What follows is a summarization of enormously complex issues – ones that have far-reaching implications for American people and industry.
It begins with what is simply called “Fast Track” but named “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” as Senate (S.995) and House (H.R.1890) bills. Both are supposedly bipartisan, allowing Congress to “consult and advise the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) regarding formulation of specific objectives, negotiating strategies, development of applicable trade agreement and compliance with enforcement of negotiated commitments.” If it became law, it would last to mid-2018 and could be extended through June 2021.
The trade issues involved include pending treaties: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and European Union … plus a few more.
Details of all 29 chapters of the TPP, only five of which deal directly with trade issues, and what the TPP offers America are unknown to the public because the treaty has been negotiated in total secrecy. The TPP is between the U.S. and 11 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) that account for 40% of world GDP ($107.5 trillion) and 26% of trade, all at different levels of economic development and with disparate policy objectives. Please note that China and India are not a part of the TPP.
It is reported to be an upgrade of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which on balance has had negative effects on U.S. wages and prosperity. Worse, however, is that TPP could allow foreign entities to:
- Empower corporations to challenge/undermine U.S. policies regarding human rights, health and environmental safeguard laws
- Ignore or replace U.S. laws on unsafe food products
- Change Internet “rules”
- Intercede in financial community (Wall Street) reforms
- Direct changes to Buy America policies
Intercede in U.S. intellectual property right definitions and processes
This is all reported via leaks and may or may not be accurate, but it should say STOP. It is evident that TPP is not in the best interest of U.S. corporations or individual citizens to allow or participate in allowance of such a set of circumstances. Let me put it as nicely as possible: What are we (you) going to do about it?
Most economists agree with the principles of trade treaties as beneficial to harmonize national laws, stimulate trade and spur healthy growth in exports and innovations. But that does not seem to be how this is headed or how it would happen.
Doesn’t it seem odd – with the way the TPP is reportedly structured – that China is now expressing interest in joining? TPP proponents say the treaty will increase exports by $305 billion by 2025 and the U.S. share by $123.5 billion, focused on machinery, electrical, autos, plastics and agriculture, mostly done by removing 18,000 tariffs on U.S. exports. World worker incomes would increase $223 billion, with $77 billion being the U.S. share (about 1% of our GDP). Patent-infringement prosecutions and foreign investment rules would, reportedly, significantly change.
Do you really believe that corrupt governments or industrial societies will honor provisions like these?
Consider this. Each country’s legislature must ratify the agreement before a TPP treaty (or the others) goes into effect. Congress has 90 days to review and debate treaty matters and can only vote “yes” or “no” and cannot change any terms. The TPP’s last round of negotiation ended Oct. 20. Add 90 days, and it requires Congressional approval. Tell your Senators and Representative “NO.”
It is not that this is necessarily a horrendous deal, but it’s that we have no idea about what is really going on. I’ve told readers for many years that my job has been to watch government “screw things up.” This is another example and, unfortunately, we cannot trust our government to do the right thing.
Trade treaties are necessary in our world – now as much as ever. But allowing weak bipartisan snakes to diminish, possibly and/or without recourse, our economy and significance in the world scheme of things cannot be allowed to happen.