TPP Fast Track set for Friday?

SUBHEAD: The TPP, TiSA and TTIP  assemble into a unified treaty for corporate power over nations.

Billy House & Carter Dougherty on 10 June 2015 for Bloomberg -
(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-10/fast-track-trade-vote-in-house-set-for-friday-lawmaker-says)

[IB Publisher's note: You can sign a MoveOn.org petition against the fast tracking the TPP here (http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/tell-congress-we-cant)]


Image above: Darth Vader representing the Disney Corporation in international copyright litigation. From (https://gothinkbig.co.uk/features/what-to-do-if-your-company-is-part-of-a-corporate-takeover).

House Republican leaders set a showdown vote for Friday on legislation that would give fast-track trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama.

“The vote is Friday,” said Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, as he left a closed-door meeting among Republicans Wednesday in Washington. He said Speaker John Boehner and other U.S. House leaders told rank-and-file Republicans of the plan during the meeting.

“Trade votes are never an easy lift around here, but Republicans are continuing to work and we’re seeing some positive momentum,” Boehner told reporters after the meeting, without giving a specific date for the trade vote.

The fast-track measure, passed May 23 by the Senate, would let Obama submit trade agreements to Congress for an expedited, up-or-down vote without amendments. The president has said he wants to complete a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and send it for approval under that procedure.
Whether there is enough support to pass the bill has been the running question and the vote is expected to be tight. The votes will represent a test for Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the top Republican whip counter, and his lieutenants.

Republicans control the U.S. House, 246-188, meaning that if all members vote, support from 218 lawmakers is needed to pass a bill.

Boehner said the House would hold four votes on separate parts of the trade legislation package and that the process “is still up in the air.”

Enough Votes

“As soon as we have the votes, we’ll be moving the bill,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky said leaders are still short of the votes needed for passage and will try “to make it work.”

The House Rules Committee plans to vote later Wednesday to send to the House floor the same version of the fast-track legislation, H.R. 1314, that the Senate passed. That would avoid a conference committee and allow the House to send the bill directly to Obama for his signature.

House Democrats are balking at the procedure for enacting the trade package, according to a Democratic leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Medicare Cuts

While the plan would meet Democratic demands to fund aid to displaced workers without making $700 million in Medicare cuts, the procedure proposed by Republicans would still demand that they vote for the Medicare cuts in one bill before reversing them in another.

That separate measure, H.R. 1295, would have to go to the Senate for another vote. Democrats want a guarantee that the provision dropping the Medicare cuts will be enacted, the aide said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, will take the issue to her members, the aide said.

“In terms of fixing the Medicare offsets, we worked together to come up with a Medicare alternative, and we did,” Boehner said.

The bill would cover the cost of eliminating the Medicare cuts by increasing various tax compliance penalties and changing information-reporting requirements for students and colleges relating to education tax breaks. The education changes would raise an estimated $576 million over a decade.

Banks Win

Banks also scored a victory in that part of the trade package. The House is removing language that would have required them to report to the Internal Revenue Service annually on non-interest-bearing accounts and accounts that earned less than $10 in interest.

“That was the result of our decision-making,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told reporters.

Most Republicans are backing Obama, who contends the trade measure would help U.S. workers and set rules for the global economy. Many Democrats remain stung by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which labor unions blame for a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Two House aides said, at the end of May during a congressional recess, that informal vote counts showed more than 200 Republicans supporting the measure and about 25 House Democrats prepared to vote yes -- enough for a clear majority. The aides had sought anonymity to discuss the count.

House Republicans and members of the Obama administration in recent days had been expressing more confidence the trade promotion authority would pass. Still, pre-vote commitments aren’t always the same as actual votes.

Pelosi said last week that it was Boehner’s responsibility as speaker to round up support for the measure. He should be able to deliver about 200 votes, she said at the time, pointing to the large Republican majority he controls.


Big Pharma, TPP & Sovereignty

Deidre Fulton on 10 June 2015 for Common Dreams -
(http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18016/trans_pacific_partnership_jobs_workers)

Bolstering long-held criticisms from public interest groups, newly leaked sections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) show how Big Pharma is employing "an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism" to increase profits at the expense of global health.

The TPP's "Healthcare Annex"—which seeks to regulate government policies around medicines and medical devices—would give big pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine while crippling public healthcare programs around the world and "tying the hands" of the U.S. Congress in its ability to pursue Medicare reform and lower drug costs.

In a scathing analysis of the leaked text, which was published Wednesday by WikiLeaks, Australian public health expert Deborah Gleeson declares:
The purported aim of the Annex is to facilitate ‘high-quality healthcare’ but the Annex does nothing to achieve this. It is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. Nor does this do anything to promote “free trade”: rather it tightly specifies the operation of countries’ schemes for subsidizing pharmaceuticals and medical devices with the aim of providing greater disclosure, more avenues for pharmaceutical industry influence and greater opportunities for industry contestation of pharmaceutical decision making.

The inclusion of the Healthcare Transparency Annex in the TPP serves no useful public interest purpose. It sets a terrible precedent for using regional trade deals to tamper with other countries’ health systems and could circumscribe the options available to developing countries seeking to introduce pharmaceutical coverage programs in future.
The TPP, currently being negotiated behind closed doors, would link the United States with Pacific Rim countries from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia into a new regimen of so-called "free trade" rules that would cover 40 percent of the global economy.

President Barack Obama is trying to gain Fast Track approval from the U.S. House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, having already obtained it from the Senate, which would grant him increased power to push the TPP and other mammoth trade pacts through Congress.

Public health groups have long been part of the coalition of TPP opponents, charging that it would undermine efforts to ensure access to affordable, life-saving medicines in both the United States and abroad. Wednesday's leak appears to bolster those claims.

According to the New York Times, which obtained the Healthcare Annex in collaboration with WikiLeaks, the document provides pharmaceutical companies with "new opportunities to challenge the decisions of trading partners on which drugs they will offer their citizens through government health care programs and the rates at which they will reimburse drug sellers." The Times continues:

A version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership annex that leaked in 2011 made explicit reference to “competitive market-derived prices,” promising drug companies the chance to appeal rates deemed insufficient. Those are gone, “a victory for the non-U.S. partners to some extent,” Ms. Gleeson, the Australian expert, said.

But Pacific accord negotiators do appear ready to grant pharmaceutical and medical device makers more power to influence participating governments. The 12 countries involved, and any others that might join later, would have to disclose rules and guidelines for deciding which medical products would be made available through government programs and at what rate providers would be reimbursed.

Drug companies and medical device makers would have to be given “timely opportunities to provide comments at relevant points in the decision-making process.” And governments would have to offer a review process “that may be invoked at the request of an applicant directly affected” by the decisions of national health care authorities.

Watchdogs say such provisions could give Big Pharma more influence over Medicare, particularly as regards pharmaceutical and medical device procurement and reimbursement.

In a fact sheet (pdf) distributed in response to the revelations, Public Citizen's Global Access to Medicines Program said the text raises critical questions such as:

Could companies use the Annex to compel Medicare to cover expensive products without a corresponding benefit to public health? Medicare reimbursement is limited to products that are “reasonable and necessary” for treatment. But the TPP "recognize[s] the value" of pharmaceutical products or medical devices through the "operation of competitive markets" or their "objectively demonstrated therapeutic significance," regardless of whether there are effective, affordable alternative>

Furthermore, noted Peter Maybarduk, director of the Global Access to Medicines Program: "This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans—and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today."

As the Times reports, pharmaceutical firms and their trade associations have filed by far more lobbying disclosure forms on TPP negotiations than any other industry, according to the watchdog Sunlight Foundation.

Of course, concern over the TPP's implications for healthcare policy wasn't limited to U.S. stakeholders. The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Trade and healthcare experts are deeply concerned that the TPP agreement has the potential to undermine Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and other similar health programs such as that administered by New Zealand's Pharmaceutical Management Agency.
They say TPP countries will face a much greater risk that big pharmaceutical companies will contest government decisions relating to the listing or otherwise of medicines for reimbursement and engage in expensive litigation, with the result that consumers will pay more while corporate profits will be protected.  
"The annex highlights the great influence of Big Pharma in the debate over the TPP," Australian National University law professor Matthew Rimmer told the newspaper. "Big pharmaceutical companies will use procedural rules to bully countries in the Pacific Rim to roll back their public health regimes."

TPP opponents said Wednesday's revelations offer just one more reason for lawmakers to demand increased transparency and oppose Fast Track legislation.

"The leak is just the latest glaring example of why fast-tracking the TPP would undermine the health of Americans and the other countries and cost our government more, all to the benefit of pharma’s profits," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange urged readers to consider the latest leak in a broader context. In a statement released alongside the leaked text, Assange said,
"It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support."


TPP disaster for US workers
 
By Peter Cole on 5 June 2015 for News with Views -
(http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18016/trans_pacific_partnership_jobs_workers)

Every time politicians look to pass a new free trade agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), they reassure the American people that this time around, workers will be protected. But my research on and experiences in a small industrial town in Illinois—not to mention even a cursory glance at the broader data on the impact of such deals—reveals that “free trade” has been a nightmare for most of the American people. And Galesburg, Illinois—which, oddly enough, has a long-standing history with President Obama—is a poster child for why free trade deals are a problem rather than a solution to the precarious reality experienced by most working- and middle-class Americans.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton worked largely with Republicans in Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that drastically reduced tariffs and other “trade barriers” intended to spur greater cross-border trade and investment. However, as billionaire-turned-presidential candidate Ross Perot famously said at the time, “If this agreement is signed as it is currently drafted, the next thing you will hear will be a giant sucking sound as the remainder of our manufacturing jobs—what’s left after the two million that went to Asia in the 1980s—get pulled across our southern border.”

Sadly for American workers, Perot—and the Democratic Congressional majority who voted against the treaty—were right. Even President Obama has admitted that NAFTA resulted in massive job losses for American workers when corporations made the economically rational choice and moved production to Mexico, where the wages were much lower and governmental regulation of industry (think clean air and water) much less stringent.

Now, for the past few years and almost entirely in secret, the Obama Administration has been negotiating with a dozen other Pacific Rim nations to create a mammoth new “free trade” zone, named the TPP.  The Administration asserts that the TPP will “expand opportunity for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”  According to this “logic,” further lowering trade barriers (already much lower than before the 1990s) will increase American exports and, hence, American jobs.

Of course, Obama claims that the TPP will be different than NAFTA: That all the corporations that could benefit from lower wages in another nation already have left and that this treaty’s labor and environmental provisions will be better enforced though details are shockingly absent. Logically, if the deal is so good, it begs the question as to why Obama will not share the details with the American people rather than insisting on secrecy and fast track authority.

The experience of a typical, small industrial town in western Illinois named Galesburg suggests cause for alarm. I started visiting Galesburg in 2000 after I was hired to teach U.S. History at a university in nearby Macomb. Within a few years, I started to meet people who had been laid off from the Maytag plant there; many of them had become students late in life as they tried to retrain after the Maytag plant shutdown.

One such student was the son of a retired Maytag worker who was so angry and eloquent about the horrific impacts of NAFTA that he tried to convince me to write a book about the devastating impacts of this trade deal on America’s industrial economy. With his help, I conducted a series of interviews with former Maytag workers on the eve of its final closure.

Galesburg is home to a liberal arts college, Knox, and became an important railroad hub in the mid 19th century. Due to its proximity to Chicago (about 200 miles) and being a transportation center (first railroads and, with the later construction of interstate highways, trucking), Galesburg became a thriving industrial town in 20th century. A variety of factories located there. Butler employees built steel prefabricated buildings including grain silos. Outboard Motor Corporation built engines for boats. Admiral built refrigerators and, later, Maytag purchased this factory.

Many of these jobs became unionized in the post-World War II era, resulting in a thriving population of blue-collar workers with middle-class incomes. Even today, a short visit to Galesburg reveals the many fine houses built there, a clear marker of the town’s historic wealth.

Alas, the history of manufacturing in Galesburg reflects the fact that the capitalist desire to reduce costs in any locale is a powerful and inexorable one. Perhaps the first technique used by American employers was to play workers of different races, ethnicities, genders and nationalities against each other to lower wages. Then, Fredrick Winslow Taylor introduced “scientific management” to increase “efficiency” and maximize production. Corporations introduced automation to further increase productivity. In the late 20th century, a series of U.S. presidents promoted trade deals that facilitated the movement of manufacturing—i.e. millions of jobs—to other nations.

In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president as a “New Democrat.” New, it seemed, meant Republican-lite, for many of his policies were taken from the Republican playbook: cuts to welfare, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act (both anti-gay measures), harsher sentences for those convicted of drug crimes and a general expansion of prisons and punitive law enforcement. And NAFTA.

Whereas rank-and-file Democrats and most elected Democrats loudly opposed NAFTA, Clinton brokered a deal—largely with Republican votes—to get it through Congress in 1994. Representative Lane Evans, who represented the Galesburg area and considered quite liberal, voted against NAFTA.

(Interestingly, then-Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, voted against NAFTA, too.)
J.B. Johnson, whose father and girlfriend’s parents had retired from Maytag, told me in 2005, “When Clinton signed in NAFTA, … that’s when I started thinking—you know we’re union up north here and I always had a funny feeling back of mind, there’s a good chance of them leaving.”

Sure enough, shortly after the passage of NAFTA, as Johnson, Perot, and many others predicted, Galesburg heard that giant sucking sound: Maytag announced it would move to Mexico. Though it took the company another decade to completely shut down its Galesburg facility, Maytag’s announcement sent shockwaves through the town. As Carol Marshall, another Maytag worker who I interviewed in 2005 on the eve of the final shutdown, said, “Both my parents worked at Maytag, my grandfather, my aunt, my uncle.  I used to joke that it kept our family off the welfare rolls.”  For years afterwards, locals referred to Maytag’s announcement as “ten eleven.”

Understandably, the nearly 2,000 workers employed there suspected they never would find as good of a job. The rest of the community also feared the worst as those good-paying Maytag jobs helped the economy of the entire community, county and surrounding areas.

The effects of Maytag’s departure were immediate and glaring. Unemployment increased drastically. House construction dropped to nearly zero and the real estate market froze. Population declined.  Erin Nelson, another Maytag worker I interviewed, particularly lamented that she immediately lost her health insurance though her children qualified for state assistance; she complained to me, understandably so, “Who can afford antibiotics that are $70 for 28 pills?” Ten years on, the povery level has increased to 19 percent, and Galesburg has seen about 15 percent of its population leave since 2000.

Galesburg also happens to have a surprisingly deep and long connection to President Obama. In fact, Galesburg was “name-checked” in the speech that launched his national political career. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama famously declared that Americans have “more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now they're having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour.” He had visited the town some months earlier, not long before the last refrigerator rolled off the assembly line.

Less than a year later, he gave a speech at Knox College and said something similar:

“Here in Galesburg, you know what this new challenge is. You've seen it. You see it when you drive by the old Maytag plant around lunchtime and no one walks out anymore. I saw it during the campaign when I met the union guys who use to work at the plant and now wonder what they're gonna do at 55-years-old without a pension or health care; when I met the man who's son needs a new liver but doesn't know if he can afford when the kid gets to the top of the transplant list.”

Even then, perhaps surprisingly, Obama gave hints that his “solution” would be more of what Clinton had to offer: embracing corporate-driven globalization. In his 2005 speech at Knox, Obama lauded Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and globalization’s pied-piper. Technology had changed the world, he said: “Today, accounting firms are emailing your tax returns to workers in India who will figure them out and send them back as fast as any worker in Indiana could.” It was unclear why that was deemed a good thing for those Knox graduates.

Fast forward to 2013, when Obama returned to Galesburg to champion, yet again, another of his efforts to renew America’s middle class. He acknowledged that the town had suffered (without overtly invoking NAFTA), “What had swept through a lot of towns throughout the Midwest and Northeast had happened in Galesburg, where people were left high and dry.” As a result, the “tax base had declined, unemployment had soared, a lot of folks out of work; the jobs that replaced them generally were jobs that paid a much lower wage.”

All true. Some residents found work in the modestly expanding railroad industry (Burlington Northern Santa Fe still maintains a large operation), others at a John Deere factory 50 miles north in Moline. However, most laid off from Maytag who found work had jobs that were far less lucrative or without benefits; many found no work whatsoever. Alas, it was not clear what Obama’s solution was to their plight—the plight of millions of other Americans, too.

Now, in 2015, it seems we now know what Obama’s solution is and it does not seem much different from Clinton’s and his Republican allies: just substitute TPP for NAFTA. How TPP will help Galesburg residents find good-paying jobs with benefits is not clear. What is clear is that Obama still thinks that the U.S. government must make it even easier for corporations to move production and capital around the world while American workers drop further and further behind.

A little over 10 years on from the last refrigerator rolling off the line, Galesburg has not entirely collapsed; that’s a testament to the resiliency of people with their backs to the wall. But, their town is not the same. Simply put, no “free trade” deal can replace a factory that employed upwards of 2,000 people and everyone knows it.

Obviously, this problem is much bigger than Galesburg. While Obama claims that he wants to rebuild the middle class by bringing manufacturing back to the United States, he’s only being half truthful. The reality is that America still could lose millions more manufacturing jobs if TPP is signed.

David Simon’s working stiff from season two of his hit television show The Wire, Frank Sobotka, identified the ultimate issue:

“You know what the problem is? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hands in another guy’s pocket.” The former president of the Galesburg Maytag machinists union, Dave Bevard, said something similar to The Atlantic's Chad Broughton last year: “I don’t know of an economy that can survive on the principle of ‘You mow my lawn, and I’ll wash your dishes.’ We’re great because we make things.”Obama actually said similar during his 2013 visit to Galesburg: “But we can do more… I know there’s an old site right here in Galesburg, over on Monmouth Boulevard—let’s put some folks to work!” Indeed, let’s.

In 2005, on his second visit to Galesburg, Obama claimed, “Ten or 20 years down the road, that old Maytag plant could re-open its doors as an Ethanol refinery that turns corn into fuel.”  Leaving aside that corn-based ethanol proved a dead-end, undoubtedly the people of Galesburg still hope he is right—that Galesburg’s former productive capacity can be restored.

Yet I can imagine my friend and former student, the son of a Maytag worker and a combat veteran of the first Gulf War, screaming obscenities about the big lie that is TPP. And, my research on the effects of NAFTA on Galesburg echoes that suspicion. Other than vague promises about “unlocking opportunity,” I find it hard to believe that TPP will do anything to assist the people of Galesburg or other towns like it. They—we—are still waiting for the benefits of “free trade.” Obama has not yet made it clear how TPP will help the people of Galesburg or any American worker.



NEVER Surrender to TPP

By Steven Neill on 4 June 2015 for News with Views
(http://www.newswithviews.com/Neill/steven119.htm)

Imagine,if you will, a trade agreement that will cost millions of American jobs and thousands of American businesses [1] while granting foreign corporation outrageous new powers to attack the laws we rely on for a clean environment, safe food and decent jobs. It does this by providing foreign firms the unlimited ability to drag the US government in front of foreign tribunals composed of three private attorneys authorized to order massive payouts.[2]

These lawyers will rotate between being “judges” and suing governments for the corporations in a twisted system called the “investor-state” regime. It give an individual foreign corporation equal status with the US federal government - allowing the foreign firms to privately enforce a public treaty.

Imagine these totally unaccountable corporate lawyers being loosed on a system set up to ensure corporate profits. The US has paid out over $3.5 billion in “investor-state” cases under existing treaties. With the insane level of corporate protections included in TPP, the sky will be the limit on how much we will be required to pay. In 2014, the WTO has sided with Canada and Mexico against the US on labeling “country of origin” on meats we eat.[3]

It was appealed but the US lost the appeal on May 18th of this year. The WTO will now set the level of retaliatory tariffs that Canada and Mexico can set on the US if the labels don’t come off our meats.[4]

These treaties already change the laws Congress makes and this is only the beginning.

Imagine a treaty so secret that members of the US Congress only have limited access to its text and you’ve got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door. Congress members are forced to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving.[5]

Then, you are sworn to secrecy after reading it. Yet, more than 500 official corporate "trade advisers" have unlimited access to it as do the governments of all the nations involved with the negotiations.[6]

Now, imagine yourself getting off the couch long enough to contact your Congressman and Senators to declassify the Trans Pacific Partnership and it’s wicked step-sister the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership text. The Senate may invoke Section 8 of Senate Resolution 400, which established the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The House has 11(g) of the House Rule X. The rules authorize the chambers’ respective intelligence committees to vote to publicly disclose any information in the possession of the committee after concluding that the public interest would be served by such disclosure. Congress must be forced to do these steps NOW![7]

Otherwise, imagine a world run by great humanitarian corporations like Monsanto, MERC, Halliburton, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs because that is what we will have.

Footnotes:
>1. Ultra-Secrecy Surrounds Barack Obama’s New Global Economic Treaty
2.
How the Trans-Pacific-Partnership Would Impact Corporate Power
3. WTO Rules Against Country-of-Origin Labeling on Meat in U.S.
4. WTO Rejects U.S. Appeal of COOL Ruling
5. Extreme secrecy eroding support for Obama's trade pact
6. Someone Reads Obama's Secret Trade Deal And Admits The TPP "Will Damage This Nation"
7. Congress Can—and Should—Declassify The Secretive Trans-PacificPartnership Trade Text


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1 comment :

  1. Petitions don't work! Why not just indict the perps? Yes, remove them from office!

    NationalLibertyAlliance.org

    ReplyDelete