Forum Thread

Concerns Over The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP Agreement)

Reply to ThreadDisplaying 1 - 15 of 65 1 2 3 4 5 Next
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Something I cannot claim to be any kind of expert on is free trade agreements. But I can't say I am happy about what I hear about the TPP (the 12 country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that is in works to be passed as I write this) . Can't say I'm altogether opposed to the idea either though, but the reason for that is directly tied to what so many (especially on the left) are so upset and worried about, far as I can tell.

    Thought I would voice some of the main objections I have heard here. Maybe someone here can clear the air on some of things I have heard?

    1) The TPP (like all fast-tracked trade agreements before it) is crafted in secrecy and cannot be amended or changed before it is brought to a vote. The voting is simply done after the fact, and the only option you have is to vote YES or NO. Meaning we can't vote to amend and change certain parts that sound unfair. You have to consider the bill in one chunk, as is. This allows for insane 'riders', and strong arms politicians into voting for the 'greater good' of what the bill ultimately does, but doesn't want voters to focus on changing certain unpopular specifics and fine-print writing.

    I understand that drafting an agreement between 12 countries is a massive undertaking, one that could take much more time and effort if the entire process was done completely in the public sphere. But for an agreement that will effect somewhere in the ballpark of 40% of all US trade, and also around 40% of the entire global GDP (not to mention the changes that will come to global labor standards, international investment deals, world wide telecommunications and environmental issues, the entertainment (film and tv) sectors, etc) ... shouldn't an undertaking this wide-reaching happen as transparently and openly as possible, to ensure everyone's interests and views are considered, and not just left to a small, selective panel of drafters?

    2) Too much power will be given unilaterally to massive corporations.

    To go into great detail here would make this forum way too long. Let's just say that Elizabeth Warren has talked on this quite a lot over the last several months. Here's a quick video where she discusses #1 and #2. This video does not instill confidence for me in TPP, especially when a Democratic Senator stands up so fervently against it:




    In defense of the TPP, one of the worst aspects seem to be that it was on 'fast-track' status, just like other free trade agreements before it. But since there has been so much considerable backlash on both sides of the aisle about this, a recent report shows that Congress and the public will get one month to completely review the bill before it's voted on. That does make me feel a little better about the process.

    To wrap, Vox has put together a real nice and comprehensive piece over the TPP, answering and addressing concerns, definitions and questions, history and the like over the TPP agreement. I recommend it as a good starting place, if you aren't too aware.

    So, thoughts on the TPP? It's certainly a divisive issue right now. And strangely one where it seems to be less partisan fighting over, and more of a progressive vs non (in both parties) fight. Folks cite the failings of NAFTA and the lack of transparency, along with giving corporations way too much power as reasons against it. Where supporters seem to cite better working conditions globally, higher paying jobs in some regions globally, and that the TPP can seriously help the US combat China's rise to global and economic power in the coming years, so that they don't completely overtake us.
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Big business is for it, the union are against it!

    That's all we really have to know isn't it?

    The powers in charge have bought out Obama 100% on the TTP and it may be what actually destroys his legacy in the end!
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    I'm a union man and would normally be against it just because the unions are against it. It's been years under negotiation, and while corporations have had a seat at the table, unions have not. Having said that though, I appreciate that President Obama has done his homework and has worked to get the best deal possible for America, and of course the alternative is "no deal". So it's deal or no deal...yes or no.

    I can't help but think back about the Affordable Care Act that was opposed by so many progressives because it didn't have a public option. Yet if it had a public option we would not have been able to get enough votes to pass it. It would have been "no deal".

    As Elizabeth Warren indicated on the Rachel Maddow show last night, the public deserves to see what is in it before it is passed. That's fair, but if it has to satisfy 100 percent of the union demands, then I suspect it will be "no deal". Could we have negotiated a better deal with union members at the table? I don't know if that would have been possible, and I don't know if all the safeguard provisions that are alluded to in the deal are really enforceable. No one in the public knows because we haven't seen the terms.

    In any case, I don't trust the general public as a whole to be able to comprehend the entirety of the document once it's released. They couldn't comprehend the Affordable Care Act and that is much simpler than this multination trade deal. Certain clauses will be cherry picked out of context, and those will make the media headlines.

    The question that I struggle with is globalization. If we do not do this deal (whatever it might all contain) does it mean that unions jobs are protected forever. The status quo seems to be that manufacturing jobs are being lost to lower paid workers overseas. By saying "no deal" does that ensure that those workers jobs are protected here...forever?

    I will withhold judgment until see the whole package. And then I'll try comprehending the enormity of the whole deal versus no deal.
  • Independent
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    free trade, like capitalism, is a philosophy, good in concept and not so much in the implementation.

    free trade beyond the obvious issues with sovereignty will result in the continued exploitation of labor, the continued exploitation of natural resource rich countries and the continued concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

    why? because there is not and cannot be any such thing as "free trade." it is, like all economic philosophies, utopian. it neglects the political part of political economy. it neglects the greed/fear response. it neglects biology, ecology, sociology, psychology, inshore, all of what makes humans human. of particular concern but not by any stretch the only concern is the environment. by ceding political power to corporations the environment can be completely ignored in the name of profit. in fact it must be ignored else lawsuits ensue.

    i heard on thom hartmann, iirc, that one idea behind this is to blunt china's growing economic power. yet at the same time china may be allowed into this agreement. well, anyone who thinks such an agreement will blunt china's economic power is naive at best and psychotic at worst. just what do they think would happen to the service economy in the u.s. that uses china for its manufacturing? nothing?

    free trade destroys industry because it destroys labor as well. and it also destroys countries, period. de-industrialization is a key sign of decline in a nation. the swapping of actual making goods for the stuffing of paper results in decline for the vast majority of the populace. by continuing to engaging in chimerical so-called free trade and deregulated capitalism the united states has happily ceded its position as the largest economy and so-called indispensable nation. ironically the exceptional nation has been proven to be unexceptional and the tpp simply reinforces this.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    lonely bird Wrote: free trade, like capitalism, is a philosophy, good in concept and not so much in the implementation.

    free trade beyond the obvious issues with sovereignty will result in the continued exploitation of labor, the continued exploitation of natural resource rich countries and the continued concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

    why? because there is not and cannot be any such thing as "free trade." it is, like all economic philosophies, utopian. it neglects the political part of political economy. it neglects the greed/fear response. it neglects biology, ecology, sociology, psychology, inshore, all of what makes humans human. of particular concern but not by any stretch the only concern is the environment. by ceding political power to corporations the environment can be completely ignored in the name of profit. in fact it must be ignored else lawsuits ensue.

    i heard on thom hartmann, iirc, that one idea behind this is to blunt china's growing economic power. yet at the same time china may be allowed into this agreement. well, anyone who thinks such an agreement will blunt china's economic power is naive at best and psychotic at worst. just what do they think would happen to the service economy in the u.s. that uses china for its manufacturing? nothing?

    free trade destroys industry because it destroys labor as well. and it also destroys countries, period. de-industrialization is a key sign of decline in a nation. the swapping of actual making goods for the stuffing of paper results in decline for the vast majority of the populace. by continuing to engaging in chimerical so-called free trade and deregulated capitalism the united states has happily ceded its position as the largest economy and so-called indispensable nation. ironically the exceptional nation has been proven to be unexceptional and the tpp simply reinforces this.
    Yes lonely; it is the "greed" and "control" what drives it in the first place; it is the animal instinct to belong to the herd to self protect. I doubt that the objective is to erase poverty.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Been doing a bit more reading on the TPP after I glanced at some headlines this morning and saw that the trade agreement was all of sudden on the "fast track" path after all. Senate Committee Approves ‘Fast Track’ Trade Bill Needed for Pacific Agreement.

    One step closer anyways. My question is, how is it fair to the American public or Congress at large for that matter, to push such important, effecting and long-lasting legislation through so fast, without so much as time for a proper debate on the details of what is actually in the agreement to begin with? And on who's authority are we to just trust on the TPP's worthiness? And even if someone can present a name or two, like one of the insiders with knowledge to some of the actual details on TPP (including Obama even) that we should entrust to tell us if it's wholly good or not ... is that not a false premise to begin with? Shouldn't we as a collective get an educated say? Am I naive or wrong in thinking that this agreement should be run through a more democratic process?

    Schmidt,

    I appreciate your response. And it is very reasonable to hold off on full judgement. But I have to respectably disagree, in part at least, about the American people not being able to fully comprehend this agreement. Do I think in most cases it's likely true? Of course. But that's not my objection. Where I disagree is that it shouldn't matter if we likely can or can't fully understand it. We have a right to know regardless. Sure, news organizations will prop up all kinds of one-liner, gotcha headlines (from both sides). But so too will educated and capable people get to write about the actual details, before a decision is so hastily made for us. So too, the entirety of Congress would also get a chance to wrap their heads around all that the agreement has (and doesn't have) to offer. I gotta think that the transparency pros outweigh the cons here, by quite a lot.

    Sure, no doubt the TPP has some great stuff in it. But it can't all be great, otherwise what's with the immediacy and secrecy? I gotta say that seeing as how this TPP agreement seems inevitable, I truly hope it's a good thing for the US and the world at large. But I have my doubts. A Look at the Fast Track Bill Shows It’s the Wrong Thing to Do
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Also, I forgot to add this... it also worries me that a great deal of what has people so worried about corporations gaining so much power in this trade agreement is directly because of leaked documents from WikiLeaks. (that link goes straight to part of the TPP that was leaked, part of the Investment Chapter)

    These are documents stating that the contents of which shouldn't be released publicly until 4 years after an agreement or decline of an agreement has been reached. Again, what's with the intense secrecy? And as far as I am aware, these are legitimate (albeit secret and stolen) documents from the TPP itself. Another good question to raise is how much would people be opposed to this bill IF that document had never been leaked?

    Exert from WikiLeaks site about this leaked Investment Chapter reads like this:
    The TPP Investment Chapter, published today, is dated 20 January 2015. The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

    Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor said: "The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."


    So, if this is to be taken as fact.. that means that in some cases multinational, insanely wealthy corporations will be able and have the power to sue states? By states, I assume that means countries... And the real question is: who is on this supposed court panel?? Is this to be the equivalent of the FISA court, only made of a collection of international... what... diplomats? World leaders? Corporate lobbyists? I'm seriously confused on how that would work.. thoughts? opinions?
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    sbfriedman Wrote: So, if this is to be taken as fact.. that means that in some cases multinational, insanely wealthy corporations will be able and have the power to sue states? By states, I assume that means countries... And the real question is: who is on this supposed court panel?? Is this to be the equivalent of the FISA court, only made of a collection of international... what... diplomats? World leaders? Corporate lobbyists? I'm seriously confused on how that would work.. thoughts? opinions?
    It looks like this proposed panel is called the 'Investor-State Dispute Settlement' and it would not be overseen by judges, but by corporate lawyers. Foreign companies would be able to go before this board and sue the US Government without ever stepping foot before an American judge. And ONLY international investors will be able to use this kangaroo court. So a foreign company could challenge an American law in this 'court' but an American company would not be able to challenge a Vietnamese law in it.

    I encourage everyone to read Senator Warren's argument against this proposed agreement that she wrote back in February:

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should oppose

    I have to admit that I stand with Senator Warren on this issue. We can not just write off our entire judicial system in order to help make multinational corporations larger profits at the expense of everyone else.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    jaredsxtn Wrote:
    It looks like this proposed panel is called the 'Investor-State Dispute Settlement' and it would not be overseen by judges, but by corporate lawyers. Foreign companies would be able to go before this board and sue the US Government without ever stepping foot before an American judge. And ONLY international investors will be able to use this kangaroo court. So a foreign company could challenge an American law in this 'court' but an American company would not be able to challenge a Vietnamese law in it.

    So on what basis of thought leads the Obama administration and the many others that are in favor of this agreement so ready to push something like this through? Is it the thought process that there is more good than bad in it? How can one hear that part of the TPP and think it's acceptable, as long as a bunch of other good stuff gets in there too? I really fail to understand in any way how this favors anyone except large multinational corporations. Sounds like a huge step forward, toward a global economy that in the near future will really only be truly run by a handful of the most powerful corporations in the world.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    sbfriedman Wrote:So on what basis of thought leads the Obama administration and the many others that are in favor of this agreement so ready to push something like this through? Is it the thought process that there is more good than bad in it? How can one hear that part of the TPP and think it's acceptable, as long as a bunch of other good stuff gets in there too? I really fail to understand in any way how this favors anyone except large multinational corporations. Sounds like a huge step forward, toward a global economy that in the near future will really only be truly run by a handful of the most powerful corporations in the world.
    You and me both. This seems, at least on the face of it, like a huge win for big business at the expense of the American people.

    It's easy for big business to say that a flawed deal is better than no deal, but I'm not so sure that's the case. Our government should not be bowing down to big business and bending over backwards to give them everything they want. We are a country of laws and allowing multinational corporations to challenge American law outside of our shores is against everything we stand for as a country.

    I just hope that the more this deal is dissected that Democrats will unite against it. I don't oppose President Obama's position on many things, but I strongly oppose him here. We must not allow multinational corporations to be above the law in America. Let them do whatever they want outside of our shores, but I will fight to hold them accountable within our shores.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Just to expand the thinking here a bit. The term "fast track" means that President Obama (or his designate at the table) would be given authority to negotiate the final terms of the deal. With 12 countries participating, each country needs to know that the person negotiating has the authority to make those decisions. Otherwise, agreements such as these would take forever if every point had to be brought back to their home "authorities" for approval. In this case our home authority would be the US Senate. I don't know what it would be for other eleven countries, but you know how long it takes our Senate to approve anything.

    Fast track is not a new concept. It is the way just about every foreign trade agreement has been negotiated and approved in the past. If you don't trust our president to do the final negotiations, then fast track can be withdrawn...or qualified by Congress.

    "Now I have already mentioned the "status quo" as the alternative if this trade agreement is not approved. So what is the status quo? Here's one example from Zero Drop regarding Nike setting up 10 factories "sweat shops" in Vietnam to make running shoes.

    "Nike is not alone among the footwear giants that make running shoes overseas. The labor costs are ridiculously low; Chinese workers make $1.75 a day; Vietnamese workers earn $l.60 a day; and Indonesian workers receive up to $2.46 a day. For these workers, employment at a Nike factory is still a way out of grinding poverty. But as interviews in the press and documentaries have shown, factory work can grind down employees through a variety of means: mandatory overtime, sheer monotony, and breathing toxic solvent fumes all day. In 2008, more than 20,000 workers at a Nike factory in Vietnam went on strike demanding higher pay to cope with rising inflation. According to BBC News, "the average monthly salary at the Taiwanese-owned plant {was} about $59 (£30), 14% more than the minimum wage. The workers, who produce about 12% of the 75 million pairs of shoes made for Nike in Vietnam a year, wanted a 20% pay rise and better canteen lunches." There have been other factory-wide strikes in Vietnam which is home to 10 Nike factories."

    You can read the whole article at the above link. The point I make is that right now any US company can move their operations to Vietnam to save money even at the higher wages demanded by the employees. They can do it NOW with no penalties other than the bad publicity of running a sweat shop. That is the status quo. That's what "No Deal" means, at least for one of the countries amongst the 12 participating. The TPP will tighten up some of the sweat shop like stuff, but those jobs are suddenly not coming back to the USA if the TPP is not approved or even if it is approved. The wage difference is just too large. If it is not approved, it will just be more of the same...more jobs moved overseas. If it is approved, at least there will be some unknown environmental and safety standards applied to those sweatshops that will drive up their costs.

    Maybe the Nike example doesn't apply to the other countries. I haven't researched it.

    I agree that we should have had a "union guy" at the table during the talks. Maybe it would have helped. Maybe not. The discussions had already been underway for a few years when the United States joined the talks in early 2009. So for us at least, it's taken six years to get us to this point.

    We can rightfully be suspicious of this agreement and condemn it as being unfair to some of our workers. But is it worse than the status quo? Could we start from scratch and get a better deal for the American workers? It might take several years.

    Again, I admit to not knowing all the terms of this deal, but it is easy to research the status quo...just look at Nike in Vietnam.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Schmidt Wrote: We can rightfully be suspicious of this agreement and condemn it as being unfair to some of our workers. But is it worse than the status quo? Could we start from scratch and get a better deal for the American workers? It might take several years.
    I agree this this is a very complicated issue and that the status quo is not great, but that doesn't mean we should allow things to get worse just because they are already bad. I just don't think that we should be so quick to accept what these multinational corporations want without having a serious debate about what this will do to the American economy. Our government is supposed to be working for the peoples best interest; not for their corporate puppet masters.

    This proposed trade agreement will only help multinational corporations while leaving regular Americans behind. It does nothing to help a small business owner, but it does do everything to give multinational corporations even more power than they already have.

    I am not against free trade in theory, but this shit is getting out of hand. Creating a 'court' that is able to usurp federal law is unacceptable to me. Corporations should not be able to create kangaroo courts and overrule longstanding laws in the name of maximizing their profits.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Schmidt Wrote:
    We can rightfully be suspicious of this agreement and condemn it as being unfair to some of our workers. But is it worse than the status quo? Could we start from scratch and get a better deal for the American workers? It might take several years.

    Again, I admit to not knowing all the terms of this deal, but it is easy to research the status quo...just look at Nike in Vietnam.
    I think the points you make are certainly valid. And I have no doubt that workers throughout the 12 countries involved, in many different scenarios just as you outlined here, would and could be benefited better from the TPP guidelines, over the current status quo.

    The problem I have in trying to wrap my head around the implications of this agreement though go beyond just worker's rights. If the TPP only dealt with union and labor issues, I think this would be a simpler concern.

    I've read several places however that only 20% of the chapters being drafted actually are going to deal with trade directly. The other chapters are on things like the kangaroo court that Jared points out...

    Here's an exert to consider from Vox on the question of 'TPP isn't really about trade?':
    It is about trade, but it's really about all sorts of different agendas being worked into one big agreement that's centered around trade agreements. There are chapters on labor rights and environmental practices, as well as financial regulation and government procurement. These are connected to trade, however indirectly, but they go well beyond protections like tariffs you might think of as being in a trade agreement.

    So the new agreement could benefit US businesses even before any goods change hands. Leaked chapters on intellectual property have seemed to favor patent and copyright holders like pharmaceutical companies and Hollywood movie studios, as Tim Lee has written.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    Schmidt Wrote:
    Fast track is not a new concept. It is the way just about every foreign trade agreement has been negotiated and approved in the past. If you don't trust our president to do the final negotiations, then fast track can be withdrawn...or qualified by Congress.

    This reminded me of something else I read. While that is true enough, TPP is still unusual and this exert explains why:
    Fast Track Sets Aside Normal Procedure

    Congress does not set aside normal procedure, debate, the ability to fix problems that turn up and agree to vote within 90 days except for trade agreements – even though trade agreements have now proven to have such a tremendous and often detrimental effect on our economy, jobs, wages and inequality. Where did the idea to do this come from? According to Public Citizen, this unusual procedure was “initially created by President Richard Nixon to get around public debate and congressional oversight.”

    Even for trade agreements, this use of the fast track process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be unusual. Usually fast track is set up by Congress before a trade agreement is negotiated. This way Congress can at least say who to negotiate with and lay out a set of objectives they are directing the administration to achieve.

    But the TPP agreement that this fast track process will apply to is already nearly completed! So for TPP only, fast track’s special procedures to bypass the usual process – short time period, limited debate, no amendments – are only for pushing the agreement through, without the pre-designation of trade partners, objectives, and other matters that some say justifies doing so.

    In essence, this fast track bill, if it passes, pre-approves TPP before anyone even knows what is in it and without Congress saying in advance what should be in it.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Are you sure you want to delete this post?
        
    The Wiki Leaks document is from progress and drafts as of August 2013. Based on those leaks, Forbes noted at the time that the talks had reached a stalemate:

    Forbes, December 10, 2013: US Fails To Close TPP Deal As Wikileaks Exposes Discord

    "The latest round of talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have failed to lead to a resolution, with ministers confirming that debate is likely to continue into next year. The announcement comes as Wikileaks releases an internal memo and spreadsheet, revealing that the US is putting heavy pressure on other nations to conform with its demands."

    In the area of intellectual property rights, there were 19 points of disagreement alone in 2013. So what progress has been made since the Wiki Leaks release of the August 2013 draft report?

    Are we arguing points that we don't know what the current terms are? Did the United States capitulate on every point of contention that existed in 2013? I don't know that.

    In Googling the opposition to this agreement, I can find union opposition that goes back to 2010. What does that mean? Unions having been burned by prior trade agreements have been against the TPP from the get go. But does it mean that the Obama administration is repeating all the mistakes of those agreements or have we learned from those mistakes?

    As I said before, I will withhold judgment on this agreement until I have seen the latest product and not some draft from two years ago that was highly contentious. And I will evaluate then if will it make everything worse than the status quo.

    Globalization is here to stay. We can put up barriers (tariffs) at our borders, or we can try manage it. Maybe I'll support the agreement in its final form and maybe I won't. I just don't know enough to make that call.