By Kevin Zeese
Political update on the TPP and other trade agreements, Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Remarks below were the basis of Kevin Zeese’s political update on the TPP Resistance Call of October 22, 2015.
President Obama is continuing to play a hands-on role in pushing the TPP. This week he is writing op-eds tailored to different states to push the TPP. This is an opportunity to respond to the president with Letters to the Editor and shows the intense involvement of Obama in the process. He also had a meeting with Big Pharma, which I will discuss in a moment, because they are very angry and looking at how to stop the TPP.
Dean Baker does an excellent job of dissecting Obama’s most recent TPP lies and exaggerations in the state-focused articles on how TPP. In particular he talks about the falsehood of TPP being a driver of jobs. We know it is a net job loser. He asks, is it a driver of jobs if New Hampshire makes an auto part that is shipped to Mexico where the car is made? He also dissects the claim that the TPP is thousands of tax cuts and adds some truths about how TPP is really about creating monopolies which is not usually very good for consumers or workers. The National Interest points out that in reality TPP will only produce .5% GDP growth.
The US Trade Representative is involved in a legal scrub of the TPP that is expected to last at least until the end of the month. The best guess of when Congress votes — between April and Memorial Day. It is possible we will see the text of the TPP next month and the 60 days of public review will begin.
US Trade Rep. Michael Froman also had a phone call this week with Obama business supporters, Business Forward, to begin to mobilize their support for the TPP. All this shows the administration is moving forward getting ready for Congress.
The Miami negotiations on the TTIP with Europe are just beginning. We’ll have more updates on that the next few days. Citizen’s Trade Campaign, along with Friends of the Earth, unions, faith leaders and elected officials other allies will be holding press conferences and other events to shine the light on TTIP.
In Congress there continues to be some interesting signs coming out of the senate regarding problems in that chamber. The news this week was that the pharmaceutical companies are really angry about the compromise on biologics patents. They currently have a 12 year patent in the US and the TPP negotiations resulted in an agreement on an 8 year patent. The US will have to harmonize its laws with the TPP. They see this as a major negotiating failure of the Obama administration that will cost them a lot of money.
The Hill reported Big Pharma is “searching for a playbook in its effort to keep Congress from ratifying the deal next year.” The most important senator on this issue, Orrin Hatch Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, says that support for the TPP is shrinking in the Senate and “I’ve heard some very trying things that may very well make it impossible to pass.” To try and put out this fire there was a private meeting between the pharmaceutical corporations and Obama but this did not make them feel any better. They are a powerful lobby, the biggest recipient of their campaign support is Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. The combination of Big Pharma and the tobacco industry, which is also trying to stop the TPP is a very important base of support for McConnel could reduce support for the TPP in the Senate.
In the House there continues to be confusion. There is still no final decision from Rep. Paul Ryan on whether he will be the next Speaker of the House. He said he would take the job but he had a number of important conditions. The most important was that he wanted all three Republican caucuses to support him. The conservative Freedom Caucus, who were our best allies on the fast track fight, have been skeptical Ryan’s conditions. Tonight the Freedom Caucus refused to endorse. They held three rounds of votes but could not reach the threshold of 80% required for endorsement, but did have 65% to 70% support. Now Ryan will have to decide whether that is sufficient for the unity he wanted to move forward.
Ryan is important to this issue because he is chair of the Ways and Means Committee and has been a consistent supporter of trade agreements. He was also the one, along with Boehner, who pushed fast track through the House.
Telesur reported this week that for big business interests passing the TPP will be their top priority. In an election year that means a lot of money will be flowing into campaigns and political action committees. That is the Yin to our Yang of the importance of people power and the stong desire to avoid controversy in election years. We have our work cut out for us.
The Presidential Campaigns continue to be a challenge for those favoring the TPP. The first Democratic debate re-enforced opposition to the TPP from the key candidates including Clinton and Sanders. On the Republican side, the leader of the pack, Donald Trump, re-iterated his opposition in tweets responding to the Democrats. Opposition from the presidential candidates adds to the challenges of ratifying the TPP in Congress.
Clinton re-enforced her opposition during the debate saying the deal was so bad she had no choice but to oppose it. Sanders twice said trade has been disastrous and cost us millions of jobs without being asked about it. Clinton’s words:
You know, take the trade deal. I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans.
And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, “this will help raise your wages.” And I concluded I could not.
But at the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce she back tracked saying – ‘she opposes it now but we will see what changes.’ We all know we cannot count on Clinton and that if she becomes president she is likely to be our opponent.
The Canadian election this week saw a landslide for the Liberal Party and their new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau raised questions about the secrecy around the TPP and used it to his advantage during the campaign, promising an open and transparent debate about it when it comes before Parliament. But, the Liberal Party favors trade agreements, they are akin to the Democratic Party, corporate funded and serving the elites.
The TPP showed itself once again to be Toxic Political Poison as reaching a deal become a controversy in the final weeks of the election and hurt Stephen Harper more than helped him. Even the Conservate Trade Minister, Ed Fast, who represents a safe conservative district in BC, where he had won previous elections with over 60% support, this time won with only 48%.
To stop the TPP in Canada people are going to have to mobilize to do so. There is already talk of that happening among farmers and activists like the Council of Canadians. We expect to see it from auto workers as well. So, this is not a done deal in Canada, but Trudeau has been pro-trade and so will have to be pushed.