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Rising Tide of Public Outrage on the Verge of Stopping a Shady Corporate Deal in Washington

Turn up the heat: election years are a terrible time to pass anything controversial and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is becoming politically toxic.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Ted Majdosz

 

The White House is calling January “Trade Promotion Authority Month,” and has made it their task to pass Fast Track. President Obama needs Fast Track to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When Congress returned this month, a bill was quickly introduced after delays of more than a year.

The lies begin with title of the bill: the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014. Bipartisan? In the House there was only one sponsor, Republican David Camp (MI). The Republicans demanded the Democrats add a sponsor before it was introduced, but due to public pressure, they could not find one.

The only Democrat on the bill in the Senate is Max Baucus (MT), who gave us the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and who is leaving the senate to become ambassador to China.  So, the bill is only bipartisan until he heads off to his new job.

Baucus likes to informally call the bill the Job Creating Bipartisan Trade Priorities Act, but that just adds another lie since trade agreements consistently lose jobs, expand the wealth divide and increase trade deficits.

TPP Loses Momentum

After four years of secret negotiations with more than 600 corporate advisers, the once seemingly invincible largest trade bill in history, covering 40% of the world’s economy, looks very much like it can be defeated.

Why is the TPP looking like it can be stopped? One reason is its secrecy. Leaks are sinking the TPP like the Titanic. Ron Kirk, the former US trade rep, said they were keeping it secret because the more people knew, the less they would like the TPP and it would become so unpopular it could never become law. Each leak has proven him right.

This week, Wikileaks published the Environmental Chapter. The bottom line – there is no enforcement to protect the environment. The TPP is worse than President George W. Bush’s trade deals. Mainstream environmental groups are saying the TPP is unacceptable.

Similarly, the leak of the Intellectual Property Chapter revealed that it created a path to patent everything imaginable, including plants and animals, to turn everything into a commodity for profit. The Obama administration was pushing it way beyond normal intellectual property law in order to increase profits for everything from pharmaceuticals to textbooks.

The refrain is always the same: profits come first. The necessities of the people and protection of the planet come last.

Backlash in Congress to Fast Track

Baucus announced last March that he would deliver Fast Track by June. Pressure delayed it so that now the bill is being introduced in the beginning of an election year. Election years are a terrible time to pass anything controversial.

The TPP is becoming politically toxic. Over the last year there has been a steady stream of emails and phone calls to Congress. Members have faced constituent meetings and protests where TPP is being raised. Some examples of protests: Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, DC, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, US Trade Rep Office, Vancouver, Leesburg, New York City... we could go on. Americans have sent a clear message to members of Congress that they better not be associated with the TPP in an election year.

When Fast Track was introduced there was a backlash, according to public reports, of angry Democrats. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Huffington Post: “I’m a little disappointed that something’s dropped that was never discussed with Democrats in the House. As I understand it, it wasn’t actually discussed with Democrats in the Senate.”

Five members of the Senate Finance Committee told US Trade Representative Mike Froman they will not support the Baucus Fast Track bill because Congress needs to be involved throughout the process not just in an up or down vote after it is completed. During a hearing on Fast Track on Thursday protesters were there expressing their displeasure.

 
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