Archive for the ‘TPP’ Category

Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks

July 4, 2015

General News 7/3/2015 at 00:54:45

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Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.

From youtube.com/watch?v=iwYirTxIupQ: Stefan M. Selig

From youtube.com/watch?v=iwYirTxIupQ: Stefan M. Selig
Stefan M. Selig
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, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.
Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman’s] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”

Many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy award bonuses and other incentive pay to executives if they take jobs within the government. CitiGroup, for instance, provides an executive contract that awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that offer financial rewards upon retirement for government service.

Froman joined the administration in 2009. Selig is currently awaiting Senate confirmation before he can take his post, which collaborates with the trade officials to support the TPP.

The controversial TPP trade deal has rankled activists for containing provisions that would newly empower corporations to sue governments in ad hoc arbitration tribunals to demand compensation from governments for laws and regulations they claim undermine their business interests. Leaked TPP negotiation documents show the Obama administration is seeking to prevent foreign governments from issuing a broad variety of financial rules designed to stem another bank crisis.

 

A leaked text of the TPP’s investment chapter shows that the pact would include the controversial investor-state dispute resolution system. A fact-sheet provided by Public Citizen explains how multi-national corporations may use the TPP deal to skirt domestic courts and local laws. The arrangement would allows corporations to go after governments before foreign tribunals to demand compensations for tobacco, prescription drug and environment protections that they claim would undermine their expected future profits. Last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren warned that trade agreements such as the TPP provide “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”

Others have raised similar alarm.

“Not only do US treaties mandate that all forms of finance move across borders freely and without delay, but deals such as the TPP would allow private investors to directly file claims against governments that regulate them, as opposed to a WTO-like system where nation states (ie the regulators) decide whether claims are brought,” notes Boston University associate professor Kevin Gallagher.

This article originally appeared on Republic Report

 

http://thinkprogress.org/author/lee-fang

LEE FANG Lee Fang is a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. He covers money in politics, conservative movements and lobbying. Lee’s work has resulted in multiple calls for hearings in Congress and the (more…)

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Totalitarian End-game of the Global Elite

July 2, 2015
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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a global corporate noose around U.S. local, state, and national sovereignty – narrowly passed a major procedural hurdle in the Congress by gaining “fast track” status. … “fast track” is a euphemism for your members of Congress … handcuffing themselves, so as to prevent any amendments or adequate debate before the final vote … TPP is another euphemism that is used to avoid the word “treaty”, which would require ratification by two-thirds of the Senate.

The corporate-indentured politicians keep calling this gigantic treaty with thirty chapters, of which only five relate to traditional trade issues…. The other twenty-five chapters, if passed as they are, will have serious impacts on your livelihoods as workers and consumers, as well as your air, water, food, and medicines.

Only corporations … are entitled to sue the U.S. government for any alleged harm to their profits from health, safety or other regulations in secret tribunals that operate as offshore kangaroo courts, not in open courts. Ralph Nader

Last week was a landmark week for President Obama and his administration. It was so important that last Friday’s PBS Washington Week program couldn’t find room for the slightest mention of what is arguably the most disastrous and most secretive anti-democracy, pro-corporate legislation since the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Acts were passed at the beginning of the late, lamented Cheney/Bush administration. Similarly – and astonishingly – nobody in the 2001 Congress actually read either of those bills (except for Ohio Democratic House member Dennis Kucinich); and, soberingly, the same is true of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s fast-track legislation. So congressional members are relying on what the lobbyists are telling them about TPP and again, shamefully voting on something that they haven’t read!

Washington Week only had space for the Supreme Court’s legalizing same-gender marriage, Obamacare, the massacre in Charleston and Obama’s powerful eulogy there.

As important and newsworthy as those items were, not a word was mentioned about what might have been the most important and onerous development in DC, the progress of the secretive, anti-democratic, pro-corporate legislation, the TPP.

Fair-minded, critical thinking, wide-awake persons who are capable of changing their minds when new information is revealed to them (AKA, resistance to cognitive dissonance) have come to understand that anything that happens in the ‘hallowed halls” of the Global Corporate Congress in DC is bad news for democracy, the middle class, the working class and the poor and good news for democracy’s amoral enemies in the multinational corporations, the Pentagon, the war industries and the national security state apparatus..

Any time that the “dirty trick” gridlock masters in the GOP (exemplified so well by the evil visages of Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 1840s-era Senator John C. Calhoun) can get the equally co-opted, pro-corporate Democrats to agree to any major legislation (such as going to war), you will know that workers, consumers and democracy – are all going to get screwed.

The euphemistically-labeled TPP is a late Obama administration payback to investors (AKA “return on investment”). Obama’s campaigns were heavily funded by Wall Street, Big Banks, Big Pharma and multinational corporations, and it is now payback time.

The Cynics View of Corporate-controlled American Elections

Corporations fully expect that their campaign “contributions” (AKA “bribes”) will lead to some return on that investment. And, in order to hedge their bets, they willingly spend money on the campaigns of both NeoConservatives in the GOP and NeoLiberals in the Democratic Party that their lobbyists and shills (including the US Chamber of Commerce) have previously vetted/screened and then approved as fit candidates that will support the agendas of their paymasters. These anointed candidates – that only represent the far right wings or center-right wings of our One Party system – are the ones that we bamboozled voters will be fooled into voting for (usually against our best interests) when the next billion-dollar election cycle mercifully comes to an end.

The choices we voters are given when political campaigns come around have been getting more and more frustrating for thinking voters since the paranoid and hysterical pro-war, pseudo-patriotism emerged after 9/11/01.

That hysteria was orchestrated, in part, by the NeoConservative Bush administration insiders that were in the secretive Project for the New American Century (for more on the PNAC, see http://www.911hardfacts.com/report_04.htm).

It is obvious to many scholars and investigative journalists that the PNAC played a major role in orchestrating the catastrophic events of 9/11/01. The PNAC agenda was furthered – and actually cemented into place – by the anti-democratic Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, not to mention the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (seehttp://movetoamend.org/).

The TPP may be the End Game for the Global Corporate Elite

TPP, which has the bipartisan support of both the bribed pro-corporate Republicans and the bribed pro-corporate Democrats, probably represents the final solution to the global capitalist’s problem of providing stock market growth (and stability), the continuation of the privatization of public investments, the continued predatory lending system that destabilizes nation-states, the despoiling of the finite resources of our already corporate-poisoned planet, and the comforting march onward of the meaningless Dow-Jones Industrial Averages (only 30 companies involved).

The amoral and deceptive Wall Street and War Street hucksters will be laughing all the way to their off shore tax evading banks when TPP passes. Obama may not be fully aware of what he is a part of.

I can no longer trust anything that happens in the “hallowed halls” of the Global Corporate Congress which seems to have the blessings of both the “dirty trick” gridlock masters in the GOP and the often co-opted and the apparently well-meaning but sometimes naïve Democrats. The ruling elites, their amoral lobbyists, their non-human, sociopathic corporations and their bought-and-paid-for lapdog politicians operate as if they have no shame; they know who they are and it is our patriotic duty to identify them and put them out of office.

TPP Represents the Anti-democracy End-game of the Global Elite

It looks like the TPP is the economic end-game that the corporatists and corrupt capitalists have been played so cunningly, with behind the scenes support from their transnational corporate partners in the once-honorable

1) US Chamber of Commerce (see http://archives.politicususa.com/2011/06/27/un-american-coc.html),

2) the Koch brothers (see http://www.thenation.com/article/161973/alec-exposed-koch-connection),

3) the American Legislative Exchange Council (seehttp://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed),

4) large majorities in America’s Global Corporate Congress and

5) most every brain-washed (or brain-dead) greedy private “free market” investor with a 401K.

The desperate little guy investor with his mutual fund-loaded stock portfolios and 401Ks can be justifiably accused of being accomplices in the corporate exploitation – and the inevitable despoiling – of the air, water, soil and food  (AKA “man-made” climate change) and the militarization of the upper atmosphere by the Pentagon and the lethal weapons industries.

Of course, these investors, suppressing the ethics they learned in Sunday School, know that their portfolios may temporarily increase in value after TPP gets passed, but they may not know that they and their children will likely be permanently disadvantaged when their loved ones lose their jobs or see wages and benefits disappear in the race-to-the-bottom competition from exploitive foreign competitors – all for the long-term benefit of the cunning multinational TPP manipulators at the top.

The TPP vs the Emancipation Proclamation? Democracy Loses

And here is where the “un-mentioned” juxtapositions of last week’s major events come in.

Obama scored a lot of points with his pro-democracy, anti-racist, anti-discrimination rhetoric last week, but he should have lost many of those points by simultaneously pushing the bi-partisan and radically anti-democracy TPP. Time will tell. One wonders if his speechwriters saw the irony.

Obma’s speechwriters certainly haven’t pointed out the obviously evil Dick Cheney-style dark side of the TPP’s union-busting, anti-worker, anti-jobs, pro-corporate, pro-BigPharma, pro-Wall Street agenda. It is a virtual certainty that Obama has never read all of the secret 30 chapters in the treaty agreement. No one in Congress has been even allowed to adequately study all the secret provisions.

After considering all of the above, I realized that if the TPP had been the law of the land before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the tyrannical, apartheid-style (AKA, fascist) plantation slavery system in the South could have successfully sued the Lincoln administration and then fined the government hefty amounts of money for harming its economic bottom line and its future profits if it ever tried to end the highly lucrative business.

It would have been a no-brainer for the shyster lawyers (“shyster” is the term my father always used when referred to corporate lawyers) employed by any corporate-funded New World Order courts like the TPP, NAFTA or World Trade Organization to prove that the bottom lines of any slave holding (or sweat shop, or unionized) company would have been negatively affected if their profit-based system was outlawed. This would have been especially true if the proclamation had been issued by a despised, intellectual, educated, “liberal”, “nigger-loving”, uppity president who was also an eloquent speaker.

If the slaves were set free, allowed to vote or allowed to have their own churches, what would happen to the profits of pro-slavery, racist tyrants like South Carolina’s US Senator John C. Calhoun (see below)?

Any corporate-controlled court of law that was approved by the anti-democratic TPP rules would easily see that future profits of the plantation system would be severely and negatively impacted by the Emancipation Proclamation, and thus the humanitarian aims of president Lincoln would have been declared illegal and contrary to the  treaty. The US government would have lost the case or more likely, the case would have been thrown out of court before the Star Chamber tribunal even reached for its gavel.

Dylann Storm Roof, Mother Emanuel, FOX NEWS and Us

And so, if TPP had been the law of the land, slavery would have been reinforced; black Christian churches like the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church would never have been built; and there would have been no need for a humiliated, unemployed, drugged-up, loner, white supremacist (believing that “the South will rise again”) like Dylann Roof to feel threatened enough to terrorize and murder innocent black folks who were in an innocuous bible study group (whose members – true to the gospel nonviolence teachings of Jesus and Martin Luther King – didn’t ask for retaliation and even offered forgiveness to the killer).

Ironically, 110 Calhoun Street is the street address of Mother Emanuel, where last week’s terroristic “lynchings” took place. This time a lynch mob was unnecessary. Pulling a trigger on a semiautomatic handgun is so much easier and quicker than using a hanging rope.

We can be certain that the unrepentant hard-liners in the CCC and KKK are saying thank you to the lobbying efforts of the NRA and the merchants of death in the weapons industries. And they are probably purchasing more weapons and ammo to boot.

John C. Calhoun and the 1920 Duluth Lynchings

Calhoun Street was named in honor of long-term pro-slavery politician John C. Calhoun (who also had a Minneapolis lake named after him, apparently because of Calhoun’s support for the legislation that created Fort Snelling).

Calhoun was a South Carolina US Senator, who was twice Vice President of the United States (first under John Quincey Adams and then under the notorious racist Andrew Jackson). He had been raised in a wealthy, slave-holding, Southern Presbyterian family and was acknowledged to be well-versed in conservative Christian theology (a theology that is still the norm in Southern Baptist circles, which infamously ignores the ethics of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teachings – teachings upon which Martin Luther King based his theology, politics, social justice ideology and antiwar activism).

Calhoun was an early advocate for slave-holding states to secede from the Union. He obviously saw no contradiction in being a white supremacist and a Christian simultaneously, and neither did Dylann Roof, who, incidentally, is said to be on the roster of an ELCA Lutheran church in South Carolina.

Calhoun was a Chicken Hawk (a vigorously war hawk politician who never saw combat war, sort of like Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and Ashcroft – and most of the PNAC).

Calhoun, despite his inexperience in war, served as President Monroe’s Secretary of War, and advocated for a large navy, a standing army and war with Britain.

If Calhoun was alive today, he would have been pursued by FOX NEWS as a commentator or at least a frequent interview guest, and the Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck shows would have applauded his politics. The pro-eugenics Adolf Hitler would have appreciated Calhoun’s racist, Aryan supremacist and militarist agendas.

In his 1937 “Slavery a Positive Good” speech, Calhoun said:

…the relation now existing in the slaveholding States is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good. I feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject where the honor and interests of those I represent are involved. I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history. …it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes.

Calhoun foreshadowed some of the radicalized agendas of America’s current religious opponents of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. Some of them apparently are trying decide if they should leave America or if they should stay and fight to the death because of their “beliefs”. One talk show host even said that some radicalized conservative clergymen are seriously considering self-immolation as a sign of protest against same-gender marriage.

Calhoun said that “two peoples so different and hostile” could not “exist together in one common Union”. Dylann Roof resonated with those fighting words, as did the lynch mob in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, whose ignorance about race, politics and theology (like Roof) and whose susceptibility to unfounded rumors (like Roof) prompted the lynching of 3 young black male “suspects” in an “alleged” rape on June 20, 1920, exactly 95 years ago this month.

The poison of bigotry, brain-washing, blind hatred and discrimination against “the other” obviously has staying power.

Fooling Some of the People all of the Time

Sociologists understand how racism, homophobia and bigotry arise and thrive (partly through the misbegotten conservative religious beliefs in the now-disproven “biblical inerrancy”, repeated propaganda and poisonous parenting). Abraham Lincoln intuitively knew about the power of propaganda when he said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” 

Honest Abe was probably thinking of the misbegotten “true believers” in the ultraconservative, ignorant and unthinking anti-black racist crowd that have historically been so well represented in the Red states, the US Congress and by others in the flourishing homophobic crowd.

Addendum:

It has been very interesting to note that, in connection to the revelations about Dylann Roof and the AME church shootings, many Republican politicians have knowingly taken campaign “contributions” from Earl Holt, the head of the Council of Conservative Citizens (another one of the many iterations of the notorious KKK and the White Citizens Councils), whom Dylann Roof says, in his manifesto, inspired him to engage in the mass murder.

Holt is an admitted white supremacist, a self-proclaimed slumlord, and a frequent Republican Party campaign contributor. He has so appreciated the politics of many conservative Republican politicians that his organization has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to them.

The CCC/KKK money, suddenly politically toxic, has, unfortunately for the totally conservative Republican recipients, already been cashed, deposited and spent by the following short list, most of whom are pretending to be contrite by promising to ”return” the money..

Holt’s CCC even contributed to the campaigns of two prominent Minnesotans, retired Republican US Congressperson and failed ex-presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann and Republican state House member and ex-gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

A short list of other prominent conservative GOP politicians receiving money from the CCC included Iowa US House member Steve King, Arkansas US Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Republican Senators and presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, the presidential candidacies of Republicans Mitt Romney, Rob Portman, Allen West and George W. Bush.

Other recipients include Arizona’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake; Utah’s Rep. Mia Love; Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, and former Missourian Rep. Todd Akin, Paul Ryan’s PAC,  the Tea Party Express, George Allen and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

This is just a short list of 50 or so Republican politicians that the white supremacist wanted to be elected. Obviously there was something in those candidate’s political views that resonated with the CCC. After Roof’s revelations about the CCC in his manifesto, some of the above politicians have lamely announced that they will “return” the money, despite the fact that the checks have been cashed and the money is no longer in their bank accounts.

The complete FEC list of Republican politicians that took CCC money is at:http://mic.com/articles/121121/ted-cruz-among-politicians-with-donations-from-white-supremacist-earl-holt

Dr Kohls writes a weekly column for the Reader Weekly, an alternative newsweekly published in Duluth, Minnesota, USA. Many of his columns are archived athttp://duluthreader.com/articles/categories/200_Duty_to_Warn. Since approximately 9/11/01, Dr Kohls has been a (at first a spiritual but now an official) member of the Green Party of Minnesota. 

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One of the Most Dangerous Yet Least Talked About Provisions in TPP

June 28, 2015

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Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) are one of the most dangerous yet least talked about parts in recent trade agreements. It essentially trumps any federal, state, and local U.S. regulation that is deemed a “trade barrier” and strips us from the right to handle our own affairs. ISDS enables foreign corporations to sue a host country for laws, policies, even court decisions that they find inconvenient and trade impeding. Any corporation could sue governments at any level including the local government level for loss of its future profits.

ISDS was included in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was signed in 1993 and implemented in 1994 through the Clinton administration. Chapter 11 in NAFTA is clear when defining ISDS. The U.S. Department of State writes, “Chapter Eleven permits an investor of one NAFTA Party to seek money damages for measures of one of the other NAFTA Parties that allegedly violate those and other provisions of Chapter Eleven.” In other words, if the bottom line of a company outside of the U.S. is hurt by any regulations, they can sue our government, our towns and our cities. Under NAFTA, we have been sued 18 times with damages between $90 million and $650 million.

Regardless of the outcomes of the 18 lawsuits, there is no need to waste time and money on such things and should not be included on any trade agreements. We were sued by Canada for $235 million in 2003 for temporarily blocking Canadian beef due to the discovery of mad cow disease in their cattle. We were simply protecting our citizens yet couldn’t do so successfully because Canada deemed it “trade impeding.”

We were sued in 2012 by Canadian pharmaceutical companies for $520 million because the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. were issuing import alerts to consumers regarding certain imported drugs. The government has had to shell out millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded attorney fees and arbitration costs to defend these claims.

As we speak, there are five NAFTA foreign investor claims against our government working their way through the arbitration process. CAFTA and KORUS include the same provisions and have given us the same headaches.

NAFTA only deals with two other countries and the lawsuits have been, thus far, somewhat manageable. However if Fast Track is passed and the President pushes through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), we essentially have the whole world to deal with. The TPP alone encompass 40 percent of world GDP and 25 percent of world trade.

 

We have witnessed disasters occurring all across the world due to ISDS. Phillip Morris Intentional and British American, two multinational tobacco companies, sued Australia in its highest court to stop their anti-tobacco campaign and laws, deeming them “trade impeding.” The judges called that case “delusive, unreal, and synthetic”. That conclusion is fatal to the case.

We have seen the same tobacco companies sue other smaller countries such as Uruguay. They actually needed donations in order to obtain the large amounts of money needed to fight these court cases. Even countries that are amongst the 10 poorest countries in the world couldn’t escape! The country of Togo in West Africa is currently receiving lawsuit threats from Phillip Morris International for their new warning labels on tobacco packets. Togo is a country whose entire GDP is $4.3 billion. Compare that to Phillip Morris International’s net revenue of $80 billion!

This could easily happen in the U.S. What if powerful multinational companies came to sue one of our states with a low GDP or even a poor, small city who can’t afford attorneys and legal fees?

TPP, TTIP, and TISA are putting our nation in grave danger. Within sections of the TPP are provisions for ISDS that would allow foreign companies to sue governments for harming their profits. Since Australia has felt the burn of ISDS with Phillip Morris International, they are very hesitant about this clause in the TPP and have asked if the U.S. could exempt Australia from the clause. Both TTIP and TISA have similar clauses. The dispute panel will only take account of “free trade” values, disregarding values of public health, human rights, environmental protection or other social rights. It all boils down to the bottom line of corporations.

By entering into an agreement that contains ISDS clauses, we are losing our voices, our safety, and America’s best interest.

 

Paola Casale is a graduate of Otterbein University. She works for Economy In Crisis as a journalist who loves to dig up the truth. Paola meets with members of Congress in D.C. to discuss international trade agreements and how to aim towards fair (more…)

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Constituents to Senators: Reject Fast Track, or Don’t Come Home

June 23, 2015
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Senate expected to take up trade legislation on Tuesday, but labor federation warns: ‘Fast Track has gotten even worse since the House got its hands on it.’

Fast Track opponents hope Elizabeth Warren, pictured here at a Stop Fast Track rally in May, could help stall the trade package. (Photo: CQ/Roll Call)

With the U.S. Senate expected to take up Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority, on Tuesday, the stakes are high for progressives who oppose pro-corporate trade deals.

Last week, the House passed a Fast Track bill that—unlike the Senate version passed in May—was decoupled from Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation. To move Fast Track to President Barack Obama’s desk, thereby enabling him to ram through Congress mammoth international pacts like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Senate must pass its own standalone Fast Track bill.

With votes scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, anti-Fast Trackers are being urged to call their senators, while activists are also organized the#SenatorDontComeHome Twitter storm for Monday afternoon at 1 pm EDT, in which they told lawmakers to block Fast Track or risk alienating constituents.

The Senate is scheduled to take a cloture vote on that legislation on Tuesday, requiring 60 votes to advance the bill for debate. If that vote is successful, the subsequent vote, to actually pass Fast Track, would require a simple majority and is expected to come Wednesday.

At the Campaign for America’s Future blog, Dave Johnson gives details about more than a dozen Stop Fast Track rallies happening across the country on Monday and Tuesday, targeting 14 Democratic senators who voted for Fast Track before it became a standalone bill.

Politico profiled Murray on Monday, and reported: “Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Obama has virtually no margin for error. Of the 14 Senate Democrats who voted last month to advance the plan, he can afford to lose — at most — three. And Murray’s voice carries significant weight: As the lone Democrat in her party’s leadership who previously voted for the trade agenda, how she comes down now could influence other fence-sitting Democrats.”One of the very few “pro-trade Democrats” whose vote hangs in the balance is Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington state.

“When global corporations write the rules, families lose. Continue the fight! Let’s kill the Fast Track zombie that keeps rising from the dead once and for all.”
—Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO

Meanwhile, The Hill focused on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s role in the Fast Track fight.

“While the trade war has waged this month in the House, Sen. Warren (D-Mass.) has taken a less public view,” wrote journalist Peter Schroeder. “She’s been a key player in the background, but publicly has been more outspoken on other issues.”

He continued, “Now that the fight is returning to her home turf, her allies say she has an opportunity to take a final stand on the issue. They also argue she has a unique power to galvanize the Democratic base to their cause.”

Schroeder reports that Warren and her aides worked behind the scenes with House lawmakers in an effort to stymie the legislation. Now that the bill is back before the Senate, according to The Hill, Fast Track opponents “believe Warren, along with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), could help them stall the trade package — or even kill it.”

Because as the AFL-CIO noted last week, “Fast Track has gotten even worse since the House got its hands on it.”

In a blog post about the “zombie legislation” on Friday, the AFL-CIO’s Celeste Drake explained further:

House Republican leadership loaded it up with sops to gain votes from its right wing, including provisions designed to prevent trade deals from addressingclimate change and anti-immigrant provisions that could undermine attempts to create a level playing field for all workers. In a convoluted attempt to rush Fast Track into law without sending it back to the Senate, the House added these provisions to a separate customs bill. The House also weakened the trade enforcement provisions in the bill, which will cost us jobs and wages. No senator who cares about justice for immigrants, the environment or creating a level playing field for American manufacturing (or all three) should trust House promises that these issues will be fixed.

“We’re tired, but we can’t rest in our efforts to do what is right for working families,” Drake wrote. “When global corporations write the rules, families lose. Continue the fight! Let’s kill the Fast Track zombie that keeps rising from the dead once and for all.”

Of course, as Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy president Juliette Majot warned last week, this debate has always been about more than just trade:

If approved, Fast Track will indeed grease the skids for approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and others just like them, because that is what Fast Track is designed to do. Thumbs up, thumbs down, no amendments. What Fast Track will not do is shut up millions of Americans who will fight to ensure those thumbs point down, when the time comes, for these reasons: number one, the process is anti-democratic; number two, the trade agreements are little more than corporate charters paving the way for more corporate power, at the expense of labor, equity, the environment and sovereignty; and number three, we the people understand the first two reasons.

She concluded, as many have: “Thumbs down, way down, on the Trans Pacific Partnership.”

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CLINTON CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISES WITH PRO-TPP LOBBY FIRM AS CONGRESS RESCHEDULES TRADE VOTE

June 22, 2015

Featured photo - Clinton Campaign Fundraises With Pro-TPP Lobby Firm As Congress Reschedules Trade Vote

While Hillary Clinton continues to hedge her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the related issue of trade promotion authority, her campaign is partnering with a pro-TPP/TPA law and lobby firm to raise cash.

The House Rules Committee held an “emergency meeting” at 4:40 p.m.on Wednesday to plan how to move forward with TPA.

At 5:00 p.m., the Clinton campaign was holding a Washington, D.C. fundraiser with the McGuireWoods law firm’s PAC. According to lobby registration documents, the firm’s McGuireWoods Consulting subsidiary is lobbying on behalf of Smithfield Foods to help pass both the TPP and TPA.

Despite mounting pressure to take a position, Clinton has only provided non-commital answers regarding her stance on both TPP and TPA. On Sunday, at a rally in Iowa, Clinton said there should be better protections for American workers and called for the president to work with Democrats in Congress — hardly a clarifying statement. Earlier that day, her chief pollster dismissed a call from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos to provide a clear stance on TPA, casting the issue as simply “Washington inside baseball.”

For the event in D.C., billed as a “Conversation with John Podesta, Campaign Chair,” the Clinton campaign website said that I could learn the exact location only after RSVPing through a donation. I gave one dollar to find out. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. Instead of providing the address of the fundraiser as the campaign website had said it would, the campaign directed me to a site where I could volunteer.

(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty

Email the author: lee.fang@theintercept.com

Almost $200 Million Donated to Representatives to Pass TPA

June 22, 2015

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Many think our government is for sale. However, by taking a look at the facts below provided by the Open Secrets, it is easy to understand where they are coming from. Looking back at Friday the 12th, the House voted on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the controversial bill that gives power to the executive branch to negotiate treaties. TPA limit’s Congress’ ability to better a trade deal by subjecting members of Congress to 90 days of reviewing the trade agreement, prohibiting any amendments on the implementing legislation, and giving them an up or down vote. TPA passed with a mere 219-211 vote with only 218 needed to pass. The real shocker comes from the amount of money each Representative received for a yes vote. In total, $197,869,145 was given to Representatives for a yes vote where as $23,065,231 was given in opposition.

John Boehner (R-OH) received $5.3 million for a “yea” vote and was the highest paid legislator.
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) received $2.4 million for his “yea” vote.
Paul Ryan (R-WI) received $2.4 million for a “yea” vote and came in at the third highest paid legislator.
Pat Tiberi (R-OH) follows Paul Ryan, coming in the fourth spot having received $1.6 million for his “yea” vote.
The fifth highest paid legislator is somewhat of a “hero” in comparison to others. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) received $1.6 million for a yes vote and only $282,710 for a no vote. Despite of his high contribution from those in favor of TPA, he still voted a solid nay.

We also have other hero stories.

Joe Crowley (D-NY) received 1.3 million for a “yea” vote and only $72,550 for a “nay” vote and he still voted against TPA.
Patrick Murphy (D-FL) received 1.1 million for a “yea” vote and only $213,360 for a “nay” vote and still voted against it.
Richard Neal D(MA) received $1.1 million for a “yea” vote and a mere $47,625 for a “nay” vote and still voted against it.
Democrats are not the only heroes in this voting session. GOP members spoke very loud and clear.

 

Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) received $541,746 for a “yea” vote and no money at all for a “nay” vote and he still voted “nay!”
Andy Harris (R-MD) received $254,803 for a “yea” vote and no money at all for a “nay” vote and he still voted “nay”.
Thomas Massie (R-KY) received $250,328 for a “yea” vote and no money at all for a “nay” vote and he still voted “nay.”
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) received $180,832 for a “yea” vote and no money at all for a “nay vote” and she still voted “nay.”
Where did this kind of money come from? Those in favor of TPA were Security Brokers and Investment Companies who donated a whopping $11.3 million dollars for a “yea” vote. Or big banking companies who donated $10.1 million dollars. In other words, Wall Street hashed out millions and millions of dollars to push for the passage of TPA.

Those numbers are absolutely staggering. Corporations are taking control of what policies are approved or blocked in the U.S. We cannot sit around while corporations decide what is “good” for America or not! This is a democracy, not a plutocracy! Contact your representatives and let them know that you do not want them to vote in favor of TPA!

 

Paola Casale is a graduate of Otterbein University. She works for Economy In Crisis as a journalist who loves to dig up the truth. Paola meets with members of Congress in D.C. to discuss international trade agreements and how to aim towards fair (more…)

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Fast-track Hands the Money Monopoly to Private Banks — Permanently

June 19, 2015

privatebanks61415

A recent paper stated the general assumptions of how banking works is wrong and that the basis for keeping this private extractive banking monopoly should be thrown out the window. Why are citizens believing the government is in debt when it could easily pay its debt the same way private banks pay them?

It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.                                                                                                                                                                        — Attributed to Henry Ford

In March 2014, the Bank of England let the

cat

out of the bag: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it. So wrote David Graeber in The Guardian the same month, referring to a BOE paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy.” The paper stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong. The result, said Graeber, was to throw the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.The revelation may have done more than that. The entire basis for maintaining our private extractive banking monopoly may have been thrown out the window. And that could help explain the desperate rush to “fast track” not only the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA would nip attempts to implement public banking and other monetary reforms in the bud.

The Banking Game Exposed

The BOE report confirmed what money reformers have been saying for decades: that banks do not act simply as intermediaries, taking in the deposits of “savers” and lending them to borrowers, keeping the spread in interest rates. Rather, banks actually create deposits when they make loans. The BOE report said that private banks now create 97 percent of the British money supply. The US money supply is created in the same way.

Graeber underscored the dramatic implications:

. . . [M]oney is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it.

Politically, said Graeber, revealing these facts is taking an enormous risk:

Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

If money is just an IOU, why are we delivering the exclusive power to create it to an unelected, unaccountable, non-transparent private banking monopoly? Why are we buying into the notion that the government is broke – that it must sell off public assets and slash public services in order to pay off its debts? The government could pay its debts in the same way private banks pay them, simply with accounting entries on its books. What will happen when a critical mass of the populace realizes that we’ve been vassals of a parasitic banking system based on a fraud – that we the people could be creating money as credit ourselves, through publicly-owned banks that returned the profits to the people?

Henry Ford predicted that a monetary revolution would follow. There might even be a move to nationalize the whole banking system and turn it into a public utility.

It is not hard to predict that the international bankers and related big-money interests, anticipating this move, would counter with legislation that locked the current system in place, so that there was no way to return money and banking to the service of the people – even if the current private model ended in disaster, as many pundits also predict.

And that is precisely the effect of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which was slipped into the “fast track” legislation now before Congress. It is also the effect of the bail-in policies currently being railroaded into law in the Eurozone, and of the suspicious “war on cash” seen globally; but those developments will be the subject of another article.

TiSA Exposed

On June 3, 2015, WikiLeaks released 17 key documents related to TiSA, which is considered perhaps the most important of the three deals being negotiated for “fast track” trade authority. The documents were supposed to remain classified for five years after being signed, displaying a level of secrecy that outstrips even the TPP’s four-year classification.

TiSA involves 51 countries, including every advanced economy except the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The deal would liberalize global trade in services covering close to 80% of the US economy, including financial services, healthcare, education, engineering, telecommunications, and many more. It would restrict how governments can manage their public laws, and it could dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, turning those services over to the private sector.

Recall the secret plan devised by Wall Street and U.S. Treasury officials in the 1990s to open banking to the lucrative derivatives business. To pull this off required the relaxation of banking regulations not just in the US but globally, so that money would not flee to nations with safer banking laws.  The vehicle used was the Financial Services Agreement concluded under the auspices of the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The plan worked, and most countries were roped into this “liberalization” of their banking rules. The upshot was that the 2008 credit crisis took down not just the US economy but economies globally.

TiSA picks up where the Financial Services Agreement left off, opening yet more doors for private banks and other commercial service industries, and slamming doors on governments that might consider opening their private banking sectors to public ownership.

Blocking the Trend Toward “Remunicipalization”

In a report from Public Services International called “TISA versus Public Services: The Trade in Services Agreement and the Corporate Agenda,” Scott Sinclair and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood note that the already formidable challenges to safeguarding public services under GATS will be greatly exasperated by TiSA, which blocks the emerging trend to return privatized services to the public sector. Communities worldwide are reevaluating the privatization approach and “re-municipalizing” these services, following negative experiences with profit-driven models. These reversals typically occur at the municipal level, but they can also occur at the national level.

One cited example is water remunicipalization in Argentina, Canada, France, Tanzania and Malaysia, where an increasing frustration with broken promises, service cutoffs to the poor, and a lack of integrated planning by private water companies led to a public takeover of the service.

Another example is the remunicipalization of electrical services in Germany. Hundreds of German municipalities have remunicipalized private electricity providers or have created new public energy utilities, following dissatisfaction with private providers’ inflated prices and poor record in shifting to

renewable energy

. Remunicipalization has brought electricity prices down. Other sectors involved in remunicipalization projects include public transit, waste management, and housing.Sinclair and Mertins-Kirkwood observe:

The TISA would limit and may even prohibit remunicipalization because it would prevent governments from creating or reestablishing public monopolies or similarly “uncompetitive” forms of service delivery. . . .

Like GATS Article XVI, the TISA would prohibit public monopolies and exclusive service suppliers in fully committed sectors, even on a regional or local level. Of particular concern for remunicipalization projects are the proposed “standstill” and “ratchet” provisions in TISA. The standstill clause would lock in current levels of services liberalization in each country, effectively banning any moves from a market-based to a state-based provision of public services. This clause . . . would prohibit the creation of public monopolies in sectors that are currently open to private sector competition.

Similarly, the ratchet clause would automatically lock in any future actions taken to liberalize services in a given country. . . . [I]f a government did decide to privatize a public service, that government would be unable to return to a public model at a later date.

That means we can forget about turning banking and credit services into public utilities. TiSA is a one-way street. Industries once privatized remain privatized.

The disturbing revelations concerning TiSA are yet another reason to try to block these secretive trade agreements. For more information and to get involved, visit:

Flush the TPP

The Citizens Trade Campaign

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade

TPP Is Not a Trade Fight—It’s a Fight for Democracy

June 18, 2015

TppDemocracy61815

The more we know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership the more we see what a raw deal it is for your democratic rights. It’s time for a comprehensive movement to restore a forward-looking people’s politics.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest dismissed it as a procedural snafu, and it was — but not in the way he meant.

The “it” was the stunning June 12 vote last week in the House of Representatives that wrecked that high-balling freight train called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP is the global trade scam that was being railroaded through Congress, carrying an unbelievably odious load of freight that would give more power to Big Pharma, Wall Street, Walmart, Big Oil frackers, Silicon Valley monopolists, agribusiness giants, climate change deniers, job exporters, exploiters of labor and other multinational corporate elites.

None other than President Obama was running this locomotive, and GOP congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner were the chief freight handlers. With the full corporate establishment onboard the TPP, its passage was a done deal. Except for one unforeseen obstacle: you. And you. And you. In other words, the American people!

The more you learned about what the TPP is carrying, the more you realized what a raw deal it is for your democratic rights, your jobs, income, health, environment, food, etc. — so the more involved you got in the StopTheTPP.org movement. “You The People” rose up in nearly every congressional district, and even though the national media didn’t notice you, Congress did. Thus, the done deal derailed — to the shock of Corporados and their politicos, nearly 70 percent of the House voted with the people against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Of course Obama & Co. are trying to put their railroad job back on track, but that’ll be a heavy lift. The wreck of the TPP was not due to a glitch in legislative procedure, but to the establishment’s procedural miscalculation that we Americans will just sit still as it autocratically uses secrecy and lies to snatch away our democratic sovereignty.

The contrived wisdom foisted on us by the acolytes of the Holy Corporate Order is that ordinary folks can’t stop the Powers That Be from enthroning both an economic oligarchy and political plutocracy over us.

Indeed, the power elites on Wall Street, in Washington and up in the corporate suites got a major comeuppance when the U.S. House rejected their TPP scheme last Friday. The Trans-Pacific Partnership masqueraded as a free trade agreement, but of the 30 chapters of this thousand-page document, only six deal with trade — the other 24 add up to a book of anti-democratic horrors, further rigging the system to enrich the global corporate elite, while ensuring ever-widening inequities for the rest of us.But as a friend of mine puts it: “Those who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

Yet, the elites got a comeuppance because…well, because the grassroots literally came up. Such smart, savvy and scrappy public interest champions as Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and Larry Cohen of the Communications Workers of America dug out the details of TPP’s secret power play and went to the countryside to alert regular Americans. They and many, many others strategized, organized and mobilized, creating a mass coalition to oppose the entrenchment of what would be a global corporate kleptocracy. This was building beneath the radar of the clueless establishment media, which continue to assert that opposition to the TPP is coming from labor unions. Labor has certainly been key, but it is hardly alone, for environmental groups, small businesses, mayors, state officials, religious leaders, family farm advocates and a wide array of other grassroots activists have enlisted in the crucial democratic cause.

What we have here is something big, something important for the long run: The beginning of a cohesive, comprehensive movement to restore a forward-looking people’s politics based on the egalitarian principle that we’re all in this together.

The Myth of Global “Free” Trade

June 18, 2015

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The key to TTIP is the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism that essentially gives corporations free reign to sue governments using a “failure to implement” provision, if state policies or legislation interfere with profits. But is this all about trade?
There was a direct, crucial “secret” agenda linking the G7 meeting in Germany and the Bilderberg meeting in Austria last week; the advancement of the virtually secret negotiations towards the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the massive free trade agreement between the US and the EU.

Even though the corporate powers behind TTIP are itching for a deal to be reached before the end of 2015, serious (negotiation) trouble remains.

And then there was last Friday’s vote in the US Congress. What happened were in fact two votes; one on giving the US government the “fast track” authority to conclude trade deals, mostly, in this case, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); and another one on help for US workers struggling to compete with imports as a result of trade deals.
“Fast track” passed, but not the adjustment assistance. So the US Senate will need to review “fast track.” The corporate powers behind TPP — and TTIP for that matter — were not amused.

 

Yet the whole thing goes way beyond total presidential authority to negotiate shady deals such as the TTIP, the TPP and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

The Obama administration is obsessed with plugging a torrent of benefits for US workers once a Pacific deal is clinched. That’s eminently debatable.

From the point of view of other nations, TPP is hardly a panacea. Washington offers no new, improved market access. TPP shuts out China completely — which is ridiculous; Beijing is the top trading partner of most of these nations. And the key to TPP is corporations laying down the law on intellectual property rights — which opens the door to all sorts of social Darwinist abuses.

The key to TTIP is the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS); that essentially gives corporations free reign to sue governments, any government, using a “failure to implement” provision, if state policies or legislation interfere with profits. In sum: corporate ethos wins; workers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and democracy, lose badly.

One can already foresee the proliferation of kangaroo courts labeled “arbitration tribunals” stuffed with pricey corporate lawyers. So much for social “justice.”

Advertisement -But is this all about trade? Of course not.

Welcome to NATO on trade

The giveaway is how the Obama administration is desperate to wrestle down Japanese resistance — going on two solid years now — against many of TPP’s provisions. The proverbial “US officials” have been frantically spinning that TPP is crucial for the US “pivot to Asia.”

Even Pentagon supremo Ash Carter went overboard two months ago, saying that TPP was “as important to me as another aircraft carrier.”

The heart of the matter is these three mega-deals — TTP, TTIP and TiSA — are the ultimate template of a Bilderberg group wet dream: global corporate “governance.”

And the Pentagon’s own giveaway that TPP is the “strategic” economic arm of the “pivot to Asia” reveals how politicized “trade” has become. Under TPP, Chinese companies will have tremendous handicaps competing with US companies in both US and Asian markets. Call it yet another facet of “containment.”

TTIP, TTP and TiSA are in fact a Hydra-like head; they follow the same geostrategic logic of NATO on trade — transatlantic and trans-Pacific; the “West against the Rest.” Not accidentally, the BRICS are excluded. And no wonder the negotiations are secret; global corporate “governance” is not exactly a pop hit in any latitude.

Plastic ham, anybody?

Make no mistake; there’s plenty of opposition to TTIP in Europe, at least among the few concerned — and horrified — EU citizens who took the trouble of trying to cut through the secrecy.

In Germany, there have been serious demonstrations. The SPD — part of the coalition government under chancellor Merkel — is definitely against it. Italians learned TTIP would cost the country no less than 1.3 million jobs. It’s useful to compare TTIP with NAFTA; in 12 years, the US actually lost 1 million jobs, as corporations and companies preferred to delocalize to Mexico, where costs are much lower.

Even Brussels was forced to admit TTIP will actually mean unemployment; a lot of jobs will definitely move Stateside, where labor standards and trade union rights are much lower.

TTIP will concern 850 million people between North America and Europe; that’s roughly 45% of global GDP. Trade in question amounts as it stands to 500 billion euros a year. That could be arguably configured as “advanced globalization” — with not so much interference from emerging markets.

Enter the European idea that as a consequence of this leading role, the EU has the most advanced rules on health, consumer protection and quality of public services (it varies a lot from country to country; can’t compare France with Romania, for instance).

Thus, no wonder high-quality agricultural producers in the Club Med countries are terrified that TTIP will mean a de facto barbarian invasion. Italians are terrified about the onset of a monster, false made in Italy market, with US corporations calling any mongrel GMO concoction a “Parma” ham or a “gorgonzola” cheese.

A good test is to hit your average US supermarket. Talk about a horror show; at least 70 per cent of all processed foods are GMO-infested. The EU allows virtually no GM foods. Not to mention the toxic front; in the EU a company must prove a substance is safe before it’s commercialized. In the US, anything goes.

Under TTIP, public health, education and water services in the EU will be devastated, and taken over by US corporations. Food safety laws, key legislation over the environment, and banking regulations will be turned upside down.

The spin from TTIP peddlers is that Globalization 2.0 will lead to a “surge” of 0.5% of the EU’s collective GDP. That’s not exactly a Chinese rate. But when you’re austerity-ravaged, you drink any Kool Aid you can get. And eat it with plastic Parma ham.

 

 

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His regular column, “The Roving Eye,” is widely read. He is an analyst for the online news channel Real News, the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and (more…)

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Backlash Against TPP Grows as Leaked Text Reveals Increased Corporate Control of Public Health

June 17, 2015

A recent protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Image Caption/Credit// A recent protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (photo: Gawker)
A recent protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (photo: Gawker)

By Democracy Now

17 June 15

 

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2015/6/11/backlash_against_tpp_grows_as_leakeds the Obama administration praises the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backlash continues to grow against the deal. WikiLeaks has just published another section of the secret text — this one about public healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. Newly revealed details of the draft show the TPP would give major pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine and weaken public healthcare programs. The leaked draft also suggests the TPP would prevent Congress from passing reforms to lower drug costs. One of the practices that would be allowed is known as “evergreening.” It lets drug companies extend the life of a patent by slightly modifying their product and then getting a new patent. We speak to Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen and John Sifton of Human Rights Watch about their concerns.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: House Republicans are set to push for a vote as soon as Friday on approving a measure to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. The secretive TPP deal involves 12 countries and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a leaked draft of another chapter of the secret negotiating text, this time the TPP’s so-called Healthcare Annex. Newly revealed details of the draft show the TPP would give major pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine and weaken public healthcare programs. The leaked draft also suggests the TPP would prevent Congress from passing reforms to lower drug costs. One of the practices that would be allowed is known as “evergreening.” It lets drug companies extend the life of a patent by slightly modifying their product and then getting a new patent. This is a video explaining the practice, produced by Doctors Without Borders.

NARRATOR: Evergreening. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But evergreening is what drug companies do when they want to increase their profits. And it leaves people in developing countries without the medicines they need. Here’s how. A drug company develops a new drug and is rewarded with a patent. The patent stops other producers making the medicine for 20 years. So the drug company can charge very high prices without anyone else undercutting them—for 20 years. When the patent ends, other producers can come in and compete with each other, and bingo, the prices come tumbling down. So the medicines become affordable for everyone. But the drug companies want more profits, so they make a tiny little change to their drugs and ask for another 20-year patent.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests in Washington, D.C. Peter Maybarduk is director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. And John Sifton is advocacy director with Human Rights Watch. Today he’s hosting a briefing at the National Press Club on human rights and humanitarian concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with Oxfam America and the Council on Global Equality.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Peter, let’s begin with you on this issue of drugs. Talk about the TPP, and, for those who have never heard of it, explain its significance, and particularly as it relates to global access to drugs.

PETER MAYBARDUK: Sure. It’s great to be with you. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an ongoing trade negotiation—been going for about five years now—among 12 countries, including developing countries like Vietnam, Peru, Malaysia, as well as the United States. And in this agreement, the U.S. trade representative and the Obama administration put forward a number of proposals that have nothing to do with trade. There are about 30 chapters. Only a few have leaked; the rest is negotiated in secret. And among the many harmful proposals that have been made by big business are demands to transform other countries’ rules with regard to medical patents and many rules affecting people’s access to affordable medicines.

We’re very concerned that the TPP would lead to preventable suffering and death in these countries where people rely on access to generics. There are many provisions in the TPP that would expand the pharmaceutical industry’s monopoly power. We’re also concerned about rules in this latest leak that potentially have implications for Medicare and for U.S. programming, and most particularly constraining our ability to make some of the healthcare reforms that the Obama administration has pledged to reduce healthcare costs for Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re just learning this now, because WikiLeaks has released the chapter on these issues?

PETER MAYBARDUK: Well, this annex, which is ironically an annex to a chapter called “Transparency,” is the latest in a series of leaks that have been published that give us more particular idea of exactly what rules are being negotiated. The details—the details matter. You can’t get into the negotiations. We do our best to follow by talking to contacts that we know, but due to the secrecy, it’s really only through leaks that we’re available to evaluate the particular proposals and assess their impact. These are all rules that would otherwise be debated in our congresses and parliaments out in the open, rules that include many gifts to big business. And so it’s very concerning that we have to rely on someone taking the tremendous risk of leaking a document in order to have a real public debate about the issues.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the possible justification for not revealing what is in the TPP? President Obama repeatedly says, “Trust me.” He says, you know, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, they’re getting it wrong. But we are not able to see. The senators can’t even see, unless they go into a room, what is in this deal?

PETER MAYBARDUK: Yeah, well, the U.S. trade representative has come out and as much as said that we can’t tell you what’s in the agreement because it would create political complications for the negotiation, which is effectively the same thing as saying if people saw what’s in it, they wouldn’t like it, and we wouldn’t be able to pass the deal.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Peter, I want to ask you about what you mentioned earlier about the possible impact of the TPP deal, from what has been revealed, on Medicare here in the U.S. The New York Times yesterday, Wednesday, cited officials at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office saying rules in the TPP would have no impact on the U.S., because Medicare and Medicaid already adhere to them. Could you comment on that? Of course, they didn’t officially comment on the leaked draft, but these were comments that they disclosed to The New York Times.

PETER MAYBARDUK: Well, the administration makes that assertion. But as I say, the details matter. And if you read the leaked text and compare it to Medicare regulations, we’re quite concerned that it gives pharmaceutical companies opportunities to say, “Well, we have broader rights under the TPP than we have under Medicare regulations. We want to be listed in the formularies if we show any therapeutic value, we want to have opportunities to comment at all meaningful points according to our own definitions.” And we’re concerned that that could mean potentially that pharmaceutical companies might even be able to bolster a claim in these secret investor-state tribunals, that are much more friendly to investor rules, in order to make their arguments about interpretation of the particular terms. So we’re concerned that there are potential consequences for Medicare A and B today, if pharmaceutical company lawyers and lobbyists exploit what they might now see as their rights if this agreement is signed. But we’re also concerned about what happens to Medicare Part D in the future.

The president’s budget includes a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs, something that 75 or 80 percent of Americans support broadly across party lines, could save a tremendous amount of money if it’s implemented with a national formulary. And implementing a national formulary under these rules that have just leaked yesterday would be difficult, would be expensive, subject to a great deal of challenge. We know this, in part, specifically because the Veterans Administration, for example, which is considered a model for procurement practices, has been specifically excluded from the annex, we think, because it’s known that these rules would make it difficult for the VA to operate, similarly would make it difficult for us to negotiate drug prices the way we need to.

AMY GOODMAN: John Sifton, you’re holding a news conference today with other human rights groups. Can you expand on—I mean, health rights are also a human right, but go further and talk about your overall human rights concerns with the TPP.

JOHN SIFTON: Well, there are issues both within the agreement with respect to the health issues, but also labor rights issues. And then there are issues that are larger, on the geopolitical level. The simple fact is, this agreement rewards several countries which have atrocious human rights records. One of them is Vietnam, a one-party, undemocratic state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam, no elections, no freedom of speech. This is a country which lacks of dissidence for criticizing the government, voicing their own issues. So, that’s one trading partner.

Another, Brunei. The sultan of Brunei wants to impose Sharia law, which would result in adulterers being stoned to death, thieves having their hands cut off, homosexuals whipped. This is a country which is also nondemocratic, ruled by fiat, by a sultan who inherited his power through birth.

Then you have countries like Malaysia, which although emerging democracies have serious problems with freedom of expression and rights of lesbian, gay, transgender people. Singapore, the city-state next to Malaysia, also has serious problems with labor rights and freedom of expression.

All these countries would be rewarded by the United States. We’d like to see the United States use the agreement as leverage to compel these countries to improve their human rights records. And yet, over the last four or five years, that hasn’t really happened. A couple of the countries have made baby steps. Vietnam has done a few minor things. But by and large, no big agreements. Malaysia, in fact, its human rights record has gotten worse.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, this is President Obama speaking last month about how the TPP would improve worker conditions in Vietnam as well as here in the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually for the first time have to raise its labor standards. It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions for the very first time. That would make a difference. That helps to level the playing field. And it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they’re not undercutting competition here in the United States. So that’s progress.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Sifton, that was President Obama speaking. Could you comment on what he said about the likelihood of worker conditions improving as a consequence of the TPP?

JOHN SIFTON: Well, look, we give credit to the administration for pushing along a good labor chapter that would have provisions that would do some of the things that President Obama said. Problem is, all that would be on paper. The key issue here is: Would those provisions be enforceable? Would Vietnamese workers be able to actually compel the government of Vietnam to make those supposed paper reforms a reality? And that’s where the Obama administration has been very disingenuous. They suggest the labor chapter is enforceable. What they mean is that if Vietnam fails to meet the standards, a nonexistent Vietnamese union would bring a claim in a nonexistent tribunal to compel Vietnam to improve its rights? No. The only possibility is that an outside group, maybe an international labor federation, could compel another country, like the United States, to bring a complaint against Vietnam about its labor practices in the abstract, and maybe, after many years of tribunal litigation, that would result in some kind of penalty being imposed on Vietnam. That’s not enforceability. That’s merely a process which might potentially impact Vietnam’s reform process on the grand scale. There is nothing like the rights that investors have to compel governments to change their rules. And that, at the end of the day, is what’s wrong with the TPP. It creates rights for companies and investors, but it doesn’t create new rights for workers or civil society. It basically gives corporations more rights than people.

AMY GOODMAN: So, some are saying even if you can’t negotiate these things after the TPP, you can use the TPP to change things as you negotiate it. Some openly gay lawmakers have called for halting TPP negotiations with Malaysia and Brunei because of their laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. But Colorado Congressmember Jared Polis, who’s openly gay, has called on the Obama administration to use the trade agreement to push for reform. He wrote a letter earlier this year saying, quote, “As negotiations over the TPP proceed, I hope you will seize the occasion by expressing to the governments of Brunei and Malaysia in no uncertain terms that their violations of basic human rights must end.” John Sifton, if you could respond to that, using the negotiations to change these countries? But also, then, the two of you disagree over what should be done with TPP: John, you’re with the reform TPP crowd, and, Peter, you’re with the stop it, end it. And I’d like to hear your views on this. John?

JOHN SIFTON: Well, first off, let me say, the problem with the idea of compelling the government of Malaysia and Vietnam to improve through the negotiation process is that that’s already been going on. For four or five years, the United States has been pushing these reform agendas, and these countries have not shown any willingness to make meaningful steps. So the real question for the administration is: How is having fast-track authority going to make it any better? At the end of the day, it’s our position that if the United States—if the administration is compelled to reach certain benchmarks on human rights, not just labor rights, but other human rights—political prisoners in Vietnam, LGBT issues in Malaysia—if they’re compelled by law to actually meet those benchmarks as part of the agreement to allow fast-track authority or allow the government to present the TPP back once it’s finalized, then it will be a necessity. These countries will have to reform; otherwise, they can’t be part of the agreement. And that would be an incentive that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

So, essentially, what we’re saying is, yeah, the TPP could be used for leverage, but you have to actually use it for leverage. And if you don’t, it’s going to be a huge disappointment. And when you actually come back with the negotiated agreement, then you’re going to see human rights groups and others saying, “No, don’t vote for this agreement. We’re against it.” But for now, our position is, yes, let’s compel the administration to write this agreement in a way that actually protects human rights, that actually promotes human rights, that actually abandons the ridiculous, unconscionable provisions on intellectual property that will lead to higher drug costs. If you make those changes and then go out and negotiate, and it actually compels Vietnam to improve its records, great. If you can’t do it, though, you’re going to be out of luck when you bring this agreement back to Congress when it’s done.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Maybarduk, you’re with the stop TPP crowd, not reform it, as John is. Why?

PETER MAYBARDUK: Well, there’s no such thing as a good TPP. You know, there have been some very brave negotiators from some of the developing countries in the negotiation who have been standing up to some of the most powerful industries on Earth, in defense of their countries’ various public interests, including health. But at the end of the day, U.S.—well, the multinational corporations involved aren’t going to accept a text that reduces their rights. And so we’re not going to see a TPP that has positive effects for society the way many of us would. The predicted benefits and gains in terms of trade flows are very small. The predicted costs are very large. So I don’t know why Congress would want to cede its constitutional authority to the executive, to the president, giving the president fast-track authority to ram a deal through Congress on an up-or-down vote without possibility for amendment, when the whole thing has been negotiated in secret all this time. As I say, only a few chapters have leaked. That, of course, is unofficial. What’s in the other 25-plus chapters of the agreement that we don’t about? What unfortunate surprises that could have real consequences for human beings? So, we invite your viewers to go to StopFastTrack.com, and your listeners, and to call their member of Congress today, ahead of this very close and very important vote on fast-track trade promotion authority. Say no to fast track.

JOHN SIFTON: And I’d say, look, we don’t disagree at the end of the day about these issues, because the substantive underlying issues are the same. If people want to call their member of Congress and tell them, “I’m uncomfortable with this agreement,” they should do that. And, look, we work on Syria, we work on North Korea. We have to be optimistic about the idea, in theory, the Obama administration could do better. If Peter is right and they can’t, and there’s no such thing as a good TPP, then so be it. Then the time will come when it’s time to oppose it. So I don’t think there’s a disagreement here. And, yes, your listeners should go call their congresspeople today. The vote is tomorrow.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Peter, before we conclude, could you just explain specifically what you think the impact of this deal would be on drugs that are used over the long term—for instance, cancer or HIV drugs?

PETER MAYBARDUK: Certainly. Well, there’s a combination of provisions in the intellectual property chapter, enforceable, potentially, through the investment chapter, affected in terms of negotiation powers in this leak that just came out yesterday published by WikiLeaks, that show us that the generic competition, the affordable medicines on which people around the world in many TPP countries depend would be blocked through the expanding monopoly powers of the industry under this agreement. That includes the patent evergreening rules that you mentioned in your run-up. But, you know, for example, if we look at cancer, there’s a rule proposed that was tucked in through a massive lobbying effort by the pharmaceutical industry, tucked into Obamacare, for 12-year automatic monopolies on biologics, which include a great many cancer drugs. Eleven of 12 cancer treatments approved recently by the FDA cost more than $100,000. That’s a leading driver of bankruptcy for American families and leads to devastating consequences—routinely, to death for people in developing countries. So if competition is blocked for a long period of time, governments aren’t going to even be able to offer some of these treatments to their citizens, and people will suffer.

JOHN SIFTON: And it’s madness on the issue of antivirals for HIV/AIDS. It’s amazing that one part of this government, PEPFAR, which is the president’s agenda for combating HIV/AIDS worldwide, they’ll see higher costs to their budget as they try to help countries fight HIV/AIDS, because antivirals, second-stage antivirals, the kind you have to use once the initial ones wear off after a certain number of years of use, are going to be more expensive. Not to mention that all these groups, these humanitarian groups on the ground, are obliged to use subpar generic antivirals, even though there are better drugs that are coming on market, simply because of this expansion in the patent protections. It’s really unconscionable.

AMY GOODMAN: John Sifton, we want to thank you very much for being with us. I know you have to run off to your news conference over at the—you’re holding it at the National Press Club. John Sifton is with Human Rights Watch, and together with Oxfam America, as well as other groups, like the Council on Global Equality, they will be speaking out against TPP. And thank you very much to Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.

 


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