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TPP

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It took a bit longer than expected and there were a few more “oh, this issue over rice imports could blow up the whole thing” stories than I thought, but the 12 nations involved came to an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This deal is awful for American workers and gives a great deal more power to pharmaceutical companies to extend their monopolies on drugs. It greatly expands the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts that give companies tremendous power to derail national law that would promote labor or environmental standards. It accedes to the Malaysian use of slave labor. Supposedly, the TPP was supposed to help leverage U.S. power in Asia against the Chinese, but this never made any sense on the face it and the Chinese themselves are interested in joining.

We still don’t know exactly what’s in the TPP and the full text won’t be available for at least a month. We know that Obama says there are protections for labor and environmental standards that were not in NAFTA and other trade agreements. But that there were no seats at the table for labor or environmentalists, I am extremely skeptical they will be meaningful except at providing cover for the agreement as a whole.

There is almost no way this does not pass Congress. It may however be delayed unless Obama can push it through quickly. Hopefully, Bernie Sanders will make a big deal of this in the primaries and force Hillary Clinton to say she opposes it, which she does not in her heart. But making her say it at least could delay its implementation.

Along with education policy, trade has been the biggest policy demerit of the Obama administration.

A sad day.

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  • elm

    From what I’ve seen so far, the agreement is far better on labor standards than I thought it would be. Malaysia and Vietnam must meet ILO standards before getting benefits of deal, a minimum wage is included, child labor is prohibited, unionization is supported, and all of it can be enforeced through normal dispute settlement procedures. This is a vast improvement over NAFTA side agreement and subsequent FTAs, where countries only agreed to enforce their own laws.

    The devil will be in the details and in how the rules get administered and enforced, but I’m pleasantly surprised so far.

    OTOH, I’m less enamored with what I’m seeing on environmental issues. ISDS is still something awful. And there are other issues as well, so I wouldn’t so I’m supporter of TPP, but it could be a lot worse.

    • efc

      Malaysia and Vietnam must meet ILO standards before getting benefits of deal, a minimum wage is included, child labor is prohibited, unionization is supported, and all of it can be enforeced through normal dispute settlement procedures.

      The normal dispute settlement procedures for non-ISDS related issues requires a government to bring the complaint, right? So these requirements will never be litigated if there is a GOP controlled executive and maybe never brought up by a Democratic president. Why should private companies be able to enforce their rights directly but labor has to hope a friendly government will enforce the requirements. These protections are meaningless if they are not enforced.

      • elm

        Yeah, that’s the biggest weakness that could have been alleviated if, say, unions could also use the ISDS mechanism. On the other hand, Canada, Australia, NZ, and JApan could also bring disputes, so it’s not entirely on there being a Democrat in the WH.

        • DAS

          What’s to stop a union from investing in a company that is being harmed by competition from other companies based in states that condone unfair labor practices and then using ISDS to force those states to enforce fair labor practices? After all, in such a case the union would be an investor in a company harmed by state (in)action and hence have standing for ISDS.

          • Linnaeus

            I’m certainly no international trade lawyer (or a lawyer of any kind, for that matter), but my first guess would be to say that such a claim would be considered outside the scope of ISDS clauses as they are generally written.

        • cpinva

          “On the other hand, Canada, Australia, NZ, and JApan could also bring disputes, so it’s not entirely on there being a Democrat in the WH.”

          US workers shouldn’t be put in the position of having to depend upon the kindness of foreign countries, to keep from getting screwed. this actually makes sense to you?

  • Bruce Vail

    It’s still possible to block Congressional approval. Some of the far right-wingers are making noises about voting NO because…well something to do with Kenyan Socialism.

    • Yeah, some will, but enough Democrats will vote for it. Fast-track was where this was going to be stopped, if it was possible to do so.

      • dilan

        I disagree with you Erik. I think opponents have a chance to stop it. It all depends on whether there’s some provision that they can really latch onto and which will be enormously unpopular. And since it’s a big complex agreement with a lot of compromises and a lot of stuff that has little to do with free trade in it, the chances of that are nonzero.

        As you know, I generally support free trade agreements far more than you do. But even I would oppose an agreement if it had sufficiently egregious provisions in it having nothing to do with opening markets and reducing actual trade barriers. There’s a mushy middle on this issue, and if you are going to turn them, I think it is easier to turn them with specifics, especially considering there was plenty of opposition at the fast track stage.

        • Bruce Vail

          Yes, but there is also a new problem with relying on conservative Republicans to stop TPP now.

          If a ‘strange bedfellows’ alliance of Dems and Reps stops this version of TPP, then there is the very real possibility that a Republican President in 2017 will agree to a worse version.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Kenya right now is practicing the opposite of socialism at least when it comes to education. It is refusing to pay teachers and shutting down schools. But, maybe the opposition to Kenyan policies could be rallied domestically as well?

      http://thisisafrica.me/kenya-country-busy-killing-future/

      • Bruce Vail

        I wasn’t serious about Kenyan Socialism in the context of TPP politics in the US.

        It was my little snark about Obama.

        On the other hand, they are shutting down public schools in Chicago…

      • joe from Lowell

        Otto,

        I’m not sure how up-to-date you are on American political conspiracy-mongering. Forgive me if you already knew all of this.

        Bruce is making an inside jokes to mock Republicans’ reaction to anything President Obama proposes. It’s a reference to a series of ridiculous attacks and excuses they’ve used over the years.

        For example, Newt Gingrich one blathered about Obama being “beyond our understanding” and having the politics of Kenyan anti-colonialists. Or, the conspiracy about the secret Kenyan birth certificate. Of, his alleged commie co-conspirators in subversion. Did you ever hear the one that Bill Ayers secretly wrote Obama’s books?

  • urdsama

    This agreement is a total “fuck you” to the non 1% in the US, as well as most working people in the world.

    And calling this a “policy demerit” is a joke. That would be like calling Hurricane Sandy a “tropical depression”. Depending on how bad it really is, and there is every reason to believe it is really bad, it will go down as one of the biggest transfers of national sovereign power to international corporations in US history.

    I’d hardly call that a “policy demerit”.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Don’t worry Erik, I’m sure that the corporate overlords who had privileged access to the table made sure that the TPP includes strong worker and environmental protections. There’s nothing that they love more than voluntarily tying their own hands, right? I bet that they’ll even grant slave laborers free cookies on Friday afternoons. They didn’t have to do that.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Yeah they did. Nabisco demanded it.

      • catbirdman

        And we have a winnah!

      • Bruce Vail

        Did anybody else notice that Trump’s criticism of the Ford Motor Co.’s outsourcing went away real quick?

        I was stunned that a Republican candidate for president with criticize Ford in any way, but especially for outsourcing to Mexico. But now Trump is pretending he never said it…..

        • joe from Lowell

          Now that you mention it…

          Oh, and so did his poll numbers. Right about the same time.

  • nihil obstet

    I’d say education is a policy demerit. I agree with urdsama above that the TPP is much worse. But for crying out loud, the continued raining of death and destruction wherever we feel like it is criminal and evil. Let’s not forget that the use of force against the weak both at home and abroad is carried on in our name and that we remain responsible.

  • cpinva

    “Hopefully, Bernie Sanders will make a big deal of this in the primaries and force Hillary Clinton to say she opposes it, which she does not in her heart.”

    so, you’ve checked her latest EKG have you? maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t, but unless you can cite something tangible supporting your claim, the best you can say, with any accuracy, is that she’s wishy washy on it. according to her, she wasn’t a huge supporter of NAFTA, one of her husband’s signature “accomplishments” while in the oval office. the reason? she felt it lacked the very safeguards, for labor & the environment, that you claim the TPP does.

    as I recall (and I claim no 100% accuracy on this), she made those comments during the 2008 campaign. I believe it was raised during an interview on one of the tv talk shows or something. don’t ask who raised it, I honestly don’t remember, but it was an issue for her campaign. now, it’s possible she was lying through her teeth, and she wholly supported NAFTA, looking forward to the day she could watch American jobs being shipped south to mexico, laughing her evil “Hillary” laugh. I’m guessing not. hey, I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen any real evidence that, in private, she’s Simon Legree’s great, great, great granddaughter, I just haven’t.

  • “Supposedly, the TPP was supposed to help leverage U.S. power in Asia against the Chinese, but this never made any sense on the face it and the Chinese themselves are interested in joining.”

    Setting aside the robust debate about the inherent wisdom of the TPP (occurring elsewhere on the thread), this isn’t quite right. The argument is that, absent the TPP, we’re likely to see the formation of regional Asian trade blocks that include China but exclude the United States, such as the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Having China in the TPP is actually consistent with this logic.

  • Rob in CT

    Krugman:

    I’ve described myself as a lukewarm opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; although I don’t share the intense dislike of many progressives, I’ve seen it as an agreement not really so much about trade as about strengthening intellectual property monopolies and corporate clout in dispute settlement — both arguably bad things, not good, even from an efficiency standpoint. But the WH is telling me that the agreement just reached is significantly different from what we were hearing before, and the angry reaction of industry and Republicans seems to confirm that.

    What I know so far: pharma is mad because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, tobacco is mad because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, and Rs in general are mad because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected. All of these are good things from my point of view. I’ll need to do much more homework once the details are clearer.

    Obviously, the WH is going to spin this positively, so the above all has to be taken with a grain of salt.

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