Near the end of May, as President Obama continued to claim that his upcoming secret trade deals would not encroach on national sovereignty or threaten important public policies, this happened: The World Trade Organization (WTO), which regulates some of our previous trade deals, made a final ruling against our federal country-of-origin meat labeling law (COOL). Since 2008, COOL has required origin labels on imported pork and beef. Unless COOL is revoked or significantly weakened, Canada and Mexico are authorized to sanction American meat exports.
A week after that happened, it was revealed through leaked documents that in June 2013, the European Union (EU) dropped planned regulations that would have banned or limited the import of 31 pesticides known to damage human hormones and disrupt endocrine functions and which are linked in studies to testicular cancer and male infertility. The EU did this under intense pressure from U.S. trade negotiators. And then, with the President’s claims in tatters, Rep. Kathleen Rice of Long Island praised his “compelling case” and declared that she’d provide one of the critical votes to help ram through the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She announced it in The Hill, a trade publication for DC insiders and lobbyists. Open for business.
President Obama demands that Congress grant him Trade Promotion Authority, in other words, ”fast track,” to complete secret negotiations on the TPP and then present to Congress a final version for approval, with little debate and no amendments allowed. TPP involves the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries. It will be followed by Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a pact to “remove barriers to commerce” between the U.S. and Europe and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which will address how corporations move financial and personal data around much of the world.
The U.S. Senate has approved TPP fast track. This President has gone all-out for this. He and the House leadership are determined to come in with at least 220 votes, so that no one representative can be blamed or held accountable.
TPP draft language is a closely guarded secret. Some of it has been leaked. TPP expands some of the most repugnant provisions of previous “free trade” pacts, including corporate challenges to laws that affect profits and incentives to move jobs across borders. The “living agreement” provision will allow a commission to revise specifics over time without bothering to check with bothersome national legislatures.
Trade? This is really about shielding powerful corporate interests and their stockholders from public opinion and from democracy.
Back in April, the WTO made a final ruling against America’s “dolphin safe” tuna can labeling rules. Mexico successfully argued that the practice costs its tuna industry millions of dollars a year.
Don’t blame Rep. Rice, who appears to understand that her career, her plans, her security are only nominally tied to the slobs of the 4th District. In her first 90 days as a representative, she raised $292,657 in political contributions. This included 56 contributions by individuals writing checks for at least $2,000 and a total of 101 checks for at least $1,000. That’s her real job, her world.
Someone will have to pay President Obama those seven-figure speaking fees or write checks to some foundation he creates in 2017. Good for those of us in that world.
Globalization was not something that happened naturally or inevitably. It was a series of choices made for us over decades. American stockbrokers or lawyers or physicians weren’t put into direct competition with counterparts around the world. These deals weren’t designed to save consumers money. We broke the back of our own manufacturing and textile sectors to help a powerful few.
Americans struggle to maintain their standards of living. The American middle class had an amazing half-century expansion in wealth, influence and leverage. Some people want it all back.
Michael Miller (email@example.com) has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.