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Nov 18 2015

Storm Clouds for TPP

While I may re-hash the myriad reasons why the TPP is even worse than we thought and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should be approved, this particular piece is more directed at the prospects for it in a vote and there is some good news on that front (I don’t delight in reporting the negative stuff, it’s just that there is so much of it).

(Note: this has autoplaying video in it, like many stories in The Hill– ek)

Obama’s trade deal is in trouble
By Ian Swanson and Bob Cusack, The Hill
11/17/15 06:00 AM EST

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) haven’t decided whether they’re going to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — even after they helped the president win fast-track authority in a bruising interparty fight that was meant to ease its passage.

Republicans are deeply disappointed with the deal negotiated by Obama’s team, as are many business groups, which have yet to embrace it. Some are suggesting the administration may need to reopen the negotiations, even if that means seeking an accord with a smaller number of countries.

Administration officials have talked about picking up votes in both parties, but Republicans believe winning votes from more than the 28 Democrats who backed fast-track would be a long shot.

It’s possible Congress could wait for a lame-duck session to consider the TPP. That would at least alleviate the pressure of taking it up during a presidential race.

Yet sources on both sides of the issue argue a lame-duck vote would be very difficult.

If Clinton were elected president, it would mean a vote in a lame-duck session on legislation that splits Obama from his successor.

And if a Republican were to triumph, there could be calls to wait to renegotiate the deal until the new president takes office. If a Republican opposed to the deal wins the White House, there may be pressure on the GOP to hold off on the vote.

Lambert Strether of Corrente points out that some reports (unfortunately behind a pay wall) indicate that there is no will to hold a vote before a report from the International Trade Commission on May 18th.

Clive, a well known author at Naked Capitalism and a student of Japanese politics, has this to say-

What is worth a comment is Amari’s reference to how fiendishly complex the TPP agreement has ended up as a result of all of that horse-trading. No wonder Japan – and likely other TPP countries too – insisted there could be no deal without the U.S. Congress passing the TPA “fast track”. If so much as one clause gets tweaked, the affected country will want concessions to compensate, these will come at the expense of another country who will want another set of concessions which will impact the terms for yet another participant. Japan has said under no circumstances can anyone pull on any threads.

And Amari was uncharacteristically blunt for a Japanese person when he said “Japan will not accept any re-negotiations.” He has signalled in an unmistakable way that if the currently-drafted agreement is not ratified precisely as written, Japan will walk away (probably to never come back).

This is a gift to those of us who want to oppose the TPP. Given the inevitable complexity, there are multiple attack surfaces which individual members of the Senate and the House of Representatives can have pressure applied to. The TPA is a double-edged sword because, while it enabled the USTR to negotiate on the basis that the agreed text would not be changed, it also means that anything obviously dumb (for the U.S. to accept) cannot be amended. If the up-or-down vote goes against the TPP, the TPP will be dead for the foreseeable future.

This is as high as the stakes get – please do not let up on your elected representative.

Clive goes on to point out that while it’s labled a trade deal, the actual structure of the TPP seems to indicate that it’s actually an attempt to construct an anti-Chinese regional alliance simlar to NATO and the EU.

The thinking in Washington, which Prime Minister Abe seems to have also bought into, is that what solidified Europe was the succession of treaties (the Treaty of Rome and the Maastricht Treaty being the most notable) which lead to the EU. The EU acted as a bulwark to the USSR and, eventually EU expansion served to push the Russian sphere of influence back eastward. Overt security treaties like NATO went hand-in-glove with the economic treaties; EU membership begat NATO membership and NATO membership begat EU membership.

The TPP block will inevitably end up on the horns of a dilemma. If it merely limits itself to definitions of what are the applicable standards for the dimensions of a coconut, it will be mostly harmless in terms of not upsetting the geopolitical established order. But given the political capital which has been expended in Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere on the TPP, that surely cannot be the aim. It would be wrong to say there is a fine line between “containing” China and “actively curtailing China’s boundaries”. There is no such line at all. Containment can become curtailing; it just depends on who and what is being pushed.

Under the hopelessly-out-of-her-depth leadership of Baroness Ashton who merely parroted the Franco-German party line, the EU pursued a spectacularly ill-advised engagement with former USSR countries who had been cut loose and left to manage as best they could following the abortive neoliberal takeover of Russia. By far the biggest blunder was in Ukraine, where the EU was seduced by a stunningly corrupt and eventually wantonly anti-Russian government merely on the promise of being able to acquire another member state and greater influence. “Containing”.

What no-one seems to have told the EU leadership – and what neither Abe, Obama or any of the other TPP cheerleaders in Congress can understand either – is that greedy and stupid governments are greedy and stupid governments. Greedy and stupid governments are usually unstable ones which also have a nasty habit of getting into trouble by picking fights with other, bigger countries. No amount of treaties is going to turn those bad governments into good ones. Worse, if you’re bound up in treaties, the actions of one country inevitably end up pulling everyone into the morass.

When Abe told the Diet “The TPP is also of vital importance in widening the circle of our [Japan’s] national security” he wasn’t kidding. That is exactly what he thinks it is. Note, again from the Nikkei feature, the total lack of any mention of trade. How odd, you might think, given what the USTR and most of the rest of the media keep using as a shorthand to refer to the TPP as – a “trade deal”. Hopefully after reading this article you’ll agree with my inescapable conclusion that the reason why neither Abe nor his minister Amari mentions trade – they went on about practically everything other than trade – is because the TPP isn’t anything to do with trade at all. It is a proto-security pact in disguise.

But what would preoccupy me if I were Japanese – and doubly so if I was an American because guess who will be supposed to be providing the military backstop to all of this – is: exactly who are we inviting into our “circle of national security”? And what sorts of problems do they have and whom do they have them with? And do we really want their problems to become our problems too? Some of those multi-dimensional simultaneous equations can prove to be very hard to solve.

Here’s a video on TPP and the protests being organized against it from our friends at The Real News Network

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

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