and slow and does not always produce the optimal results, but sunshine is also the best antidote to dictatorial rule and abuse of power.

Jared Bernstein warns that "Without a Currency Chapter, The TPP Should Not Be Ratified":

While tariffs get a lot of attention, the key determinant of trade balances between countries is the relative value, or exchange rate, of their currencies. By taking actions that depress the value of their currencies relative to ours, numerous countries gain a net export advantage: their exports to us are cheaper while ours to them are more expensive.

... So, here’s my position on the TPP and if I may be so bold, I suggest it be yours as well: no deal unless there’s a credible currency chapter. I’d argue that’s a stance that reasonable people on both sides of the deal can and should take.

... I’m not so sure which way the politics of this will bounce. But I will be urging anyone who will listen, inside and out of the Congress and the US Trade Rep’s office, that a TPP without a currency chapter is something they should rigorously oppose.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen lists some reasons for opposing TPP and fast track in "Now or Never: Fight Back Against Fast Track":

1. Vietnam is the leading partner, with 90 million people, an average wage of 75 cents an hour, no worker rights or environmental or consumer protections and a command economy where the government and its allied organizations control virtually everything.

2. Like NAFTA, TPP has much more to do with protecting the investment of multinational corporations, particularly those based in the US. ... These are the very corporations that have moved millions of jobs out of the US because every trade deal since NAFTA has allowed them to sue nations that adopt legislation that limits future profits...

3. Brunei, with strict Islamic law, is another of the 12 nations in TPP. Republican conservatives are horrified by the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities there. Most of us would include homophobia, misogyny and other gross human rights violations as reason enough to avoid a major economic partnership.

4. Currency manipulation, by central banks and controlled economies, has been a major concern of House and Senate Democrats. It is now virtually certain this will not be addressed at all in TPP.

Cohen, too, warns about the fast-track pre-approval process:

Except for corporate management and their large shareholders, the rest of us will lose big if Fast Track is adopted, making TPP a certainty. Passing Fast Track means a guaranteed vote in the House and Senate on TPP within a short period of time and with no amendments allowed on a 2000 page Trade treaty that has been negotiated in almost total secrecy. In the Senate it means passage by a majority, not the 60 votes required on almost everything else that has blocked President Obama's core agenda for six years, even when the House overwhelmingly supported real change from 2009-2011.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's comments on TPP, in "Elizabeth Warren Says Fix The TPP Trade Deal." Her comments include the following:

For big corporations, trade negotiations are like Christmas morning, they can get special gifts through trade negotiations that they could never get through Congress. How does that happen? Because trade negotiations are held in secret so that big corporations can do their work behind closed doors. Giant corporations get insider access to promote their interests, while workers’ rights and environmental regulations are just gutted. From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters, outsourcers are all smacking their lips at the possibility of rigging the upcoming trade deals.

Now, stop and ask yourself, why are trade deals secret? I’ve actually heard supporters say they have to have secrecy, because if people knew what was going on, they would be opposed. It’s true, it’s what I’ve heard from their supporters. Well my view is that if people would be opposed, then we shouldn’t have those trade deals.

The Campaign for America's Future is continuing to collect signatures on a petition that declares "no more job-killing trade agreements." So far, more than 49,000 people have signed. (Click here to sign that petition and help bring the signature total to over 50,000.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is also circulating a petition to "Stop Another Trade Deal ‘Disaster’." That petition says, in part:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.

The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process.

Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.

On fast track as a way Congress pre-approves TPP before even reading it, see "Why Would Congress Approve A Trade Deal Before Reading It?" and" How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals."

Essentially by passing fast track Congress makes it nearly impossible to not approve TPP and other trade deals. With fast track, Congress agrees to vote on the treaty within 90 days of first reading it, which means there is no time to filly analyze its consequences and, if necessary, to rally public opposition. They agree to make no changes to fix problems in the agreement, so the vote becomes about aborting the whole things instead of voting to improve parts that might hurt the public interest. And the Senate agrees not to filibuster it, even though for many years all other legislation has been subject to a 60-vote threshold.

The news media has a virtual blackout on information about TPP and fast track. This means it is up to you to get the word out to friends, family and others. Also call your representative and senators and let them know you do not want them to pass fast-track authority.

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