Monthly Archives: May 2016

Why pursue the TPP when we know it won’t work?

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Report shows that the TPP will not provide any large benefits for the U.S. economy and will also harm our important manufacturing sector.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has just released its Congressionally-mandated report detailing the potential economic outcomes of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And while the ITC puts the best possible face on putative gains, it’s clear from the study that the trade deal not only won’t provide any large benefits for the U.S. economy but will also harm our all-important manufacturing sector.

The model used by the ITC to evaluate trade agreements has proven incredibly deficient in predicting previous results from Permanent Normalized Trade (PNTR) with China and the Korea-U.S. trade deal. The ITC claimed the results of both would be overwhelmingly positive for the U.S., but that turned out to be incorrect. Baked into the ITC models are assumptions that unemployment will not increase and that exchange-rate manipulation will be absent. Reality has proven that such assumptions are invalid.

The top lines of the report attempt to put a positive spin on such minimal findings as a 0.23% boost for U.S. annual real income by 2032. If that’s not encouraging, real GDP is only projected to climb by 0.15% over the next 15 years, with employment soaring by a glorious 0.07% as a result of the TPP.

Since it’s impossible to spin these as major enhancements to the U.S. economy, the ITC also touts the TPP’s potential to “harmonize regulations” and to “protect cross-border data flows.” Okay…But what about the heart of the matter? Will this 12-nation agreement really help U.S. manufacturers boost exports and serve millions of new customers? Unfortunately, the answer is a very quiet “No.” Good-paying jobs in “manufacturing, natural resources, and energy” (MNRE) are actually projected to fall by 0.2%. This is not what Main Street America would call “Good News,” particular since U.S. manufacturing has only gained back a fraction of lost jobs since the recovery began in 2009.

Read the full article on The Hill Blog

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Transatlantic trade deal could be bogged down … by Feta cheese

US official warns EU that its aim to protect food names is ‘not going to be met.’

A woman looks at slabs of feta cheese in

Athens, GREECE: A woman looks at slabs of feta cheese in Athens, Greece, 25 October 2005. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. is more firm than ever that it won’t accommodate European wishes to ban the sale of American-made products labeled Feta or Champagne.

The issue was already a sticking point in transatlantic trade talks. But a senior official from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office slashed hopes this week that Washington would move on this point.

The food feud could be enough to kill the trade deal.

“The EU has aspirations for changing the U.S. system that are not going to be met in TTIP,” the official told POLITICO of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The EU is urging the Americans to amend their use of special product names, or geographical indications. That designation guarantees that only products from a certain region, which fulfills the characteristics of its origin, can be sold under its original name in the EU. Brussels is desperate to extend these protections to the U.S. market. That would translate into no American dairy being able to sell its cheese as Feta, in Europe and in the U.S.

While Washington concedes the need to protect certain food names, it favors an approach in which companies can register their products as trademarks. But the U.S. considers names like Feta to be generic — meaning they are used so widely that they represent a food category — and can’t be protected.

Read the full article on Politico here.

Politician told to remove video exposing TTIP secrecy. He won’t.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is an Irish independent politician, currently serving as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Midlands–North-West constituency in the UK.

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Mr Flanagan is a seasoned social campaigner, and speaks out against TTIP regularly.  In his latest commentary, he posted a video on Twitter which shows him entering the TTIP reading room for MEPs. He is allowed to view consolidated texts which have already been decided on by the US and the European union. He was not allowed a camera or a tape recorder, all he was allowed to do is bring in a pen and paper. All mobile and electronic devices were locked in a cupboard before he entered and a ‘minder’ stays with him throughout. He is made to sign a document that says he will not tell the people who elected him what is in the room he’s about to enter. He’s in there for 15 minutes and then on his exit is asked to sign another document which states that if he makes the contents of the agreements know verbatim, from his hand written notes, that this action could prevent any other MEP from seeing the documents from then on. Not long after the video was posted he was contacted by staff from within the Euro Parliament and told he must remove it from Twitter.  He is refusing and said ‘This is how openness and transparency doesn’t work in the European Union.’ 

 

Clinton does not back Obama trade vote in post-election congressional session.

Hillary Clinton has signaled that if she is elected president she would oppose a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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Watch video here
Hillary Clinton has signaled that if she is elected president in November she would oppose a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord during a lame-duck session of Congress, sharpening her differences with President Obama as he is ramping up his sales pitch on behalf of the deal.

Clinton, the Democratic pres­idential front-runner, responded in writing to a question on the lame-duck session from a coalition of Oregon labor unions and environmental groups by stating: “I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”

Opponents of the pact said Clinton’s response on the questionnaire, coming ahead of Oregon’s Democratic primary on May 17, represents a more definitive statement of opposition to the 12-nation Pacific Rim accord than she has given before. It could present new hurdles for the Obama administration, which is viewing a likely brief session of Congress after the Nov. 8 election as its last chance to get the deal ratified by lawmakers before the president leaves office in January.

Clinton supported and promoted the TPP while serving as secretary of state, but she has moved to the left in a hard-fought primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who has long railed against U.S. trade pacts. Sanders also opposed a lame-duck vote, telling the Oregon Fair Trade coalition: “Holding a vote on the TPP during a ‘lame duck’ session would be going against the will of the people.”

Business leaders, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue, have said they believe Clinton will  support the TPP if she wins the general election.

He expects a vote after the November elections and said that election-year pressures will force the Senate to vote on TPP during a lame-duck session to protect several vulnerable Republican incumbents.

“It’s going to be the closest vote for Senate in a long, long time, and there are four or five people that are running that are in the Republican caucus that would be at risk, perhaps, if they voted for it right now, today,” Donohue predicted that the House could vote sooner.

“I would encourage that because it will be hard to cram two votes into a lame-duck [session],” he said.

The presidential election has put a spotlight on trade, with the most likely nominees delivering harsh critiques on free-trade agreements.”In a tough economy, in an election year, nobody is in favor of trade,” Donohue said. But he emphasized that the pro-trade lobby needs only one vote to win.

“We don’t care how many we win by, we only care that we win,” he said.

The Chamber and the Obama administration are in discussions with Congress on building enough support to pass the TPP deal.

Donohue said that the Chamber’s members are spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill, and there are major efforts by chambers around the country.

“We’re letting them know what we think is important,” he said about lawmakers.

“They can say what they have to say. They have to vote the way we need them to vote, and half of them can take a walk as long as we get two plus one.”

He said that the agreement is most favorable to agriculture and technology sectors and that he expects a fix for the pharmaceutical industry on intellectual property protections for high-tech drugs called biologics, but the deal won’t be reopened for changes.

“We’re not going to renegotiate it,” Donohue said. “But the history of trade agreements is when you find it all, you’ve finished it and they write it all down and there are a few things we’ve got to fix,” he said. “And that’s the case here. I think you will see some of that.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House is in talks with both parties on Capitol Hill about how to move the TPP forward.

“So I don’t have details of those conversations to share, but we certainly are interested in working in bipartisan fashion on Capitol Hill to build bipartisan support for this agreement,” Earnest said. “We certainly believe that it deserves it.”

Read the full article

 

TTIP leaked documents could spell the end of controversial trade deal, say campaigners

Documents shed unprecedented light on controversial agreement, which includes provisions to allow US companies to help change European law and weaken consumer protections.

ttip-trojan-horseHundreds of leaked pages from the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) show that the deal could be about to collapse, according to campaigners.

The huge leak – which gives the first full insight into the negotiations – shows that the relationship between Europe and the US are weaker than had been thought and that major divisions remain on some of the agreement’s most central provisions.

The talks have been held almost entirely in secret, and most information that is known in public has come out from unofficial leaks. But the new pages, leaked by Greenpeace, represent the first major look at how the highly confidential talks are progressing.

The leaks could be enough to destabilise the deal completely, according to campaigners who have claimed that the agreement couldn’t survive the leaks.

Read the full article on the Independent 

 

TTIP: Chevron lobbied for controversial legal right as ‘environmental deterrent’

US oil company wanted EU-US trade deal to give foreign investors the legal right to challenge government decision, documents show.

chevron articleChevron lobbied the EU to give foreign investors the legal right to challenge government decisions in a major US-EU trade deal because it would act as a deterrent against laws such as fracking bans, the Guardian can reveal.

Environmentalists have long-warned that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’s (TTIP) investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) commercial courts risk a regulatory chill, with governments backing away from measures limiting fossil fuel extraction for fear of lawsuits. But this is the first time that a major oil firm has corroborated their fears.

Details of the US oil company’s lobby drive in Brussels two years ago emerged as EU and US negotiators sat down in New York this week to begin a 13th round of talks aimed at securing the TTIP deal. France and Germany have both previously said they want the access to ISDS removed from TTIP.

Read the full article on the Guardian

 

The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries

Fifty years ago, an international legal system was created to protect the rights of foreign investors. Today, as companies win billions in damages, insiders say it has got dangerously out of control.

guardian articleLuis Parada’s office is just four blocks from the White House, in the heart of K Street, Washington’s lobbying row – a stretch of steel and glass buildings once dubbed the “road to riches”, when influence-peddling became an American growth industry. Parada, a soft-spoken 55-year-old from El Salvador, is one of a handful of lawyers in the world who specialise in defending sovereign states against lawsuits lodged by multinational corporations. He is the lawyer for the defence in an obscure but increasingly powerful field of international law – where foreign investors can sue governments in a network of tribunals for billions of dollars.

Read the full article on The Guardian