A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .” On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers. The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets.
On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a “fast track” bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it. “Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules,” Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post. Democrats and some Republican critics have been particularly frustrated by Obama’s decision to treat the TPP documents as classified information, which prevents them from responding to Obama’s claims about the pact in detail.
As the trade debate heats up in Washington, city councils are fighting back against controversial legislation that would grant the president the authority to fast-track international trade deals without congressional amendments. On the Hill, lawmakers are pushing full steam ahead on legislation the Obama administration is seeking in order to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal with Asian-Pacific countries. Some Democrats don’t support the deal, arguing that certain trade provisions are worrisome and haven’t received enough scrutiny. Nonetheless, a key Senate committee moved the bill forward on Wednesday. Across the country, city officials are making their own concerns about the legislation crystal clear. This week, San Francisco adopted a resolution opposing fast-track, following similar efforts in other cities, including Seattle and Bellingham, Washington and Fort Bragg and Richmond, California.
The pro-big business President Barack Obama and his corporate allies are starting their campaign to manipulate and pressure Congress to ram through the “pull-down-on-America” Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade and foreign investment treaty between twelve nations (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam). The first skirmish is a fast track bill to have Congress formally strip itself of its constitutional authority to regulate trade and surrender this historic responsibility to the White House and its corporate lobbies. Lest you think the TPP is too commercially complex to bother about, think again.
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
Another major Pacific port city, San Francisco, has voted against fast track for the TPP. We recently reported on Seattle’s City Council unanimously opposing fast track, now the SF Board of Supervisors has also unanimously opposed the bill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation writes about the vote in “San Francisco Opposes TPP Fast Track in New Resolution” and urges people to tweet Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. Pelosi and Hoyer are key votes on fast track as they tend toward supporting President Obama, but they also do not want to be out of step with the Democratic House members. Pelosi has a history of opposing fast track legislation. The Board of Supervisors vote should help push Pelosi to come out in opposition to fast track. In addition, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin, has also come out in strong opposition saying it is his mission to “defeat the Hatch-Wyden bill,” further pushing Pelosi and Hoyer to stay with the Democratic Caucus which overwhelmingly opposes fast track.
Broadcast media has not devoted much air time to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, an agreement that will greatly impact 40 percent of the global economy. But hacked emails from Sony reveal that media industry executives have been engaged in active discussions about the agreement behind closed doors. On April 17, 2014, Steven Fabrizio, the general counsel of the Motion Picture Association of America, sent out an update to industry executives — including Maren Christensen of NBC and Alan Braverman of Disney, the parent company of ABC News — detailing lobbying efforts by the MPAA. “Finally, in regard to trade,” Fabrizio wrote, “the MPAA/MPA with the strong support of your studios, continue to advocate to governments around the world about the pressing need for strong pro-IP trade policies such as TPP and the proposed EU/US trade agreement (TTIP).”
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.
Today, April 18, tens of thousands of people in over 500 cities across the world are taking action against corporate trade and investment regimes that are threatening our environment and human rights. From a picket in the Philippines to a public forum in Ecuador and a direct action in Australia, participants in this unprecedented “Global Day of Action” are taking back control of our democracy. Trade and investments agreements are no longer just about import tariffs, but about a range of issues that determine the food we eat, the energy we use and the ability of our governments to regulate in the public interest. As of today, four massive new global trade agreements are being negotiated away from public scrutiny, despite the fact that they will affect the lives of over 1.5 billion people.
Because they have the experience of NAFTA and the WTO. What they’ve seen in the past, some of the promises in this fast-track are, they put 150 negotiating objectives. You know, protect the environment with enforceable rules, protect labor rights with enforceable rules. Those have been put into every fast-track agreement since the NAFTA and WTO and they’ve never accomplished anything. In fact there was a leak of the environmental chapter a year ago of the TPP, and it showed that the enforcement sections for the environment are weaker than they were under President Bush’s trade agreements. And so there’s less enforcement of the environment than there’s ever been. And so you have this fast-track that says the objective is to protect the environment with enforceable protections, and the leak says there’s no enforcement.
Over 110 farm, food and consumer groups urged members of Congress in aletter today to oppose trade promotion authority or “fast track” legislation that would pave the way for trade agreements detrimental to farmers, ranchers and food systems, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A fast track bill, expected to be introduced this week, would allow the President to negotiate two mega trade deals in secret, and present a final version to Congress for a simple up or down vote—depriving Congress of its right to amend the finalized agreement. The groups expressed concern that pending trade deals would primarily benefit agribusiness corporations and not address the key challenges facing farmers and rural communities.
Another week, another victory for big business over a government in a secret pseudo-court. This time it’s the turn of private water giant Suez, who successfully sued Argentina for reversing the privatisation of Buenos Aires’s water supply. No matter that the country was in a state of economic crisis when the nationalisation took place, and the government didn’t want water prices to rise by 60%. No matter that the company time and again failed to meet its performance targets. In the world of corporate courts, nothing matters except an investor’s ‘right’ to profit. Yet it is exactly this system of so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that we will be signing up to if the US-EU trade deal known as TTIP goes ahead. Again and again government ministers tell us there’s nothing to fear. Nothing in TTIP will prevent us running public services in the way we choose.
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?