Monthly Archives: August 2016

National Call-In Day Against the TPP Wednesday, September 14th

With the White House determined to force a lame-duck vote on the TPP come hell-or-high-water, it’s imperative that Congress members continue hearing strong opposition to the TPP from their constituents.

f4965c26bc968ea2f61246bff4a5d627cd68e585A coalition of labor, environmental, online and other organizations is planning a National Call-In Day Against the TPP Wednesday, September 14th

The cross-sector campaign against the TPP is stronger than ever, and has made the TPP so unpopular I feel comfortable saying that the TPP cannot pass before the November election. The lame-duck session, however, is a moment that’s froth with risk for TPP opponents, as it is that unique moment in the political calendar when political liability to constituents is at it’s absolute lowest.  Make no mistake, a TPP vote is coming during lame duck unless we stop it.

Last Friday, the administration sent Congress official notice of its plans to submit TPP implementing legislation, a move Politco called “the clearest indication yet that the White House is serious about getting Obama’s legacy trade deal — the biggest in U.S. history — passed by the end of the year.”  A media report on Tuesday describes the White House’s “all-out push to win passage of the deal in the lame-duck session of Congress,” with the administration organizing 30 events over summer recess to build support in key congressional districts.  Yet another article this week pointed out, “President Barack Obama couldn’t care less about Hillary Clinton’s position on the TPP as the White House moves full steam ahead.”

The call-in day is one easy way for all our groups to increase anti-TPP pressure on Congress in the face of this big White House push.  We really need your support.

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Demand a debate on the TPP

In 2008 Obama made a promise to the American people: If he were elected President, one of the first things he would do would be to renegotiate and fix free trade agreements like NAFTA which have sent millions of our jobs overseas. Not only has he done nothing to fix NAFTA, today he is trying to get Congress to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or the TPP for short.

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If Congress passes the TPP it will do more damage to our country than all previous free trade agreements combined. Millions more of our jobs will be sent overseas. It will allow corporations and special trade courts to rule over our democracy. Obama needs to stand before the American people and explain why he has chosen this course. The best way to accomplish this is by holding a prime time debate on the TPP before Congress votes on the measure. Obama not only owes the American people this debate, he has repeatedly offered to have a debate on the TPP. Hold President Obama to his word by signing our petition on the White House website. 

Six Big Problems with the TPP

The clearest explanation of blocking objections to TPP by the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

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In a series of briefs, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz analyzes the ins and outs of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, explaining why it would structure the rules in ways that would harm the economy and American workers. View the briefs below:

Part 1: Beware of TPP’s Investor–State Dispute Settlement Provision

Part 2: Who Gets to Write and Interpret the Rules Under TPP?

Part 3: TPP’s Hidden Climate Costs

Part 4: Will TPP Help to Curb China’s Rise?

Part 5: The High Health Costs of TPP’s “Free Trade”

Part 6: Why TPP Is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers

A threat to our air, water and climate.

The United States have struck an expansive free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Eventually, every Pacific Rim nation may be included.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 18.59.34The Sierra Club is deeply concerned about the lack of transparency around the TPP and the deal’s environmental implications. Here’s why:

  • Extreme Secrecy. The TPP negotiations took place in extreme secrecy. Public input was drowned out by dominant corporate input; more than 600 corporate advisors actively worked to shape the agreement while the public was kept in the dark.
  • Threat to Forests, Wildlife, and Fish. While the TPP environment chapter should set strong and binding rules to address conservation challenges like illegal timber and wildlife trade, its rules will likely be too weak to have an impact on the ground and are unlikely to be enforced, rendering the chapter essentially meaningless. Read more here.
  • Unfettered Rights to Corporations. The TPP will include provisions that give corporations the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation — in private and non-transparent tribunals — over nearly any law or policy that a corporation alleges will reduce its profits. Using similar rules in other free trade agreements, corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical have launched over 600 cases against more than 100 governments. Dozens of cases attack common-sense environmental laws and regulations, such as regulations to protect communities and the environment from harmful chemicals or mining practices. Read more here about how harmful investment rules included in other trade pacts have led to the attack of climate and environmental policies.
  • Increase in Dirty Fracking. The TPP may allow for significantly increased exports of liquefied natural gas without the careful study or adequate protections necessary to safeguard the American public. This would mean an increase of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the dirty and violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations. It would also likely cause an increase in natural gas and electricity prices, impacting consumers, manufacturers, workers, and increasing the use of dirty coal power. Read our factsheet on the TPP and natural gas exports here!

Learn more

The United States struck an expansive free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Eventually, every Pacific Rim nation may be included.

The Sierra Club is deeply concerned about the lack of transparency around the TPP and the deal’s environmental implications. Here’s why:

  • Extreme Secrecy. The TPP negotiations took place in extreme secrecy. Public input was drowned out by dominant corporate input; more than 600 corporate advisors actively worked to shape the agreement while the public was kept in the dark.
  • Threat to Forests, Wildlife, and Fish. While the TPP environment chapter should set strong and binding rules to address conservation challenges like illegal timber and wildlife trade, its rules will likely be too weak to have an impact on the ground and are unlikely to be enforced, rendering the chapter essentially meaningless. Read more here.
  • Unfettered Rights to Corporations. The TPP will include provisions that give corporations the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation — in private and non-transparent tribunals — over nearly any law or policy that a corporation alleges will reduce its profits. Using similar rules in other free trade agreements, corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical have launched over 600 cases against more than 100 governments. Dozens of cases attack common-sense environmental laws and regulations, such as regulations to protect communities and the environment from harmful chemicals or mining practices. Read more here about how harmful investment rules included in other trade pacts have led to the attack of climate and environmental policies.
  • Increase in Dirty Fracking. The TPP may allow for significantly increased exports of liquefied natural gas without the careful study or adequate protections necessary to safeguard the American public. This would mean an increase of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the dirty and violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations. It would also likely cause an increase in natural gas and electricity prices, impacting consumers, manufacturers, workers, and increasing the use of dirty coal power. Read our factsheet on the TPP and natural gas exports here!

Learn more

The Washington Post- President Obama TPP-Challenge.

It’s hard to resist a good challenge and the Washington Post gave us one recently in an editorial pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The editorial criticized TPP opponents and praised President Obama for continuing to push the deal. It tells readers:

Obama_US_Singapore-e82d0-1275.jpg“Mr. Obama refused to back down on the merits of the issues, noting that other countries, not the United States, would do most of the market-opening under the TPP and challenging opponents to explain how ‘existing trading rules are better for issues like labor rights and environmental rights than they would be if we got TPP passed.'”

Okay, here’s how we are better off with existing trade rules than the largely unenforceable provisions on labor and environmental standards in the TPP.

1) The TPP creates an extra-judicial process (investor-state dispute settlement [ISDS] tribunals) whereby foreign investors can sue governments for imposing environmental, health and safety, and even labor regulations. Under the TPP, these tribunals are supposed to follow the far-right wing doctrine of compensating for regulating takings. This means, for example, that if a state or county restricts fracking for environmental reasons, they would have to compensate a foreign company for profits that it lost as a result of not being allowed to frack or the additional expense resulting from the standards imposed. The ISDS tribunals are not bound by precedent, nor are their decisions subject to appeal.

2) The TPP imposes stronger and longer patent and copyright protection. These protectionist measures are likely to do far more to raise barriers to trade (patent and copyright monopolies are interventions in the free market, even if the Washington Post likes them) than the other measures in the TPP do to reduce them. In addition to the enormous economic distortions associated with barriers that are often equivalent to tariffs of 1000 percent or even 10,000 percent (e.g. raising the price of a patented drug to 100 times the generic price), TPP rules may make it more difficult for millions of people to get essential medicines.

3) By increasing fees that our drug companies and entertainment companies get from foreign countries, they will be making the trade deficit worse in manufacturing and other items. This one requires a little economic theory. It is standard practice for economic models, like the one used by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (which the Post often cites), to assume that a trade deal like the TPP does not affect the U.S. balance of trade.

If this is true then if U.S. drug and entertainment companies get more money in licensing fees and royalties, then we must have a larger deficit in everything else. For example, if we have a $50 billion annual trade deficit with Japan, and Pfizer, Disney, and the rest of the gang are able to collect another $20 billion a year from Japan as a result of the TPP, then our trade deficit in everything else must rise by $20 billion in order to keep the overall trade balance unaffected. If we care more about the jobs of manufacturing workers than the profits of Disney and Pfizer, then this is not a good thing.

4) The TPP does nothing to address the problem of currency management. One of the reasons that the United States faces a persistent shortfall in demand (a.k.a. “secular stagnation”) is that it has an annual trade deficit of around $500 billion or roughly 3 percent of GDP. This deficit persists because many countries deliberately prop up the dollar against their currencies.

This is an issue that could have been addressed in the TPP, but President Obama apparently had other priorities. By signing a deal that doesn’t impose rules on currency management we make it less likely that we can see serious action on this issue any time soon. The cost of the trade deficit and the resulting weakness in demand is millions of workers needlessly going unemployed and tens of millions earning lower wages as a result of the weakness of the labor market.

So there are my four responses to the WaPo-Obama TPP challenge. Do I win anything?

I should make one other point on the Post editorial. As usual it fall back on the strategic concerns (the last refuge of the scoundrel) when the economic arguments fail:

“Beyond its economic importance, the TPP is — or would be — a pillar of future U.S. strategic ic relevance in the vital Asia-Pacific region and a check on Chinese influence..”

If the point of the TPP was to advance U.S. strategic goals in the region, President Obama should not have had Pfizer, Disney, and other major corporations determining the framework for the agreement. He may be able to sell this strategic concerns story to the Washington Post editorial board, but not to serious people.

By Dean Baker – The Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC)