Tag Archive: NAFTA

Jan 14 2014

Fast Track Bill for TPP Hits the Floor

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg The bill to fast track the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was introduced last week

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R) and top Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus (D) and Orrin Hatch (R) on Thursday unveiled the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 that would require a simple up-or-down vote on major trade deals without the opportunity to offer amendments to pertinent bills. [..]

The Obama administration is seeking the heightened authority in trade deals, allowing the Executive Branch to smooth congressional negotiations on accords. The two major deals, both long in the works, that are likely to be subject to such legislation are the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the 28-nation pact with the European Union, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). The deals would establish the world’s largest so-called free-trade zones.

The US is also working on a services-trade accord with a group of nations that would encompass half of the global economy. [..]

The bill has been negotiated in secret and other than some leaked passages by WikiLeaks, only the negotiators and insider corporations have seen the full proposal which is nearing completion. There is push back in the House of Representatives that may scuttle the president’s plan to push this agreement without any debate or amendments

Late last year, 151 House Democrats signed a letter opposing the so-called fast track scheme, also known as trade promotion authority. Several House Republicans oppose fast track on the grounds that it excessively empowers the executive branch, but many others, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), support the proposal.

“Obama wants to pass it; Democrats in the House want to oppose it,” said one House Democratic aide, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of the Democratic position. “Republicans are split ideologically, and want to know why they should take one for Obama.”

Nevertheless, Boehner said at a Thursday press conference that he cannot pass the bill without Democratic help. [..]

Many House Democrats are flatly opposed to the TPP and efforts to ease its passage. House Democrats are often more responsive to liberal interest groups than their Senate counterparts, and many members — including some in the Democratic Party leadership — believe that opposing TPP is good for electoral politics in 2014. While supporters of the deal argue it will increase economic growth, similar recent trade deals have undercut some U.S. industries and weakened global labor protections.

“The president has failed to find someone who is willing to introduce the bill. He’s got over 200 members to cultivate from, some of whom would like to have his support in the next election. But Democratic members are extremely skeptical of this,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost.

“We’ve tried free trade, and not only has free trade not improved the U.S. economy, it’s gutted manufacturing and driven down our labor standards,” he added, citing NAFTA as a prime example. [..]

Progressive groups came out strongly against the trade promotion authority, suggesting that approving it and the underlying trade deal would undercut efforts to curtail income inequality.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to Internet freedom and working families,” said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of Democracy For America, a grassroots progressive organization, which intends to make trade an election-year issue.

In an interview with Huffington Post, political theorist and linguist Noam Chomsky slammed the agreement as a “neo-liberal assault”

(T)he deal, which is not yet finalized, 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.”

Chomsky said it was “a joke” that the deal is designated a “free trade” agreement. “It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke,” Chomsky said. “These are extreme, highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade. In fact, much of what’s leaked about the TPP indicates that it’s not about trade at all, it’s about investor rights.”

The MIT professor also slammed the veil of secrecy that has surrounded TPP negotiations. [..]

As Chomsky noted:

“It’s very hard to make anything of the TPP because it’s been kept very secret. A half-secret, I should say. It’s not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it’s perfectly public. They’re, in fact, writing it. It’s being kept secret from the population. Which of course raises obvious questions.”

If you haven’t done it need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. Even if you have do it again. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.

Jan 06 2014

Free Trade Insanity

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When it comes to free trade agreements the US government fits Einstein’s definition to a tee. Twenty years ago congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with expectations that it would improve the working conditions for the poorest workers in southern partner, Mexico. NAFTA is being touted by economists as a great success but for workers, both south and north of the border, NAFTA has been a massive failure (pdf) with hundred of thousands of jobs lost, mass displacement and instability in Mexico and corporate attacks on environmental and health laws. Mexico is NAFTA’s biggest lie.

Currently, the US is in secret negotiations to pass a massive “free trade” agreement with fourteen Pacific Rim nations that would radically change international rules to favor multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been called “NAFTA on Steroids” that could significantly hurt not only workers but their families as well due to watered-down safety provisions when it comes to food and products. It could also drive up prescription drug prices, hurt the environment and reduce Internet freedom. Despite the evidence of the damage that NAFTA has done and breaking his 2008 campaign pledge to oppose such agreements, President Barack Obama is now asking congress to “fast track” passage of TPP which would prevent debate or amendment of the agreement. NAFTA, too, was “fast tracked.” This is just repeating the same mistakes that were made by NAFTA only on a larger scale. In an article at Huffington Post, James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, explains the damage that preventing debate and amendment can bring:

The problem with the TPP is that as it stands, the public doesn’t know what’s in it. Which raises the question how can constituents discuss the proposal with elected officials when they don’t know what they should be concerned about? That, however, seems to be of little consequence to some in Congress.

Congressional committee chairmen who favor free trade have agreed to move forward with considering fast track soon after they return to Capitol Hill this month. They obviously believe they are doing the right thing for America. But is it right that corporations take in all of the gains while hard-working Americans get all of the pain? Is that what this country is really all about?

No one is against trade, just unfair trade. We’ve seen enough lost jobs, shuttered plants and abandoned communities. It’s time to make things in America again. When is the U.S. going to approve an agreement that actually helps its own workers?

Letting people see what is included in the TPP is the first step towards letting them decide which direction the nation should take. The next step is to derail the old fast track and replace it with a process that allows Congress to fully debate the deal and make the TPP work for working families.

The last thing that Americans need is another hit to the working class, we need to tell our representatives to stop the “fast track” of the TPP. End the insanity. Don’t Let Congress Fast-Track TPP.