Obama now has another hurdle to overcome if he is to get his toxic trade deals, the TransPacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, passed in time for him to take credit for handing the keys to America over to multinational corporations and turning out the lights.
As we’ve discussed in recent posts, these deals have perilously little to do with trade since trade is substantially liberalized. The “trade” branding of these deals serves as a Trojan horse. Their big effect would be to considerably strengthen intellectual property rights (benefitting the medical-industrial complex, technology companies and Hollywood) while substantially weakening national sovereignity by allowing foreign investors to sue governments for lost potential profits as a result of national laws and regulation, such as environmental, labor, or consumer protection.
Precisely because the content of these deals is so appalling, the Administration has conducted the negotiations in extraordinary secrecy. But as bits have leaked out (and the drafts of two critical chapters, one on intellectual property, the other on environmental regulations, were released by Wikileaks), normally complacent Congresscritters, both on the left and the right, have been increasingly objected to the substance of the deals as well as the process, that Congress in recent decades has allowed itself to be shut out of shaping these pacts by authorizing “fast track” authority, which allows the President to present Congress with the text it negotiated, for a simple up-down vote.
Opposition was already hardening among House Democrats, with over 100 Democrats signing a letter opposing fast track authority and House Republicans circulating their own letter. House Majority leader Boehner had already said he couldn’t pass the bill without bipartisan support. Then Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said flatly that he was against fast track and told the Administration to
go to hell back off.
Today Nancy Pelosi has told a gathering of labor leaders that she’s opposed to fast track. This is a significant development since heretofore Pelosi has made much less forceful statements. From the Washington Post:
In an event with labor officials on Capitol Hill today, Pelosi delivered her strongest statement yet of opposition to the bill that would grant the Fast Track Authority sought by the administration to negotiate a sweeping free trade deal with a dozen Pacific countries. The bill — co-sponsored by Dem Senator Max Baucus and GOP Rep. Dave Camp — is strongly opposed by labor, liberal groups and many Congressional Dems.
“No on Fast Track — Camp-Baucus — out of the question,” Pelosi said, according to a transcript of her remarks forwarded to me by her office. She also told assembled steelworkers: “We cannot support Camp-Baucus. We cannot support Camp-Baucus.”
This marks a significant hardening of Pelosi’s opposition to the Fast Track Authority bill. It doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility that she could support some version of Fast Track at some point, if its terms are overhauled to deal with her concerns about job loss from currency manipulation, and to create much more transparency around negotiations and give Dems much more input into them. But it creates a hurdle to the free trade measure, because it will be difficult to meet the conditions for supporting Fast Track that Pelosi is now laying down.
Public Citizen, which has been relentlessly ferreting out information about trade deals and documenting their impact for years, deserves a great deal of credit, as do Democracy for America and CREDO, which have been lobbying Pelosi hard to take a stand against these pacts.
But even though this is another obstacle for Obama to overcome to get these deals done, Pelosi set down conditions that Obama might pretend to meet with artful concessions. So please, if you haven’t contacted Pelosi’s office before, please call or write to tell her you appreciate her tough stance but also to stress that the problem isn’t just secrecy, it’s the sweeping rights of the investor panels to gut national regulation, and the obscene strengthening of intellectual property rights that have to go too. And if you are in her district, please write or call your local paper. The Administration can still try to revive these pacts in the lame duck session, so it’s important to keep up the message that significant parts of the public understand what a massive corporate giveaway these “trade” deals are.