Posts Tagged ‘Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’

The global elite strikes back

July 7, 2016

The common people in Europe, the USA and other countries are starting to revolt against international institutions—the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund—that represent the interests of an international financial elite.

free-tradeThe financial elite is striking back by promoting international trade agreements—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the lesser-known Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) involving Canada and the European Union.

All these agreements would enact pro-business policies into international law, and would create tribunals with the power to fine governments for unjustly depriving businesses of expected profits.

Nationalists oppose these agreements because they undermine national sovereignty.   Progressives and liberals oppose these agreements because they are un-democratic.  On this issue, progressives and nationalists are on the same side because, at these moment in history, national governments are the highest level in which democracy exists.

President Obama hopes to get the Republican majority in the lame duck Congress following the November election to enact the TTP Agreement.   The Conservative Party in Britain favors the TTIP, which would subject the UK to a new pr0-business international authority.   CETA would accomplish the same goal for the remaining EU members.

If any of these agreements passes, they can be used to block legislation to protect workers, consumers or public health, or to bring banks and financial institutions under control.

Followers of Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and progressives in other subject countries, would be stymied until they could figure out a way to roll back the agreements.

None of these agreements is needed in order to have international trade.   Rather their goal is to remove controls on the operations of international corporations.


Does Bernie Sanders have a real trade policy?

March 3, 2016
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is an economic nationalist, like Donald Trump.  But while Trump complains about how other countries are taking advantage of the United States.  Sanders talks about how international corporations are taking advantage of working people (to be sure, with China’s help).

He said he has voted against every trade treaty that came before Congress during his tenure in the House and Senate, and said that, if elected President, he would rescind them all.  Like Trump, he opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

His opposition is fully justified, in my opinion.  The World Trade Treaty, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and similar agreements limit the ability of national governments to regulate foreign corporations, and give these corporations equal standing with supposedly sovereign governments.

These agreements are not what I would call free trade, but Sanders is not for free trade either.  He says he is for “fair trade,” which I take to mean a fair balance of trade with other nations.  Unlike Trump, he does not say anything about imposing new tariffs and restrictions on imports.


There are more TPPs in the pipeline

July 1, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is just the beginning.

POLITICO reported that four more trade agreements are now being negotiated.

Following Congress’ hard-fought approval of “fast-track” trade authority last week, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman vowed not only to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership but an even bigger pact with the European Union and three other major trade deals — all in the 18 months remaining in President Barack Obama’s term.

It could add up to the biggest trade blitz in history, transforming the rules under which the world does business.

sw0625cd_590_356“We’ve got a lot of pots on the stove,” Froman told POLITICO while watching senators cast their final votes to send the legislation to the president. We want to get TPP done and through Congress. We want to get TTIP negotiated. We’re going to finish ITA. I’m hoping to finish EGA and TISA.”

Those would be, in order: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the European Union, an even bigger pact than the TPP in terms of economic size; the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement, which covers about 97 percent of world IT trade; the Environmental Goods Agreement, accounting for 86 percent international commerce in green goods; and the 24-party Trade in International Services Agreement, which involves three-quarters of the United States’ gross domestic product and two-thirds of the world’s services, such as banking and communications.


I’d heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), but not the Information Technology Agreement or the Environmental Goods Agreement until now.


Who said Obama isn’t a strong leader?

June 11, 2015

Anybody who said that Barack Obama is a weak leader must eat their words in the light of the way he is pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement through Congress.

Likewise those who said he is incapable of working with the Republican leaders in Congress.

Barack ObamaI think people mistook his character because they mistook his priorities.  The President is a tough fighter for things that matter to him.

It is just that issues such as closing Guantanamo Bay or defending Social Security were not among his top priorities.  The TPP and the Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track, are.

The TPP is supposedly a trade agreement, but based on what’s been leaked out about it so far, that’s not what it is.

It creates new international law that limits the power of sovereign governments to enact laws and regulations to protect public health, the environment and the well-being of their citizens/

And it sets up a mechanism by which corporations can have governments penalized if a tribunal rules that laws and regulations deny them their just profits.

Corporate executives say they will invest more confidently in countries if they have assurance that they won’t be subject to onerous laws and regulations and if they can have recourse to a special tribunal if national governments impose laws and regulations they think are unfair.  No doubt!

That doesn’t mean that no investment will take place if they don’t get all these special protections.

My idea of a free trade agreement is an agreement among nations to lower tariffs and import quotas so that people within those countries can freely exchange goods and services.  Most such barriers were eliminated years ago.  That’s why almost everything you pick up in an American department store is labeled “Made in Vietnam” or “Made in Korea” or “Made in Bangladesh”.

Eliminating restrictions on currency manipulation, or demanding privatization of public services, is very different.   This is a way of shifting governance from national governments to international corporations.


‘Fast track’ involves more than just the TPP

April 21, 2015

The significance of “fast track” goes far beyond clearing the way for quick approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

There are other TPP-like trade agreements now under negotiation, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade In Services Agreement.

The Trade Promotion Authority bill, otherwise known as “fast track,” would govern how such agreements are negotiated and voted on in the future.

In theory this could work well.  Negotiators would pursue objectives set by Congress, the leaders of Congress would be kept informed as negotiations progress and ratification of the agreement would be only a formality.   But there is no mechanism in the current fast track bill by which Congress can call the negotiators to account or demand information.

Fast track assumes good faith on the part of all concerned, and, based on the historic record, including the way the TPP has been negotiated, I think this would be a naive assumption.


Hatch Bill Would Revive Controversial 2002 Fast Track Mechanism That Faces Broad Congressional, Public Opposition by the staff of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

What’s Wrong With Wyden-Hatch-Ryan’s Fast Track Bill – The Specifics by Gaius Publius for Down With Tyranny (via naked capitalism).  [Added 4/22/2015]

The trouble with internationalism

May 29, 2014

I would like to see a world at peace, and I would like to see international institutions capable of settling disputes and addressing global problems such as climate change and nuclear arms.   Unfortunately these are not the kinds of international institutions that we the people are being asked to support.

Foreign Currency ExchangeThe most powerful global organizations, with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic church, are international banks and corporations.  International institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank enforce rules that serve the interests of banks and corporations.

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and similar proposals would give the world’s corporate and financial elite new tools for enforcing their agendas.  While there is urgent need for international agreement and institutions to deal with climate change, TPP-type agreements actually would give corporations the right to appeal national laws and local rules aimed at limiting greenhouse gasses.

What makes the banks and corporations powerful is that money can go anywhere while most people are stuck where they are. Migrant money is treated with deference.  Migrant Mexicans in the United States, migrant Uzbeks and Kazakhs in Russia, and migrant Filipinos in the Persian are treated like dirt.

The European Union’s current austerity program is an example.  The well-being of Europe’s people is being sacrificed to ensure that Europe’s banks never suffer losses.   I’d guess this is the main reason for the success of Europe’s nationalist right-wing parties in the recent elections to the European Parliament.


TPP ‘fast track’ is dead, for now

January 30, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that he is opposed to “fast track” rules for enacting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.   This is good news.  It means that the TPP and its companion proposal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) anytime soon.

hulk-tppThe problem with “fast track” is that it would require the Senate and House to debate these two complex agreements under tight deadlines and then vote them up or down without amendments.  Since the provisions of the two agreements won’t be known until they are introduced, there wouldn’t have been time to intelligently evaluate the agreements.

Leaked information indicates that both agreements would enact corporate wish lists into international law that couldn’t be changed by individual governments.  The worst are the “investor protection” provisions that allow corporations to ask unelected international tribunals to overturn national laws and regulations or order compensation for unjust loss of “expected profits.”

Blocking the TPP and the TTIP are a good first step.  The next will be to roll back or amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Treaty and all other so-called trade agreements with “investor protection” provisions.

Secrets in trade: the Trans-Pacific Partnership

January 16, 2014

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, involving the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan and seven smaller Pacific nations, and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area (aka as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), involving the US and the European Union, are a threat to democracy.

Negotiations have been conducted in secret, but enough has leaked out to reveal the intent of these agreements.  (What they would do is to enact corporate wish lists into international law, which would be virtually impossible to repeal or amend without all the signatories acting in concert.


Trans-Pacific Partnership Part 2

December 2, 2013

The New New York 23rd is an excellent political blog tracking issues in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions of New York state, and the record of its Rep. Tom Reed. This is the second part of a two-part series on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is much more even-handed than my own view.

New NY 23rd

The following is the part 2 of research on the background and negotiations  for Trans-Pacific (free trade) Partnership. This was completed by New NY 23rd contributor Deb Meeker. Part 1 was posted yesterday, November 26.

Since 2010, negotiations have been taking place for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposal for a significantly expanded version of TPSEP. The TPP is a proposed trade agreement under negotiation by (as of August 2013) Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.”…….

Over the last year especially, strongly opposing stances on the Trans-Pacific Partnership have developed.

Let’s look first at the Obama Administration’s stance.

President Obama’s stance on the TPP, appears to be largely one of increasing exports to other partners in the agreement which have been growing during his administration.

“The TPP is a key element of the Obama Administration strategy to make U.S…

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Part 1

December 2, 2013

I have posted extensively about my misgivings about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. For an alternative view, I reblog this post from The New New York 23rd web log, in which Deb Meeker gives a more dispassionate view and William Hungerford a more favorable view than mine.

New NY 23rd

The following is research on the background and negotiations  for Trans-Pacific (free trade) Partnership. This was completed by New NY 23rd contributor Deb Meeker. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.


“The 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) is a trade agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. Its purported aims are to further liberalize the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.

Since 2010, negotiations have been taking place for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposal for a significantly expanded version of TPSEP. The TPP is a proposed trade agreement under negotiation by (as of August 2013) Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.”

The TransPacific Partnership  (TPP) is presently being discussed behind closed doors from the general population, but has been reviewed by some Senators and Congress members, all of whom have…

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Don’t ram TPP treaty through on a fast track

August 31, 2013

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a proposed treaty being negotiated by representatives of the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations, which would create international tribunals with authority to override laws and court decisions that interfered with corporate rights.

hulk-tppThe treaty is being negotiated in secret, but some alarming provisions have leaked out.  Corporations would have allowed to ask for damages from unfair health and environmental regulations that cost them “expected profits.”  Food safety laws could be overridden if they exceeded “international standards.”  The U.S. Department of Energy would lose the right to regulate exports of natural gas.

Even if I’m wrong and some of these ideas are good, Congress ought to have the final say on these issues, and ought to be able to change policy to meet changing circumstances.

In order to get the treaty through, President Obama will need “fast track” authority, which limits debate, creates an accelerated time frame and requires an up-and-down vote on the treaty with no amendments.

Asking for an up-and-down vote is reasonable; foreign nations shouldn’t be expected to negotiate twice. But the limited debate and accelerated time frame only make sense if the Senate is fully informed about the treaty in advance.  In this case, the draft treaty and the U.S. negotiating position have been withheld from Congress—although not from some 600 corporate representatives who are providing expert advice.

At present the government does not have “fast track” authority.  It lapsed in 2007.  It should not be renewed just to get TPP through.  Even if I’m wrong, and TPP is a good idea, Congress ought to be able to fully understand it before enacting it.   Americans should write their Senators and ask them to vote against “fast track” authority.


Anti-TPP movement growing in Japan

May 9, 2013

While few Americans know about the secret negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, there is a strong and growing anti-TPP movement in Japan, which isn’t even an official party to the negotiations, which include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Leaked information about the TPP indicates that it would set up tribunals which would have authority to override national laws and court decisions deemed unfair to “investors.”   U.S. opponents of TPP cite precedents where trade agreements have been used to override laws and court decisions protecting public health and the environment.

hulk-tppBut Nobuhiko Suto, a former member of the Japanese House of Representatives who is leading anti-TPP protests, told Real News that the TPP could destroy Japan’s successful health insurance system.  That is because, like all universal health insurance systems, it keeps average costs down by bringing rich, poor, healthy and unhealthy people into the same system.  He said the TPP would destroy this by forcing Japan to allow foreign health insurance companies to take the rich and healthy out of the system.  For Americans, this would mean that a single-payer health insurance system would be forever ruled out of consideration.

We don’t know for sure what is in the TPP—only that the negotiators fear an adverse public reaction if the draft agreement would be made public.  But Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, has the same concerns as Nobuhiko Suto.   He said these concerns are validated by agreements the United States has negotiated with individual countries such as Peru, and by statements of the Australian government.

Khor said the United States and Australian governments want a provision that requires any government service that duplicates private enterprise to operate on “strictly commercial considerations.”  He said they want to eliminate any inherent advantage that a government service might enjoy over private enterprise, including a requirement that the government service not merely break even, but earn a profit comparable to what a private company might demand.

Australia has … introduced the principle of “competitive neutrality” to discipline the SOEs [state-owned enterprises]. … …  This is based on the concept of a “government-owned business”.   The state-owned business enterprise which competes with private companies may obtain advantages, impeding the ability of the private sector to compete on equal terms.

… … These advantages include exemptions from taxes; cheaper debt financing (because of the low-risk classification or government guarantees); absence of need to make a commercial rate of return; and exemption from regulatory constraints or costs.

To offset these advantages, the Australian guidelines cover how government businesses should pay taxes in full; pay back to the central government the difference in their loan costs vis-à-vis private sector loan costs; pay license fees equivalent to the central government; and ensure that they obtain a commercial rate of return.

via TripleCrisis.

Of course these supposedly unfair advantages work to the benefit of the public.  The whole point of having government provide services is to do the things that private enterprise is unable or unwilling to do.   The Rural Electrification Administration extended electricity to farms that private utilities found unprofitable to service.  The U.S. Postal Service provides mail delivery to remote locations that the commercial carriers don’t serve directly (they use the USPS instead).   We have public trash pickup in Rochester because it means all the trash gets picked up, not just that trash of those who can afford a private service.

Now you may disagree that government does better than private business in these examples.  Reasonable people can differ about the role of government and business.  The problem with the TPP, unless all the information leaking out is completely wrong, is that decisions about this role would not be made by elected officials, but by an international body not accountable to the public.

Click on Serious Threat to Asian Economic Model for Martin Khor’s full analysis of the TPP.

Click on Trans Pacific Partnership: Background and Resources for background information from the Sierra Club New York City Group.

Hat tip to naked capitalism.

These treaties empower corporations, not people

April 22, 2013

The video tells how “free trade” agreements set up international tribunals to which corporations can appeal to override national laws, regulations and court decisions that protect workers, consumers and the environment.  It tells of how Chevron polluted a large area of Ecuador, how the local people after a long struggle won an award for damages or how Chevron overturned those damages.

Similar international tribunals would be set up under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and under a new agreement hulk-tppthe Obama administration is negotiating with the European Union.  Huffington Post reporters say the proposed US-EU agreement calls for mechanisms of “investor-state dispute resolution,” which would allow a company to appeal a regulation or law to an international tribunal.   The tribunal would be given authority to impose economic sanctions against the United States or any other country that refused to repeal the objectionable law or regulation.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this international tribunal would be impartial, and not stacked in favor of corporations.  It still would be a bad idea because it would be one-sided.   The proposed agreement creates now corporate rights, but it does nothing to protect the rights of workers, consumers and citizens.

International trade agreements are not inherently bad.  They could be used to raise rather than lower international standards.  I can imagine a treaty to sanction nations that export products that are hazardous to human health and safety, or that gain a competitive advantage by violating agreed-upon labor and environmental standards.  But under the proposed US-EU treaty and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the reverse would be true.  Sanctions would be applied against nations for protecting consumers, workers and the environment.