Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Yesterday Public Citizen posted the leaked text, and analysis, of one chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. Public Citizen has been a consistent critic of how Obama has handled TPP (the video above is a PC production).
From the press release and analysis, this summary:
After Two Years of Closed-Door Negotiations, Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Replicates Alarming Bush Trade Pact Terms That Obama Opposed as Candidate, and Worse
A leak today of one of the most controversial chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reveals that extreme provisions have been agreed to by U.S. officials, providing a stark warning about the dangers of ‘trade’ negotiations occurring under conditions of extreme secrecy without press, public or policymaker oversight, Public Citizen said.
‘The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,’ said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. ‘Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.’
Before going any further, and with 2012 elections in mind, this from Zach Carter at HuffPo:
Trans-Pacific negotiations have been taking place throughout the Obama presidency. The deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for American corporations.
Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential elections, Mitt Romney, has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as soon as possible.
It isn’t that it’s unusual for candidates to make promises and state positions which are abandoned about the same time they’re declared the winner of the WH gig; and maybe a President Romney would do even more, in this case, to please the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But from Gitmo to drones to deep sea drilling to Wall Street coziness, Mr. Obama seems to be doing his part to push the Republicans further in the Right direction. Maybe that’s the 11 dimensional chess move: follow so closely on the heels moving Rightward that they don’t realize he’s strategically pushing them so far into radical country that he can then swing back to the Left and do things like keep campaign promises about trade agreements.
According to Public Citizens, here’s what the leaked chapter says TPP would do:
- limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
- extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
- establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
- allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) – note that “D” – who chairs the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee that has “jurisdiction over the TPP … filed legislation to open the process after he and his staff were denied access to even the U.S. proposals for the TPP negotiations.”
Also according to Public Citizen, this is Obama’s “first trade pact,” with the goal of completing TPP negotiations by this fall.
Already the TPP timeline was generating political headaches for the Obama re-election campaign, as repeated U.S. polling shows that majorities of Democrats, Independents and GOP oppose more NAFTA-style trade deals.
On the “Romney would be worse” angle, it’s probably true that if there was a Republican in Sen. Wyden’s position, that Republican chairperson wouldn’t question a President Romney’s decision to do this sort of secret negotiating. It’s probably also true, if Romney was in charge and did something like this, that a lot more Democrats would be screaming about his pandering to the Chamber.
But, of course, this is President Obama’s decision, and according to Carter’s HuffPo piece, the leaked document
… reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.
Carter quotes Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club:
‘Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This … would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy.’
And related to Obama administration guidelines connected to “humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” Carter quotes Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign:
‘Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.’
Upside-down. Or just skewed to the Right, big time. Then there’s always that 11 dimensional chess thing …