Archive for the ‘TPP’ Category

Another Secret Pro-Corporate Trade Negotiation Is Leaked

June 22, 2014
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Cross-posted from Campaign For America’s Future

Another secret trade deal has leaked to WikiLeaks and it looks as if it is one more effort to lock into law the interests of certain already-huge corporations above the interests of governments, their citizens and potentially competing businesses.

As with leaks from the secret Tran-Pacific Partnership negotiations, this leak shows that the largest corporations are working to bypass recent efforts by governments to rein them in by pushing through “trade” agreements that override their ability to write their own laws and regulations.

This time the leak is the “Financial Services Annex” of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). It shows that the TISA negotiations are an effort to not only undo the minimal regulation of Wall Street that occurred after the financial crash, but to further deregulate financial markets worldwide. As WikiLeaks words it…

“Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets.”

TISA is a huge “trade” agreement that covers the services sector, which includes audiovisual; finance; insurance; energy services; transportation, logistics, and express delivery services; information technology services; and telecommunications. TISA currently has 50 countries participating in the negotiations: Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. (European Union includes: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.)

Jane Kelsey, Law Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has provided a preliminary analysis of the draft. In Memorandum on Leaked TISA Financial Services Text, Kelsey writes that the secrecy “runs counter to moves in the WTO [World Trade Organization] towards greater openness,” that the agreement appears to be “a new template for future free trade agreements and ultimately for the WTO” and that participating governments “will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.”

Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch put out this statement on the leak:

 

“If the text that was leaked today went into force, it would roll back the improvements made after the global financial crisis to safeguard consumers and financial stability and cement us into the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s that led to the crisis in the first place and the billions in losses to consumers and governments.

“This is a text that big banks and financial speculators may love but that could do real damage to the rest of us. It includes a provision that is literally called ‘standstill’ that would forbid countries from improving financial regulation and would lock them into whatever policies they had on the books in the past.”

This is one more leak showing that the giant corporations and the billionaires behind them consider themselves powerful enough to just ignore governments, and are negotiating among themselves the rules for world corporate domination in the 21st century.

 

Dave Johnson is Founder and principal author at Seeing the Forest. Dave is a frequent public speaker and talk-radio guest and a leading participant in the progressive blogging community. He does a regular weekly segment on the popular Fairness (more…)

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Progressives Unite in Call Against ‘Horrific’ TPP

May 8, 2014

Protesters demand ‘economy for all’ and end to secretive and unjust trade deals

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Progressives united outside the Capitol building on Wednesday in a rally against the TPP. (Photo: Rachel LaBruyere/ Twitter)Braving thunder and rain, hundreds of protesters rallied outside of the Capitol building in Washington DC on Wednesday to declare to the government that “the entire progressive movement is united” in the call to reject unjust trade deals and embrace an economy for all.

“They say ‘Fast Track!’ We Say ‘Fight Back!'” the group chanted, referring to recent efforts by President Obama to push through legislation to cement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP, without congressional deliberation. Thus far, the details of the deal have been negotiated behind closed doors, with the only information made available to the public via leaks.

Under the banner “Fair Trade is Not Free,” a diverse coalition of environmental organizations, good government groups, farm groups, and over a dozen unions took part in the protest, carrying umbrellas and placards, which read: “Stop Secret Trade Deals.”

“Let’s show Congress that the entire progressive movement is united in the fight for a 21st century global economy that works for everyone,” declaredthe Communications Workers of America (CWA), which organized the rally.

The TPP has been blasted by critics for undermining labor and environmental standards, as well as the open Internet. “The TPP is a horrific thing,” said Kian Frederick, national field director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “There’s something for everyone to hate.”

Frederick, who attended the action, told Common Dreams that she believed the aspect of the deal with the most potential harm is the Investor State Dispute Resolution, which grants global corporations state status, much like NAFTA, allowing them to sue a country for supposed loss or damages if they amend their laws. However, according to Frederick, the TPP goes a step further by allowing a corporation to sue for the loss of future expected profits.

“It’s an absolute race to the bottom,” Frederick declared, citing the myriad ways a government will be handcuffed to old legislation: food safety standards, environmental standards, labor laws. “If we go through with it, taxpayer money will all be recouped by the corporations.”

Public Citizen is hoping the rally draws attention to an upcoming congressional vote on whether to eschew legislative authority and “Fast Track” the trade deal without deliberation or input. The vote will likely occur after the midterm elections.

Speaking before the crowd, Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of AFL-CIO America, declared: “This is what solidarity looks like!” Gebre was joined by other speakers including Reps. Rosa deLauro (D-Conn.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Mike Michaud (D-Me.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Obama Says Critics Suffer “Lack of Knowledge” about Secret TPP Treaty

May 4, 2014
Dave Johnson
Campaign for America’s Future/Op-ed
Published: Sunday 4 May 2014
President Obama held a joint press conference on Sunday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and was somewhat dismissive of critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive “trade” treaty currently being negotiated between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
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President Obama held a joint press conference on Sunday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and was somewhat dismissive of critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive “trade” treaty currently being negotiated between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

During the press conference the president said critics are uninformed and even believing “conspiracy theories.” He said people should “wait and see what’s in the agreement” before criticizing it. He also dismissed criticism because it “reflects lack of knowledge of what is going on in the negotiations.”

The Negotiations Are Secret

Here’s the thing. The TPP talks are secret. There are a number of “advisors” (almost all are corporate representatives) who have access to what is being negotiated but the advisors are pledged to secrecy. The public is not a party to the negotiations, nor are our representatives in Congress.

So it is not entirely fair for President Obama to dismiss the concerns of critics for having a “lack of knowledge” of what is being negotiated. And marginalizing citizens as purveyors of “conspiracy theories” just because they are concerned that the effects of this trade agreement might compound the damage done by previous agreements is out of bounds.

What We Know From Leaks

What we do know about TPP largely comes from leaks. And what has been leaked is cause for serious concern. Last year Wikileaks obtained the TPP chapter covering patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial design and other “intellectual property.” This chapter was updated as of last August and may have improved since, but it is no “conspiracy theory” to be afraid of what was in the August version.

The leaked chapter appeared to show that the U.S. was pushing to get strong “protections” for giant telecommunications companies and pharmaceutical patent-holders. The reason this is a problem is that:

1) The U.S. Congress had recently blocked the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But provisions similar to those our own Congress had rejected were right there in a treaty that would override US laws and allow corporations to sue our government should it again block these provisions!

 

2) The provisions in TPP would, in the words of Public Citizen, “… transform countries’ laws on patents and medical test data, and include attacks on government medicine formularies.” If enacted as leaked the agreement “would strengthen, lengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS drugs, among others, in the Asia-Pacific region.” And this means much higher costs for pharmaceuticals, possibly even prohibitive costs in poorer countries. 

Rigged Process

We also know that TPP is being negotiated using a rigged process, designed from the start to benefit the giant corporations at the expense of everyone else. The negotiators come out of the corporate community and likely intend to return to the corporate community, where they will be paid incredibly well – if they play ball while in government. The 600 corporate “advisors” have special access to the negotiations while labor, consumer, democracy, environmental, human rights and other citizen advocates are kept at the perimeter at best.

The treaty will likely be rushed through Congress with a rigged “fast track” process that sets aside the constitutional responsibility of Congress to carefully consider and debate treaties. Fast track even sets aside the constitution’s requirement that two-thirds of the Senate agree. All of this occurs while corporations use their tremendous wealth and power to influence what the public and members of Congress understand about the treaty.

This is start to finish a process designed to cut democracy out of the equation.

 

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The Record Of Trade Agreements Is Terrible 

Americans are rightly suspicious of more trade agreements. They have seen how NAFTA cost 1 million jobs and increased our trade deficit five-fold. They understand that it drove down wages. They have seen the incredible damage done to manufacturing by “free trade” with China, costing us over 50,000 factories and million upon millions of jobs, while undercutting the wages of everyone else.

Meanwhile these agreements have greatly benefited the billionaires behind the giant multinational corporations but have hurt companies that want to keep manufacturing and employees inside the US.

The metric of the damage done by our current trade regime is our enormous, humongous trade deficit. In 2013 it was $471.5 billion. It is as if we put $471.5 billion on ships and sent it out of the country. $318.4 billion of that went to China.

Imagine the economic effect of $471.5 billion of new orders for things made and done inside the US, and that gives you a picture of the damage. Picture all of the factories reopening, people rehired, suppliers booming, communities revived — that is the picture of the damage done by this trade deficit resulting from these one-sided “free trade” agreements.

Then, on the flip side of that vision, imagine tobacco companies suing the US government for promoting anti-smoking campaigns that hurt tobacco profits. Leaks indicate that kind of corporate dominance would be enabled by the current version of TPP.

What To Do

Contact your member of Congress and your state’s senators and let them know you are keeping an eye on this, even if the corporate media is not covering it.

Also, Ask Your Local Media To Cover The Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And, finally, visit StopTheSecrecy.net.

The Transcript

The President’s remarks on TPP, in full:

Even though it wasn’t directed at me, I am going to say one thing about TPP — this notion somehow that some protests here might indicate U.S. bullying. Keep in mind, I’ve got protests back home from my own party about TPP. So there’s never been a trade deal in which somebody is not going to at some point object because they’re fearful of the future or they’re invested in the status quo. And I think it’s just very important for everybody to wait and see what exactly is the agreement that has been negotiated before folks jump to conclusions.

If you take an issue like drugs, for example, the United States does extraordinary work in research and development, and providing medical breakthroughs that save a lot of lives around the world. Those companies that make those investments in that research oftentimes want a return, and so there are all kinds of issues around intellectual property and patents, and so forth.

At the same time, I think we would all agree that if there’s a medicine that can save a lot of lives, then we’ve got to find a way to make sure that it’s available to folks who simply can’t afford it as part of our common humanity. And both those values are reflected in the conversations and negotiations that are taking place around TPP. So the assumption somehow that right off the bat that’s not something we’re paying attention to, that reflects lack of knowledge of what is going on in the negotiations.

But my point is you shouldn’t be surprised if there are going to be objections, protests, rumors, conspiracy theories, political aggravation around a trade deal. You’ve been around long enough, Chuck — that’s true in Malaysia; it’s true in Tokyo; it’s true in Seoul; it’s true in the United States of America — and it’s true in the Democratic Party.

So I continue to strongly believe, however, that this is going to be the right thing to do — creating jobs, creating businesses, expanding opportunity for the United States. And it’s going to be good for countries like Malaysia that have been growing rapidly but are interested in making that next leap to the higher-value aspects of the supply chain that can really boost income growth and development.

Elites Discover So-called “Free Trade” is Killing Economy, Middle Class,

April 28, 2014

Dave Johnson
Campaign for America’s Future/News Report
Published: Sunday 27 April 2014
Acknowledging that our trade deals have hurt the country, it is said that maybe we could try to do it right with coming agreements.
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The New York Times editorial board finally gets it right about trade in its Sunday editorial, “This Time, Get Global Trade Right.” Some excerpts:

Many Americans have watched their neighbors lose good-paying jobs as their employers sent their livelihoods to China. Over the last 20 years, the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs.

People in the Midwest, the “rust belt” and elsewhere noticed this a long time ago as people were laid off, “the plant” closed, the downtowns slowly boarded up and the rest of us felt pressure on wages and working hours. How many towns — entire regions of the country — are like this now? Have you even seen Detroit?

“This page has long argued that removing barriers to trade benefits the economy and consumers, and some of those gains can be used to help the minority of people who lose their jobs because of increased imports,” the editors write. “But those gains have not been as widespread as we hoped, and they have not been adequate to assist those who were harmed.”

So acknowledging that our trade deals have hurt the country, they say maybe we could try to do it right with coming agreements. They write:

If done right, these agreements could improve the ground rules of global trade, as even critics of Nafta like Representative Sander Levin, Democrat of Michigan, have argued. They could reduce abuses like sweatshop labor, currency manipulation and the senseless destruction of forests. They could weaken protectionism against American goods and services in countries like Japan, which have sheltered such industries as agriculture and automobiles.

They write that one problem is that these agreements are negotiated of, by and for the giant corporations:

One of the biggest fears of lawmakers and public interest groups is that only a few insiders know what is in these trade agreements, particularly the Pacific pact.

The Obama administration has revealed so few details about the negotiations, even to members of Congress and their staffs, that it is impossible to fully analyze the Pacific partnership. Negotiators have argued that it’s impossible to conduct trade talks in public because opponents to the deal would try to derail them.

But the administration’s rationale for secrecy seems to apply only to the public. Big corporations are playing an active role in shaping the American position because they are on industry advisory committees to the United States trade representative, Michael Froman. By contrast, public interest groups have seats on only a handful of committees that negotiators do not consult closely.

The current trade-negotiation process is a system designed to rig the game for the giant multinationals against everyone else:

That lopsided influence is dangerous, because companies are using trade agreements to get special benefits that they would find much more difficult to get through the standard legislative process. For example, draft chapters from the Pacific agreement that have been leaked in recent months reveal that most countries involved in the talks, except the United States, do not want the agreement to include enforceable environmental standards. Business interests in the United States, which would benefit from weaker rules by placing their operations in countries with lower protections, have aligned themselves with the position of foreign governments. Another chapter, on intellectual property, is said to contain language favorable to the pharmaceutical industry that could make it harder for poor people in countries like Peru to get generic medicines.

These trade agreements place corporate rights over national sovereignty:

Another big issue is whether these trade agreements will give investors unnecessary power to sue foreign governments over policies they dislike, including health and environmental regulations. Philip Morris, for example, is trying to overturn Australian rules that require cigarette packs to be sold only in plain packaging. If these treaties are written too loosely, big banks could use them to challenge new financial regulations or, perhaps, block European lawmakers from enacting a financial-transaction tax.

And they’re asking, like the rest of us are asking, why in the world won’t they do something about currency? 

It’s easy to point the finger at Nafta and other trade agreements for job losses, but there is a far bigger culprit: currency manipulation. A 2012 paper from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the American trade deficit has increased by up to $500 billion a year and the country has lost up to five million jobs because China, South Korea, Malaysia and other countries have boosted their exports by suppressing the value of their currency.

What So-Called “Free Trade” Agreements Did To The Economy

A trade deficit means that we buy more from the rest of the world than we sell to it. This means that jobs making and doing things here migrate to there. Before the mid-70s the United States ran generally balanced trade, with a bias toward surplus. Look at this chart to see what happened, beginning in the ’80s, and then … wham.

Now we have an enormous, humongous, ongoing trade deficit that over the years has added up to trillions and trillions of dollars drained from our economy. We have lost millions and millions of jobs as tens of thousands of factories closed. We have lost entire industries. We are losing our entire middle class to the resulting wage stagnation and inequality.

Here is what happened when the trade deficit took off. First, look at this chart of the “decoupling” of wages with productivity. In other words, as productivity goes up, what happens to the share of those gains that go to labor:

In case you don’t see the correlation, this chart shows both the trade deficit and labor’s share of the benefits of our economy:

Most people understand the damage that so-called “free trade” has done to the economy, much of our country and the middle class. Millions of people have outright lost their jobs because of corporate CEOs who conclude, “It’s cheaper to manufacture where they pay 50 cents an hour and let us pollute all we want.”

Many others have felt the resulting job fear: “If I so much as hint that I want a raise or weekends off they’ll move my job to China, too.” Entire regions have lost their economic base as factories and entire industries closed and moved.

But We Globalized And Expanded Trade

The basic pro-free-trade argument is that all trade is good and these agreements increase trade. NAFTA negotiator Carla Hills, defending NAFTA, says, “our trade with Mexico and Canada has soared 400 percent, and our investment is up fivefold.”

Of course, this is like proudly telling people that the Broncos scored 8 points in the 2014 Super Bowl*. (Hint: the Seahawks scored 43 points.)

Yes, trade is up and exports are up, but imports are up even more, which costs us jobs, factories and industries. What happened was NAFTA “expanded” trade against American workers and our economy, costing about a million jobs and increasing our trade deficit 480 percent. And don’t even ask what happened with our China trade. (Hint: our 2013 trade deficit with China was 318.4 billion dollars.)

How Would The N.Y. Times Fix Trade?

The Times editorial says we should “press countries to stop manipulating their currencies” and “the president also needs to make clear to America’s trading partners that they need to adhere to enforceable labor and environmental regulations.”

OK, but why would the giant multinationals participate? The point of the free-trade regime up to now has been to accomplish the opposite: to free the giants from the pesky laws and regulations imposed by governments, especially from labor and environmental regulations. The negotiations have been a rigged game designed to transfer the wealth of entire nations to a few billionaires (including Chinese billionaires) and giant, multinational corporations. It worked.

Meanwhile … In The L.A. Times

Meanwhile in the Los Angeles Times, representatives George Miller (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) have written an op-ed, “Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” talk about NAFTA as a “model for additional agreements, and its deeply flawed approach has resulted in the outsourcing of jobs, downward pressure on wages and a meteoric rise in income inequality,” and ask us not to “blindly endorse any more unfair NAFTA-style trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors, that threaten to sell out American workers, offshore our manufacturing sector and accelerate the downward spiral of wages and benefits.”

In 1993, before NAFTA, the U.S. had a $2.5-billion trade surplus with Mexico and a $29-billion deficit with Canada. By 2012, that had exploded into a combined NAFTA trade deficit of $181 billion. Since NAFTA, more than 845,000 U.S. workers in the manufacturing sector — and this is likely an undercount — have been certified under just one narrow program for trade adjustment assistance. They qualified because they lost their jobs due to increased imports from Canada and Mexico, or the relocation of factories to those nations.

The recent Korea free trade agreement followed the NAFTA model and the results have already proven terrible for American workers:

Obama said it would support “70,000 American jobs from increased goods exports alone.” In reality, U.S. monthly exports to South Korea fell 11% in the pact’s first two years, imports rose and the U.S. trade deficit exploded by 47%. This led to a net loss of tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in this pact’s first two years.

They conclude:

There are many things we can do to enhance our competitiveness with China and in the global economy.

We can invest in our own infrastructure, manufacturing and job training. We can work harder to address issues like currency manipulation, unfair subsidies for state-owned enterprises in other nations and global labor protections. We can enter deals that increase U.S. exports while doing right by our workers and our priorities, and we can address the real foreign policy challenges in Asia with appropriate policies instead of through a commercial agreement that could weaken the United States and its allies.

What we should not do is blindly endorse any more unfair NAFTA-style trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors, that threaten to sell out American workers, offshore our manufacturing sector and accelerate the downward spiral of wages and benefits.

No New Trade Agreements, Instead Fix The Ones We Have

Of course, as we reach consensus that we got trade wrong, and realize how these “NAFTA-style” agreements have done so much damage to our economy and middle class, doesn’t this mean it is time to back up and renegotiate NAFTA and others?

Why Would Obama Push A Trade Deal That Would Cut Pay Of 90% Of Workers?

April 27, 2014

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Research concludes that if you’re making less than $87,000 per year (the current 90th percentile wage), the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean a pay cut. But that’s fine for corporations who want this treaty.
Why Would Obama Push A Trade Deal That Would Cut Pay Of 90% Of Workers?

President Obama is in Asia, partly to “reassure” partner countries that the U.S. is a strong ally and partly to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Both are to counter China’s growing influence. While TPP is being sold as a “strategic” countermeasure to China, like other so-called “trade” agreements TPP does not help American workers; it hurts them.

Obama In Asia Pushing TPP

President Obama is in Japan as part of his “pivot to Asia” tour of Pacific countries. He is also visiting South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. The trip is meant to demonstrate U.S. diplomatic and economic efforts toward Pacific nations to counterbalance China’s increasing influence in the region. Part of this effort is a big push to get TPP negotiations back on track and completed.

TPP is a massive “trade” treaty between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. “Trade” is in quotes because only five of the treaty’s 29 chapters actually deal with trade. Others set rules on investment, set limits on the ability of governments to regulate corporations, restrict a government’s ability to spend its own tax dollars on goods made in that country (such as “Buy America” procurement policies) and other things well beyond the usual scope of what would be considered a trade agreement. This leads many to claim that the treaty is really about limiting the ability of governments to reign in the giant corporations. (For those not familiar with TPP, read all about it in ourfuture.org’s TPP section.)

Most Workers Likely To Lose

The treaty is being negotiated in secret with lots of corporate involvement and not much involvement by stakeholders like labor, environmental, human rights, consumer and other groups that would be affected. But even though it is secret we know from leaks that TPP as currently negotiated appears to be designed to benefit a few giant corporate interests, while potentially driving the nail into the coffin of America’s middle class.

Since NAFTA our “trade” agreements have gotten a bad reputation with the public. People have come to realize that these “free trade” agreements are causing companies to close American factories and open factories in countries with low wages and that allow companies to pollute. Pitting American workers against low-wage workers has encouraged employers to cut wages and benefits for those who are able to keep their jobs.

A September 2013 study, “Gains from Trade? The Net Effect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on U.S. Wages,” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), looked at the effect of past trade agreements and estimated what TPP would do if enacted. The study estimated that the TPP would force wages down (even more) for almost all U.S. workers.

The CEPR study estimated that U.S. economic gains would be only 0.13 percent of gross domestic product by 2025. In exchange for these small gains, according to the study, “… most workers are likely to lose—the exceptions being some of the bottom quarter or so whose earnings are determined by the minimum wage; and those with the highest wages who are more protected from international competition.”

Any workers who don’t lose would not win as a result of the “trade” parts of the treaty. “Rather, many top incomes will rise as a result of TPP expansion of the terms and enforcement of copyrights and patents.” So everybody loses except those who own copyrights and patents.

In “‘Trade’ Deal Would Mean a Pay Cut for 90% of U.S. Workers,” Public Citizen’s Eyes on Trade blog explains just who would lose,

[CEPR's] Rosnick shows that if we assume that trade has contributed just 15% of the recent rise in inequality (a still conservative estimate), then the TPP would mean wage losses for all but the richest 10% of U.S. workers. So if you’re making less than $87,000 per year (the current 90th percentile wage), the TPP would mean a pay cut.

But “everybody losing on wages” is not a bad thing for giant corporations; it’s a good thing. As much as they can squeeze down labor costs, that boosts their bottom line. And they are exactly who is pushing for this treaty.

Enormous, Humongous Trade Deficits

The United States used to try to have balanced trade, often with a surplus. This means we were selling more to the world than we were buying. More money coming in than going our made us comparatively “rich.” But since the free trade agenda that came along in the late 1970s, which was accelerated by the Reagan administration, we have been running continuing trade deficits. Then when we opened up trade with China, the deficit skyrocketed.

Now this trade deficit has reached enormous proportions, more than $700 billion before the recession. (It actually fell last year to $471.5 billion in 2013, from $534.7 billion in 2012.) Our trade deficit with China alone was over $318 billion last year.

In summary: the free-trade legacy so far.

  • Trillions of dollars lost. We have an ongoing trade deficit bleeding money from our economy.
  • Stagnant or falling wages for most of us. Pitting Americans against low-wage workers has forced US wages down.
  • Millions of good-paying jobs lost. Most of these workers are getting paid much less now, if they can find work.
  • Tens of thousands of factories closed, moved out of the country. This costs us our ability to make a living as a country.
  • Entire industries lost. As we lose the factories and supply chains, entire industries disappear.
  • Devastation of entire regions of the country. Nothing has come along to replace manufacturing in much of the country. Go take a look at Detroit, Flint, Cleveland, Lorain, Eria and so many other areas.
  • Massive increase in income and wealth inequality. A few billionaires do great when labor costs decline and profits rise.
  • Destruction of the middle class and maybe even our democracy. Just look around you.

Democracy Or Oligarchy?

The public “gets it” that these trade deals have really, really hurt regular, working Americans and TPP would continue free trade’s devastation of the middle class. There is a revolt going on in both parties in the Congress.House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have reaffirmed that they don’t agree with the current process and course of TPP. Tea party conservatives and progressives oppose TPP.Even many American corporations oppose the current TPP!

The public “gets it.” Take a look at the Trade and Manufacturing section ofthe Populist Majority poll-aggregation website.

  • “95% favor goods manufactured in America.”
  • “73% favor offering companies a tax break for every job they bring from overseas to the US.” But current law gives tax breaks and deferrals for jobs, factories and profit centers shipped out of the country. Republicans are obstructing efforts to change this.
  • 84% of the public “support a concerted plan to make sure that economic, tax, education and trade policies in this country work together to help support manufacturing.” But that would be “government action” and “picking winners and losers” so it is opposed in the Congress.
  • “60% say the US needs to “get tough” with countries like China in order to halt unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation, which will keep undermining our economy.”
  • “65% consider outsourcing, rather than a potential shortage of skilled workers, as the reason for a lack of new manufacturing jobs.”
  • “56% believe trade agreements that allow corporations to sue governments, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, should be rejected.”

Democracy would say hold off on TPP. But a few giant, multinational corporations and the billionaires behind them want it. So in our corporate-dominated political system, it’s full speed ahead for TPP.

Trading Our Economy For National Security Fears?

The history of this is that many in government believe that America’s national security interests are served by letting the big corporations cut these trade deals with countries like China and Japan, because security arrangements should have a priority over economic concerns. So they have worked to strengthen South Korea, Japan and even China at the expense of our own economy. This was a Cold War strategy. Now they are using China as a bogeyman to push the TPP, saying we need it to counter China’s influence. Get all of these countries into this agreement and we’ll be stronger than China.

This way of seeing the TPP as a way to strengthen these strategic partners allows those countries to extract concessions in the treaty negotiations that the giant corporations like, but that hurt our own country’s economy. State Department and various National Security interests give this a go-ahead; they say this is good because it will elevate those countries. Meanwhile, our factories close, our own industries suffer.

Of course, even as this argument is used we do nothing about our massive trade deficit with China, we allow them to manipulate their currency and exploit workers.

The reality at this point is that it is now in the security interest of America to rebuild our own middle class, rebuild our infrastructure and competitive position, rebuild our education and research institutions, rebuild our own democracy. Real security comes from having a strong economy and a strong middle class.

We can do trade right. We can elevate the people and economies of other countries without exploiting working people around the world and destroying our own middle class.

Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing wrote Thursday that “A Good Trade Deal Is Well Worth the Wait“:

[L]ost in this rush to secure a pact is what the TPP (and every other trade agreement) should actually accomplish: A more balanced U.S. trade account that ultimately benefits the American middle class, which recent reports show could use some help right about now. Unfortunately, America’s track record on trade policy has pushed our trade deficits in the wrong direction and weakened the middle class. And despite the Obama administration bromides that this will be a “21st century trade agreement,” it’s hardly certain that the TPP will be any different, at least when it comes to deterring currency manipulation.

With that in mind, I say a good trade deal is well worth the wait and effort.

We’ve already seen what’s happened when trade policy is inexpertly wielded as a tool of foreign diplomacy. Consider the debacle of permanent normalized trade relations with China in 2000. In exchange for the promises of a more open Chinese society, a Republican Congress and a Democratic president removed the threat of annual review of tariffs on Chinese imports. This resulted in none of the hoped-for democratic reforms (if anything, China has used its funding stream courtesy of our burgeoning trade imbalance to become more belligerent) and ;massive job loss in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

But while China and Japan couldn’t be more different in terms of domestic governance, they share a remarkable similarity in international economic policy: Both regularly distort their currency exchange rates to push their trading surpluses with the U.S. high and keep them higher. Despite that fact, no U.S. action has been taken against China or Japan for manipulating their currency. And though there is much secrecy around the details of the TPP proposal (of which Japan is a potential party and is, as the world’s third largest national economy, the most important negotiator aside from the U.S.), a rule barring currency manipulation has most certainly not been discussed.

We can do so much better. Our government can negotiate for the American people instead of against them, as they have done. Step back, take a breath, wait … Get the giant corporations out of the front seats of the process and go back and make NAFTA work for us and Mexican working people and farmers. Make trade work for the American people and Chinese working people.

—–

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

ABOUT DAVE JOHNSON

Dave Johnson's picture
Fellow, <a href=”http://ourfuture.org”>Campaign for America’s Future</a>, Sr. Fellow, <a href=”http://renewca.org”>Renew California</a>, Blogger, <a href=”http://seeingtheforest.com/”>Seeing the Forest</a>

TPP Myths

April 24, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2014
3:12 PM

CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Interviews Available

WASHINGTON – April 23 – Upon President Obama’s visit to Asia, critics are highlighting his push for the controversial trade aggreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

MARTIN KHOR, mkhor@igc.org@South_Centre

Khor is the executive director of South Centre. He writes the column “Global Trends” for the Daily Star. Two of his recent columns are “Obama and the TPPA” and “Obama’s Visit and the TPPA” in which he writes, “Of concern is that the Congress will only pass the TPPA [Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement] if it has a clause disciplining countries that are ‘currency manipulators.’ …

“A major problem with this Congress’ proposal is how ‘currency manipulators’ are defined. Many developing countries consider the U.S. itself to be a manipulator because the trillions of dollars it has placed in the banking system through its easy-money policy has depressed the value of the dollar to remain at low levels and raised the country’s export competitiveness.

“But that’s not how the Americans define manipulation. Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute, a main intellectual force behind the Congress move, proposes three tests to determine a currency manipulator: the country possess excessive official foreign currency assets (more than six months of import value); it has acquired significant additional amounts of official foreign assets, implying substantial intervention, over a recent period of six months; and it has a substantial current account surplus. …

“Bergsten’s ideas are extreme, but they [were] cited by Congressman [Sander] Levin when he made his proposal.

“Can the TPPA countries agree to having a currency manipulation chapter in the agreement? If so, the TPPA will contain a very dangerous element and it will also set a dangerous precedent for other future agreements.”

LORI WALLACH, (202) 454-5107lwallach@citizen.org@PCGTW

Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. The organization released a statement to reporters covering Obama’s trip to Asia which reads, “Obama arrives in Asia without trade authority and with TPP partners Japan and Malaysia aware that the U.S Congress, which has exclusive constitutional authority over trade policy, is increasingly skeptical about the TPP. January 2014 legislation to enact Fast Track authority was dead on arrival in the U.S. House of Representatives. Already in late 2013,180 House members had announced they would never authorize the Fast Track process again; more announced opposition when the bill was submitted. …

“The TPP’s actual terms undercut the false, but conveniently scary, dichotomy posed as a choice between using TPP to impose ‘our’ rules internationally or living with rules set by China. This argument presumes the TPP to represent ‘our’ rules, but in fact many of the TPP’s terms reflect the narrow special interests of the 600 official U.S. corporate trade advisors that have shaped them. TPP investment rules would promote more U.S. job offshoring and further gut the U.S. manufacturing base that is essential for our national security and domestic infrastructure. TPP procurement rules would ban Buy American policies that reinvest our tax dollars to create economic growth and jobs at home. TPP service sector rules would raise our energy prices and undermine our energy independence and financial stability. TPP drug and copyright terms would raise health care costs and thwart innovation.”

FIFA RAHMAN,  011-60-102-566-097fifarahman@hotmail.com@fifarahman

Rahman is policy manager at the Malaysian AIDS Council. She said today, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is a plurilateral trade agreement involving 12 countries, which among other things contains TRIPS+ [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] provisions that will reduce access to affordable medicines. In Guatemala, for example, it was found that TRIPS+ had resulted in a large variance in prices of similar medications, and that several lower-cost generic medicines had been removed entirely from the market. In Jordan, it was found that the delay in entry of generics due to TRIPS+ provisions in their Jordan-U.S. free trade agreement had resulted in the government paying an extra USD$18 million per year. …

“In the second half of last year, Malaysia (along with three other countries) was offered a differential treatment package based on income status. This means that Malaysia will be exempted from the TRIPS+ provisions until it reaches high GNI per capita status.

“The major myth is that the differential treatment given to Malaysia on intellectual property based on income level makes it a better deal. Despite Malaysia approaching high GNI per capita, in reality the rich-poor disparity is one of the highest in Southeast Asia so people will not be able to afford medications.”

###

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

‘Corporate Colonialism': Protesters Slam TPP, US Military ‘One-Two Punch’

April 23, 2014

Ahead of Obama visit, Asia-Pacific voices demand ‘U.S. out’

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Protest against Malaysia’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Kuala Lumpur on July 19, 2013. (Photo: EPA/AZHAR RAHIM)As President Barack Obama prepares to embark on his fifth visit to the Asia-Pacific region, grassroots protests against U.S. efforts to ram through the Trans-Pacific trade deal and the U.S. military pivot to Asia are mounting on both sides of the Pacific.

“People are saying we don’t want more U.S. militarization in our countries,” said Rhonda Ramiro, Vice Chair of BAYAN-USA—an alliance of Filipino organizations in the U.S.—in an interview with Common Dreams. “This is about U.S. military power and economic domination.”

In the coming days, protests against the TPP and U.S. military pivot will sweep U.S. embassies in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, with more actions slated for the “weeks and months to come,” said Ramiro.Channel News Asia reports that in Tokyo, where Obama will land Wednesday, protests against the TPP by workers, farmers, and community groups are already heating up.

Meanwhile, BAYAN-USA is organizing a day of action on Friday in major cities across the U.S. to oppose military buildup throughout the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region. And Monday marked the beginning of a U.S. week of action against the TPP backed by a coalition of environmental, labor, internet freedom, and numerous other organizations.

Obama is widely expected to use his upcoming trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines to push for the TPP and secure a U.S. military buildup in the region.

Critics charge that this economic and military agenda is part of a broader strategic plan to bolster U.S. geopolitical control of the region and hedge against China.

People in Seattle, Washington participate in the North American Day of Action on Jan. 31st, marking the 20-year anniversary of NAFTA with protest sof ongoing and future free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Photo Alex Garland)

The TPP, which has been referred to as NAFTA on steroids, is a so-called “free trade agreement” currently under negotiation between 12 countries — the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — together comprising 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Despite the breadth of this potential agreement, the TPP negotiations have been highly secretive, with the bulk of publicly available information exposed by WikiLeaks.

Documents show that negotiators are pushing for inclusion of NAFTA’s infamous corporate tribunals, in which corporations “settle disputes” with governments in secrecy and trample domestic protections from public health to environmental regulations, completely circumventing their own national legal systems.

Cassidy Regan of Flush the TPP told Common Dreams that the TPP is “nothing but corporate colonialism.” She added, “The supposed environmental protections chapter includes nothing substantive. The intellectual property chapter raised major concerns among internet freedom activists, as well as public health workers who know the expansion of monopoly drug patents for major pharmaceutical companies will only further raise the price of and threaten access to life-saving medicines worldwide.”

Christine Ahn writes for Foreign Policy in Focus that the U.S. push for the TPP is part of a “one-two punch,” with the second blow dealt by the so-called U.S. military pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

The renewed U.S. military interest in the Asia-Pacific region, pushed in 2011 by Hillary Clinton, aims to deploy 60 percent of the U.S. Navy fleet to the Asia Pacific region by 2020. This effort includes: the re-building and occupation of U.S. military installations in the Philippines; the deployment of thousands of troops; the building of new military bases across the region; expansion of military exercises; shifting of weapons—including long-range bombers and drones—to the Pacific; and increased military alliances.

This is in a region where there are already approximately 320,000 U.S. troops.

“The U.S. is trying to establish neoliberal policies,” said Ramiro. “If anyone is opposed, the military will be there to back up economic plans. The militarization is also a way for the U.S. to flex its muscles around China.”

According to Ramiro, the U.S. military presence has brought environmental destruction and an epidemic of violence and sexual assaults against women. Furthermore, bolstered U.S. military alliances are further strengthening repressive governments.

“We have a Philippine military has been implicated in major human rights abuses against peace, labor, and environmental activists and journalists,” said Ramiro. “The military has silenced dissent and engaged in outright killings torture. This is the Philippine military that trained with U.S. military.”

Yet Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA, told Common Dreams that the legacies of resistance throughout the region are cause for hope.

“People in the Asia-Pacific have been struggling for decades against U.S. intervention. This is nothing new to people in the region,” said Ellorin. “In the Philippines we have been fighting us presence for 114 years. Other countries have been fighting for decades. Those struggles and movements still exist, and they are intensifying now.”

She added, “These movements in the region continue to frustrate the U.S. geopolitical agenda in the region and have endured countless U.S. counter-insurgency campaigns. The U.S. Pacific Command is the largest and oldest of the U.S. global commands. As long as U.S. intervention is present, people’s resistance will not only persist, but grow.”

_____________________

March 26, 2014
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
General News 3/25/2014 at 07:39:42

Exclusive to Opednews: Alan Grayson

Talks About TPP, GLobalization, NAFTA

and Obama

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I interviewed Alan Grayson on my radio show on March 18th. The link to the podcast is here.

This segment of the transcript of the interview covers our discussion of TPP and globalization trade deals. It’s not pretty.

 

From http://www.opednews.com/populum/uploadphotos/s_300_upload_wikimedia_org_46441_800px-Alan_Grayson_Updated_Headshot_167.gif: Alan Grayson
Alan Grayson
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R.K.: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey.  Also available on iTunes under my name, Rob Kall, K-A-L-L and at opednews.com/podcasts.

My guest tonight is Congressman Alan Grayson.  He represents Florida’s Ninth District.  He has been singled out as an enemy by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and George Will, something I am sure he’s proud of and he’s received more votes for Progressive Hero from Democracy for America than any other candidate in the country.  Welcome to the show, it’s good to have you back.

A.G.: Thank you very much, good to be back.

 

R.K.: So I’ve got a lot of questions and things I want to talk about, we’ve got a limited time.  I’m going to throw a couple things at you, you kind of pick what we get in to.  One, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal, TPP, what’s your take on it and the Atlantic counterpart and not just on fast tracking but the deals themselves.

A.G.: Well they take a bad situation and make it far worse.  These are deals that would extend free trade status which we now have with Mexico and Canada to roughly fifty other countries and what we’ve seen over and over again with these deals is that they weaken our economy and gut the middle class.  Let’s take NAFTA for instance.  Before NAFTA went in to effect, the United States never had a trade deficit of a hundred and thirty five billion dollars in any time in its history.

Every single year since NAFTA went in to effect we’ve had a trade deficit of a hundred and thirty five billions dollars or more.  In the last thirteen years we’ve won thirteen state trade deficits that are higher than any country that’s ever run in the history of the entire world.  There’s no country that’s ever had a two hundred billion dollar trade deficit other than the United States.

We have thirteen in a row that are three hundred and fifty billion dollars or more. We’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs and roughly ten million other jobs and the middle class is being destroyed.

R.K.: Who benefits from these then?  Why are they done?

A.G.: They’re done because foreigners benefit from them and multi-national corporations benefit from them.  It used to be that you’d find organizations lining up against trade bills organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers which represented companies that made manufacture in the United States.

Now the National Association of Manufacturers consists largely of companies that manufacture abroad and sell in the United States.  It’s sort of become the International Association of Manufacturers, if you will, and so the result of this that there’s now a very large and very powerful lobby in favor of importing rather than in favor of manufacturing.  This is something that is represented in dealings with Congress quite clearly.  So what’s actually happening can’t even be called free trade anymore.  What’s actually happening is better described as buying and borrowing.  That’s what we’ve been doing.  We’re buying and borrowing.  We are using our money to put foreigner, millions upon millions of foreigners, especially in China to work and they are turning around and rather than buying our goods and services, instead what they’re doing is they’re buying our assets and driving us deeper and deeper in to debt.  Right now foreigners own ten trillion dollars of our assets, that’s roughly one-sixth of our national net worth.  And they own seven trillion dollars of treasury bills and treasury bonds alone.

So they’re holding the whip hand because they’re buying virtually every asset in this country that’s worth buying.  We lose twice.  We lose because we lose the jobs and because we lose our wealth as well and fall deeper and deeper in to debt.

R.K.: Now Obama is really pushing for this and refuses to tell Congress or even what’s in the TPP.  What are your thoughts on Obama’s advocacy for this.  Why, what is he doing?

A.G.: Well President Obama is unusually close with the corporate titans when it comes to economic issues.  I think this is true whether you’re talking about banks, whether you’re talking about computers and the internet, or for that matter whether you’re talking about trade.  President Obama has rarely, if ever been an economic populist.  The result of that is he has allowed to engines of sovereign give away to continue to operate and come up with new and better ways to turn our sovereignty over to multi-national corporations and I don’t think he gets any independent advice about this at all.

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Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect ofOpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

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I Talk With Alan Grayson On TPP, Psychopathic Corporations, corpomemes, Whistleblowers, NSA

March 21, 2014
Broadcast March 20, 2014The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

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From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alan_Grayson_113th_Congress.jpg: Alan Grayson

Check Friday for the full transcript.

Congressman Alan Grayson represents Florida’s 9th district.  He’s been singled as an enemy by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and George Will– something I’m sure he’s proud of. He received more votes for “progressive hero” from Democracy for America than any other candidate in the country.

Can you talk about your position on TPP the Transpacific Partnership trade deal and its Atlantic counterpart– not just about fast-tracking but the deals themselves?

Who benefits from these. Why are they done?

What are your thoughts about OBama advocating so strongly for this?

What did you see when you got your look (at the TPP?)

How can any member of congress allow fast tracking let alone vote for it?

Have you seen the book or movie, THE CORPORATION, created by Joel Bakan? It describes how corporations are set up to operate in a psychopathic way.

As one of the few members of congress who actually made a living as an economist, how do you feel about the current state of capitalism. Is it possible for corporations to exist without being psychopathic.

The memes that corporations have implanted in peoples minds are very powerful, mostly through right wing radio.

Koch brothers as the tip of the billionaire iceberg.

Have you seen House of Cards? Is it something members of congress are watching?

There’s a story strand that plausibly shows China playing a role, coordinated with a billionaire, in influencing numerous US election campaigns and media attack ads. Isn’t foreign interference in US politics unconstitutional? It seems to me that something like the scenario portrayed in House of Cards is one that could have easily played out since Citizens United. Is anyone looking into these possibilities?  Are you concerned that foreign money is being used to influence US politics since CItizens United.

You’ve worked, as an attorney, with whistleblowers. What’s your take on the NSA revelations of Ed Snowden and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras?

He (Justin Amash) introduced a bill dealing with NSA– it almost passed– any chance that something

Your opponent in this year’s election says he’s looking forward to debating you on obamacare. How do you measure how your constitutents have responded? Have they signed up? Are stats available by district? How many people or what percentage of people in your district would you expect could benefit from Obamacare?

My district is 40% latino and latinos in Fl have 40% no health coverage.

percentage of uninsured in US has dropped from 18% to 15% in last year.

Adolph reed march. Harpers, Nothing Left– The long, slow surrender of American liberals

How do we get more people elected to congress who are as progressive as you are, or how can we push already elected representatives to the left?

Luis gutierez

congresssmenwithguts.com

 

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On the Wrong Side of Globalization

March 20, 2014

Economist Joseph Stiglitz. (photo: Roosevelt Institute)
Economist Joseph Stiglitz. (photo: Roosevelt Institute)

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By Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times

19 March 14

rade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries. But the TPP negotiations have been taking place in secret, forcing us to rely on leaked drafts to guess at the proposed provisions. At the same time, Congress introduced a bill this year that would grant the White House filibuster-proof fast-track authority, under which Congress simply approves or rejects whatever trade agreement is put before it, without revisions or amendments.

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________________________

Comment: TPP = Tyranny of Pyramidal Power (Pyramid in Sino-Japanese represent Money: 金: Money Monopoly)


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