Monthly Archives: November 2016

After the TPP, Here’s a Progressive Vision for Trade

Opposition to status-quo trade deals has reached unprecedented heights. The entire 2016 election cycle featured a widespread, trans-partisan rebuke of trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that prioritize corporations over the rest of us.

 

notoxictradea.jpgAnd while Donald Trump eventually, and tragically, ascended to power, he did not stop the TPP. That was the work of an international movement, including millions of Americans and thousands of diverse organizations that fought for six years against the TPP’s threats to workers, communities, and the environment. lana Solomon Director, Responsible Trade Program, Sierra Club and Ben Beachy Senior Policy Advisor, Responsible Trade Program Sierra Club lay it out for us.

The question now is: What should come next? Since Trump’s approach to trade is rooted in the same xenophobia and hypocrisy that drove his campaign, we, as progressives, must offer our alternative — one that’s rooted in fighting inequality, respecting workers’ rights, fostering healthy communities, and seeking climate justice. Today, the Sierra Club is unveiling a discussion paper that presents fresh, bold ideas for one component of a broad new approach: how to move from polluter-friendly deals to ones that support tackling climate change. The template for trade deals like the TPP was written decades ago under the advisement of fossil fuel and other corporations. These deals serve one function: to boost corporate profits. They seek to maximize trade and investment even if the goods traded or the investments protected spell more climate pollution. They even empower corporations to sue governments in private trade tribunals over climate and other protections that affect corporate bottom lines.

 

To build a new approach to trade that supports – not undermines – climate action, we must turn the status quo model on its head. We start from a simple premise that is fundamentally at odds with the status quo: Trade and investment should be treated as tools for advancing human priorities – not ends in and of themselves. Deals should encourage trade and investment that support a more stable climate, healthy communities, and good jobs, while discouraging trade and investment that do the opposite.

We offer 15 proposals for how to bring decades-old trade rules into alignment with today’s climate imperatives. These proposals have been informed by input from over 50 academic and civil society trade and climate specialists. They range from the relatively simple to fundamental shifts that, while difficult, may be necessary to achieve trade policies that actually reflect today’s stark climate realities. Our proposals seek to fulfill three core goals:

 1. Changing trade rules to protect climate policies: Trade rules that conflict with climate action should be eliminated to allow communities and governments to advance bold climate protections without fear of being challenged in trade tribunals. Our proposal would not allow corporations to sue governments in private tribunals over climate policies – or any policies. Another proposal would require the U.S., India, and all countries to stop attacking each other’s “buy local” renewable energy policies at the World Trade Organization. We also propose a straightforward provision stating that whenever trade rules clash with climate policies, the climate policies win.

 

2. Using trade rules to increase climate protections: Trade pacts should establish a floor of climate protection among trade partners to avoid a race to the bottom in climate standards. While status quo deals like the TPP don’t even mention the words “climate change,” tomorrow’s trade agreements should require enforcement of international climate commitments, elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, and financing for renewable energy investments. Under this new model, if a government or corporation failed to live up to its climate responsibilities, the communities most affected by climate change could seek justice before a panel of climate experts.

 

3. Mitigating the climate impacts of trade: A climate-friendly trade model should encourage trade in goods that support the public interest, but discourage trade in climate-polluting fossil fuels. Trade pacts also should tackle climate pollution from shipping – we propose a new way to do so. And to ensure that a country’s climate protections don’t offshore jobs or climate emissions, trade agreements should include taxes on imported goods made under highly climate-polluting conditions.

 

These proposals, and others detailed in our discussion paper, will be further refined as we continue to collect feedback on what climate-friendly trade policies could look like. Please help us build a new trade model by sending your input to climate-friendly-trade@sierraclub.org.

 

We look forward to working with our grassroots and our partners to stitch these climate-focused ideas into a broader proposal for a new approach to trade that promotes good jobs, healthy communities, and a livable planet. Using our grassroots power, and momentum from the diverse movement that defeated the TPP, we are eager to build support for this new approach that puts people and planet over profits.

 

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Trading in the TPP for TiSA?

Fair Traders who are celebrating the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may see their hard work undone if the talks towards the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) continue.

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Many Democrats who minimized the importance of the negative impacts of corporate trade deals on working class Americans have now paid the price in the recent elections. As my colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research have pointed out, racists and xenophobes were always going to vote for Trump but the key voters the Democrats were counting on that they lost were largely working class voters, many of them union members, in states hit hard by trade deals (supported by both parties) that put working class people in competition with lower-income manufacturing workers in other countries while preserving protections for intellectual property-holders and high income professions. While these working class voters may have voted against their economic interests in terms of workers’ rights, social security, work/life balance, and other pro-worker provisions in the Democratic platform, they were right that both parties have become too aligned with corporate interests ­ and trade agreements is one of several instances where that is the case.

It is yet to be seen how or if President-elect Trump will make good on his pledges on trade to these voters, but in the initial preview of his first days in office, he has promised to withdraw from the TPP. Likewise the talks with the EU on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are on hold. In the EU, the EU-Canada agreement, known as CETA, is in limbo while the European Court of Justice decides whether the dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement complies with EU law.

Fair trade advocates are rightly celebrating important victories and noting that, thanks to successful grassroots campaigning, President Obama did not ever have the votes to send the TPP to Congress for approval, and won’t be able to do so in the lame duck session as he had originally intended.

Unfortunately there is still a corporate trade agreement under negotiation that has so far received scant attention: the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Trump has not commented about the TiSA, so we really don’t know his views. But there are three reasons why we’re not “out of the woods” with the TiSA, and why the TiSA isn’t in the same category as the TPP and TTIP for now, despite media reports that the deal is on hold until US negotiators get new instructions:

 

There are three reasons why we’re not out of the woods yet:

1. Trump is not against corporate-driven trade agreements; he has said that he thinks US negotiators did a bad job negotiating and that they’ve gotten bad deals, and that he’s going to renegotiate and get good deals. So he could very well take up the TiSA as an agreement that’s still under negotiation, put his stamp on it, and then claim that “this is what happens when you negotiate a good agreement!” And you can bet that the corporations are doing their best to talk with him now about doing this, because they are not going to abandon the project when he has yet to state his position.

2. The TiSA is about locking in further deregulation and privatization, and Trump loves deregulation and privatization.

3. The TiSA is focused on services, so it may not speak to the working class in his base in the same way that agreements that result in the transfer of manufacturing jobs to low-wage, worker-unfriendly countries like Vietnam do.

Thus, there is an urgent need in the United States to not only ensure that Trump does not take up a re-packaged TPP or TTIP (and possibly negotiate an even worse deal for ordinary citizens), but also to use the short window of time before he announces his opinion on the deal to ensure that the TiSA is permanently sidelined as well.

Read the whole article by Deborah James on Huffington Post 

Latest TPP Peril: President Trump

The election of President Donald Trump, and the slew of exit polls showing Americans’ ire over our failed trade policies that fueled that outcome, should dissuade Republican congressional leaders from pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the lame-duck session of Congress that starts next week. We will know by Thanksgiving if that is the case.

But even if the TPP never goes into effect, its damage will be felt worldwide – in the form of the election of President Donald Trump. Yes, many factors contributed to this outcome. But it was not all racists and other haters who elected Trump. It was also a lot of working class voters who supported President Barack Obama twice. Hillary Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters.

Did we have to get to this to end the era of smug Democratic and Republican political elites scoffing at the notion that trade is a salient political issue – and relentlessly pushing more of the same policies to the detriment of a voting bloc otherwise known as a majority of our fellow Americans?

 

Michael Moore proved to be spot on when he warned that Trump would win – and why. Do not underestimate the fury and desperation of tens of millions of Americans whose lives and communities have been devastated by bipartisan complicity in an agenda of corporate empowerment, job-killing trade agreements and Wall Street ravages, he wrote in an essay well worth a read.

 

Do not assume that these voters will focus on the messenger being a multinational corporation masquerading as a racist, misogynistic, narcissistic man (my description, not Moore’s) when they finally hear the message they have long awaited: yes, you have been screwed by Washington; yes I know your economic future was crushed by bad trade deals and Apple and Ford will pay if they move more jobs offshore; yes, the political establishment needs Molotov-cocktail accountability and I am that guy.

Do not imagine, Moore cautioned, that the millennials’ passion for Bernie Sander, a very different but also improbably successful (from the political establishments’ perspective), anti-establishment messenger of economic populism will translate into enthusiasm for the ultimate Democratic establishment nominee.

 

That Hillary Clinton, an impressive, capable and intelligent woman, proved a perfect foil as The Establishment was not all her doing. Bill Clinton sowed the wind with NAFTA, his China trade deal and Wall Street deregulation that reaped the whirlwind for Hilary Clinton.

This is a reality with which the Democratic Party must reckon. Through the lens of a Trump victory delivered by traditional Democratic base working class voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, the shift in polling over the past several years showing Democrats more favorable than GOP voters to the TPP and past trade deals require careful study.

Have “Democratic voters” opinions about the same old trade policies that deliver more corporate power and fewer good American jobs really gotten rosier? Or, does that polling data reflect changes in the composition of who now considers themselves to be a Democrat?

Given polling shows that Independents’ views on trade closely mimic those of GOP voters, perhaps that bloc of working class voters that is a necessary component of a winning presidential coalition has maintained a steady view on trade. But witnessing President Obama enthusiastically push a slew of the same sort of trade deals they hate akin to those President Clinton enacted in the 1990s signaled that the Democratic Party no longer had a place for them and they accordingly no longer consider themselves Democrats.

This is worth considering in the context of the TPP effect on this election. The TPP did not elect Trump per se.

 

But with no small thanks to President Obama’s relentless, high-profile campaign throughout the primaries and general election to pass the pact, the TPP pact readily served as a potent symbol of business-as-usual in Washington and its facilitation of growing corporate power over every facet of our lives. The TPP seems like something from an overwritten dystopian novel: It covers 40 percent of the global economy, yet it was negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisors while the public was locked out. The TPP’s key provision grants new rights to thousands of multinational corporations to sue the U.S. government before a panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums to be paid by America’s taxpayers, including for the loss of expected future profits, and their decisions are not subject to appeal. The corporations need only convince the lawyers that a U.S. environmental law, financial regulation or pro-consumer court ruling violates the new rights that the TPP would grant them.

 

No doubt that Trump’s sweep of midwestern and southern states was accompanied by exit polls showing the power of his attack on our failed trade policy. Or that the Reuters/Ipsos election day poll found 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,” while 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me,” and 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Consider the poll released last week by Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner showing fully 68 percent of GOP voters (34 percent with intensity), and 60 percent of all voters would punish a member of Congress supporting the TPP in the lame-duck session. While this sentiment was strongest among Republicans, it spanned the political spectrum and included majorities of all segments of the “rising electorate,” millennials, minorities and unmarried women.

 

What happens next? At least as far as the TPP is considered, it’s the call of House Speaker Paul Ryan. In the coming days he must decide whether to bring the TPP to a vote in the lame-duck Congress.

Would Paul Ryan risk jeopardizing his hold on power in the House and remain a credible future presidential candidate if he pushes something overwhelmingly opposed by his party’s base voters? And more practically, with 16 GOP House members that voted to give President Obama Fast Track authority for the TPP in 2015 having mid-election conversions to TPP opposition and others who weathered the wrath of trade voters in this cycle worrying about the 2018 primaries, could he muster the votes? (House Democrats who opposed Fast Track have remained consistent in opposing the TPP, so passing the TPP would rely on the Republicans.)

 

Undoubtedly House GOP will note the electoral success of improbable GOP down-ticket converts to TPP opposition, such as former U.S. Trade Representative and now U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in contrast to the defeat of Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) who supported Fast Track and refused to reveal his position on TPP (read: support) as his opponent, now the Senator-election, campaigned against it. (Also noteworthy: in this wave election, the only congressional Democrat who may lose is Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE), one of few Democrats to vote in favor of fast tracking TPP approval.)

On the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP donor class are clamoring for a TPP vote.

Stay tuned…

By Lori Wallach Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch