Alan Grayson On The TPP And Trade


Alan Grayson

Who is Alan Grayson?

Wikipedia states that Alan Mark Grayson (born March 13, 1958) is the United States Representative for Florida’s 9th congressional district. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

He previously served as Representative for Florida’s 8th congressional district from 2009 to 2011, but was defeated for re-election in 2010 by Republican Daniel Webster. He was then elected in 2012 for a second, non-consecutive term in the House of Representatives, defeating Republican Todd Long. He was re-elected in 2014.

Grayson is a well-known figure on liberal web sites.  What are Grayson’s views on trade?

(Updated article)

TPA Fast-Track Authority Passes: Is Obama On The Wrong Side?


MoveOn.org

Wednesday, Barack Obama was given the authority he has long sought to hasten the negotiations for a massive trade deal with countries on the Pacific rim – the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

Wednesday’s vote was for the TPA – or “fast-track authority” – which would push the US toward a landmark agreement that, both proponents and critics agree, will reshape the global economy, writes The British newspaper The Guardian.

The vote, which passed 60-38, was a significant victory for multinational corporations which have been lobbying hard for a trade agreement expected to lower tariffs and create new regulations for sectors as diverse as agriculture, banking and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that gives the president the power to “fast-track” negotiations with the 11 other countries party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It creates an unusual coalition of House and Senate Republicans teaming up with the Democratic president.

Not only that, the President seemingly threatened to sign the TPA fast-track bill regardless of whether an accompanying jobs bill (the TAA) for dislocated workers was passed.

Representative Marcia Fudge wrote that she felt pressured to vote for the TAA:

“President Obama said he would not sign TPA (fast track) without accompanying legislation to support America’s workers. That no longer appeared to be the case,” she wrote in the Huffington Post.

“We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Our hands tied. We had to hold the President and Republicans accountable to America’s displaced workers,” she continued.

The vote for the TAA has also now passed both the House and Senate.

That bill, however, will be eclipsed by congressional approval of the trade promotion authority, which constitutes a huge breakthrough for the Obama administration and its wider effort to “pivot” foreign and trade policy toward Asia, writes The Guardian.

The White House has spent months trying to win over sceptical labor union leaders and Democrats who are wary of a repeat of NAFTA, the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. The overall effects of that deal are disputed, but many economists argue it resulted in a US trade deficit and the loss of manufacturing jobs overseas.

Even the AFL-CIO labor union, which has been withholding donations from congressional Democrats and campaigning against pro-trade lawmakers, stood down this week, according to Roll Call magazine.

“We do not have confidence that the White House would hold out for a stronger TAA bill if this one were to fail,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka wrote to members of Congress.

During a previous vote for the on June 12th, the House of Representatives stalled the TPA / TAA.

The Illinois Times writes:  “TPP is the global trade scam that was being railroaded through Congress, carrying an unbelievably odious load of freight that would give more power to Big Pharma, Wall Street, Walmart, Big Oil frackers, Silicon Valley monopolists, agribusiness giants, climate change deniers, job exporters, exploiters of labor and other multinational corporate elites.”

“The more you learned about what the TPP is carrying the more you realized what a raw deal it is for your democratic rights, your jobs, income, health, environment, food, etc. – so the more involved you got in the StopTheTPP.org movement. “You The People” rose up in nearly every congressional district, and even though the national media didn’t notice you Congress did. Thus, the done deal derailed – to the shock of corporados and their politicos, nearly 70 percent of the House voted with the people against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Of course Obama and Co. are trying to put their railroad job back on track, but that’ll be a heavy lift. The wreck of the TPP was not due to a glitch in legislative procedure but to the establishment’s procedural miscalculation that we Americans will just sit still as it autocratically uses secrecy and lies to snatch away our democratic sovereignty.”

In the video above, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, discusses the TPP trade agreement.

(Updated article)

http://stopthetpp.org/

What Is Hillary Clinton’s Position On The TPP Trade Agreement?

CNN

Hillary Clinton’s position on the TPP trade agreement is as of yet unclear.

Some critics – including those on the left-wing – have said she needs to take more of a stand on the huge trade deal, which is still being negotiated with other countries, according to USA Today.

Union leaders and many Democratic politicians fear the deal would lead to losses of U.S. jobs to overseas competitors.

NPR: Unions Remeber NAFTA; Hold Fast Against New Trade Deal

Thea Lee

Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO labor union, has had a front-row seat to the current TPP trade negotiations on Capitol Hill, writes NPR.

She opposes many of the provisions in the new trade deal, though, and she can’t discuss the details.

“We are sworn to secrecy, so we can’t talk about it — not to our colleagues, not to our members, not to the press, and so that’s frustrating,” she says. “If I talked to you specifically about what I think the shortcomings of the labor chapter are, I could lose my security clearance. I don’t know if I’d go to jail, but …”

So she’s left talking in generalities, states NPR.

“These deals make it easier for multinational corporations to move jobs overseas,” Lee says.

She – as well as other union leaders – point first and foremost to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect 21 years ago, writes NPR.

Roland Zullo, a University of Michigan labor and employment policy researcher, says that for organized labor, NAFTA’s wounds are still there.

“Labor has enough of a institutional memory to know what happened with NAFTA,” he says. “There was a theory behind NAFTA; there was a theory that by integrating Canada, U.S. and Mexico, there would be a sort of overall net economic benefit.”

However, that didn’t happen for U.S. workers in sectors like manufacturing.  Michigan auto workers, for example, lost more than 100,000 jobs in the years that followed NAFTA’s passage, writes NPR.  Nationwide, sources claim that anywhere from 700,000 to 5 million jobs were lost due to NAFTA.

It’s not a clear case of cause and effect, though.

NPR writes that this is the period when Japanese automakers were setting up shop in the U.S. and taking market share away from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (though this situation doesn’t exactly make the case for trade agreements, either.)

Matt Slaughter, associate dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, points out some of the difficulties labor faces in opposing the TPP trade deal.

He says labor should stop trying to kill the new trade pact, and instead push for a more robust 21st century social safety net for dislocated workers.

Again, though, if the trade agreements were so good for the U.S., why would we need to push for a more robust social safety net for dislocated workers?  Why would there be dislocated workers?  Isn’t that admitting that there will be job loss due to the trade pacts?

Tim Waters, the national political director for the United Steelworkers, disagrees with the idea that trade agreements cannot be stopped or changed.

“For us to just say, ‘Oh well, it’s inevitable, we shouldn’t try to stop it, we shouldn’t try to stand up, we should just try to get in there and cut some kind of deal that made it less sickening,’ doesn’t make any sense,” he says.

Waters says that unions aren’t anti-trade; they want fair trade. He says trade deals need to put the concerns of American workers first.

(Updated article)

http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/06/16/414893279/as-nafta-memories-linger-unions-hold-fast-against-new-trade-deal

https://reasonablyliberal.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/difficult-to-pinpoint-number-of-u-s-jobs-lost-due-to-nafta/

Hillary Clinton’s Position On Trade Deal Still Murky

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USA Today writes that Hillary Clinton told Iowans Sunday that the President should listen to concerns – including those of fellow Democrats – about a huge trade deal he is trying to push through Congress.

Hillary Clinton said the point should be “to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible,” wrote USA Today.  “And if we don’t get it, there should be no deal,” she said.

Critics, including rivals from Clinton’s left, have said she needs to take more of a stand on the huge trade deal, which is still being negotiated with other countries, according to USA Today.

Union leaders and many Democratic politicians fear the deal would lead to losses of U.S. jobs to overseas competitors.  Articles claim that anywhere from 700,000 to 5 million U.S. jobs were lost due to the NAFTA trade deal.

Her stance on the Trans Pacific Partnership drew raucous applause from several hundred people gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the first public rally in Iowa of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

She noted that the final Trans Pacific proposal has not been released. FreespeechTV claims that the information we do have about the TPP comes from groups like WikiLeaks. The New York Times did an article on the TPP in conjunction with WikiLeaks.

https://reasonablyliberal.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/difficult-to-pinpoint-number-of-u-s-jobs-lost-due-to-nafta/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/06/14/hillary-clinton-iowa-trade/71219370/

Strange U.S. House of Representatives Procedure For Passing TPP Trade Agreement

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives (the “lower” chamber of Congress) voted down a workers-aid bill called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

It was a defeat for Obama that could be considered a win for Democrats.

Why did they vote it down? It was considered the only way to vote down “fast-track” trade authority for the TPP.

The TAA bill was rejected in a “lopsided” 126-302 vote, with only 40 Democrats and 86 Republicans voting yes, writes The Hill.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted against it.  Voting down TAA is the only way to “slow down the fast track,” Pelosi declared.

The way they were set up, the TAA and the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) bills both had to pass in order to send a bill to the president.

The TPA is the “fast-track authority” bill.  Fast-track authority would make it easier to pass the TPP trade agreement (it would be passed on a yes/no vote as opposed to being changed and debated).

Pelosi’s support seemed pivotal.  According to The Guardian, “all of Obama’s efforts proved for naught after Pelosi took the floor and spoke out against the deal.”  She said: “While I’m a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the fast track I am prepared to vote against TAA,” writes The Guardian.

So, it seems she was originally for the TAA and then turned against the deal.

The House then voted on and narrowly passed the fast-track bill (TPA), 219-211, with support from a large number of Republicans and 28 pro-trade Democrats.

This vote didn’t matter much, because, again, the package was structured in such as way that it couldn’t be sent to Obama’s desk without the TAA passing as well.

So, the TAA was shot down, and after that it doesn’t matter if the TPA bill was passed or not.

Interestingly, it’s not over. According to The Hill, House Republican leaders will put the TAA aid bill – traditionally favored by Democrats – on the floor again possibly Tuesday, hoping Obama can flip some “no” votes to “yes” over the weekend.

Obama’s press secretary tried to downplay the President’s loss (but the Democrats’ gain?).

According to The Hill, it’s unlikely the same bill (for the TAA) would produce a dramatically different result next week.

The Republican whip team said it had as many as 93 GOP votes at one point during the TAA roll call, but characterized it as close to the “high-water mark” for the party (in other words, they won’t get more than 93 Republicans to vote for the bill).

Ironically, on Friday morning, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team tried to encourage Republicans to vote for the “leftist” TAA. Again, if the TAA didn’t pass, then fast-track trade authority wouldn’t pass, either.

He made a surprise visit to the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Thursday. The TAA was already limping along at that point. In the Democrats’ dugout along the third baseline, Obama, sporting sunglasses, cracked jokes and posed for photos with lawmakers.

He didn’t mention trade to the players, but the issue was unavoidable. Fans sitting in the stands behind the Democrats held homemade signs reading: “VOTE NO TAA. NO FAST TRACK.”

Why didn’t the bills get more support?

The Hill states that Democratic critics were unhappy with an amendment that barred climate change provisions in trade deals.

There was also reportedly wording in one of the bills that stated that Medicare cuts were to be used to pay for the TAA. Critics complained that the way the trade bills were structured meant Democrats would still have to vote for Medicare cuts, even though they were eliminated in a separate trade bill. Voting for Medicare cuts, opponents argued, was tantamount to political suicide.

(Updated article)

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/12/obama-trade-deals-congress-trans-pacific-partnership

WikiLeaks Releases Healthcare Annex Of The TPP Trade Agreement

On Wednesday June 10th, 2015, WikiLeaks published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), along with each country’s negotiating position.

The TPP trade agreement has not been released to the public, and much of what we know about it comes through leaks.

The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that would cover more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.  Despite the wide-ranging impacts on the global population, the TPP and the two other mega-agreements that make up the “Great Treaty” – (the TiSA and the TTIP) – are being negotiated in secrecy. Together, those three trade agreements would cover two-thirds of global GDP, states WikiLeaks.

The Obama administration is trying to gain “Fast-Track” approval for all three from the US House of Representatives on Friday, according to The Bangor Daily news. The House of Representatives is the second (and “lower”) chamber that must approve of it. It has already obtained approval from the Senate.  It is something like the U.S. “House of Commons.”

According to WikiLeaks, the Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state plans for medicine and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give large pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and it grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they believe are harmful to their interests.

Expert policy analysis, published by WikiLeaks today, shows that the Annex appears to be designed to cripple New Zealand’s strong public healthcare programme and to inhibit the adoption of similar programmes in developing countries. The Annex will also tie the hands of the US Congress in its ability to pursue reforms of the Medicare programme.

The TPP Healthcare Annex can be found here:

https://www.wikileaks.org/tpp/healthcare/page-1.html

The free trade agreement is supported by an unusual coalition of President Obama and mostly right-wing Republican Congresspersons (and a few center-right Democrats). Oddly, the right-wing website Breitbart recently wrote an article against the agreement, calling the TPP “ObamaTrade.”

More here:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/06/10/wikileaks-releases-more-of-obamatrade-draft-altering-healthcare-halting-medicare-reform/

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/11/news/nation/house-democrats-round-up-votes-on-fast-track-trade-authority/?ref=latest

https://www.wikileaks.org/tpp/healthcare/press.html

Does The Congressional Black Caucus Support TPP Fast-Track Authority?

According to The Christian Science Monitor, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are moving away from the TPP trade agreement.  They include Representatives Marcia Fudge, Keith Ellison, Barbara Lee, and Cedric Richmond.

The constituency of Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio usually supports the president, writes the Monitor, but not on the bill to give him the authority to more easily negotiate the largest trade deal in United States history, the TPP.

The President says that the TPP is better than NAFTA (is he admitting that NAFTA is bad?).

He says the TPP includes “enforceable” labor, environmental, and human rights standards. He says it’s a job creator that will open new markets to the US, and that it will act as an economic and strategic counterbalance to China.

Perhaps, writes the Monitor, but Congresswoman Marcia Fudge’s constituents don’t believe it. Her district is in Ohio, an area arguably hard-hit by trade agreements. Fudge, who chaired the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 2014, is against President Obama’s trade agenda.

The issue may come to a vote as early as this week, and every vote could matter. No House members are more loyal to Mr. Obama than the black caucus, which makes up about a quarter of House Democrats.

However, the Monitor writes that in this case, many of Obama’s most loyal “foot soldiers” are expected to abandon him on the TPP trade agreement.

Partly, it’s due to the NAFTA effect from past trade deals and how they are perceived to have affected minorities, writes the C.S. Monitor.  Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus say labor unions are forcing the issue, taking away whatever advantage Obama might have.

Ultimately, black caucus members are politicians with a constituency, “and they’ve got to go back to their district and explain why we offshore people’s jobs,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota, in an interview last week.

“I like this president. But this thing here? We can’t roll together on this,” he told a TV crew earlier in the day.

So, Representatives Fudge and Ellison are coming out against the trade agreement.

Last month, 14 Senate Democrats joined most Republicans to pass a bipartisan, “fast track” trade package bill that also includes assistance for workers displaced by trade agreements.

But if workers are displaced by trade agreements, then why would the legislature vote for the agreement in the first place?

The “fast track” legislation would ease the president’s ability to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deal, which the president would like to wrap up before his term ends, involves 12 nations and covers about 40 percent of the global economy. The agreement does not include China.

“Fast track” allows Congress an up-or-down vote on a trade deal but not the ability to amend or change it, and it seems like it is more difficult to pass in the House than the Senate, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

Fewer than 20 Democrats have publicly sided with Obama. Fast track will need 218 votes to pass. While Republicans, who generally favor trade deals, hold 245 seats – their largest majority since before the Great Depression – a sizable portion also oppose fast track, writes the C.S. Monitor.

Holdouts from both sides are seeking deals, but the Republican leadership doesn’t want to change the carefully crafted package. Changes would necessitate going back to the Senate – a sure deal-killer.

President Obama is coordinating closely with Republicans on the deal, and applying a full-court press to conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, members from safe districts, and Democrats from port cities or big transport hubs, writes The Christian Science Monitor. He has also been discussing the trade agreement with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The White House lobbying of the black caucus has been going on for months: personal phone calls from the president; face-to-face discussions with him or his trade representative; a group invite to the White House in February. Plus multiple Democratic briefings on the Hill. The message: This is not NAFTA.

For Fudge, that argument carries little weight, even for a president she trusts as much as Obama.

“I’m from an area that was a huge manufacturing mecca before NAFTA,” she says in an interview. “Now I understand this may not be the same deal. But the people in my district do not believe these kinds of deals are things that we should be supportive of.”

Likewise, Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, Calif. – a port city and heavily African American – adamantly opposes fast track and the TPP.  At an anti-fast track rally at the foot of the Capitol steps last week, she said that trade deals disproportionately affect communities of color.

Her example: the “US-China trade deal,” in which 35 percent of jobs lost were in communities of color, according to the Communications Workers of America.

Technically, there never was a US-China free trade agreement. Congresswoman Lee is referring to China joining the World Trade Organization in 2001. This is “the kind of apples-to-oranges comparison that frustrates people like Rep. Gregory Meeks (D) of New York, who supports fast track and is busily lobbying his fellow black caucus members, as well as other Democrats,” writes The Christian Science Monitor.

“What I’m trying to do is see if we can talk about the actual facts,” said Congressman Meeks in an interview.

He believes that if members are worried about China, then they ought to support the deal. Is he worried about high African-American unemployment? “You betcha, that’s why we have to do this deal,” he says.

Meeks believes that union jobs are disappearing not because of trade agreements, but because of technology – like the auto-pay parking machines. His district includes John F. Kennedy Airport, so a boost in US exports would be a plus for some of his constituents, writes the Christian Science Monitor.

Meeks lays the blame for the president’s difficult fight at the feet of organized labor and the “heavy, heavy lobbying” by the AFL-CIO. Some members, he says, committed to labor to oppose fast track last year, and now that they’ve seen the facts, they wish they had not made that commitment. Others, he said, are still weighing the politics versus the facts. “They’re agonized,” he says.

Members are complaining about labor threats to fund primary campaigns against those who side with the president on trade – or, at least, to withhold campaign funds and support.  African Americans, many representing low-income districts, are particularly dependent on labor contributions, and the president has promised to help supporters who may face a primary challenge.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) of Louisiana has said that labor is going overboard and may face a backlash among House members. And yet, he seems to agree with their argument, citing stagnant wages, high unemployment, and income inequality as reasons he may vote against fast track.

Representing the port city of New Orleans, Congressman Richmond, also a member of the black caucus, has been heavily lobbied by both labor and the administration. During the past six to seven months, he’s talked with the US trade representative and twice with the president – once face-to-face and recently on the phone.

The president’s done everything except let me fly Air Force One,” he chuckled. Still, he said last week, “I’m leaning no.”

(Updated article)

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/0608/On-trade-Obama-s-most-loyal-allies-are-abandoning-him-video

What Countries Does The U.S. Have Free Trade Agreements With?

As we try to examine what we can about the TPP trade agreement, it is good to be aware of what other trade deals the U.S.  has.  The U.S. has two other “bloc” trade agreements.  According to the Department of Commerce website, the U.S. has the following free trade agreements:

The U.S. has two main “bloc” trade agreements:

  • NAFTA: Canada & Mexico
  • DR-CAFTA: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua

In addition, the U.S. has one-to-one free trade agreements with the following countries:

Is The TPP Trade Agreement Freely Available To Read?

Regarding the TPP, Wikipedia states,

“Although the text of the treaty has not been made public, Wikileaks has published several documents since 2013. A number of global health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organised labour, advocacy groups, and elected officials have criticised and protested against the treaty, in large part because of the secrecy of negotiations, the agreement’s expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked to the public.”

The WikiLeaks website says that “Over the last two years WikiLeaks has published three chapters of this super-secret global deal, despite unprecedented efforts by negotiating governments to keep it under wraps.”

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren has said, “[They] can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it,” according to WikiLeaks.

The remaining 26 chapters of the TPP trade deal are closely held by negotiators and the big corporations that have been given privileged access. Today, WikiLeaks is taking steps to bring about the public’s access to the missing chapters of the trade agreement.

The TPP is the largest agreement of its kind in history.  It is a multi-trillion dollar international treaty being negotiated in secret by the US, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia and 7 other countries. The treaty aims to create a new international legal regime that will allow transnational corporations to bypass domestic courts, evade environmental protections, police the internet on behalf of the content industry, limit the availability of affordable generic medicines, and drastically curtail each country’s legislative sovereignty.

Sources claim that anywhere from 700,000 to 5 million jobs were lost in the U.S. due to the NAFTA trade agreement.

Wikileaks is also crowd-sourcing $100,000 as a reward for the rest of the agreement (26 chapters) that has not been brought to light.

The TPP bounty also heralds the launch of WikiLeaks new competition system, which allows the public to pledge amounts towards each of the world’s most wanted leaks. For example, members of the public can now pledge money on the missing chapters of the TPP.

(Updated article)