You won’t believe how many people are upset about this secretive agreement

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

Right now, Obama and other leaders are in closed-door meetings to fast track and finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership. And what they’re talking about will shock you.

Greg Russak‘s insight:

The TPP threatens to censor your Internet1, kill jobs, undermine environmental safeguards, and remove your democratic rights2.

We’re going to get the attention of decision-makers and the media by projecting a Stop The Secrecy message on key buildings in Washington D.C. – but we need you to add your voice now.

 

The TPP is huge: It covers 40% of the global economy and will overwrite national laws affecting people around the world.3

 

The worst of the TPP threatens everything we care about: democracy, jobs, health, the environment, and the Internet.  That’s why decision-makers are meeting in Asia under extreme secrecy and pushing ‘Fast Track’ laws to cement the plan into place.

This is no way to make decisions in the 21st century. We need to raise a loud global call to expose this dangerous secrecy now.

With every voice that is added to our call, a donor will contribute to make the Stop The Secrecy projection on buidlings in Washington D.C. bigger and brighter. We need to make this as big as possible when Obama returns to Washington on April 30th.

Please add your voice to help us build one of the largest online campaigns the world has ever seen.

 

 

Footnotes:
*According to several reports “An early signing of the TPP is expected to be a key topic in a planned full meeting between Abe and Obama when the U.S. president visits Japan.” The meetings are taking place right now.

[1] TPP Creates Legal Incentives For ISPs To Police The Internet. What Is At Risk? Your Rights. Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation.

[2] Leaked drafts of the Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Source: Wikileaks. Background on several issues pertaining to the TPP can be found on the Expose The TPP website and in our resources page.

[3] U.S. “Bullying” TPP Negotiators Amid Failure to Agree. Source: Inter Press Service News Agency. *Note: The U.S. and the E.U. are already discussing a similar secretive agreement called “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)”. Once the TPP is finalized there will be pressure to harmonize and extend its provisions to TTIP — meaning the E.U. There are also reports of many others countries being added to the TPP once it is finalized.

See on stopthesecrecy.net

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Excerpts from “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress”

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress” is a comprehensive primer on international trade in general and on the scope of the TPP. I highly recommend it to everyone.

“This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant.” (excerpt from Introduction; page 2) 

This blog post pulls out some of what I thought were some of the more interesting and revealing passages, along with some thoughts and questions I have about them.

 

From the Summary

Twenty-nine chapters in the agreement are under discussion. The United States is negotiating market access for goods, services, and agriculture with countries with which it does not currently have FTAs: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

Outside of Japan, I’m struggling to see the attraction these other markets represent. Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam have a combined population of 124.7 million people and a combined GDP of $629 billion. We import a whopping $49.7 billion from and export an even more abysmal $20.9 billion to these 4 countries.

TPP Countries

 

The present negotiations are not being conducted under the auspices of formal trade promotion authority (TPA)—the latest TPA expired on July 1, 2007—although the Administration informally is following the procedures of the former TPA. If TPP implementing legislation is brought to Congress, TPA may need to be considered if the legislation is not to be subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.

Setting the tone right from the start: without TPA – aka Fast Tracking – the TPP could be, “subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.” It’s only going to be considered to be that to its proponents, isn’t it?

From the Introduction

The TPP draws congressional interest on a number of fronts. Congress would have to approve implementing legislation for U.S. commitments under the agreement to enter into force. In addition, under long-established executive-legislative practice, the Administration notifies and consults with congressional leaders, before, during, and after trade agreements have been negotiated.

The “before” and “during” consultations are apparently missing if we’re to believe representatives like Alan Grayson, Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Warren and all the co-signors of letters from both the House and the Senate to the president expressing their concerns about this treaty.

This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant. (page 2)

“This report examines the issues…” This isn’t the same and shouldn’t be confused with the USTR keeping the Congress informed about what is being negotiated. If the USTR was doing that, Wikileaks wouldn’t need to leak documents, would they?

 U.S. participation in TPP negotiations serves several strategic goals in U.S. trade policy. First, it continues and expands a U.S. trade policy strategy that began with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which entered into force in 1994, of using FTAs to promote trade liberalization and potentially to spark multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The George W. Bush Administration expanded the use of this strategy under the rubric of “competitive liberalization,” negotiating 11 FTAs with 16 countries. The last three of these FTAs—with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea—were approved by Congress in 2011. However, the future direction of this policy was uncertain, given the low commercial value of some of these agreements and lack of new obvious partner countries. Meanwhile, an increasing web of bilateral and regional FTAs, were being concluded among other parties in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. The Bush Administration’s and then the Obama Administration’s adoption of the TPP signaled that the United States remains engaged in regional free trade negotiations.  (page 4)

So, how is the TPP not NAFTA on steroids?

Japan’s membership in the TPP with the United States would constitute a de facto U.S.-Japan FTA. A large segment of the U.S. business community has expressed support for Japanese participation in the TPP, if Japan can resolve long-standing issues on access to its markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture. However, the Detroit-based U.S. auto industry, the United Autoworkers union, and Members of Congress with a large auto-industry presence in their districts have expressed strong opposition. Other segments of the U.S. business community have expressed support for Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations, although some have conditioned their support on Japan’s willingness to address long-standing issues. (page 16)

Not all industries and unions are expressing support for the TPP.

The draft TPP outline indicates that financial services, including insurance and insurance-related services, banking and related services, as well as auxiliary services of a financial nature, will be addressed in a separate chapter as in previous FTAs. (page 23)

Financial services getting its own chapter. Can anyone believe that that’s one that, without question, has global implications. Wouldn’t we love to know the details about what’s being negotiated on it? I’d settle for knowing that elected representatives like Senator Warren had the details.

According to the November 2011 outline, as in previous U.S. FTAs, the TPP will have a separate chapter on telecommunications trade. The TPP is to promote access to telecommunications networks for foreign services suppliers and transparency of regulations pertaining to telecommunications services. Along with these objectives, the United States sought and obtained in the KORUS FTA commitments to allow U.S. investment in foreign telecommunications companies.

Negotiations over the services provisions likely will lead to controversy between the developed countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, and developing countries. Developed countries have pushed for greater market access for services. Developing countries have been more cautious on liberalization in services trade as they fear competition in sectors they view as a source of domestic employment and worry about the political implications forcing open sectors that are often controlled by politically powerful interests. Also, the United States may also be challenged to open its market to providers of maritime services. The United States has also been pressed to liberalize access to its market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services. No U.S. FTA negotiated after the agreements with Chile and Singapore agreements includes provisions on the temporary movement of personnel. (page 24)

Another separate chapter, this one seemingly prime for the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and the globe’s largest equipment makers to build and run networks in developing nations and with great economies of scale that give them huge advantage over any domestic companies which actually would innovate instead of stifle innovation the way the above oligarchs have in the U.S.

This would also seem to open up the US market for the importation of extremely cheap overseas labor:  liberalized “access to its (U.S.) market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services.”

 In the 112th Congress, 68 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama to urge the Administration not to negotiate government procurement provisions that would limit the application of Buy American provisions through extension of government procurement opportunities and obligations to TPP partner countries. However, Canada reportedly tabled a proposal during the Singapore round that would obligate sub-federal entities to open procurement projects funded by a central government to competition from firms in TPP countries. (page 25)

No big deal, I guess, if we’re ok with our tax dollars going to pay foreign corporations who underbid and win government contracts. What’s to keep them from importing cheaper labor instead of hiring American workers?

And what do we get in return? Domestic companies who can now bid for and win foreign government contracts for which they can be pretty much counted on to hire local and cheaper labor in those overseas markets.

Reactions to USTR’s reported new proposal have been critical of the change in approach and say it raises additional questions. Five anti-smoking groups expressed disappointment that USTR retreated from its earlier proposal that would have made it more difficult for tobacco companies to challenge domestic tobacco control measures under trade agreements. These groups note that USTR’s latest approach is “far weaker” than originally envisioned because it does not recognize tobacco as a “uniquely harmful product” or provide a way for countries to regulate tobacco in order to reduce its use. They also point out the new language would not cover lawsuits filed by tobacco firms and would not provide countries that have strong tobacco control measures with the protection needed to fend off challenges by the tobacco industry. (page 32-33)

Anyone who isn’t aware of what Philip Morris is doing about Australia’s decision about cigarette packaging needs to get up to speed on it to understand why this part of the TPP could be bad for keeping tobacco companies in check while it’s still legal for them to sell their deadly products. (http://www.ag.gov.au/internationalrelations/internationallaw/pages/tobaccoplainpackaging.aspx)

Technical barriers to trade (TBT) are standards and regulations that are intended ostensibly to protect the health and safety of consumers and for other legitimate purposes, but through design or implementation, discriminate against imports. In order to minimize trade distortion, WTO members must adhere to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The TBT Agreement covers voluntary standards that industries apply, technical regulations that governments impose for health and safety purposes, and assessment procedures that governments employ to determine that a product meets required standards. The TBT Agreement establishes rules and procedures for member countries to follow, including making sure that standards, technical regulations, and conforming assessment procedures are applied non-discriminately and in a manner not more trade restrictive than necessary. It addition, it requires that members practice transparency as regulations are developed and applied, that international standards are used where appropriate, and that the domestic technical regulations of trading partners are recognized as equivalent to domestic regulations when possible. (page 40)

The TBT Agreement seems designed to essentially put decisions about standards and regulations into the hands of corporations.

 Foreign Investment (pages 41-42)

This entire section, which includes discussion on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, is evidence that this document actually is only a primer. There’s nothing about what is being negotiated or even how any issue will be negotiated under ISDS.

Click here for more on my concerns about ISDS.

 The issue of the treatment of worker rights in the TPP has provoked debate among TPP partners and among U.S. stakeholders. In late December 2011, the United States reportedly submitted a proposal on labor issues to the other TPP partners. According to one report, the proposal largely reflects the requirements contained in the May 10th Agreement that countries should uphold core ILO principles. The proposal reportedly would go further by indicting how these principles would be implemented by requiring countries to have labor laws related to minimum wage requirements, work time, and occupational health and safety. The U.S. proposal reportedly would also require TPP countries to take measures to reduce trade in products made through forced or child labor and to apply labor laws to export processing zones and free trade zones. To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials. (page 44)

“To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials.”
Why not?

Though some business groups, government officials, and labor groups have all expressed an interest in strong SOE provisions in the TPP, it remains unclear what form such provisions may take. (page 47)

More proof this document is only a primer and offers little to nothing about what is currently being negotiated. If there’s one thing I would think there would be transparency about, the concern and worry about State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) would be it.

In the case of Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand had concerns about Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry. The United States was also interested in leveraging action on Canada’s long languishing legislation to modernize its copyright laws. In return for entry in the talks, Canada and Mexico reportedly agreed not to seek to reopen chapters already agreed in the TPP, or possibly, sub-chapters that contained areas of agreement. In the end, because of the sensitivity of the issues under discussion to the countries involved, outside of the negotiators themselves, it may never be known what commitments were made to gain participation in the talks, if any. (page 53)

Seems like the perfect place wrap this up.

US Fails To Close TPP Deal As Wikileaks Exposes Discord

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

The latest round of talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have failed to lead to a resolution, with ministers confirming that debate is likely to continue into next year.

See on www.forbes.com

Yves Smith and Dean Baker on Secrets in Trade | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

Why are the contents of a major US-led trade deal being deliberately kept from the American people?

Greg Russak‘s insight:

This video is great for understanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (#TPP) in plain language. Do yourself a favor; turn off the TV for 30 minutes and watch this instead. You’ll be glad that you did.

"…he’s <Obama’s> liberal on social issues, but economically he’s not very different than a Republican" – Yves Smith, nakedcapitalism.com

I’ve been saying this about him and Democrats, actually, for at least a few years.

BTW, I voted for Ross Perot. Twice.

See on billmoyers.com

Poison Alphabet Soup: #TPP, #TTIP, #ISDS

TPP Why So SecretImagine a dystopian future in which foreign corporations sue for and win millions and even billions of our tax dollars in damages while exercising incredible and corrupting influence over our elected leaders to change, overturn, or create laws that benefit companies at the expense of our safety and our liberties.

Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Not to those paying attention to the alphabet soup of the TPP, TTIP, and ISDS.

A Recipe for Poison

The people paying attention to international trade agreements being negotiated are warning us that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are going to do more damage to our economy than any trade agreements before them. That includes NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which most people now credit (blame) for having put the final nails into the coffin of good-paying, middle class jobs in heavy industry and manufacturing in America.

The people paying attention to the TPP and TTIP are warning us about the decision-making vehicle in these agreements called investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS.

ISDS, they tell us, puts all of the power about what is and isn’t legal into the hands of “investors” – the private, big money interests and the people running multinational corporations. The TPP and the TTIP with their respective ISDS provisions will mean that we citizens and the government officials we elect to represent us will be all but powerless to stop corporations from all but the most overtly heinous acts. That’s how ISDS is currently designed to work.

Corporations vs Democracy

Noted author and Guardian contributor, George Monbiot, calls the TTIP a “full frontal assault on democracy.” He warns us about, “…the remarkable ability it <TTIP  and ISDS> would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens.”

These companies (along with hundreds of others) are using the investor-state dispute rules embedded in trade treaties signed by the countries they are suing. The rules are enforced by panels which have none of the safeguards we expect in our own courts. The hearings are held in secret. The judges are corporate lawyers, many of whom work for companies of the kind whose cases they hear. Citizens and communities affected by their decisions have no legal standing. There is no right of appeal on the merits of the case. Yet they can overthrow the sovereignty of parliaments and the rulings of supreme courts.

You don’t believe it? Here’s what one of the judges on these tribunals says about his work. “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all … Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”

Jim Hightower offers a thorough and plain language assessment of what is known about the risks of the TPP in his August Lowdown, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It’s a corporate coup d’etat–against us!” In this blog, Jim explains….

TPP is a “trade deal” that mostly does not deal with trade. In fact, of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters!

The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish “partnership” for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new “rights” and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments… and to us.

The issues left to corporations to govern over include food safety and GMOs, fracking, jobs, drug prices, and internet freedoms.

EU Says…

The EU, to its credit, spelled out in their November 26th fact sheet, “Investment Protection and Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement in EU agreements”, what they see as the case for reforming investor protections as part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The entire document is very much worth the read. There are some encouraging signs in it which I’ll get to in a minute. It must be noted, however, that they reveal the fallacy of their basic underlying premise immediately in the opening paragraph of the executive summary:

Investment protection provisions, including investor-state dispute settlement are 
important for investment flows. They have generally worked well. However, the 
system needs improvements. These relate to finding a better balance between 
the right of states to regulate and the need to protect investors, as well as 
to making sure the arbitration system itself is above reproach e.g. transparency, 
arbitrator appointments and costs of the proceedings. (Emphasis added)

Since when do investors need “protection” from “the rights of states?”

I’m thinking that the answer to that question must be something like, “When the country in which the investor has a financial interest decides that corporate operations are no longer desirable and might even be detrimental to that country’s people and their well-being, and when said country decides to terminate or suspend such operations which then puts investor returns and corporate profits at some risk.”

In other words, when profits are more important than people.

That said, and if the EU is to be believed, the document goes into some detail about how they want to protect the sovereignty of nations, allow citizens and NGOs to have a voice, and how they plan to incorporate financial disincentives to keep frivolous cases from being brought before tribunals comprised of people both parties must approve.

This last point is of particular interest and concern to those watching the Obama administration and the US Trade Representatives: who will sit on the TPP tribunal that decides what corporations can and cannot do in a participating nation?

Which brings us to this question. Where’s the Obama administration’s fact sheet on the TPP, and WHY ALL THE SECRECY???

Could it be that the president and the 600 or so corporations working on the TPP really are concerned about a backlash if Americans were to fully understand the TPP?

What Can We As Citizens Do About It?

Plenty!

Here’s a short list of resources and ACTIONS you can take right now!

1. Template email you can send to lead TPP negotiator, Stan McCoy (smccoy@ustr.eop.gov), and his team at The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (correspondence@ustr.eop.gov), as well as a list of Organizations and Resources About #TPP to inform and educate yourself and others

2. Public Citizen’s petitions to release the TPP draft text, have Congress reject fast tracking, as well as a sample script for calling your representative to voice your concerns directly

3. Citizens Trade Campaign’s long list of actions you can support in opposition to TPP and fast tracking

4. Public Knowledge’s letter to the president you can send demanding openness in the TPP’s IP (intellectual property) chapter

5. Followers of CoffeePartyUSA can encourage that organization to take a stand on the TPP at http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/tpp_petition

6. Help to #GetMoneyOut of politics by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act

As always, please feel free to add to this list in the Comments, and please share this and everything else you can find about the TPP, TTIP, and ISDS on social media.

We can still influence DC if enough of us speak up, speak out, and take action!

 

UPDATE 12/9/2013

I still vehemently oppose him and will never vote for him, but today I will thank my Congressman, Republican Tim Murphy, for opposing fast tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). His reasoning is wrong – we have far more to be concerned about from the big money and corporate takeover of this treaty and our government in general than we do from foreign countries breaking trade rules – but at least he’s on the correct side of the fast track issue for now.

Murphy on TPP Fast Track