Monday, March 23, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Picture Legend

1. NAFTA Logo
2. TPP Map
3. Symbolic TPP Leaders (pictured, from left, are Naoto Kan (Japan), Nguyễn Minh Triết (Vietnam), Julia Gillard (Australia), Sebastián Piñera (Chile), Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore), Barack Obama (United States), John Key (New Zealand), Hassanal Bolkiah (Brunei), Alan García (Peru), and Muhyiddin Yassin (Malaysia). Six of these leaders represent countries that are currently negotiating to join the group)
4a. Real TPP Leaders: David J. Lesar, CEO of Halliburton
4b. John Watson, CEO of Chevron
4c. John Castellani, CEO of PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America)
4d. Brian L. Roberts, CEO of Comcast
4e. Chris Dodd, Chairman & CEO of the  Motion Picture Association of America
4f. Garfunkel and Oates
5. John Maynard Keynes
6. Robert Reich
7. Willy Shufflebottom
8. Sen Elizabeth
9. Protest
10. Malaysian protest
11. Japanese protest
12. Paul Krugman

We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It's pretty simple: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,...have no health care—that's the most expensive single element in making a car— have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.
    ...when [Mexico's] jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it's leveled again. But in the meantime, you've wrecked the country with these kinds of deals. -Ross Perot on The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

 The TPP is "designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity." -Noam Chomsky, January 2014

 “If it ain't broke don't fix it,”  is widely attributed to T. Bert (Thomas Bertram) Lance, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter's 1977 administration. He was quoted in the newsletter of the US Chamber of Commerce, Nation's Business, May 1977:
    Bert Lance believes he can save Uncle Sam billions if he can get the government to adopt a simple motto: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." He explains: "That's the trouble with government: Fixing things that aren't broken and not fixing things that are broken."

The TPP is a "Trojan horse in a global race to the bottom, giving big corporations and Wall Street banks a way to eliminate any and all laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits." -Robert Reich

"... I'll be undismayed and even a bit relieved if the T.P.P. just fades away." -Paul Krugman
January 21, 2009
SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government. My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government. -BARACK OBAMA

   Since becoming president, Obama has churned out an impressive stream of directives flowing from his promise to deliver "the most transparent administration in history."
   He established a center devoted to declassifying records and making them public. He announced an open government initiative. Dizzying quantities of information poured into public databases. New ways were devised to show taxpayers how their money is spent. Allegiance was pledged to the rule of law.
   Then there's the other government.
   It prosecutes leakers like no administration before it. It exercises state-secrets privileges to quash court cases against it. It hides a vast array of directives and legal opinions underpinning government actions – not just intelligence and not all of it about national security.
   Now it's known to conduct sweeping phone-records and Internet surveillance of ordinary people in programs kept on the lowdown until an employee of a National Security Agency contractor revealed them.
  CALVIN WOODWARD, Huffington Post, 06/17/2013  

   In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. -Leon Festinger, Scientific American 207, 93 - 106 (1962) 

   The phrase “talk is cheap” is actually a shortened version of at least two other commonly used American idioms —  “talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whisky”  and “talk is cheap but  it takes money to buy a farm.” 
The phrase means that it’s easier for someone to say that he or she will do something than to actually do it.  In its earlier incarnations an example was provided to assist with internalizing that message. -Historically Speaking, Elyse Bruce 

"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting." -Pope Francis

   Just like regular people like you and I trade money to receive goods and services, countries trade with each other to help move their economies, hopefully in a positive, or growth orientated direction (the quest for unlimited economic growth is of course unsustainable, the Earth’s resources being finite (and the human population increasing exponentially), as we’re already seeing with over-fishing of the oceans, and the increasing difficulty in retrieving fossil fuels, which if used contribute to climate change, which creates a whole different and dire problem, facts seemingly lost to the planet’s fishing and oil and gas industries). Just as you and I trade for food, gas, and smart phones, countries trade to gain resources they do not already inherently possess, and to sell those that they do.
   Normal trade involves the transfer of the ownership of goods or services from one person or entity or country to another in exchange for other goods or services or for money. Types of trade include barter, which deals exclusively in goods and services, as is amply demonstrated on the Discovery Channel’s “Alaskan Bush People.” A network that allows trade is called a market. 
   Free trade is a policy in international markets in which governments do not restrict imports or exports in any meaningful way, such as the use of subsidies, tariffs, currency devaluation, on and on (however, most governments still impose some protectionist policies that are intended to support local employment, and governments may also restrict free trade to limit exports of natural resources. In actuality, pure free trade does not exist). 
   The benefits of free trade are ubiquitous... for some economists, the wealthy, and multinational corporations. Since the wealthy and multinational corporations effectively own and control our nation, as we’ve examined here, it’s not surprising that many of our national politicians, including our President, advocate for that passage of free trade agreements. 
   Dana Griffin, of Demand Media, advocates for free trade: “International trade is the modern framework of prosperity. Free trade policies open up new areas to competition and innovation. Free trade leads to better jobs, new markets and increased investment. Free trade spreads values and beliefs as well as goods and services. Since international trade relies on traders keeping their agreements, countries and companies are more accountable to each other and therefore more stable.”
   The World Trade Organization does as well with it’s 10 Simple Talking Points: 

   The Ten Benefits
1. The system helps promote peace
   Peace is partly an outcome of two of the most fundamental principles of the trading system: helping trade to flow smoothly, and providing countries with a constructive and fair outlet for dealing with disputes over trade issues. It is also an outcome of the international confidence and cooperation that the system creates and reinforces (the United States has been at war almost continually since 1776. In the past 236 years we have been fighting some type of conflict for 214 years or about 90% of the time, which may be a good reason the U.S. is the most feared nation globally). 
2. Disputes are handled constructively
   There could be a down side to trade liberalization and expansion. More trade means more possibilities for disputes to arise. Left to themselves, those disputes could lead to serious conflict. But in reality, a lot of international trade tension is reduced because countries can turn to organizations, in particular the WTO, to settle their trade disputes (this benefit is not only self serving, but it contradicts the first).
3. Rules make life easier for all
   Decisions in the WTO are made by consensus. The WTO agreements were negotiated by all members, were approved by consensus and were ratified in all members’ parliaments. The agreements apply to everyone. Rich and poor countries alike have an equal right to challenge each other in the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures.
4. Freer trade cuts the costs of living
   Protectionism is expensive: it raises prices. The WTO’s global system lowers trade barriers through negotiation and applies the principle of non-discrimination. The result is reduced costs of production (because imports used in production are cheaper) and reduced prices of finished goods and services, and ultimately a lower cost of living.
5. It provides more choice of products and qualities
   Think also of the things people in other countries can have because they buy exports from us and elsewhere. Look around and consider all the things that would disappear if all our imports were taken away from us. Imports allow us more choice — both more goods and services to choose from, and a wider range of qualities. Even the quality of locally-produced goods can improve because of the competition from imports.
6. Trade raises incomes
   The WTO’s own estimates for the impact of the 1994 Uruguay Round trade deal were between $109 billion and $510 billion added to world income (depending on the assumptions of the calculations and allowing for margins of error).
7. Trade stimulates economic growth
   This is a difficult subject to tackle in simple terms. There is strong evidence that trade boosts economic growth, and that economic growth means more jobs. It is also true that some jobs are lost even when trade is expanding. But a reliable analysis of this poses at least two problems.
   First, there are other factors at play. For example, technological advance has also had a strong impact on employment and productivity, benefiting some jobs, hurting others.
   Second, while trade clearly boosts national income (and prosperity), this is not always translated into new employment for workers who lost their jobs as a result of competition from imports.
   The picture is not the same all over the world. The average length of time a worker takes to find a new job can be much longer in one country than for a similar worker in another country experiencing similar conditions.
   In other words, some countries are better at making the adjustment than others. This is partly because some countries have more effective adjustment policies. Those without effective policies are missing an opportunity [translation, developed nations have better adjustment policies than developing nations].
8. The basic principles make life more efficient
   Trade allows a division of labour between countries. It allows resources to be used more appropriately and effectively for production. But the WTO’s trading system offers more than that. It helps to increase efficiency and to cut costs even more because of important principles enshrined in the system.
9. Governments are shielded from lobbying
   One of the lessons of the protectionism that dominated the early decades of the 20th Century was the damage that can be caused if narrow sectoral interests gain an unbalanced share of political influence. The result was increasingly restrictive policy which turned into a trade war that no one won and everyone lost.
10. The system encourages good government
   The rules include commitments not to backslide into unwise policies. Protectionism in general is unwise because of the damage it causes domestically and internationally, as we have already seen.
   Particular types of trade barriers cause additional damage because they provide opportunities for corruption and other forms of bad government [the words “good government” do not immediately come to mind when I think of the present leadership in Washington D.C.].

   Aparijita Sinha, formerly of the Delhi School of Economics, points out that “despite many advantages, free trade policy has never been completely adopted by all the countries of the world. Particularly after the World War II, the policy was abandoned even by those who had previously adopted it. The following arguments are given against free trade policy.
1. Unrealistic Policy:
   Free trade policy is based on the assumption of laissez-faire or government non-in­tervention. Its success also requires the pre-condition of perfect competition. However, such conditions are unrealistic and do not exist in the actual world.
2. Non-Cooperation of Countries:
   Free trade policy works smoothly if all the countries cooperate with each other and follow this policy. If some countries decide to gain more by imposing import restrictions, the system of free trade cannot work.
3. Economic Dependence:
   Free trade increases the economic dependence on other countries for certain essential products such as food, raw materials, etc. Such dependence proves harmful particularly during wartime.
4. Political Slavery:
   Free trade leads to economic dependence and economic dependence leads to political slavery. For political freedom, economic independence is necessary. This requires abandonment of free trade.
5. Unbalanced Development:
   Free trade and the resultant international specialisation lead to unbalanced development of national economy. Under this system, only those sectors are developed in which the country has a comparative advantage. Other sectors remain undeveloped. This results in lop-sided development.
6. Dumping:
   Free trade may lead to cutthroat competition and dumping. Under dumping, goods are sold at very cheap rates and even below their cost of production in order to capture the foreign markets.
7. Harmful Products:
   Under free trade, injurious and harmful products may be produced and traded. Trade restrictions are necessary to check the import of such products.
8. International Monopolies:
   Free trade may lead to international monopolies. It encourages the establishment of multinational corporations. These corporations tend to acquire monopoly position and thus harm the interest of the local people.
9. Reduction in Welfare of Certain Groups:
   While free trade tends to maximize world production of goods and services, it may simultaneously hurt the welfare of certain groups in every country. Under free trade, the output of those commodities in which the country has comparative advantage tend to increase to meet the export demand, and the output of goods in which the country has comparative disadvantage contracts due to pressure from import competition. Thus, the real income of the groups engaged in the export industries will rise and real income of those engaged in the import competing industries will fall.
10. Harmful to Less Developed Countries:
Free trade is harmful for the less developed countries for the following reasons:
(i) Competition under free trade is unfair and unhealthy. The less developed countries find it difficult to compete with the economically advanced countries.
(ii) Under free trade, gains of trade are unequally distributed depending upon the level of development of different countries. The terms of trade are favourable for the developed countries, and un­favourable for the poor countries.
(iii) Less developed countries generally experience unfavourable balance of payments. The problem of un-favourable balance of payments cannot be solved under free trade policy.
(iv) Free trade policy adopted by the British government in India led to the destruction of Indian cottage and small scale industries.
(v) The less developed countries cannot protect their infant industries under the policy of free trade.
(vi) Free trade may endanger economic and political independence of the backward nations.

   Similar to those who advocate for austerity measures (“Government deficits reduce national savings, so these deficits must be minimized, even if that means tax hikes and reduced social spending during a prolonged slump. Democratic economists, it is largely forgotten, loudly called for reduced deficits in the 1980s under Republican Ronald Reagan. A Say’s Law (In shortened form, it argues that supply creates its own demand. In other words, if you make it, people will buy it)–type of argument was used by President Clinton’s economists to channel budget surpluses to reduction of the national debt rather than, say, increases in public investment. Advisers to President Obama in 2010 called for deficit reduction long before the economy was on the mend. Of course, not all economists believe this; and there are times (during full employment, for example) when even Keynesians [those who are influenced by the theories of the British economist, John Maynard Keynes] favor deficit reduction. Yet simplistic ideas about deficit-reduction as cure-all dominate the profession. They seep into the public consciousness and are not easy to reverse, especially when both Democratic and Republican economists and presidents have advocated them at one time or other.” -Jeff Madrick) improve an overall economy in every instance, without any empirical or historical evidence to back up their claims, when in fact the empirical and historical evidence points toward the opposite, especially during times of economic downturns or recessions, free market proponents hail the supposed advantages of  semi-free trade polices while downplaying the disadvantages. Of course the opposite is true of free trade's opponents. So who should we believe? Who should we trust? What is best for the country and the majority of the country's citizens? Not the elite, wealthy and business interests, but the countries workers, service providers, it’s middle class. As MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz likes to characterize, “Those who take a shower after work.”
   Jeff Madrick, director of policy research at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, The New School, postulates “Despite the practical failures of free-market economics, too many mainstream economists have continued to embrace simplistic ideas about how the economy works. Such ideas are often rooted more in ideology than in evidence. These beliefs and the policies that follow led directly to the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. They also centrally contributed to the nation’s subpar performance beginning in the late 1970s, and to our widening inequality. They continue to endanger America’s economic health...
   ...In the 1990s, Western nations developed a set of policies known as the Washington Consensus which involved not merely free trade but also the free flow of capital around the world. It was a classic invisible-hand argument. One-size-fits-all policies should be adopted everywhere, no matter the developmental stage, educational attainment, or culture of a nation.
   But the Washington Consensus badly failed in the 1997 East Asian financial crisis. In fact, there is a great deal of doubt that free-trade agreements have created the jobs that economists claim for them. Moreover, widespread assertions that free-market reforms led to enormous reductions in global poverty foundered on a hard fact: Most of the reduction occurred in China, and to a lesser degree in India—countries that did not adopt the Washington Consensus.
   Yet simple free-trade agreements are still backed aggressively by many economists. These agreements often favor rich nations, or the elite in poor nations. We don’t even know what is in the new 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal, organized by the U.S. government and its corporate allies. The secrecy is apparently needed to reduce likely controversy. We do know that the intellectual property of big companies in rich nations is likely to be well protected; that “trade” norms are intended to be used to undermine domestic regulation; and there are doubts that workers in either poor or rich nations will be similarly protected.”
   Former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, puts it this way: “Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S.Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1percent.
   The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages.
   This is pretty much what ‘free trade’ has brought us over the last two decades.”      
    The  North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the good old United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc within North America. The trade agreement came into force on January 1st, 1994.
   The stated goal of NAFTA was to eliminate barriers to trade and investment between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Upon it’s implementation the immediate elimination of tariffs on more than one-half of Mexico's exports to the U.S. and more than one-third of U.S. exports to Mexico came into effect. 
   The U.S. Chamber of Commerce contends that NAFTA increased United States trade in goods and services with it’s two partners from $337 billion in 1993 to $1.2 trillion in 2011, while the AFL-CIO union blames the agreement for sending 700,000 American manufacturing jobs to Mexico over that same time period, hence Perot’s sucking sound. Translation: the rich got richer, and the middle class saw their jobs go south of the boarder where wages and the cost of doing business was much lower than in the U.S.
    According to the Economic Policy Institute, the rise in the trade deficit with Mexico alone since NAFTA was enacted led to the net displacement of 682,937 U.S. jobs by 2010.
   According to the EPI study, 61% of the net job losses due to trade with Mexico, or 415,000 jobs, were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs. Certain states with major emphasis on manufacturing industries like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California were significantly affected by these said losses. 
   In addition to enjoying lower tariffs for shipping goods from Mexico to the United States, large multinational corporations benefited from NAFTA's authority to give these corporations the right to sue governments for infringement of "investment rights". According to the EPI, these investor protections facilitated the movement of manufacturing plants to Mexico. Fifteen percent of employers in manufacturing, communication, and wholesale/distribution shut down or relocated plants due to union organizing drives since NAFTA's implementation.
   Those in favor of NAFTA argue that total employment in the U.S. increased over the period of 1993 through 2007 from 110.8 million people to 137.6 million, specifically 709,988 jobs (140,000 annually), were created domestically within NAFTA's first five years of existence. They reject the claims of opponents that the agreement is destroying the manufacturing industry and causing displacement of workers, as the rate of job loss due to plant closings showed little change from previous periods.
   Still, others agree with the position that there has been an increase in net jobs due to NAFTA's implementation, but these net gains are coming at the price of worker's wages. In other words, high-paying manufacturing jobs are being lost and replaced by lower paying jobs and is causing wage deflation in certain sectors.   
   The exportation of jobs was hardly the only objection or matter of conjecture concerning the implementation of NAFTA. 
   The environment (in the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border, the increased pollution and the improper disposal of chemical wastes have dramatically raised rates of hepatitis and birth defects), effects on small farms (by favoring the interests of agribusiness corporations over the needs of family farmers, NAFTA's model of export-oriented agriculture has slashed farmers' income), privatization of Essential Services, NAFTA includes unprecedented ways for corporations to intervene in a sovereign nations laws through the initiation of so-called "investor-to-state" lawsuits. Such suits, established by NAFTA's Chapter 11, allow corporations to sue governments for compensation if they feel that any government action, including the enforcement of public health and safety laws, erodes their profits (In 1996, the gasoline additive MMT was brought into Canada by Ethyl Corporation, an American company. At the time, the Canadian federal government banned the importation of the additive. The American company brought a claim under NAFTA Chapter 11 seeking $201 million American,  from the Canadian government and the Canadian provinces under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). Ethyl argued that their additive had not been conclusively linked to any health dangers, and that the prohibition was damaging to their company. Following a finding that the ban was a violation of the AIT, the Canadian federal government repealed the ban and settled with the American company for $13 million. Studies by Health and Welfare Canada (now Health Canada) on the health effects of MMT in fuel found no significant health effects associated with exposure to these exhaust emissions. Other Canadian researchers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disagreed with Health Canada, and cite studies that include possible nerve damage), intellectual property rights (corporations may be able to extend patents, and thus increase the cost for certain drugs, or use of films, etc.), agricultural subsidies, financial services,and so forth.
   Secretary Reich wasn’t always against free trade agreements. He was on duty when NAFTA was implemented.
   “Frontline” interview, “The Clinton Years”:
   Later in the summer, NAFTA takes the fore. You are passionate about this. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland is in your ear all the time. Elsewhere in the administration, there is enormous pressure in support of NAFTA. How did the president deal with that? He had you and labor in one ear, and Rubin and Panetta in the other.
   “Well, personally, I was and still am a free trader. I think that free trade is inevitable and overall it helps everyone. But labor was very against NAFTA. And I remember appearing on so many stages in front of various labor groups and being booed off the stage because I was representing the president, and the president was committed to NAFTA. He was committed to NAFTA in the campaign. He said, during the 1992 campaign, "I am going to sign the North American Free Trade Act." 
   What was your advice to him during the debate though?
   “My advice to him during the campaign was to sign it.”
   And then later, once, Kirkland was telling you guys that it was going to be a "f-ing disaster," and you were going to come to regret it. You passed that on to the president. What was his reaction?
   “He shrugged. He was willing to take on organized labor over the North American Free Trade Act. I think the real issue there was what kind of priority NAFTA should get. Should it be one of the highest priorities of the administration in those first years? Should he spend a lot of political capital on it? Should he delay health care in order to get NAFTA done first? And the first lady wanted health care first. She didn't want him to expend political capital on NAFTA. She was concerned, and in retrospect she was absolutely right, that if health care came after NAFTA, then health care might never get done. Already the momentum was building for some sort of universal health care. He had the political capital to get that done, but the business community was telling him NAFTA was more important. And Lloyd Bentsen, the most senior member of the cabinet, and a man of great insight and wisdom and experience to whom the president deferred quite a bit, Lloyd Bentsen was adamant. NAFTA must come first. In fact, I remember Lloyd banging his finger on the table, "We must get this done right away." And so the president decided that that was going to get the priority. My job was to deliver the news to organized labor. And that was not pleasant, but they knew it was coming.”
   So was NAFTA worth it? That depends on who you ask. If you ask large corporations that benefit from cheaper labor and semi-unrestricted trade the answer will undoubtedly be yes. If you ask American unions, the answer will more than likely be no. If you ask laborers in Mexico, China, and India (although China and India are not a member nations of NAFTA, American jobs have been exported to it due to their cheaper labor costs, and other business considerations). 
   Are the three member nations and the majority of their citizens better off due to NAFTA, or would they have been better off without it, with normalized trade still in place?
    Only Willy Shufflebottom of Punkeydoodles Corners, Ontario, Canada knows, and he’s not talking. 
   So what’s the big deal about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
   This is another proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty, or free trade agreement, of which 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region are currently negotiating, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and our old pals the Vietnamese. 
   The proposed agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4). Those countries participating wanted to end negotiations and wrap things up by 2012, but infighting about issues like agriculture, intellectual property, services, investments, and the size of the fund allocated for influencing public officials caused negotiations to continue up until now. The last meeting between the countries occurred just last week, March 9th through the 16th, in Hawaii. 
   It appears that the Obama administration really, really wants to get this agreement through Congress and implement it as fast as possible. I don’t know why. No one does.
   But they persist. Early in 2012 President Obama personally indicated a desire to renew what is known as “Fast Track Negotiating Authority,” which gives the President of the United States the authority to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster. Obama stipulated the authority as a requirement for the conclusion of TPP negotiations, which had been undertaken as if the authority were still in effect (the authority expired on July 1st, 2007, after Congress ratified the United States–Peru Trade Promotion Agreement). 
   In July 2013, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, renewed efforts to obtain Congressional reinstatement of "fast track" authority. Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned him about the prospect of a secretly negotiated, binding international agreement such as TPP that might turn out to supersede U.S. wage, safety, and environmental laws. Other legislators expressed concerns about foreign currency manipulation, food safety laws, state-owned businesses, market access for small businesses, access to pharmaceutical products, online commerce, and slush fund availability.
   U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman response of "D'oh!" did not seem to be adequate to the task of appeasing these inquiries, and fast track has not, as of yet, been re-authorized. 
   Indeed, the notion of the current Congress, nominally controlled by Republicans, giving up any of it’s authority to the current President, as fast track inherently requires, is unlikely. Exceptionally unlikely.
   There are other obstacles (some self imposed) the Obama administration faces with regards to ratifying and implementing the TPP.      
   On the political side, obstacles related to the passage of a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) by Congress (since 1974, Congress has enacted TPA legislation that defines U.S. negotiating objectives and priorities for trade agreements and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the President to follow throughout the negotiation process.  At the end of the negotiation and consultation process, Congress gives the agreement an up or down vote, without adding amendments. TPA reaffirms Congress’s overall constitutional role in the development and oversight of U.S. trade policy). Receiving TPA from Congress is looking especially difficult for the President since members of his own Party are against them, especially in the House, while Republicans generally support the trade talks. "The TPP and TPA pose a chicken-and-egg situation for Washington. Congress needs to pass TPA to bring the TPP negotiations to fruition, but the Obama administration must win favorable terms in the TPP to pull TPA legislation through Congress. Simply put, the administration cannot make Congress happy, unless it can report on the excellent terms that it has coaxed out of Japan." (one of the central questions regarding the TPP negotiations is whether Japan and the United States will be able to arrive at an agreement on the lowering of tariffs) -Yoshizaki Tatsuhiko, chief economist and deputy director, Sojitz Research Institute
   Other obstacles concern the secrecy of the negotiations. If everything is so above board and beneficial for the countries involved, and the majority of it’s citizens, then why is everything so secret?
   It’s been my experience that deeds done in secret do not generally promote the general welfare.
    Critics of the agreement such as Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (PCGTW), a consumer advocacy group, called for more transparency in regard to the agreement. 
   Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk responded that he believes the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) conducted "the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could," but that "some measure of discretion and confidentiality" are needed "to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise."
   On May 23rd, 2012, United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 3225, a document requiring the Office of the US Trade Representative to disclose its TPP documents to all members of Congress. Wyden said the bill clarifies the intent of 2002 legislation, which was supposed to increase Congressional access to information about USTR activity; however, according to Wyden, the bill is being incorrectly interpreted by the USTR as a justification to excessively limit such access.  Wyden asserted: “The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement. [...] More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing. We hear that the process by which TPP is being negotiated has been a model of transparency. I disagree with that statement.”
   “It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it.” -Sen Bernie Sanders
   A leaked set of draft documents indicated that public concern had little impact on TPP negotiations, so “screw the people,”seems to be the order of the day (month, year, whatever) regarding this agreement.
   “[It’s] representing not what most people in the US want,” Lori Wallach, from PCGTW told Firstline in 2012, “but rather is an agenda promoted by the biggest US corporations, specifically there are 600 official trade advisors of whom almost all are our biggest corporations.”
   According to The Nation's interpretation of leaked documents in 2012, countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP's rules, even limiting how sovereign governments could spend their own tax dollars. As of 2012, US negotiators were pursuing an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, also known as corporate tribunals, which could be used to attack domestic public interest laws. This mechanism is a common provision in international trade and investment agreements that grants an investor the right to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government in their own right under international law, as we’ve seen in the NAFTA treaty. 
   Critics of the investment protection regime argue that traditional investment treaty standards are incompatible with environmental law, human rights protection, and public welfare regulation, meaning that TPP will be used to force states to lower standards on environmental and workers protection, or be sued for damages. 
   So conceivably companies such as Exxon, or PhRMA, could sue the United States for redress, against the best interests of the citizens of the United States, and the United States would have no recourse (if it indeed the United States desired recourse).
   In 2013, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) were among a group of individuals who criticized the Obama administration's secrecy policies on the Trans-Pacific Pact. 
   On 13 November 2013, a complete draft of the treaty’s Intellectual Property Rights chapter was published by WikiLeaks. 
   Wikileaks' exposure of the Intellectual Property Rights and Environmental chapters of the TPP revealed "just how far apart the US is from the other nations involved in the treaty, with 19 points of disagreement in the area of intellectual property alone. One of the documents speaks of 'great pressure' being applied by the US." Australia in particular opposes the US's proposals for copyright protection and an element supported by all other nations involved to "limit the liability of ISPs  [Internet Service Providers] for copyright infringement by their users." Another sticking point lies with Japan's reluctance to open up its agricultural markets.
   A number of United States Congress people, including Senator Bernard Sanders  and Representatives Henry Waxman, Sander M. Levin, John Conyers, Jim McDermott,  John Lewis, Pete Stark, Charles B. Rangel, Earl Blumenauer, and Lloyd Doggett, have expressed concerns about the effect the TPP requirements would have on access to medicine. In particular, they were and are concerned that the TPP focuses on protecting intellectual property to the detriment of efforts to provide access to affordable medicine in the developing world, particularly Vietnam, which heretofore had gone against the foreign policy goals of the very same Obama administration that was promoting TPP implementation. 
   Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club's director of responsible trade, argued that the TPP "could directly threaten our climate and our environment [including] new rights that would be given to corporations, and new constraints on the fossil fuel industry all have a huge impact on our climate, water, and land." 
   After the publication of a complete draft of the Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs' Report by Wikileaks, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined with the Sierra Club in criticizing the TPP. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, described the Environment Chapter as "a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism."
   Senator Warren wrote about her objections to the TPP, one of them being the  “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” which many see as an attack on our nations sovereignty .
   “Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law [such as we’ve seen in Canada under NAFTA], it would normally have to challenge that regulation in a US court.    
   But with ISDS, the company could skip the US courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the multinational company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in US courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions – and even billions – of dollars in damages.
   If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Really.
   And if the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, giant corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with US operations wanted to challenge our refusal to import a dangerous chemical, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union or human rights group believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the American labor group would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts – and if an environmental group thought the Vietnamese company was dumping waste in their rivers in violation of the new trade agreement, they would have to go to a Vietnamese court as well. In other words, the great deal for corporations is only for corporations – everyone else is left out.
   Opposing ISDS isn’t a partisan issue – even your Tea Party relatives should be worried about this dangerous provision:
   Conservatives who believe in US sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals.
   Libertarians should be offended that ISDS effectively would offer a free taxpayer subsidy to countries with weak legal systems.
   And progressives should oppose ISDS because it would allow big multinational corporations to weaken labor and environmental rules.”
   Such an opinionated young woman.
   Some regular people like you and me didn’t care much for the TPP either, and tore themselves away from “Dancing with the Stars” long enough to voice their collective displeasure concerning its implementation.
   On March 5th, 2012, a group of TPP protesters disrupted an outside broadcast of 7News Melbourne's 6pm bulletin at Melbourne, Australia's Federation Square venue.   
   In New Zealand, the "It's Our Future" protest group was formed with the aim of raising public awareness prior to the negotiations in Auckland, which were held from December 3rd through the 12th, 2012. During the these negotiations, hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the conference venue and lit fires in the streets.
   In March of 2013, four thousand Japanese farmers held a protest in Tokyo over the potential for cheap imports caused by the TPP to severely damage the local agricultural industry.   
   Malaysian protesters dressed as zombies outside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on  February 21st, 2014, to protest the impact of the TPP on the price of medicines, including treatment drugs for HIV.
   On March 29th, 2014, fifteen anti-TPP protests occurred across New Zealand, including a demonstration in Auckland attended by several thousand people.
   In a press release announcing the New Zealand Nurses Association's decision to join the protests, the association's policy analyst stated that the TPP could prevent government decisions that would be beneficial to public health because "if private investors, such as tobacco companies, were affected they could sue the government."
   On November 8th, 2014, more protests occurred in seventeen New Zealand cities, with turnouts in the thousands.
   On January 27th of this year protesters hijacked a US Senate hearing to speak out against the TPP and were promptly removed by capitol police officers.
   Freaking anarchists!
   Why would such a nice, intelligent guy like President Obama be advocating for the TPP as it’s such an obvious tool for the rich and powerful to advance their own interests, and make themselves wealthier at the expense of the majority of the citizens of the nations involved?
   Only Shufflebottom knows for sure, but ever since Obama took office he has had a tendency to defer to the business interests that his choice of Treasury Secretary, and other senior members of his administration once worked for, or had close ties to.    
   It was a political decision to hire these people, and certainly not “change we can believe in.”
   It was in fact the same old crap repackaged with a pretty pink bow. 
   Yet Obama’s policies saved the nation from entering a full blown depression after the Republicans caused the economy to crash. And it is Obama’s policies that have gotten us to where we are now.
   “The stock market has doubled since I came into office. Corporate profits are -- corporate balance sheets are stronger than they have ever been -- because of my terrible business policies.”
   Ironically the right attempts to use this fact to attack the President, apparently believing their own myth that he is anti-business.    
   “One Republican senator claimed we faced trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see [the actual 2014 deficit was $483 billion, $3 billion less than what the Congressional Budget Office estimated a week ago. For the record, $483 billion is $197 billion below the almost $680 billion deficit recorded in 2013.Oct 16, 2014. -Stan Collender] Another predicted my reelection would spike gas prices to $6.60 a gallon. I don’t know how he came up with that figure -- $6.60. My opponent in that last election pledged that he could bring down the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 -- next year -- at the end of next year. It’s 5.5 now.”
   And lets not forget Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. Since the law went into effect, 16.4 million people who did not previously have health insurance are now covered. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 129 million people no longer have to worry about an insurer denying or dropping their coverage, significantly raising their premiums, or limiting their benefits because of a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act is now projected to be 20 percent cheaper than expected over the next 10 years, due in large part to slower growth in premium costs than expected.  87 percent of Americans who bought insurance from the federal exchange qualified for tax credits to help make their premiums more affordable. 71 percent of Americans who purchased health insurance from the state and federal exchanges rated their plans as either “excellent” or “good.”
   Of course a program that works this good for ordinary Americans, and does nothing for the rich and powerful, must be repealed, as is one of the main goals of the Republican Party.
     “And right here in Cleveland, the leader of the House Republicans -- a good friend of mine --  he captured his party’s economic theories by critiquing mine with a very simple question: Where are the jobs, he said. Where are the jobs? I’m sure there was a headline in The Plain Dealer or one of the papers -- Where Are the Jobs? Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled -- I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side.”
   Still... a few days ago ( 3-19-15) Secretary Reich sent me this message (he‘s always sending me messages, and must be a very lonely man) “The Trans Pacific Trade Agreement will likely get through the Senate in April but is running into strong resistance in the House. A majority of House Democrats oppose it, as do some House Republicans. They're upset that they haven’t been permitted to review the entire draft, and that their staff can’t even see sections unless the staff have security clearances. Several House and Senate Democrats I spoke with didn't know the draft includes provisions allowing global corporations to be compensated by the U.S. government for any new health, safety, environmental, Wall Street, or labor regulations that reduce corporate profits. None understands why the Administration is willing to spend precious political capital on this.” 
   The nest day he sent me this: “More evidence about the dangers of the Trans Pacific Partnership comes today with news that Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg are setting up a $4 million "anti tobacco trade litigation fund" to help developing countries ward off legal action from the tobacco industry over antismoking measures. The tobacco industry has been taking developing nations to international tribunals established under other trade deals that allow big corporations to sue countries over regulations (like those discouraging smoking) that impinge on corporate profits, and force those countries to either rescind the regulations or pay for the losses. The Trans Pacific Partnership would give big corporations even greater powers to attack health, safety, environmental, financial, or labor protections in whatever country establishes them (including the U.S.). Not even Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have enough dough to bail us out.”
   Nobel Laureate economist, and left wing sex symbol, Paul Krugman,  said last February cool down Bro.  No big deal.
   “There’s a lot of hype about T.P.P., from both supporters and opponents. Supporters like to talk about the fact that the countries at the negotiating table comprise around 40 percent of the world economy, which they imply means that the agreement would be hugely significant. But trade among these players is already fairly free, so the T.P.P. wouldn’t make that much difference.
   Meanwhile, opponents portray the T.P.P. as a huge plot, suggesting that it would destroy national sovereignty and transfer all the power to corporations. This, too, is hugely overblown. Corporate interests would get somewhat more ability to seek legal recourse against government actions, but, no, the Obama administration isn’t secretly bargaining away democracy.
   What the T.P.P. would do, however, is increase the ability of certain corporations to assert control over intellectual property. Again, think drug patents and movie rights.
   Is this a good thing from a global point of view? Doubtful. The kind of property rights we’re talking about here can alternatively be described as legal monopolies. True, temporary monopolies are, in fact, how we reward new ideas; but arguing that we need even more monopolization is very dubious — and has nothing at all to do with classical arguments for free trade...
   ...In short, there isn’t a compelling case for this deal, from either a global or a national point of view. Nor does there seem to be anything like a political consensus in favor, abroad or at home...
   ...So what I wonder is why the president is pushing the T.P.P. at all. The economic case is weak, at best, and his own party doesn’t like it. Why waste time and political capital on this project?
   My guess is that we’re looking at a combination of Beltway conventional wisdom — Very Serious People always support entitlement cuts and trade deals — and officials caught in a 1990s time warp, still living in the days when New Democrats tried to prove that they weren’t old-style liberals by going all in for globalization. Whatever the motivations, however, the push for T.P.P. seems almost weirdly out of touch with both economic and political reality.
   So don’t cry for T.P.P. If the big trade deal comes to nothing, as seems likely, it will be, well, no big deal.

Addendum: 3-26-15: Trans-Pacific Partnership seen as door for foreign suits against U.S.
Addendum: 3-26-15: Wikileaks releases "Investment Chapter," of TPP
Addendum: 3-28:15: Wikileaks shows trade deal gets worse
Addendum: 3-31-15: Bad trade hurting U.S. steel industry
Addendum: 4-16-15: "Fast Track" nearing authorization
Addendum: 4-17-15: "Fast Track" Deal reached
Addendum: 4-26-15: Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown letter to Obama on the dishonesty of TPP
Addendum: 5-18-15: Perils in trade deals
Addendum: 5-20-15: debate over currency cheating intensifies
Addendum: 5-20-15: Obama vs Warren
Addendum: 5-22-15: 250 companies line up to oppose TPP
Addendum: 5-23-15: Senate bends over for Obama and approves fast track legislation
Addendum: 5-23-15: Warren's bill for TPP transparency blocked by GOP
Addendum: 5-24-15: Liz Warren, Who's writing the TPP
Addendum: 5-27-15: Congress wants to pay for TPP by raiding Medicare
Addendum: 5-27-15: Corruption in the Senate to Fast Track TPP
Addendum: 8-1-15: talks for TPP trade deal stall at a critical step

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