Tag Archives: TTP

Does TPP’s slow death mean the world is now unsafe for trade deals?

Charles Hankla, Georgia State University

It seems that the world has become unsafe for trade agreements. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major new trade deal among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, has become a political lightning rod for both the left and the right.

As if to highlight that fact once again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that he would not bring the TPP to a vote until after the new president takes office in January.

That’s bad news for the trade agreement – and for President Barack Obama, who sees its passage as the final plank in his foreign policy legacy and who is pushing hard for a vote during Congress’ post-election lame duck session.

But the controversial Asian pact is not the only trade agreement potentially on the chopping block. Last month, the European Union’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, decided not to fast-track the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) due to the anti-trade climate prevailing on the continent.

And France’s President François Hollande just declared that his country would not support moving forward with the gigantic Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the U.S. and the EU. His announcement came on the heels of a statement by Germany’s vice chancellor that TTIP “has failed.”

It seems that every time we get closer to the conclusion and ratification of a trade deal, a new barrier emerges to block any progress. What, then, are we to make of the tremendous obstacles confronting these three major agreements?

McConnell, second from right, has endorsed Trump, who has made anti-trade rhetoric a big part of his campaign. Jim Young/Reuters

The times they are a-changin’

First and foremost, opposition to trade is a sign of the times. The Great Recession, among other events, has generated strong pushback against globalization and liberal exchange, something that seems to have caught political elites around the world off guard.

The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had already come apart well before the recession. Its failure meant that a multilateral deal, one that would have committed nearly all of the world’s countries to the same trade agenda, was no longer possible.

At the heart of Doha’s collapse were the interests of the newly rising BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – which could not be reconciled with those of the U.S. and the EU. The failure of the WTO, in its turn, gave new impetus to regional agreements such as TTIP and TPP.

Initially, these regional agreements, along with their more modest bilateral cousins (deals between only two nations), were treated with suspicion by free traders, who feared that they would carve up the global trading system into inefficient blocs. But, in time, such agreements presented themselves as the best, and only, way forward in a more complex, multipolar economic environment.

Still, TTIP and TPP are more than just victims of the general skepticism for globalization that has arisen in the past few years. They are also the collateral damage from political events in the world’s major trading countries.

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström worries about the public opposition to CETA and TTIP. Jason Lee/Reuters

Illiberalism on the rise

First among these is the U.K.’s Brexit vote, which is likely to result in the country’s withdrawal from the EU. Brexit, which is itself the fruit of growing illiberalism in England and Wales, has distracted European leaders to such a degree that TTIP and CETA have moved onto the back burner.

Moreover, in the United States, the success of Donald Trump in mobilizing the anti-globalization working class has made Republicans in Congress, who typically support trade as good for business, wary of trade deals. It has also led Hillary Clinton to distance herself from previous statements supporting TPP made during her tenure at secretary of state.

Another problem facing TPP and TTIP is their unprecedented scope. Not only do these agreements create free trade blocs that encompass much of the world’s economic output, but they also touch on a variety of issues from internet freedom to generic drug prices to the right of private investors to sue states for compensation. Many of the most controversial elements of the agreements relate to these issues rather than to the traditional components of trade protection.

What happens next?

What would be the consequences if these agreements fail?

Economically, the U.S. is already tightly linked with both Asia and Europe. The TPP agreement would essentially expand the Pacific trade bloc beyond NAFTA to include nine additional countries, most significantly Japan. Similarly, TTIP would deepen the already significant economic interdependence that traverses the Atlantic.

The loss of these agreements would certainly have negative economic effects on all sides, as least in the aggregate (since some jobs would be saved by the reduced competition). Agreements this large cannot be jettisoned without consequences.

That said, given the deep connections that already exist among Asia, North America and Europe, the purely economic results of killing the agreements are likely to be important, but not enormous. More serious would be the geostrategic implications.

A rejection of TTIP by either side could signal a reduced U.S. presence in Europe, a particular concern in the face of increasing Russian assertiveness.

Meanwhile, an end to TPP could encourage a number of Asian countries, unsure of America’s future in the region, to move into China’s growing sphere of influence. It is no surprise that this last argument is the one being made most aggressively by the Obama administration.

Long live free trade?

If TTIP and TPP are not likely to be approved any time soon, does this mean that they are already dead?

A President Trump would certainly kill the agreements. If, however, Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, as the polls seem to indicate, their future is harder to predict. Clinton seems to be, at heart, a believer in open markets, but the current political situation makes it hard for her to say so directly.

If elected, Clinton’s statements during the campaign would make it difficult for her to support TPP out of the gate, especially with strong opposition from Bernie Sanders supporters. As envisioned by Cato trade analyst Simon Lester, she may well try to renegotiate a portion of the agreement as political cover and then resubmit it to Congress for approval.

By this point, if Trumpism has been defeated, Republicans may have a greater appetite for foreign trade. The question, of course, is whether the other TPP signatory countries will be willing to reopen portions of the agreement that have already been concluded.

Similarly, in Europe, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made until the Brexit issue is resolved and growth starts to pick up.

Despite all the obstacles, however, I believe that it is important to keep moving forward on free trade. The rejection of these important agreements could risk becoming merely the first step in a gradual erosion of support for the global economic architecture.

This architecture, so carefully created and maintained by the United States after 1945, has contributed mightily to international prosperity and peace. Maintaining it is of critical importance.

The Conversation

Charles Hankla, Associate Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Editor’s note: Occupy World Writes believes that TTP/TTIP would be bad not only for American workers, but for workers around the globe. However, we feel that there is another side that deserves to be heard concerning the potential impact of not ratifying these agreement. Hence, this article.


Share Button

The Pipeline Strikes Back: the audacity of TransCanada’s $15b suit against the U.S.

The political saga of the Keystone XL pipeline is like a real-life version of The Force Awakens. So why are we giving the Dark Side even more power?

By Jim Shultz. Published 2-5-16 by openDemocracy

The Empire Strikes Back. Credit: starwars.wikia.com.

The Empire Strikes Back. Credit: starwars.wikia.com.

In case you didn’t notice, the new blockbuster Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, ends pretty much the same way the first one did when it came out in the summer of 1977. The bad guys build a Death Star machine that can kill whole planets, the good guys fight back with pluck and grit, and, just in the nick of time, destroy the machine.

The political saga of the Keystone XL pipeline has followed essentially the same plot. TransCanada (playing the role of the Empire) sought to build a metal tunnel from Alberta to the Gulf Coast to transport oil from the Canadian tar sands. The pipeline, not unlike a Death Star, threatened the planet because it would have amped up carbon emissions and quickened the pace of global climate change. In the Keystone saga, pluck and grit came in the form of protests, lawsuits, arrests, and the encirclement of the White House—the equivalent of a Jedi counter-attack. Continue reading

Share Button

Is It All Over But the Denying?

By occupostal for Occupy World Writes

Under fast track, 'fast' is little more than a euphemism for 'avoid the public, and benefit the fortunate few,' warns Ohio State law professor Margot Kaminski. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/cc/flickr)

Under fast track, ‘fast’ is little more than a euphemism for ‘avoid the public, and benefit the fortunate few,’ warns Ohio State law professor Margot Kaminski. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/cc/flickr)

When you know how the outcome is going to play out—and not well—the old expression goes “It’s all over but the crying.” We may very well be in that spot with passage of the Trade Promotion Authority(TPA)—which has already passed in the U.S. Senate and is due for a vote in the House of Representatives today. Like the followup trade agreements that TPA is meant to grease the skids for—the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and now TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement)—it may get as many repeat votes as needed to force it through to a foregone conclusion.

So at this moment, it makes sense to look at a few specific issues: TPA or “fast track” itself, the constitutionality of the whole alphabet soup, and the naked power relationship between government and the forces of capitalism. Both crying and denying are part of the view here. Continue reading

Share Button

Expecting ‘Goodies’ for Fast Track Vote? New Report Cautions Lawmakers on Broken Promises

“Members of Congress who have exchanged ‘yes’ votes for such IOUs have more often than not seen the promises broken,” says Public Citizen

Public Citizen's report is "a cautionary tale to members of Congress who are now contemplating the administration’s pledges of political cover, and offers of various goodies from the president and congressional leaders." (Photo: The White House)

Public Citizen’s report is “a cautionary tale to members of Congress who are now contemplating the administration’s pledges of political cover, and offers of various goodies from the president and congressional leaders.” (Photo: The White House)

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-10-2015.

Lawmakers banking on “special favors” in exchange for their votes on controversial trade legislation risk “political peril,” according to a new report (pdf) from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

In the face of stubborn resistance from Democratic lawmakers, the Obama administration has “moved beyond trying to sell Fast Track on its merits,” Public Citizen says, “and is now offering rides on Air Force One, promises of infrastructure legislation, and pledges to help representatives survive the political backlash of a ‘yes’ vote on Fast Track.” What’s more, lawmakers are striving to include amendments to allegedly make pending trade legislation more palatable. Continue reading

Share Button

TTIP: the next phase of the austerity agenda

A recent report by the Austrian Foundation for Development Research has critically assessed many of the claims about the supposed benefits of TTIP, finding them to be flawed, unrealistic and ideologically biased. Here we speak with the foundation’s director, Werner Raza.

Demonstration against TTIP in Madrid. Demotix/Marcos del Mazo.

Most of the impact assessments on TTIP commissioned by the various European member states and by the European Commission describe the signing of the EU-US trade deal as an ‘economic El Dorado’ that will bring about more growth, more exports and more employment, and will almost single-handedly drag Europe out of the crisis.

Continue reading

Share Button

TTIP and TPP: harnessing the anger of the people

By Walden Bello and Thomas Fazi

Trade Ministers from TPP meeting in Vladivostok. Photo by East Asia and Pacific Media Hub U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Trade Ministers from TPP meeting in Vladivostok. Photo by East Asia and Pacific Media Hub U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In parallel to the EU-US trade deal currently under way, the US is negotiating a similar agreement with 11 countries of the Asia Pacific: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Walden Bello, leading critic of neoliberal and corporate globalisation, identifies the global strategy underpinning the two agreements. Interview.

Continue reading

Share Button

The TPP and its constitutional discontents

By occupostal for Occupy World Writes

The Trans Pacific Partnership has been called “NAFTA on steroids” and a threat to national sovereignty re  U.S. trade relationships with countries in the Asian Pacific region. Not just our sovereignty is at stake, but that of all participating nations, since the TPP’s design grants, in effect, legal dominion to transnational corporations wherever law relates to economic growth and development interests, regardless of whichever member nation they conveniently call home base. National and local law and regulation inimical to the provisions of this economic treaty may be subject to coercion, via punitive monetary judgments against their nations when corporations based elsewhere stand to lose profits. This could incentivize change to or nullification of such laws–consumer, labor, environmental protections, you name it–as well as create other negative impacts on their peoples. In a world now ruled by thinking conditioned by capital, hardly anything but “the pursuit of happiness” can avoid being monetized—so the TPP’s regime casts a wide net by design, and could cast a wider and deeper shadow on the lives of every participating country’s citizens. 

Although still not finalized, the U.S. means to “fast track” this treaty through its Congress so that acceptance is yea or nay, with little reflection and no amendment possible. Given the massive influence of money on politicians, fast track authority introduces a disaster in the making. At this very moment fast track legislation’s prospects have been dealt a setback blow … but it’s far from a dead prospect. 

In this country, only the President, his U.S. Trade Representative, and invited corporate stakeholders have been players in the treaty negotiations. Widespread alarm over the TPP’s negative effects extends to dismay over the near inability to de-fang it if it passes into law. Under our Constitution’s supremacy clause (Article 6, clause 2), treaties are co-equal “law of the land,” even though they are not laws in the usual sense of those passed by Congress and which must conform to the Constitution in all respects. The status of a treaty leaves open the possibility that it could prove—by intention or by unintended effects—to subvert Constitutional rights and roles for governing entities. What happens then has never been legally judged in a definitive way that would apply to a treaty case so comprehensive in impact as to raise the thought of compromised sovereignty. And that’s what we have in the TPP.

Our Constitution gives our executive branch President the power to negotiate treaties for the country. Fast track would reduce the legislative branch Congress’s review and approval of any treaty to a nominal role–rather than the more substantive one suggested by “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties” (Article 2, Section 2); let alone—since this is an international trade agreement in the form of a treaty–the specific power of the whole Congress to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations” (Article 1, Section 8).

Given this perspective, it may seem surprising that in the historical creation and implementation of fast track authority legislation, it has never apparently been challenged as unconstitutional. (At best, elected political leaders have called the process “undemocratic”–just listen to their talking heads at this very moment in time.) Fast track is the most obvious weak link in any legal defense of what our executive and legislative branches have done to short-circuit their responsible job performance on behalf of their own people, and to instead skate by to the tune of undue corporate influence.

As I suggested above, Constitutional conflict as regards the TPP treaty itself is another, unsettled matter. But if one follows the “spirit” of the Constitution—and not just the “letter” of what it says regarding the status of treaties—it’s more than reasonable to conclude bad job performance here again. Among the “supreme law of the land,” certainly the Constitution should be the first among equals… or, to adapt the George Orwell of Animal Farm: All supreme law is equal, but some supreme law is more equal than others. 

In Federalist No. 64, John Jay put the dilemma bluntly. In partial answer to the question “…if they make disadvantageous treaties, how are we to get rid of those treaties?,” he answered: “As to corruption, the case is not supposable. He must either have been very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable that the President and two thirds of the Senate will ever be capable of such unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross and too invidious to be entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happenthe treaty so obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and void by the law of nations.

We’ve come a long way since John Jay’s day and what was inconceivably gross and invidious then can now be entertained as our norm. The U.S. Supreme Court has seen to that by sanctioning corporations as persons, and unlimited and unidentified application of money as speech, in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission (2010). Soon the wealthiest “natural” persons may join corporate ranks courtesy of McCutcheon v. FEC (decision pending).

Jay’s judgment that a fraudulent contract should be legally null and void might be realized through a legal challenge that establishes where and how such super-treaties as the TPP rank with respect to the Constitution.

But an important alternative strategy is to challenge such a treaty locally, by creating “TPP-Free Zones” that would deny its authority, one municipality at a time. This is grassroots or micro-level thinking that can have positive impact should the trend grow successfully. And it becomes a direct embodiment of Jay’s calling out of fraud—by the collective will of the people that the fraud most affects, rather than by the hoped-for largesse of their representatives who either benefit from the fraud or remain too unaffected personally by it to modify or repeal the treaty themselves. 

In the final analysis, we need to remain ready to push against the TPP at both the macro- and micro-levels. Because it won’t go away until the nature and purpose of corporations is modified to serve the common human good, not simply profit for the select few. Don’t hold your breath on that goal being entertained, even by our governments, any time soon.

For more background on the TPP, see our previous article, TPP – Why You MUST Care, and links to Expose the TPP and Flush the TPP!. You can also read this analysis of fast track trade authority by Public Citizen. 


 (Click image to read) 

 Infographic that describes the digital rights implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. CC-BY-3.0  Anonymous assigned to the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Share Button

TPP: Why You MUST Care

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an agreement currently being secretly put together by 11 nations around the Pacific rim. As more and more is learned about what this partnership agremeent would do, it becomes more obvious why we are not given access to the real details. But here is what we do know as facts:

* Of the 29 chapters in the agreement, only 5 actually discuss trade.

* Corporations are allowed to sue nations in tribunal courts if access to what they want is denied them, as TPP provides them protection for “expected earnings” from each of the signing countries.

* Members of Congress, after being denied the text for years, are now only provided limited access while during this time, more than 600 official corporate “trade advisors” have special access.

Public Citizen reports the following threats brought by TPP:

  • Offshore millions of American jobs
  • Roll back Wall Street reforms
  • Sneak in SOPA-like threats to Internet freedom
  • Ban Buy-American policies needed to create green jobs
  • Jack up the cost of medicines
  • Expose the U.S. to unsafe food and products
  • Empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards

We all need to become very educated and very vocal about our opposition to an agreement that will destroy most people’s way of life. The total disregard for anything but corporate profit and 1% greed is appalling.

We need your help. EVERYONE needs to be involved. This is no small matter, and absolutely no good can come from the passage of such an “agreement.”

Share Button