Posted 5 months ago on Oct. 2, 2013, 3:15 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: We Won't Be Fooled by Rigged Corporate Trade Agreements
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 10:15 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis
This week, President Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where he is expected to announce his goal of having the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed into law by the end of 2013. Obama will host a meeting of the leaders of the TPP nations during the APEC conference.
The Obama administration has been negotiating the TPP in secret for more than three years. Unlike past trade agreements, the text of the TPP is classified, and members of Congress have restricted access to it. If they do read the text, they are not allowed to copy it or discuss any specifics of it. However, more than 600 corporate advisers have direct access to the text on their computers.
The final formal round of negotiations was held in Brunei this August, and since then, there have been informal meetings to try and finalize sections of the agreement. As far as the president is concerned, the TPP is entering the home stretch. All he needs now is for Congress to vote to grant him fast track, also known as trade promotion authority, and it's a done deal. The facts show that the president may be deluding himself or trying to fool everyone else.
This is because the TPP goes far beyond a trade deal. Only five of the 29 chapters contain provisions related to trade. The other chapters consist of provisions related to patent protections, investor state rights and finance deregulation, among others. The TPP is a backdoor corporate power grab to advance the stalled WTO agenda. Or as Sachie Mizohata writes in Asia Times, "The TPP is a Trojan horse, branded as a 'free trade' agreement, but having nothing to do with fair and equitable treatment. In reality, it is precisely 'a wish list of the 1% - a worldwide corporate power'. "
We expect the president to return from Bali with increased enthusiasm to push for fast track. To accompany this push will be the usual misinformation campaign coming from supporters of the TPP. To prepare the public for the expected propaganda, we will look at what is being said and provide facts to counter their arguments. As far as some members of Congress are concerned, as well as hundreds of civil society groups and a growing number of US residents, fast track and the TPP are not going to slide through Congress smoothly. Opposition to the TPP is growing as more people come to understand that the TPP is a rigged corporate trade deal and not fair trade that respects the needs of people and the planet.
What's Wrong with Fast Track?
For most of the past 200 years, Congress negotiated trade policy and wrote the laws to oversee trade, as required in the Constitution's Commerce Clause. This power was first transferred to the executive office when Nixon was granted fast track in 1974 as part of his consolidation of presidential power. Fast track expired in 2007. Only 16 trade agreements have been passed using fast track, and some of these were the most unpopular and controversial pacts such as the WTO and NAFTA, signed by President Clinton.
The previous fast track legislation required the president to submit both the trade agreement and implementing legislation to Congress for approval. According to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Services, "The fast-track authority provides that Congress will consider trade agreement implementing bills within mandatory deadlines, with a limitation on debate and without amendment. . ." In other words, fast track permits the president to negotiate an entire trade agreement over many years and then present it to Congress for an up or down vote within a short time period (60 to 90 days), with debate limited to 20 hours and no amendments.
Fast track severely undermines the transparent and democratic process required to ensure that the full implications of the agreement are understood and are acceptable. Trade agreements require that laws, even down to the local level, be changed to be in compliance with provisions in them. For example, when the WTO was passed, which was fast tracked despite having been negotiated for over 10 years and containing thousands of pages, most members of Congress did not read or understand it.