By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. The NAFTA-2 negotiations seem to be faltering after the fourth round of talks recently held in the United States. The Trump administration is pushing Mexico and Canada aggressively to include provisions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in order to renegotiate NAFTA in a way that benefits US corporations. Mexico and the US are under particularly high pressure to complete the talks successfully as each country has major elections in 2018. News reports of the highly secretive talks describe the negotiations as hitting roadblocks.
Free Trade Agreements
By Pete Dolack for Left Voice - Now that the new Trump administration has officially pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has announced an intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, it might appear as if the global neoliberal order has suffered a pair of blows. We nonetheless can be forgiven for harboring strong doubts that much, if anything, in the realm of global trade will change. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has faced strong popular opposition for years, thanks to the work of activists on both sides of the Pacific, North and South, who labored to drag this secret corporate power grab into the light of day.
By Dave Johnson for Campaign for America's Future - A Canadian corporation is suing the us because we wouldn’t let them build a pipeline across our country (seizing people’s property along the way) so they could sell oil to China. They can do this because we signed a trade agreement that places corporate rights above our democracy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would increase by an order of magnitude the companies that can sue us for hurting their profits by protecting the environment, consumers, public health and small businesses.
By Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism -The coverage of the TPP in the media was schizophrenic, on the one hand describing it as part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” (as in an effort to contain China’s growing hegemony), meaning it was clearly a political enterprise, an “everybody but China” deal, and on the other hand, saying that the reason Americans should support it was those miniscule trade benefits. And of course, there was nary a mention of the cost in terms of national sovereignity. What is intriguing and heartening about the Economist verdict isn’t merely that the TPP is dead. It’s that it’s so dead that for it to be revived, it would have to be in radically different form, with a much smaller group of countries. And if I read the Economist piece correctly, the “founding four” does not include Japan, which joined the negotiations late. Japan’s famously powerful farmers are not likely to sign up for a deal that encroaches on the island nation’s beef and rice lobbies. And it’s hard to see how anyone would take a Pacific political or economic pact all that seriously that did not have China or Japan as members.
By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance - Guy Jones reports that a populist revolt was ignored, much like we saw in the United States over Fast Track trade authority: "Almost all the MEPs that voted in Parliament today have received many thousands of emails from their constituents wanting them to vote against TTIP because they’re concerned about the impact it will have on vital public services, on consumer rights, on regulations protecting workers and the environment. It shows who’s paying the piper in Strasbourg that MEPs can ignore such a strongly articulated public mandate and instead vote in favour of corporate interests." The resolution says ISDS should be replaced with a new system “subject to democratic principles and scrutiny.” Further, "the 28-nation Parliament also called for an arbitration system where 'the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the member states is respected, and where private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives.'"
By Jon Queally for Common Dreams. Though outnumbered by police by approximately two-to-one, thousands of people took to the streets of the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany on Saturday to express their opposition to the hegemonic and neoliberal policies of the G7 nations as they gathered in a nearby luxury hotel ahead their annual summit which begins Sunday. Speaking out against the destructive policies of the world's leading industrialized nations—which includes the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Japan, Italy, and Germany—organized groups and individuals who participated in the protest carried signs and banners decrying inaction on climate change, the pending TransAtlantic Trade in Partnership (TTIP) agreement, ongoing wars and militarization, and the overarching assault on global democracy that has seen the power of corporations rise alongside nearly unprecedented levels of economic inequality.
Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is pushing to bring his awful Fast Track legislation for a vote in the House very soon. June 3rd will be a national call in day to derail fast track. Please share this email with organizations you are involved with so they can be part of the day of action. Organizations can sign up to participate in the fast track call-in day here. On June 3rd we will send messages to people urging them to call their representatives, i.e. Please call your representative now at 888-804-8311 and urge them to vote NO on Fast Track. People can also call through our coalition website www.StopFastTrack.org. Representative Ryan’s Fast Track bill has already passed in the Senate, and if approved by the House, would allow secretive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be rushed through Congress, circumventing ordinary review, amendment and debate procedures. We can win. We can stop fast track for rigged corporate deals but to do so we must mobilize everyone we know and work with. We need to create a wall of phone calls into Congress to show them the breadth and depth of opposition to fast track for crony capitalist trade. We need to let them know voters will ensure elected officials who go against the people on this issue will pay a political price with the end of their careers.
The Senate will soon vote on the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 – also known as “Fast Track.” President Obama has requested Fast Track authority from Congress to ease the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement with 12 countries that account for nearly 40% of the global economy. President Obama has repeatedly stated that the TPP is “the most progressive trade bill in history” because it has high labor, environmental, and human rights standards. The President claims the TPP will have “higher labor standards, higher environmental standards,” and “new tools to hold countries accountable.” But proponents of almost every free trade agreement (FTA) in the last 20 years have made virtually identical claims. The TPP is being hailed as the strongest free trade agreement yet. But this is not the first time this claim has been made. Proponents of previous trade agreements have made similar claims about every free trade agreement signed in the last 20 years, from the NAFTA agreement in 1993 to the more recent agreements with Colombia and Panama. By now, we have two decades of experience with free trade agreements under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Supporters of these agreements have always promised that they contain tough standards to protect workers. But this analysis reveals that the rhetoric has not matched the reality.
There was a major victory for the movement against the Trans Pacific Partnership and other rigged corporate trade agreements today in the US Senate. Advocates for fast track trade authority fell well short of the votes needed to move to debate fast track on the senate floor. This victory is the result of well-coordinated work by the broad movement against fast track. Across the board each part of the movement of movements did its job. The movement has always seen the senate as the weaker of the two chambers so any victory, even a procedural one like this, shows the effectiveness of all of our work. Rather than President Obama and the pro-free trade congressional advocates gaining momentum they suffered a defeat that will make it even more difficult to win future votes, especially in the US House of Representatives. Our work is not finished, we need to build on this victory and finish the task. Congratulations to everyone who participated.
Things are rapidly changing on Capitol Hill around fast track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other corporate trade agreements. The article we wrote below, published in MintPress News, was written a few days ago but there are already important updates. The two Committees are very likely to pass the fast track and related bills. They are dominated by those in favor of fast track and "free" trade, then the real battle begins with the full House. The best estimates, as described below, have a majority of the House opposed to fast track, but pressure will be put on Congress by the White House, Republican leadership and mega-corporations so the movement against rigged corporate trade must escalate its actions. A good place to start is Stop Fast Track where you will be directed how to take action. If you are in the DC area sign up to be part of the rapid response team that Popular Resistance has developed
Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards. Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is particularly high in Germany, in part due to rising anti-American sentiment linked to revelations of U.S. spying and fears of digital domination by firms like Google. A recent YouGov poll showed that 43 percent of Germans believe TTIP would be bad for the country, compared to 26 percent who see it as positive. The level of resistance has taken Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and German industry by surprise, and they are now scrambling to reverse the tide.
Levin said that by failing to address Democrats' concerns about the deals, Obama and the sponsors of the TPA legislation had dramatically raised the chances that opponents will seek to block the measure. "The administration has essentially given us the power to defeat TPA," Levin said during a discussion with reporters in which he released seven pages of objections to the fast-track legislation that he said had not been addressed. The Michigan Democrat's comments may be of particular concern to the administration because while Levin had previously been critical of the trade negotiations, he had not come out against granting Obama the fast track. That's no longer the case. After Hatch, Wyden and Ryan culminated negotiations with the White House over TPA that excluded Levin and other Democrats, Levin announced his opposition in no uncertain terms. "I'm out to defeat the Hatch-Wyden bill," he said Friday.
Yesterday, Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced a fast track bill that they will be pushing hard to get through the legislative process as quickly as possible. A hearing is planned for next Thursday in the Senate Finance Committee to mark-up the bill and perhaps vote on it. Hatch and Wyden spoke in flowery terms about the bill at a hearing on April 16, 2015 but when all the flowers are removed, not much has changed. The bill is a transfer of constitutional responsibility for trade to the president. The statements were misleading at best and at the announcement people working with Popular Resistance decided we needed to show our opposition. We stood up and turned our back on the committee as US Trade Representative Michael Froman was testifying. We also protested outside of the Dirksen Senate Office building showing our opposition to fast track for rigged corporate trade. One of their talking points is there are nearly 150 congressional objectives in the bill implying this gives Congress a role in setting the direction of the bill. But, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret by the Obama administration since 2009 and is nearly complete so how are these 150 objectives going to be met?
Today, the purpose of trade agreements is different. Tariffs around the world are already low. The focus has shifted to “nontariff barriers,” and the most important of these — for the corporate interests pushing agreements — are regulations. Huge multinational corporations complain that inconsistent regulations make business costly. But most of the regulations, even if they are imperfect, are there for a reason: to protect workers, consumers, the economy and the environment. What’s more, those regulations were often put in place by governments responding to the democratic demands of their citizens. Trade agreements’ new boosters euphemistically claim that they are simply after regulatory harmonization, a clean-sounding phrase that implies an innocent plan to promote efficiency. One could, of course, get regulatory harmonization by strengthening regulations to the highest standards everywhere. But when corporations call for harmonization, what they really mean is a race to the bottom. Corporations want a world before the recent financial crisis that brought some regulation to banks. They want to go back to the era before the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act so protection of the environment does not undermine their profits. President Obama and Republican leaders are trying again to push Fast Track trade authority. This Wednesday come here Stiglitz talk about where the global trade situation is now.