After Years of Backroom Secrecy, Public Will Finally Get to See Full TPP Text

Legislative clock starts ticking as Obama administration prepares to release text of pro-corporate trade deal

— by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams staff writer

Protesters have long decried the lack of transparency around TPP negotiations. (Photo: SumofUs/flickr/cc)

After being shrouded in secrecy for years, the full contents of the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will soon be brought into the sunlight.

According to Kevin Collier at Daily Dot, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has said the text will be made available to the public at large in approximately 30 days—on or around November 7.

“[We] look forward to having it released as soon as possible,” Froman said in a press call Wednesday that was embargoed until Thursday morning. “We’re shooting to do it within the 30 days following the completion of the negotiations.”

Under the terms of the Fast Track legislation passed earlier this year, lawmakers will not be able to amend or filibuster the pro-corporate “trade” deal that was completed this week.

President Barack Obama must wait at least 90 days after formally notifying Congress of the deal before he can sign it and send it to Capitol Hill, and the full text of the agreement must be made public for at least 60 of those days. Congress gets to spend the first 30 days of that time privately reviewing the documents and consulting with the administration.

As Kelsey Snell wrote for the Washington Post, that 60-day public comment window “will provide critical insight into how much popular support the deal may receive. A poor reception during the public phase could make it difficult for Obama to rally support when it comes time for Congress to vote.”

Snell continued:

The next step will be for the U.S. International Trade Commission to conduct a full economic review of the deal. The agency has up to 105 days to complete that work but the process could take much less time.

Once the implementing bill is introduced in the House and the Senate, Congress has a maximum of 90 days to approve or disapprove the trade deal but can move much more quickly.

However, Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach has pointed out (pdf) that 2016 election politics may imperil the deal. “The intense national battle over trade authority was just a preview of the massive opposition the TPP will face given that Democratic and GOP members of Congress and the public soon will be able to see the specific TPP terms that threaten their interests,” she said (pdf) on Monday.


This work from “Common Dreams” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Exposing Secret Trade Pacts

These deals endanger our democracy — and the safety of our citizens.

By Ron Carver

Ron Carver

NAFTA. CAFTA-DR. TPP. TTIP.

That numbing spoonful of alphabet soup represents four so-called free trade pacts that benefit global capital at the expense of everyone else.

The North American Free Trade Agreement came first, and NAFTA will soon mark its 20thanniversary. The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, known officially as CAFTA-DR, went into effect a decade later.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are in the works now. President Barack Obama wants Congress to grant him “fast track” authority to expedite these deals.

Thanks to firm opposition by progressive and tea-partying activists and legislative gridlock, it’s looking like his administration won’t get this power.

Are you one of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers who lost their jobs when U.S. factories moved to Mexico or China? If so, you’re probably more aware of these deals than most Americans.

But all of us should care. You may not believe trade agreements affect you — but they do, profoundly. They also endanger our democracy.

A few cases making their way through shadowy World Bank and UN tribunals should help everyone see what’s dangerous about these deals.

Do you care about the environment and clean water? El Salvador did, and instituted a moratorium on new mining operations after a popular uproar. People there are living with the consequences of gold mining, including the contamination of more than 90 percent of El Salvador’s surface water by cyanide and arsenic.

However, citing the CAFTA-DR trade agreement, a Canadian mining company called Pacific Rim Mining Corporation brought a case before the World Bank’s “investor-state” tribunal. Pacific Rim claims El Salvador has no right to restrict mining on its own soil or to require that disputes be resolved in its own courts.

Never mind that the proposed mine is located by a river supplying two-thirds of El Salvador with drinking water. Or that Canada wasn’t even a party to the CAFTA-DR accord. Pacific Rim simply moved its Cayman Islands office to Reno, Nevada. Then, it declared it had jurisdiction under that pact. When that ploy failed, Pacific Rim cited an obsolete law that has since been rejected and replaced.

Philip Morris took a similarly low road when it tried to stop Australia from requiring tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain brown paper packages — minus the cowboys and camels.

After unearthing an old Australian accord with Hong Kong that allows dispute resolution before tribunals, the tobacco titan shifted some investments to Hong Kong. Then it claimed to be an investor there and filed a complaint through its Hong Kong office.

Phillip Morris is now trying to force Australia to abandon its public health initiative or pony up billions to cover the loss of future profits.

Even U.S. regulations are vulnerable.  Apotex, a Canadian drug manufacturer, is suing the United States government for $520 million.  Why?  FDA inspectors temporarily cut off the company’s U.S.-bound exports a few years ago due to manufacturing woes.  Apotex now claims that enforcing U.S. drug safety regulations threatens its potential profits and violates NAFTA’s terms.

How can this be?

Our leaders sell trade deals to the public as a means of building our economy by boosting exports. They don’t talk about big business’s desire to topple national regulations and laws that protect public health, labor rights, and the environment.

That’s because the negotiations are held in secret.

Well, they aren’t entirely secret. The corporations who benefit are invited to participate. After Congress made a stink, its members were finally briefed on the ongoing talks as long as they promise not to divulge anything.

The rest of us are kept in the dark.

And those fast-track votes Obama wants on the TPP and TIPP? They’d deny Congress a chance to add or delete provisions along the lines of the ones companies are using to challenge consumer-protecting laws in El Salvador, Australia, and right here in the United States.

It’s time we demand that trade deals be negotiated in the light of day. To paraphrase a Civil Rights movement’s anthem: “We’ve got the light of freedom — let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”


Ron Carver is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow. IPS-dc.org.  TPP graphic compliments of DonkeyHotey / Flickr.  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

2012-11-27: What I’ve Been Reading Today

 

Military Women Challenge Combat Exclusion Rule In Lawsuit Against Defense Department

imageMolly O’Toole | HuffPost: A first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves and a major in the U.S. Air National Guard filed suit Tuesday against the Department of Defense, challenging its rules restricting women in combat under the Fifth Amendment. The four individual plaintiffs have all served in Afghanistan or Iraq, and two are Purple Heart recipients.

Family Forced to Abandon the U.S. in Order to be Together

Beth Caldwell and Joel Medina, News Report: “The Ortega family is one of a growing number of American families who are forced to abandon their lives in the U.S. to stay together. ICE reports that 45,000 parents of American citizen children were deported in the first half of 2012. Human Rights Watch estimates that 1.6 million people in the United States were separated from a deported spouse or parent between 1997 and 2007.”

Will Tim Geithner Lead Us Over or Around the Fiscal Cliff?

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “During his tenure as Treasury Secretary, Geithner has followed in Rubin’s path — engineering a no-strings Wall Street bailout that didn’t require the Street to help stranded homeowners, didn’t demand the Street agree to a resurrection of the Glass-Steagall Act, and didn’t seek to cap the size of the biggest bank, which in the wake of the bailout have become much bigger.”

Mississippi County Jails Kids For School Dress Code Violations, Tardiness, DOJ Alleges

Nicole Flatow , News Report: In Meridian, Miss., it is school officials – not police – who determine who should be arrested. Schools seeking to discipline students call the police, and police policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency, according to a Department of Justice lawsuit. The result is a perverse system that funnels children as young as ten who merely misbehave in class into juvenile detention centers without basic constitutional procedures. The lawsuit, which follows unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the county, challenges the constitutionality of punishing children “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience”.

Chris Hedges | Stand Still for the Apocalypse

Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: Humans must immediately implement a series of radical measures to halt carbon emissions or prepare for the collapse of entire ecosystems and the displacement, suffering and death of hundreds of millions of the globe’s inhabitants, according to a report commissioned by the World Bank. The continued failure to respond aggressively to climate change, the report warns, will mean that the planet will inevitably warm by at least 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, ushering in an apocalypse.

Massive Fire Kills At Least 118 Factory Workers in Bangladesh at Wal-Mart Supplier

Amy Goodman, Video Feature: A clothing factory which has ties to Wal-Mart and IKEA suffered a fire that caused 118 deaths and injured even more. Bangladesh has notoriously poor worker conditions and denies any chance for workers to improve them. The factory made polo shirts and fleece jackets for Wal-Mart and was operated by Tarzeen Fashions, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group which supplies Wal-Mart, IKEA, and other major retailers in Europe and the U.S.

Hot and Crusty Bakery Workers Seal the Deal on Unionization

Olivia Rosane, News Report: After 55 days on the picket line, the workers of the Manhattan restaurant and bakery Hot and Crusty celebrated a precedent-making collective bargaining agreement at a rally and press conference Friday, November 16. In May the workers voted to form a union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association, after enduring years of wage theft, unsafe conditions, and verbal harassment from managers. Instead of recognizing the union, however, the restaurant’s former owners shut the store down on August 31, prompting nearly two months of protest that the current agreement brings to an end.

How to Kill Social Security, With a Smile

Froma Harrop, Op-Ed: Conservatives never much liked Social Security. It’s a wildly popular government program that’s totally solvent until 2033. It will be easily fixable and by then may not need fixing at all. Doesn’t quite fit with the government-can’t-do-anything-right talking point. Then there’s the Social Security Trust Fund, a nice hunk of change invested in Treasury securities that some conservatives don’t want to pay back. The trust fund represents payroll taxes collected from workers and employers — taxes raised a quarter century ago to provide a cushion against the predicted stresses of an aging population.

America’s Perilous Pivot

Javier Solana, Op-Ed: “The Pacific or the Middle East? For the United States, that is now the primary strategic question. The violence in Gaza, coming as President Barack Obama was meeting Asia’s leaders in Phnom Penh, perfectly encapsulates America’s dilemma. Instead of being able to focus on US foreign policy’s ‘pivot’ to Asia, Obama was forced to spend many hours in conversation with the leaders of Egypt and Israel, and to dispatch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Asia, in order to facilitate a cease-fire in Gaza.”

Older, Wiser and Living with HIV/AIDS

Matthew Cardinale, News Analysis: When HIV/AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, the stereotypical image of a person living with the disease in the United States was a young or middle-aged white homosexual male. For decades, that stigma has persisted, although today it includes people of colour. In reality, though, a near-majority of those in the U.S. with the disease are much older, including those who have had HIV or AIDS for as long as 20 or 30 years; those who contracted the disease later in life; and those who may have had HIV for a long time but simply were not aware of it.

Whistleblower: Nuclear Regulators Suppress Facts, Break Law

William Boardman, Op-Ed: The likelihood was very low that an earthquake followed by a tsunami would destroy all four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but in March 2011, that’s what happened, and the accident has yet to be contained. Similarly, the likelihood may be low that an upstream dam will fail, unleashing a flood that will turn any of 34 vulnerable nuclear plants into an American Fukushima. But knowing that unlikely events sometimes happen nevertheless, the nuclear industry continues to answer the question of how much safety is enough by seeking to suppress or minimize what the public knows about the danger.

Anchor Accuses Top House Progressive Of Tanking Markets By Appearing On CNBC

Evan McMorris-Santoro | TPM:  At around 3:30 PM Eastern Tuesday, CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera noted a sell-off in the stock market, an entirely unremarkable occurrence in the course of the financial network’s daily coverage. But what separated this particular sell-off from others, according to Caruso-Cabrera, was that it could be traced directly to the appearance of one of the House’s top progressives on her show.  Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) tanked the market, she said, by refusing to budge on his contention that Medicare cuts should be off the table in negotiations surrounding the so-called fiscal cliff.