While you prepare for the holidays, Salt Lake City, has been playing host to a “trade” gathering with vital implications, mostly negative, for all Americans. Diplomats from 12 nations were in attendance, the major players being America and Japan. The trade representatives hammered out an insidious agreement during a 14th round of negotiations that couldn’t be more harmful to United States interests.
Essentially, behind proverbial closed doors, there’s a trade coup of potentially enormous dimensions that has largely escaped the headlines and engendered little public notice or discussion. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a benign PR appellation made to appear as threatening as a sweet-faced Yorkshire Terrier.
This corporate prize is no secret. It’s been around in one form or another since 2001. It should surprise no one that the current version was initially championed by giant money puppet, George W. Bush in 2008. It’s actually an extension of a 2005 free trade agreement that numbered Brunei, Chili, New Zealand and Singapore as members. The current TPP version includes the aforementioned charter countries, the United States and neighbors Canada and Mexico along with Japan and Australia and 4 additional participants.
On the surface, TPP is billed as a harmless lil’ ole “trade agreement.” In truth, trade is an afterthought. At most, in the updated version, 5 of 29 chapters are dedicated to trade considerations. TPP should be titled the “Trans-Pacific Corporate Takeover Partnership.” Its provisions give unbridled powers to corporations to take over the lives of citizens of America and other countries to a degree unimagined even by the 113th Congress of crazies.
In a recent edition of The Progressive Populist, Jim Hightower, the male Molly Ivins; (a huge compliment) wrote of just a few of the offending chapters that would have a lasting impact on pact members. Food safety and regulations could be overridden as “illegal trade barriers.” Fracking gases could be exported with no DOE review. US corporations would get sweetheart deals in moving their factories to low-wage TPP nations. Others, such as the Public Knowledge Website, are concerned about the embarrassing lack of transparency, the dearth of input from public advocacy groups, not to mention, the public, themselves and TPP’s ability to kick people off the Internet, oft-times for breaking rules they weren’t even aware of.
Additional negatives that caught Hightower’s eye, monopoly (and significantly higher) pricing for the pharmaceutical industry would be sanctioned through extended patent protection and the ability to block generic designation, creating a deadly chapter for poorer countries. Though Hightower doesn’t reveal his sources, he could have only gained his information from either this draft report, released mid-summer by WikiLeaks or by researching four assorted previous leaks, one dating as far back as February 2011.
Also contained within the leaks, a very real danger that U.S. banking reforms and regulations could be rolled back and the practice of combining banking and investment houses would be expanded. The dream of corporations of controlling the Internet could finally come true enabling the monitoring of all Internet use activity (pretty much the case now). Internet access could be cut off and your content taken down.
Another troubling element in Hightower’s list; conforming certain laws to the TPP model including the section that mandates that member countries open their service sectors to private competitors. The consequence being, according to Hightower, that the corporate providers could cherry pick profitable customers. In aping U.S. and Candian regs, or lack thereof, there’s also the TPP proposition that countries don’t have to have GMO (genetically modified or engineered foods) labels affixed to, well, containers of GMO’s. At least 50 countries ban or restrict such foods according to informative Website, Label GMOs.org.
One of the concerns in Congress is the secrecy surrounding the agreement. At least 600 corporations have full access; Ron Wyden, the Democratic chair of the committee overseeing TPP, does not. As of the latest reporting, Wyden and his legislative colleagues, claim they’re being kept essentially in the dark about the contents of TPP. Though I suspect that Representatives and Senators have accessed the draft copies, I think they’re looking for more “official” information exchanges.
Other high-profile Democrats pushing for transparency in the negotiations are Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash). Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is demanding the release of the proposed negotiated language that could make its way into the final agreement. A side note here. DeLauro and McDermott don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for strongly holding the line for progressives as members of the House Progressive Caucus and Warren, of course, continues to be the model of reasonable and responsible progressive consistency on the Senate side.
Another concern is ‘fast-tracking’ TPP after the last of the meetings has been adjourned. That’s a 90-day window with no right to add any legislative amendments.
Even the Tea Party is showing a moment of clarity when it comes to TPP. Who would have thought a reliable progressive like Alan Grayson would ever ride on the same legislative float as Michele Bachmann in a parade of congressional legislators opposing the passage of ‘fast track’ TPP? Bachmann is not exactly expressing complete disagreement. She’s concerned that Congress has not been able to exercise its constitutional mandate in the formulation of the agreement. Hell, she and her Tea Party crowd might want to make it even more extreme. And, who knows, their alleged opposition might just be cover for being in favor of this mess.
We’ll know when the final vote comes down.
But for now, I’m taking Bachmann and her Tea Party partner’s word for their concerns. I mean they were overwhelmingly opposed to another global issue in their NRA-driven opposition to the UN Arms Trade Treaty regulation of international commerce in the sale of weapons. Unlike the weenies that populate the 113th Congress, the UN. General Assembly, made up of people who read and think, ignored the special interests and signed on to the treaty anyway with 153 member countries signing in the affirmative as opposed to 3 refusals to sign and 23 abstentions. Signees included U.S. Secretary of State, Kerry. Treaty chances for ratification are zilch, as 5 Democratic Senators have already weenied out given the fact they represent the gun-nuttiest of gun nut states. The roster includes Tester and retiring DINO of DINOs, Baucus from Montana, Heitkamp from North Dakota, Donnelly of Indiana and West Virginia’s, Manchin.
The good news? Prospects seem somewhat dim for the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well. The talks seem to be pretty contentious. The next meeting scheduled for December 7-10 in Singapore should be a doozey. There are 18 of 21 areas that remain unresolved. Negotiations are really stuck on Japanese agricultural protectionism.
If you’re the type of progressive who likes to get involved and share your thoughts with your elected Representative or Senator (in reality their staffs, never the actual elected official) give their offices a buzz and start civilly bitching.