free trade

Congress votes Tuesday on trade deal - an attack on middle class and American workers...

Alert date: 
May 11, 2015
Alert body: 

The Senate is scheduled to vote on TPP on Tuesday. It is very important that it NOT be given fast track.

OFIR members:  Here are direct-dial numbers for Oregon Senators.

Capitol Switchboard -- (202) 224-3121 or direct dial numbers below.

When you call - you could say:

I urge you to oppose S.955, the bill that would grant fast-track trade authority to Pres. Obama. I believe Congress should retain its power to review and amend any trade agreement that the United States enters into, and by granting Pres. Obama fast-track authority, Congress would be giving up that power.

As Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama pointed out in his 5-page memo, free trade agreements have been used by past administrations to bypass Congress and make changes to existing immigration laws. Given this president's track record on immigration, I don't understand why you would want to give him such broad authority. Please tell the Senator to read Sen. Sessions' memo and oppose TPA.

Senator Ron Wyden – 202-224-5244

Sen. Wyden is a major supporter of the trade bill.  Please call him first.

***Senator Jeff Merkley – 202-224-3753

Sen. Merkley recently sent a letter to constituents critical of the fast-track trade bill.  The letter included this statement:  “The Senate Finance Committee recently considered a bill that would provide fast-track trade negotiating authority, and it is expected to be debated by the full Senate in the near future. The current bill does not meet the standards I have described, and I will oppose it in its current form.”

Please thank him for his position and urge him to stand firm in opposition to the fast-track trade bill.

Should both chambers of Congress pass "fast-track" legislation, Pres. Obama, and future presidents, can ram through international trade agreements that expand guest worker programs without any public debate.

For further understanding - please read:

There are numerous serious, significant consequences to passing the TPP. One is that it can open immigration floodgates. And unlike other trade agreements, a future president may unilaterally change the terms of the agreement as she sees fit.

Sen. Jeff Sessions has listed numerous failings of the TPP:
 
"There are numerous ways TPA could facilitate immigration increases above current law-and precious few ways anyone in Congress could stop its happening. For instance: language could be included or added into the TPP, as well as any future trade deal submitted for fast-track consideration in the next 6 years, with the clear intent to facilitate or enable the movement of foreign workers and employees into the United States..."
 
From a constitutional point of view, the proposed TPA powers are a nightmare. They allow the Executive Branch to create ever-shifting binding agreements with foreign powers that will not be subject to Congressional approval. Congress will only be able to vote agreements up or down, instead of being able to offer amendments.
Furthermore, ceding such powers to Barack Obama guts the constitutional objection to Barack Obama's Executive Amnesty. After all, if Congress doesn't feel itself capable of reviewing legislation on something as important on trade, why should it have any input on immigration?...

What's worse, only two Republican Senators (Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Mike Lee of Utah) have confirmed that they bothered to read the trade deal they will be voting on this week...and have declared they will vote against it....

This Wednesday - visit the office of Rep. Bonamici and urge her to reject Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Alert date: 
May 4, 2015
Alert body: 

Please take action this week to convince Representative Bonamici that Fast Track is a bad deal for Oregon. Legislation to enact Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may head to the House floor next week. But our opponents don't yet have the votes to pass Fast Track, and they're scared of the immense public opposition they’ve seen from folks like you. That’s why they’re pulling out all the stops.

This Thursday, the President is flying all the way to Portland to woo Oregon’s Members of Congress at a fundraiser and try to gain their support for Fast Track and the TPP. He will continue his Fast Track and TPP promotional tour on Friday when he visits Nike headquarters. But the President and multinational corporations are not Rep. Bonamici’s constituents -- it’s up to us to make sure she knows that the people who she was elected to represent adamantly oppose Fast Track. The “Drop-In Hang-Out” lobby day is designed to do just that!

Here's the drill: Go into the office and ask to speak to the Representative; if she is unavailable, share your concerns about Fast Track with the staff and give them our Fast Track opposition letter to hand to Rep. Bonamici (see below); and then just hang out until the hour is up (or as long as you can). This is a peaceful demonstration designed to keep the consequences of a vote for Fast Track in the forefront of Rep. Bonamici’s mind all day!  

** Rep. Bonamici seems to be leaning toward supporting this year's Fast Track legislation. But with enough pressure we can get her to oppose it, just as we did last year! **

Wed. 5/6

10:00am-5:00pm

(~1 hr. shifts)

“Drop-in Hang-out” Lobby Day at Bonamici’s office

(RSVP HERE)

12725 SW Millikan Way, Suite 220, Beaverton

Click here for the Fast Track opposition letter to leave behind with the staff.

The letter is pretty thorough, but if you want more info to prepare for your visit, Click here for the latest talking points on the Ryan-Hatch Fast Track bill. You can also Click here for a few quick common rebuttals to Fast Track proponents.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please contact ORFTC Trade Justice Organizer Robyn Gottlieb at robyn@citizenstrade.org.

The Subversive Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been described as a "stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny," and focuses on curtailing government at all levels. In addition, it encourages trade that would harm communities and the environment­.18 Recent revelations expose the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a transnational corporate coup.13 

The TPP is a multinational trade agreement, negotiated in secret meetings dominated by governments and 500 trans-national corporate interests16. Although still under negotiation, the media has virtually blacked out coverage of the TPP.8

It has been reported that former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated that if the people knew what was in the TPP agreement, it would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.

TPP Overview

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a fundamental component of President Obama’s continuing economic agenda. It would grant a broad range of powers to trans-national corporations based overseas. According to the New York Times:

Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations... critics, including many Democrats in Congress, argue that the planned deal widens the opening for multinationals to sue in the United States and elsewhere, giving greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.12

The TPP is the largest pending economic treaty in history and includes countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP. Current TPP negotiation members include the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.13

The TPP is a "docking" agreement, which means that any country in the TPP region (e.g., China) can add themselves just by signing on.15 The TPP would be forever. Unlike domestic laws, it would have no expiration date. It could be altered only by a consensus of all signatories.20

Ongoing TPP negotiations have been conducted in secrecy since 2008 and are now in the final stages. The Obama administration is attempting to "fast-track" the treaty through Congress so that elected officials will have no ability to review or comment on provisions. Fast track is implemented by Congress passing Trade Promotion Authority, which means that Congress surrenders all rights to amend the TPP treaty and is only allowed to vote yes or no on Obama’s final deal.9

Some of the more concerning aspects of the TPP are discussed below.

Immigration

The US Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority over immigration, immigrants, and work authorizations. Yet fast-track trade legislation essentially relinquishes that authority to the President.

NumbersUSA has pointed out that as a result of fast-track trade authority on the TPP, any President could much more easily expand guest worker programs without public debate. Indeed, that occurred under President Bush during five years of fast-track authority.17 As a result, in 2003, Congress objected to President Bush including immigration in trade agreements with a resolution that began:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that

(1) trade agreements are not the appropriate vehicle for enacting immigration-related laws or modifying current immigration policy; and

(2) future trade agreements to which the United States is a party and the legislation implementing the agreements should not contain immigration-related provisions.17

The Hill recently reported that:

TPP's provisions are largely secret but, according to Curtis Ellis of the American Jobs Alliance, the U.S. Trade Representative revealed that "temporary entry" guest worker visas are a "key feature" of the pact. Ellis said that Obama Administration previously used the U.S.-South Korea trade pact to expand the length of time a L-1 visa holder can work in the U.S. That pact is viewed as a model for negotiating the TPP.17

As a result of these concerns, NumbersUSA sent notices to members of Congress reading in part:

Despite a U.S. labor force participation rate that is at its lowest level since 1978, President Obama wants to use the TPP to further reduce the jobs available to U.S. workers and instead reserve certain jobs for foreign workers under the agreement. It is indefensible that Congress would now consider surrendering even more of its authority over immigration to this President in order to fast track a trade agreement that will harm American workers, and the text of which Congress has not even seen.17

Environment

In an analysis of the leaked TPP “Investment” chapter13, Public Citizen observes that:

The leaked text would empower foreign firms to directly “sue” signatory governments in extrajudicial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals over domestic policies that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms that foreign firms claim violate their new substantive investor rights. There they could demand taxpayer compensation for domestic financial, health, environmental, land use and other policies and government actions they claim undermine TPP foreign investor privileges, such as the “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations.”19

Thus, the TPP would elevate foreign-owned corporations to the same status as sovereign governments. These corporations would be able to challenge in foreign tribunals any environmental laws and regulations that they deemed a threat to their profitability. For example, provisions would disadvantage organic farmers and those who adopt more environmentally-sound farming practices.18

TPP will limit GMO food labeling and will allow the import of foods and goods that do not meet US safe standards.20 As US News reports:

Many jurisdictions have policies to promote opportunity and ameliorate the severity of market forces. These include minimum wage laws, laws requiring employers to offer health insurance, regulations covering product safety, work-place safety, environmental protection, and more. All of these protections are at risk under the TPP. For example, the pact would prevent communities from deciding whether or not they want fracking in their area.18

Intellectual Property

The TPP would extend copyright beyond the international 50 year standard after an author’s death by an additional 20 years, thus effectively prohibiting works from entering the public domain.3

Article 16 of the TPP wants signatories to find legal incentives to strong-arm ISPs into privately enforcing TPP copyright rules. The result could be arbitrary filtering of content, complete blockage of websites, and disclosure of ISP customer identities.3

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has expressed serious concern that the TPP will:

  • Place Greater Liability on Internet Intermediaries, as noted above.
  • Compel signatory nations to enact laws banning circumvention of digital locks on movies on DVDs, video games, and players, and for embedded software.
  • Create New Threats for Journalists and Whistleblowers.
  • Enact a "Three-Step Test" Language That Puts Restrictions on Fair Use.
  • Adopt Criminal Sanctions: Adopt criminal sanctions for copyright infringement that is done without a commercial motivation.1

The EFF notes that:

TPP raises significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens."1

Critics of the TPP say it would result in increased drug prices and could give surgeons patent protection for their procedures.14

Corporate tribunals override national sovereignty

A TPP leaked document made public by Wikileaks reveals that:

Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings -- federal, state or local -- before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.13

The Huffington Post emphasizes the point:

Let that sink in for a moment: "[C]ompanies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings -- federal, state or local -- before tribunals...." And they can collect not just for lost property or seized assets; they can collect if laws or regulations interfere with these giant companies' ability to collect what they claim are "expected future profits."16

The New York Times observes:

In all, according to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, about 9,000 foreign-owned firms operating in the United States would be empowered to bring cases against governments here. Those are as diverse as timber and mining companies in Australia and investment conglomerates from China whose subsidiaries in Trans-Pacific Partnership countries like Vietnam and New Zealand also have ventures in the United States.

More than 18,000 companies based in the United States would gain new powers to go after the other 11 countries in the accord…

Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation would be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.”14

This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”14

Conclusion

From what we now know, the Trans-Pacific Partnership represents a distinct and significant threat to national sovereignty and the ability of any member nation – including the United States – to regulate its trade, intellectual property, environment, and immigration.

Most troubling is what we don’t yet know about the secretive TPP.

In the interests of America and all Americans, Congress is obligated to deny fast-track TPA authority on the TPP and to reject the TPP in its entirety.

 

The author, Fred Elbel, is the OFIR webmaster and director of Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform.

References

1. What is TPP, Electronic Frontier Foundation

2. What Is Wrong With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 21, 2012 - one-page overview

3. What is the TPP, and why should you care?, Naked Security, August 28, 2012

4. Obama secretly signing away U.S. sovereignty, WorldNetDaily, October 16, 2013

5. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we see just how bad TPP trade deal is for regular people, The Guardian, November 13, 2013

6. Trash the TPP: Why It's Time to Revolt Against the Worst "Trade Agreement" in History, Occupy.com, July 19, 2013

7. Leaked TPP Intellectual Property Chapter from May 2014, Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 2014

8. Media Leave Viewers In The Dark About Trans-Pacific Partnership, Media Matters, February 9, 2014

9. Immigration, Outsourcing And Now Fast-Tracking TP - When Will GOP Stand Up For Americans?, Patrick J. Buchanan, VDare, January 31, 2015

Following the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, we threw open America’s doors to a flood of immigrants, legal and illegal. Some 40-50 million have poured in, an unprecedented expansion of the labor force.

Thus, “free-trade” Republicans and their collaborators in the Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce decided to drop the U.S. labor force into a worldwide labor pool where the average wage was but a tiny fraction of an American living wage.

Like NAFTA and GATT, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an enabling act for multinationals to move freely to where it is cheapest to produce while securing access to where it is most profitable to sell.

10. Obama's next immigration scam - Guest workers get free pass in so-called free-trade TPP agreement, World Net Daily, March 14, 2015

11. Democrats Blast Obama’s Secret Trade Negotiations, Limits To Growth, March 18, 2015

12. Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S., New York Times, March 25, 2015

13. Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment Chapter, Wikileaks, March 25, 2015

Read the full Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment Chapter, Wikileaks, March 25, 2015

The TPP Investment Chapter 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."

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The TPP is the largest economic treaty in history, including countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP.

14. Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S,, The Guardian, March 25, 2015

15. Corporate Sovereignty Provisions Of TPP Agreement Would Massively Undermine Government Sovereignty, TechDirt, March 26, 2015

16. Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From the Public, Huffington Post, March 27, 2015

17. We join unions, environmentalists and more in broad coalition against threat of anti-worker trade bill, NumbersUSA, April 14, 2015

18. Obama's Pacific Trade Deal Is No Deal At All - These trade negotiations are about corporations seeking to prevent competition, U.S. News and World Report, April 19, 2015

19. Analysis of Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment Text, Public Citizen, March 25, 2015

20. Stop TPP – The Facts

10 Ways The TPP Would Hurt U.S. Working Families

21  Stop The TPP, Communications Workers of America

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