Archive for the ‘TPP’ Category

Elizabeth Warren, other Democrats raise concerns about free-trade pact with Asia

December 19, 2014

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could erode U.S. financial safeguards designed to “prevent future financial crises.” (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
By David Nakamura December 17
Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday voiced new concerns over President Obama’s trade agenda as congressional Democrats ramp up efforts to slow the administration’s bid to finalize a major free-trade pact in Asia that the president has called a top priority.

The disagreement threatens to expose old divisions over international trade and hamper Democrats’ efforts to unify their party going into the 2016 elections.

Warren (D-Mass.), fresh off her break with the White House on the budget last week, said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could erode U.S. financial safeguards designed to “prevent future financial crises.”

“We cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy,” Warren said in the letter, also signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). The Washington Post obtained a copy.

The senators are focused on three specific provisions, and they do not state outright opposition to the 12-nation pact, which is still being negotiated. But Warren’s status as the emerging leader of the progressive wing of the party could complicate the Obama administration’s attempt to rally support from enough Democrats to get the deal completed.

Warren was a key voice in the debate over the $1 trillion spending plan, delivering a blistering attack on a measure in the bill that loosens restrictions on derivative trading.. Though the budget was approved with backing from the White House, Warren further burnished her credentials with progressives, who have urged her to mount a presidential bid.

Obama has called trade an area where he hopes to find common ground with Republicans, who take control of the Senate next month and have expressed support for liberalizing trade policy.

The president has also said the proposed pact is a cornerstone of his Asia policy, which aims to balance a greater U.S. military presence with deeper economic ties to the region, and Obama has pledged that the final trade deal will have higher labor and environmental standards than past free-trade agreements.

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In her letter, Warren raises concerns that the deal could include provisions that would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. policies before a judicial panel outside the domestic legal system, increasing exposure of American taxpayers to potential damages.

She also objects to potential provisions that she said would grant foreign companies access to U.S. markets without being subject to restrictions on “predatory or toxic financial products” and that would restrict the U.S. government’s ability to impose capital controls, such as transaction taxes, on international firms.

A spokesman for Froman’s office defended the pact. “TPP will in no way limit the ability of governments to put in place strong consumer protections or to regulate financial markets, including derivatives,” Matthew McAlvanah said. “In fact, it will include specific provisions protecting regulation as well as ensuring that other countries provide the same type of basic judicial fairness that we already provide under U.S. law to American and foreign businesses operating in the United States.”
David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) “Dismantles Democracy”: Stop The Secrecy, Release The Texts

December 10, 2014
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Reprinted from Global Research

(image by Free Trade Graph)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been negotiated in secret throughout the Obama administration.

They continue to keep the text secret and classified. This week TPP trade negotiators are in Washington, DC.

The 12 countries have been unable to reach agreement as the United States demands extreme corporate power undermining the sovereignty of nations.

Popular Resistance Light Brigade at the offices of the US Trade Representatives building in Washington, DC on December 7, 2014.. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.
Popular Resistance Light Brigade at the offices of the US Trade Representatives building in Washington, DC December 7, 2014.
(image by Photo by Elias Weston-Farber, Popular Resistance.)

The Obama administration has also been stalled on trade on the homefront as Congress has refused to give the administration fast track trade promotion authority. Fast track would allow the President to sign the agreement before it went to Congress and would restrict Congress’ power to review it. It would ensure Congress plays virtually no role in regulating trade as is its constitutional mandate under the Commerce Clause.

On Sunday night Popular Resistance began the week of negotiations with a Light Brigade putting messages on the US Trade Representative’s office in Washington, DC.

On Monday morning members of Popular Resistance held a “Sit-in to End the Secrecy” on the front steps of the USTR office. As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators and USTR staff arrived for their first day of meetings this week, demonstrators demanded that they stop hiding the text of the trade agreement and instead make it available to the public, telling them “secret negotiations are anti-democratic.”

Several activists tried twice to deliver an open letter signed by more than 1,000 peopleto the trade ambassador but were met with an aggressive removal from the lobby by security personnel. Richard Ochs, a 76-year-old former steelworker from Baltimore, was pulled down the stairs and ejected from the building. Ochs exclaimed “I thought that as citizens we had the right to petition the government. This shows how afraid they are of transparency.”

Cassidy Regan, trade organizer for Popular Resistance, remarked that after public pressure the European Union recently agreed to release its negotiating proposals for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to the public.

The EU wanted to release the full text of the agreement but was blocked by the United States…

“The trade agreements being drafted in secret threaten everything from worker rights and wages to public health and access to medicines. The negotiators keep texts hidden because these agreements aren’t made with the public in mind — instead, they serve to give transnational corporations further power to exploit people and the planet for the sake of profit. The unprecedented lack of transparency denies communities’ right to know policies that could impact so many aspects of our lives, for generations to come.”

People gather outside of USTR on December 8, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber.
People gather outside of USTR on December 8, 2014.
(image by Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.)

After several hours of blocking the front entrance and disrupting business by chanting, singing and banging on a cow bell, pots and blowing whistles, the protesters were joined by close to 200 more people from Public Citizen, Citizens Trade Campaign, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, National Family Farm Coalition, Friends Committee on National Legislation and labor unions such as the Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and United Students Against Sweatshops.

The crowd sang and chanted. They had a spirited march around the block carrying banners, signs and big red balloons that said, “There will be no fast track.” They let the negotiators know that the American people were united in their opposition to fast track and predicted Congress would not pass fast track legislation. …

This is the first of several days of negotiations. More actions are expected throughout the week. Online actions are being organized through

The movement of movements bringing together people concerned about the environment, labor, food and water, Internet freedom, energy policy, banking regulation and so many other issues has been able to stop the rigged corporate trade agreement being pushed by the Obama administration. A critical test will come in the coming months when the new Congress is put in place. We are confident that we continue to work in unity to stop these corporate trade agreements that we can stop fast track and prevent these treaties from becoming law. and http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.U

Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, http://www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more…)

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Leaked TPP Chapter Exposes Sweet Deals for Big Pharma and US Bully Tactics

October 16, 2014
Published on

U.S. pushing rules that ‘favor big corporate right holders, and undermine the public’s freedom to use knowledge,’ intellectual property expert says

The leaked rules "are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto," according to WikiLeaks. (Photo: GlobalTradeWatch/flickr/cc)


The leaked rules “are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto,” according to WikiLeaks. (Photo: GlobalTradeWatch/flickr/cc)WikiLeaks on Thursday released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intellectual Property Rights chapter, charging that it will hinder affordable access to medicines globally, increase online surveillance, and impinge on civil liberties while benefiting Big Pharma and other corporate interests.

“Our first impression in reading the document is the extent to which the United States has sought hundreds of changes in intellectual property norms, some small and subtle, others blunt and aggressive, nearly of all of which favor big corporate right holders, and undermine the public’s freedom to use knowledge,” declared James Love of Knowledge Ecology International.

“These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.”

The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that will, if it goes into effect, encompass more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The IP chapter covers topics from pharmaceuticals, patent registrations, and copyright issues to digital rights.

The trade pact has been mostly negotiated in secret, with only select government officials and corporations able to see the text. To that end, WikiLeaks hasreleased several draft chapters. A previous draft of the IP chapter was leaked in November 2013.

“Since that point, some controversial and damaging areas have had little change; issues surrounding digital rights have moved little,” according to a WikiLeaks press statement Thursday. “However, there are significant industry-favoring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.”

In their analysis, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange and editor Sarah Harrison note that the U.S. is pushing for long automatic monopolies for biotech drugs or biologics, including most new treatments for cancer. In addition, the revised TPP chapter includes expansions and extensions of patent protections and terms as well as a provision proposed by the U.S. and Japan that would require granting of patents for new drugs that are slightly altered from a previous patented one—a technique known as “evergreening” that the pharmaceutical industry uses to prolong market monopoly.

“The TPP would impose new obligations for spying on Internet users under the guise of enforcing copyright.”
—Alberto Cerda, Derechos Digitales

“In short, the TPP will greatly reduce the ability for creating more affordable drugs to save more lives, and increase the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to retain monopolies,” Assange and Harrison write.

According to a Public Citizen analysis of the leaked document:

Measures in the text, which advantage the patent-based pharmaceutical industry, face stiff opposition from most of the other TPP countries and health care advocates. Entrenched disagreements on these issues will be among the top challenges for TPP trade ministers who will be meeting in Australia at the end of October in an effort to meet Obama’s November deadline to complete negotiations.

Large brand-name drug firms want to use the TPP to impose rules throughout Asia that will raise prices on medicine purchases for consumers and governments, and be in effect for the next several decades. With billions at stake, Big Pharma wants the TPP to be a road map for rules that will govern Pacific Rim economies for the next several decades.

“The leak shows our government demanding rules that would lead to preventable suffering and death in Pacific Rim countries, while eliminating opportunities to ease financial hardship on American families and our health programs at home,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.

Furthermore, the draft rules under negotiation would increase online spying, said Alberto Cerda, founding member of the Chilean organization Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights).

“For most non-American users, these rules are new and raise a number of significant concerns about their potential abuse and misuse by the government, corporations and the big content industry,” Cerda said. “[T]he TPP would impose new obligations for spying on Internet users under the guise of enforcing copyright. This should raise concerns not only among countries that currently lack such regulations, but also among U.S. citizens, because the TPP would expand the online spy network at home.”

The draft leaked on Thursday also offers a glimpse at shifting country alliances. Whereas the U.S. and Australia used to be closely aligned, the latest version suggests the U.S. and Japan are now tightly linked.

As Mike Masnick notes at TechDirt: “A bunch of countries are pushing for the right to cancel a patent if it ‘is used in a manner determined to be anti-competitive,’ but of course, the U.S. and Japan are completely against such a thing. Instead, the U.S. and Japan say it should only be cancelled on grounds that would have been justified for refusing to grant the patent in the first place. In other words, most of the countries recognize that patents can be abused in anti-competitive ways and want to protect against that. The US and Japan, on the other hand, appear to be happy with enabling anti-competitive abuses with patents.”

But the IP chapter’s text also shows that many countries are pushing back.

“[T]he immediate takeaway is that the U.S. remains fairly isolated in its efforts to overhaul patent and copyright law around the world with Canada emerging as the leading opponent of its demands,” writes University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist at his blog.

He explains:

Why is Canada opposing so many U.S. demands?

Simply put, the U.S. wants Canada to eviscerate many of the recent reforms found in copyright and counterfeiting legislation along with court rulings on patent protection. These demands focus on enhanced criminal liability for copyright infringement, eliminating the Canadian approach to Internet service provider liability, extending the term of copyright protection, and expanding patent protection. Canadian negotiators have thus far resisted many of the proposed changes, offering alternatives that are compatible with current law. Yet as the treaty negotiations continue, the pressure to cave to U.S. pressure will no doubt increase, raising serious concerns about whether the TPP will force the Canadian government to overhaul recently enacted legislation that it has steadfastly defended as reflecting a balanced, “made in Canada” approach.

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Brunei; ministers from those countries will attend a meeting in Australia at the end of this month in the hopes of breaking the impasse in November.

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Critical Moment to Stop The TPP & Other Rigged Trade Agreements

August 10, 2014
OpEdNews Op Eds 8/10/2014 at 08:59:46

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In September 2013 activists covered the national office of the US Trade Representative with four banners exposing the secret Trans Pacific Partnership.
(image by Anne Meador of the DC Media Group)

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

The moment facing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its sibling the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as ‘TAFTA’) and the future approach to trade is reaching a critical stage. The TPP and TAFTA are attempts to get past the failed World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, but like the WTO, these new agreements are meeting significant opposition and obstacles. We are poised to stop these attempts to rig the international economy in favor of multinational corporations and move to a new model of trade that respects the rights of people and nature, but it will take a coordinated effort. We must be prepared for moves to thwart that effort and organize to avoid them.

The TPP and TAFTA represent a new era of deception and back-room dealing to pass laws that have nothing to do with trade, but that hand even greater power to multinational corporations to profit from everything no matter the consequences for the health of people and the planet. For the first time, the text of the agreements has been classified and they are being negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisers and minimal involvement by Congress. In order to complete the agreements without transparency and public input, the President has asked Congress to grant him the authority to sign them, ‘Fast Track,’ a form of Trade Promotion Authority.

As elections get closer, Democratic Party leaders in Congress are getting the message out to inside-the-beltway activists groups that they are unifying to support giving President Obama some form of Fast Track. Recent letters from member of Congress to the President indicate support for trade with particular stipulations, but the overall message is to continue negotiating. Washington advocacy groups believe that they must also show support for Fast Track or they will find themselves without access or influence.

Rather than kowtowing to the usual ‘on the table’ threat from the corrupt bi-partisan Congress, the movement needs to tell them that the only thing on the table is a complete transformation from the failed global trade that rigs profits for big business at the expense of the ecology of the planet and the necessities of the people. It is time to declare the TPP, TAFTA and the Services agreements as dead, develop a new approach to trade and begin to renegotiate past trade agreements like NAFTA that aredoing ongoing damage to the economy, planet and people.

Congress be warned: The people are watching and are onto the rigged trade corruption scheme. Members of Congress will pay a political price, with the end of their careers, if they continue to force their failed trade strategy on the nation and the world.

Challenges for the TPP

For more than three years the President’s US Trade Representatives have sought Fast Track trade authority. Fast Track means that Congress would give up its constitutional responsibility “to regulate commerce between nations.” The movement for fair trade has fought back and pushed Congress to not give President Obama the authority he needs.

More than 3,150,000 have signed a petition to stop Fast Track. At the critical moment in January and February when the President and “free” traders in Congress (note: whenever you see “free trade” think “rigged trade”) were set to push Fast Track legislation, the people responded with over 40,000 phone calls and 600,000 emails to Congress. There were also protests across the continent. As a result, that Fast Track bill died.

The opposition is global. At the same time people were acting in the US,65,000 people protested the TPP in Mexico and more than 1.8 million in Australia called for the text to be made public. President Obama was greeted with TPP protests when he visited Asia as was Vice PresidentBiden when he visited Japan. We just returned from an economic conference organized by the Center for Global Justice that included people from the US, Mexico, Australia, China, Israel, Guatemala and other nations, and the top area where people agreed to work together was to stop the TPP and transform global trade.

This occurred because the TPP has been a matchstick that has united people into a ‘movement of movements’ of more than 150 organizations (including our project Popular Resistance) that worked together to Stop Fast Track\. Activists concerned about food safety, worker rights, health care, finance, the environment, Internet freedom and more have organized scores of rallies and protests throughout the nation and around the world. There have been protests at trade negotiations even when they try to hide the location. The negotiators have become so fearful of protests that for the last negotiating session they fled 2,650 miles across Canada in an attempt to avoid them. The retreat failed as protesters exposed the TPP and brought 19,000 voices to the negotiations.

In this audacious protest last September, which we helped to organize, activists climbed up on and covered the US Trade Representative national office near the White House with four large banners to expose the secrecy.

In response to mobilization against the TPP, Congress in an election year has sent a variety of letters to the president on the shortcomings of the TPP. These include: 153 members of Congress calling for stronger labor standards, a bi-partisan letter signed by 140 members of Congress opposing the agricultural provisions of the TPP, and 120 members of Congress signed a letter saying they would not support a trade agreement with weak environmental standards and 35 members of Congress writing concerning the human rights violations in Vietnam, and Brunei adopting Sharia law. While these sound good, voters should be on alert to these election year actions. Language could be added to the TPP which sounds good but changes nothing as has occurred in previous trade deals. There is no form of the TPP that can actually protect the people and planet. Corporate lawyers have been writing the TPP for four years. The only response is to defeat the TPP.

Message to US Trade Representative, Obama and free-traders in Congress: If you have to be secretive, and fear protesters because your agreement is so unpopular, you need to start over. The process should be open, transparent and participatory. Simple message: Stop the Secrecy! This is supposed to be a democracy.

Desperate Attempts to Salvage the TPP

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Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, http://www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more…)

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Urgent! Stop the Toxic TPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership Supports GMOs, Denies Your Right to Know

August 10, 2014
Article image
Published: Sunday 10 August 2014
It is time now to stand together – let our government know you don’t support toxic agricultural practices, killing farmer’s wages or agreements which will destroy our environment. If you think about it, why would anyone support this?

Get your complimentary 200 page guide to GMO-free living.

Urgent! Stop the Toxic TPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership Supports GMOs, Denies Your Right to Know




(NaturalSociety) How does defeating one of the biggest fraudulent trade agreements supported by Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, BASF and the politicians they own sound to you?

Just in case you aren’t familiar with The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), they are huge multinational ‘trade’ deals written by corporations, which are being pushed by the White House and many of our politicians in order to support the ongoing monopoly of our food supply. They are toxic, just like the products these companies sell, but you can stop them with a twitter storm and grass-roots activism.

Article image

If you aren’t on Twitter, you can also sign a petition or post to one of many Facebook pages, telling Congress and our government that you don’t support trade agreements which ravage the environment, kill farmer’s wages, and support toxic GM agricultural practices. The TPP is simply undemocratic. It threatens all our founding fathers worked to set up for the Republic.

If the TPP passed, it would supersede and undermine U.S. federal and state laws, including FDA and Department of Agriculture rules and regulations. It would compel sales of globalized commodified food of uncertain and likely damaging origin, dangerous pesticides, and untested genetic and molecular content on consumers.Your choice will be gone, and even a meaningful glance at a label will be either pointless or will deliberately misinform consumers. As many of us suspected all along, labeling is just part of the problem. There will be no alternative to your lack of choice under TPP.

“. . .if the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated in secret sessions among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries is passed. The Obama administration, guided by Monsanto and other agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies, is pushing for rules that put corporate greed ahead of food safety and consumers’ right to know what we’re eating.”

You can also pass around this PDF which makes the TPP more transparent. Don’t let Monsanto, et al, run over your rights even more than they already have. If you don’t want to eat GMOs without even having the knowledge you’ve done so, this trade agreement must be stopped.

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Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. She also writes exclusive articles for NationofChange. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

Another Secret Pro-Corporate Trade Negotiation Is Leaked

June 22, 2014
OpEdNews Op Eds 6/21/2014 at 20:05:27

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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.

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

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’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


Dave Johnson's picture
Fellow, <a href=””>Campaign for America’s Future</a>, Sr. Fellow, <a href=””>Renew California</a>, Blogger, <a href=””>Seeing the Forest</a>


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