Warm Southern Breeze

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POTUS Obama: Sen. Warren is “absolutely wrong” on Trans-Pacific Partnership. But is she?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written 11 May 2015, though unpublished. The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), is/was a “free-trade” pact among the nations of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and United States signed on 4 February 2016, though it was NOT ratified, and thus, did NOT take effect. All 12 members nations signed the TPP 4 February 2016.

However, because it was NOT ratified by all signatories before 4 February 2018, it will become effective ONLY after ratification when at least 6 nations with a combined GDP of more than 85% of the GDP of all signatories have signed.

Further, because the United States withdrew from the TPP, it also significantly and adversely affected it. The TPP agreement will become active only after all signatories have ratified it within two years of signing.

—//—

President Obama recently criticized Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) for her clarion call warning of the potential damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do to United States’ economy.

Sen. Warren has said that “This is hardly a hypothetical possibility: We are already deep into negotiations with the European Union on a trade agreement and big banks on both sides of the Atlantic are gearing up to use that agreement to water down financial regulations.”

The President countered saying, “This is pure speculation. She and I both taught law school, and you know, one of the things you do as a law professor is you spin out hypotheticals. And this is all hypothetical, speculative.”

President Obama further dismissed her criticisms out of hand saying, she’s absolutely wrong,” about the concerns she and others have raised, and appeared to throw down the gauntlet for open, frank discussion of the still-secret trade pact which would include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

The President gives the USTR broad power to keep secret information about the trade policies it advances and negotiates.

United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing.”

A Senate bill – S. 3225 – which would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to disclose all its TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) documents to every member of Congress was introduced May 23, 2012 by Sen. Wyden, who is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness. In that capacity, his office is responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade negotiations.

Speaking from the Senate floor, Sen. Wyden said the purpose of the bill was “to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few. Congress passed legislation in 2002 to form the Congressional Oversight Group, or COG, to foster more USTR consultation with Congress. I was a senator in 2002. I voted for that law and I can tell you the intention of that law was to ensure that USTR consulted with more Members of Congress, not less.”

He said further that “I, and the vast majority of my colleagues and their staff continue to be denied a full understanding of what the USTR is seeking in the agreement.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) has similarly expressed dissatisfaction with it’s secrecy and said, “The access to information is totally at the whim of Ambassador Froman. He likes to make available information that he thinks helps his case, and if it conflicts, then he doesn’t make the information available. My chief of staff who has a top secret security clearance can learn more about ISIS or Yemen than about this trade agreement.” Rep. Doggett, who opposes fast-track authority for President Obama, does not oppose free trade, per se, but would like to see other ways of promoting international commerce.

Obama has more than once publicly pooh-poohed reports of secrecy surrounding the TPP, which has been criticized within and without both parties.

In a conference call made to a small group of reporters which was published by the Washington Post April 24, he said “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement. There’s nothing secret about it.”

Four days later – April 28, 2015 – President Obama held a news conference in the White House Rose Garden with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and addressed the topic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In his final answer of the news conference, on the matter of TPP secrecy, he said dismissively, “And Congress, by the way, will have a lot of time to review it when and if it’s actually completed. So this whole notion that it’s all secret, they’re going to have 60 days before I even sign it to look at the text, and then a number of months after that before they have to take a final vote.”

While the matter may seem innocuous enough as a ‘he said-she said’ tit-for-tat, in-party political maneuvering, it has attracted some unlikely allies – chief among them, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R).

In a letter to President Obama dated May 6, 2015, Senator Sessions’ wrote, “You have asked Congress to approve fast-track legislation (Trade Promotion Authority) that would allow international trade and regulatory agreements to be expedited through Congress for the next six years without amendment. Fast-track, which proponents hope to adopt within days, would also ensure that these agreements – none of which have yet been made public- could pass with a simple majority vote, rather than the 67 votes applied to treaties or the 60 votes applied to important legislative matters. The first international trade and regulatory agreement that would be expedited under “fast-track” is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. This is one of the largest international compacts in the history of the United States. Yet, this agreement will be kept a closely-guarded secret until after Congress agrees to yield its institutional powers and provide the Administration with a guaranteed ‘fast-track” to adoption.”

In his letter, he also noted the record-breaking $51.4 Billion Trade Deficit in March 2015, which was the highest in six years, and noted especially that a “recent South Korea free trade deal” was touted to “increase exports on American goods by $10 billion to $11 billion,” but only increased 1.8% while Korean imports increased 22.5% – an increase of 80.4% – which is nearly double in the three years since the deal was ratified.

Significant as well was Sessions’ mention of the loss of more than 2.1 million manufacturing jobs to the Asian Pacific region since 2001.”

Sen-Jeff-Sessions-letter-to-President-Obama

Particularly disconcerting was President Obama’s recent junket to Nike headquarters in Oregon, where he similarly promoted ‘Fast-Track’ authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nike has long been criticized for their overseas activity.

Nike does not own any of the factories where it’s shoes or clothing are made, and instead, “outsources” the labor and facilities. Previously, during the 1970’s, the majority of Nike’s shoes were made in South Korea and Taiwan. However, when workers there gained new freedom to organize and wages subsequently began to rise, Nike looked for “greener pastures,” and found them in Indonesia, China, and most recently in Vietnam – nations where protective labor laws are either absent, or poorly enforced, and cheap labor is abundant.

In 2014 for example, Nike produced over 365 million pairs of athletic shoes, yet steadfastly refused to make a single pair in the United States. Nike’s largest production center is Vietnam, where more than 330,000 workers, mostly young women, toil in 67 factories making goods for Nike.

According to U.S. Customs records analyzed by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, there were at least 16,423 shipments of Nike Athletic footwear exported from Vietnam to the U.S. in 2014, with an estimated customs value of $491 Million.

In February 2015, a sampling of ten shipments of Nike athletic shoes made in Vietnam destined for the U.S. market were examined.  The analysis showed that the average customs value of the Nike athletic shoes was just $5.27 per pair.

Further, Nike’s presence in Vietnam led to a continuation of low wages  – as low as 27¢/hour in 2012 – with a slight increase to 48¢ to 69¢/hour in January 2015, which is well below Vietnamese subsistence levels.

It is common knowledge that Vietnamese workers have no legal rights. Neither has Vietnam ratified the United Nations Conventions Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.

“The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as” while large, multi-national corporations “are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.”

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