In the interests of fairness – a lot more “fairness” than appears to be included for everyone except odious corporate greedhead profiteers, in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement – President Obama gets a turn, too.
That’s what the agreement reached (October 5) in Atlanta will do. Trade ministers from the 12 nations that make up the Trans-Pacific Partnership finished negotiations on an agreement that reflects America’s values and gives our workers the fair shot at success they deserve.
This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products. It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history, and those commitments are enforceable, unlike in past agreements. It promotes a free and open Internet. It strengthens our strategic relationships with our partners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st century. It’s an agreement that puts American workers first and will help middle-class families get ahead.
(The White House)
Right now, I don’t buy any of that. Among other things, doesn’t it just flagrantly sound too good to be true, here in the real world? I think that we all have good reason to be considerably more confident in the assessments of the likes of Rep. Ellison, who have been able to gain some knowledge of what’s actually in the deal, even as it continues to be blocked from public view. I understand the need for a measure of confidentiality in negotiations. Otherwise, chaos would rule and nothing would ever get done. But the battlements surrounding the TPP at least border on the outright paranoid. And why do you suppose that is?
This is more optimistic than I dare to be. But I certainly haven’t lost hope, either.
TPP opponents are now insisting the deal faces serious peril in Congress, where it will come up for a vote in about four months. Political advocacy often requires creating a sense of optimism and momentum even when it’s not warranted, but in this case there is legitimate reason to believe the trade deal will ultimately be rejected by either the House or the Senate, or possibly both.
Several brewing political disturbances could form a perfect storm to defeat the TPP in early February. The most immediate danger is in the House, where fast-track trade promotion authority passed by very narrow margins during a drama that included one failed vote.
One last item, for now. Big Meat in the U.S. is hurting, and they are just about orgasmic over the prospects of being able to massively expand their vile industrial practices per the TPP.
“We are already seeing the industry posturing in anticipation for the TPP to pass,” Kendra Kimbirauskas, an Oregon farmer and CEO of the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. In Oregon, she adds, “representatives for the industry have spoken about wanting to triple dairy production in the Pacific Northwest to meet Asian demand for powdered milk.”
She points to another concern with the deal: the infamous Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause, which would allow corporations within the TPP zone to challenge regulations imposed by member governments in a binding international court. For instance, a company could protest against health and safety regulations if it felt they restricted its business. (Here’s a blistering critique of the ISDS clause from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.) Two foreign companies—Brazil’s JBS and China’s Shuanghui—now control nearly half of US pork production. Neither Brazil nor China is in the TPP, but nothing’s stopping either from opening a subsidiary in, say, Australia or Japan, and then filing an Investor-State Dispute Settlement suit to stifle some state regulation on factory-scale livestock farming, says Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.