As we discussed earlier, even though there’s abundant evidence that the Administration’s plans to push through its trade deals, the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transstlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, are in trouble, the official messaging has been to keep pretending that the pacts are still moving forward smartly. Up to a point, that’s normal dealmaking; you try to create an impression of momentum and inevitability. But when the noisemaking is so at odds with facts on the ground, the degree of delusion starts to look embarrassing.
We aren’t there yet on these misnamed trade deals, but we are getting mighty close (as we’ve recounted at length in previous posts, as well as on Bill Moyers with Dean Baker, these pacts have perilous little to do with trade, they are really about enriching Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Big Pharma, financial services firms, and multinationals, while crippling the ability to impose regulations of all sorts, including wage protections). For instance, last year, after a secret negotiating session in Bali in the fall, State Department officials kept insisting to visibly incredulous members of the press that the deal would be wrapped up by year end. Based on the known opposition of some potential signatories to important provisions (for instance, Malaysia and Chile opposed restrictions on capital controls), there was no way agreement could be reached in the remaining sessions. After this chat with the press, a Wikikeaks release of a markup of an important chapter, that on intellectual property, showed how virtually all of the substantive provisions were contested by many, in some cases almost all, of the US’s supposed “partners” in this agreement.
Just as the the foreign negotiators are digging in their heels over the Administration’s overreaching and bullying, quite a few Congressmen fail to see why they should throw their constituents under the bus to help Obama get funding for his presidential library. This is an election year, and it was apparently not lost on members of the House that so-called Blue Dog Democrats (a neoliberal voting bloc that fell in with Obama’s policies) were almost entirely turfed out by voters in 2010.
Huffington Post tells us that the Administration’s efforts to get so-called fast track authority, which the negotiators claim is critical to getting a deal done, looks to be going pear-shaped in the House. While we’ve written previously about significant opposition (both Democrats and Republicans had circulated letters against the bills and gotten an impressive amount of support, but not enough to give the opponents a clear majority), it is looking as if the nays might carry the day:
House Democrats balked Thursday at a bill designed to clear congressional hurdles for President Barack Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. By refusing to put forward a co-sponsor for the legislation, House Democrats have significantly hampered the prospects for the bill’s passage…
Nevertheless, Boehner said at a Thursday press conference that he cannot pass the bill without Democratic help.
“I’ve made clear to the president that this can’t pass unless there is bipartisan support for it,” Boehner said. “And this goes back months, and yet we’ve seen scant attention to this issue by the administration in terms of encouraging Democrat leaders and Democrat members to stand up and vote for it.”
The Obama administration did attempt to drum up Democratic support, according to sources familiar with the effort, particularly with an aggressive effort to win over Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). Kind is co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group traditionally sympathetic to corporate interests, but he also is frequently mentioned as a potential gubernatorial or senatorial candidate in his home state of Wisconsin, where labor unions wield significant political clout. Neither Kind nor any other House Democrat agreed to co-sponsor the Fast Track bill, which was introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in the Senate…
“The president has failed to find someone who is willing to introduce the bill. He’s got over 200 members to cultivate from, some of whom would like to have his support in the next election. But Democratic members are extremely skeptical of this,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost.
So Boehner has said he can’t deliver the votes himself, yet the Administration can’t even get a sponsor or much (any?) shift in Democratic votes even after whipping.
It probably didn’t help that close readers found payoff-to-Silicon-Valley language on page 18 of the recently-abandoned Senate fast track language (Glenn Greenwald was one; I was alerted separately by a DC insider):
C) to ensure that governments refrain from implementing trade related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, re-strict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data;
So this, for instance, this provision would prohibit the imposition of a data tax proposed by France as a way to deal with “base erosion,” which is bureaucrat-speak for the tricks tech firms like Google, Apple, and Twitter play to avoid paying European taxes. European Commission president José Manuel Barroso has voiced strong support for the idea.
But the Senate language thus doesn’t just help preserve the profits of major US technology players and data brokers; just as important, it allows the NSA to continue to use them as vehicles for spying. This provision would also task the Administration to use the trade deal to bar a proposed EU proposal to fine firms that violate privacy laws by giving information to the NSA and the GHCQ. From the Telegraph last October:
Britain will clash with France on Thursday over European Union data protection laws that will cost British businesses £360m every year as Europe tries to wrest control of the internet away from America.
Following revelations of American spying, France is backing EU proposals to hit Google, or any other company, sharing information with the American intelligence services with massive fines of up to 5pc of global revenue.
Thus the inclusion of this language is a strong bit of evidence (as if we needed it) supporting the idea that the ire of Silicon Valley firms over the Snowden revelations is all kabuki. If they were really against surveillance, as they piously claim to be, you’d see them lobbying against this language so they could argue that the possibility of crippling fines from the EU (or the huge costs, financially and strategically, of having to abandon that market), meant they had no choice but to refuse to help the surveillance state. This gambit is hardly unheard of; the Japanese regularly used “gaiatsu” or foreign pressure, as the justification for doing things that would otherwise be difficult politically. So we’ve finally got evidence of where the big tech firms’ loyalties lie, and rest assured, they are not to you.