Good News on TPP, as Senate Passes Fast Track Bill with Human Trafficking Poison Pill

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Yves here. Wow, never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted this outcome.

By Lambert Strether. Originally published at Corrente

Remember, passing Fast Track in the Senate was supposed to be the easy part. Not only did Fast Track get rejected on its first try — “Welcome aboard the S.S. Lame Duck, Mr. President!” — now we get this. Ryan Grim explains:

The Senate approved a bill to “fast-track” trade agreements negotiated by the president. The agreement will prevent Congress from amending or filibustering Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP deal would have a hard time surviving without fast-track authority.

But a key crackdown on human trafficking survived the legislative jujitsu. The White House considers the provision a deal-breaker, as it would force one of the nations involved in the TPP talks — Malaysia — out of the agreement.

From the US State Department:

Malaysia (Tier 3 [the worst]) is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and two million or more undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia.

Foreign workers typically migrate willingly to Malaysia from other countries in Asia—primarily Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Thailand, and Laos—in search of greater economic opportunities.

Here I pause to note that somebody decided that it would be a good idea for the US to take in the Rohingya, the Muslim boat people who have turned to traffickers to escape a slow motion Burmese genocide, after which the Malaysians offered temporary, one-year status to such Rohingya as actually reach their shores.

Some of the migrants subsequently encounter forced labor or debt bondage at the hands of their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters. Many Malaysian recruitment companies, known as “outsourcing companies,” recruit workers from foreign countries. Contractor-based labor arrangements of this type—in which the worker may technically be employed by the recruiting company—create vulnerabilities for workers whose day-to-day employers generally are without legal responsibility for exploitative practices. In some cases, foreign workers’ vulnerability to exploitation is heightened when employers neglect to obtain proper documentation for workers or employ workers in sectors other than that for which they were granted an employment visa. In addition, a complex system of recruitment and contracting fees, often deducted from workers’ wages, makes workers vulnerable to debt bondage. A Malaysian government policy implemented in January 2013 that places the burden of paying immigration and employment authorization fees on foreign workers, rather than the employers, increased this risk.

(Sounds like the sort of labor market that only a neo-liberal could love, but I digress.) So, yes, the anti-trafficking provision — assuming it has teeth, and Malaysia can’t slip by with a wink and a promise — is indeed a poison pill; Malaysia can’t possibly qualify. The administration doesn’t like that, arguing that will push Malaysia into the open arms of the Chinese, with whom the Thai junta is already flirting, but I suppose if push came to shove, Obama could throw Malaysia under the bus. More pertinent is the procedural roadblock the Menendez amendment throws in Fast Track’s way. Back to Ryan Grim:

The slavery provision’s survival means that the House will either need to amend the bill and send it back to the Senate, which would cause a delay and complicate the House debate, or pass a bill and go to conference with the Senate, also causing a delay. It also potentially could be fixed in separate legislation otherwise moving through Congress. But time is not on the side of advocates of the trade agenda, as summer recess is approaching, followed by a heated presidential campaign season. “It leaves a substantial problem that no one’s sure how will be addressed,” said one senator.

Complicating any efforts to “fix” the bill, however, is the possibility of an alliance between feminist factions in the Democratic party, and Christianist factions among the Republicans, both of whom take strongly principled positions on human trafficking.

Complicating the picture even more, when you think about it, is the potential for agita in 2016. Suppose Obama, very ironically, gets the anti-slavery provisions “fixed,” i.e. removed, and the bill passes in time. The campaign ads practically write themselves. “A vote for TPP is a vote for human trafficking.” “Why does Senator X support slavery?” Cue the ominous music. Cue pictures of skeletal women and children. Cue the die-ins on the trail. I’m sure campaign shops on both sides are practically drooling with joy, because the only way TPP will pass is with bipartisan support. Getting that amendment in there was GENIUS, and we’ll get to how that happened in a moment.

Meanwhile, however, the ministerial talks on TPP that were to be held, as late as last week, are now indefinitely on hold, pending the removal of the aforesaid roadblocks:

[Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Tuesday that] “TPP talks won’t be concluded unless the TPA bill is passed.”

Of course, all this Senatorial to-ing and fro-ing must look to the Asians like exactly what it is: A massive loss of face for Obama. Were I to speculate freely, I might consider this: The United States is, of course, Japan’s hegemon, and during his visit to Washington, Obama gave Prime Minister Abe a gift to take home to his voters: permission to wage offensive war.[1] By doing that, however, Obama, as is his wont, gave up something real and definite in exchange for something unreal and vague: Abe getting TPP through the Japanese Diet at some later date. But maybe the militaristic Abe — now that he has what he really wanted — would prefer to “cave” to his rice, wheat, beef, poultry, dairy, and sugar lobbies and then shrug his shoulders, spread his palms wide, and tell Obama “What do you want? I couldn’t deliver the votes, just like you.”

So, those are some of the diplomatic moving parts. How did this happen? Two words: Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Let me repeat that: Robert Menendez. Back to Ryan Grimm:

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) authored the provision that would effectively bar Malaysia from the agreement.

Now, when last we heard from Senator Menendez, Obama’s Justice Department had just had him indicted in a gloriously cheesy scandal, as indeed any scandal that involves the word “opthamologist” must be:

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, has been charged with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts[2] and campaign contributions from Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor and longtime friend of the senator’s, in exchange for a stream of political favors.

Prosecutors say the Melgen provided the senator with luxury vacations, airline travel and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund. Federal prosecutors also allege the senator pressured officials to resolve a multimillion-dollar billing dispute between Melgen and Medicare and helped secure travel visas for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends.

Menendez and Melgen have pleaded not guilty. Menendez claims prosecutors have confused their friendship with corruption.

Dear Lord. A million bucks. What’s that these days? Chump change. And not even in cash! Besides, you should also assume that Justice can indict whoever they want in Washington for whatever whenever, because people are human, it’s a fallen world, and every motel room within four hours drive time of the Hill is bugged up the wazoo by multiple alphabet agencies, not to mention foreign powers, and that’s before we get to the cellphones and the Intertubes. So whatever the indictment is about, it’s not about corruption. But if not corruption, what? Well, the indictment happened on April 1. And this happened on March 2:

After accompanying Netanyahu into the joint session of Congress, [Menendez,] the Democrats’ ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assumed a seat in the front row.

He doubled down in the moments after the speech.

“It was a very effective speech in outlining to the present framework of the deal that is attempting to be negotiated with Iran, and also the consequences if the deal is struck in a certain way,” Menendez told reporters. “… And that is a very powerful opportunity to develop a different narrative than the one we have been hearing.”

That is, the “narrative” Obama had been trying to construct — in one of the few acts of his Presidency people who pay attention should unreservedly support — in favor of a nuclear deal with Iran, as opposed to whatever batshit scheme Bibi and his two-bit gang of revanchist foamers have in mind. So it’s understandable that Obama would kick Menendez in the stones in April (tit) and that Menendez would kick back (for tat) in April, when he amended the Fast Track agreement in Committee — it passed on a bipartisan 16-10 vote — to include the human trafficking poison pill amendment.

But that’s not even the best part. This is the best part. As it turns out, the Menendez amendment could have been rewritten so as not to be a poison pill.

[Menendez had] settled[3] with GOP leaders over modified language that would allow Malaysia to stay in the deal as long as it made progress toward reducing its dependence on slave labor.

But then this happened:

The modification, however, never made it into the bill.

“It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, about Menendez — it didn’t get fixed,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch opponent of the trade bill, said Friday night after the final vote. …

Ironically, it was Senate Republicans, or at least one Republican, who enabled the provision to stay. The Senate needed unanimous consent to move forward on votes on a series of amendments, including the Menendez modification, but was denied when a Republican senator objected.

So who is that Republican Senator? I really wish I knew. (Interestingly, David Dayen, who has a lucid description of the final, frantic, Fast Track maneuvering, doesn’t know or won’t say.)

So that’s were we are now. A good outcome from the most venal of motives, with a good dose of accident, error, and chaos. Pass the popcorn!

NOTE
[1] I’m not sure how that sits with the ASEAN countries.

[2] The Wall Street Journal wrote an outraged editorial arguing that since there was no quid pro quo, there was no corruption. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

[3] Speaking of quid pro quo…. HuffPo on May 19:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday threatened to do “everything possible to have a floor fight” if President Barack Obama undercuts pending trade legislation to combat human trafficking.

“Human trafficking — modern-day slavery — is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” Menendez said during a conference call with reporters. He touted an amendment he authored that would deny trade perks to governments that tolerate egregious human trafficking offenses.

But the floor fight didn’t happen, did it? (Couldn’t Bob have arranged to give Rand a bathroom break? For the children?) And so one can only wonder why. Of course, Menendez may also have believed in his amendment; I’d be the last to say human motivations aren’t over-determined.

APPENDIX

Some factions in Malaysia have their own, internal reasons to oppose TPP:

On the part of the government, perhaps the most difficult items in the TPP negotiations are issues related to government procurement, as well as support for SOEs and GLCs. These issues are related to the interventionist role that the Malaysian state has played in bringing about growth and redistribution. In the area of government procurement, this entails the allocation of contracts to the Bumiputra business community – a practice that dates back to the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP, 1970-1990) but has continued to the present day. State involvement in the economy also took the form of regulatory requirements on corporations that are above the designated size thresholds to allocate a given percentage (30 per cent) of their equity and employment to the Bumiputra community (Jesudason 1989). The implementation of NEP also saw the creation of state-owned corporations in the private sector in the late 1960s to 1970s, which served the redistributive goal of NEP through equity holdings (trusteeship, on behalf of the Bumiputra community) and employment. This strategy has evolved further from the 1980s to include corporations established for heavy industrialization (e.g. Proton) and privatized state enterprises (e.g. GLCs such as Tenaga Nasional and Telekom Malaysia). As Tham (2014) has noted, it has become increasingly difficult for Malaysian trade policies to accommodate the dual economic-race paradigm that underpins state intervention in the economy. The difficulties encountered in the TPP negotiations in the area are manifestations of this phenomenon. The Malaysian government has been seeking to deal with these issues through either a carve-out (exclusion), appropriate threshold levels or/and a transition period (delayed application). Thus far, there is no indication whether progress has been made in this area. This also makes it difficult to assess how the government’s Bumiputra policies are likely to change in response to the TPP. What is certain is that some Bumiputra policies are likely to continue, at least for a certain period, even after the TPP is signed.

Bumiputra is the process through which economic rents are distributed through Malaysia’s ethnic communities, with preference to Malays (as opposed to Chinese). It’s the paramount organizing principle of the Malaysian political class. Malaysia is also fabulously corrupt; they make the Thais look like paragons of good government. All of which goes to say that there is plenty of dirt to be dug up and thrown, by the Malaysian opposition, at TPP proponents — whether in Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, or even Tokyo and Washington.

UPDATE So will the Menendez amendment make it easier for Hillary to support TPP? Or harder?

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109 comments

  1. hyperpolarizer

    Hope the situation is truly as unfavorable to Potus as suggested in your assessment.

    If this thing were any good, why would it remain classified?

    1. Veri

      Why would it remain classified? Good question.

      Why would this amendment to TPP affect anything or any country when US law already covers sanctions against human trafficking?

      The Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits importing goods made with forced or indentured labor.

      The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act (2009)

      The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act amended the prohibition on importing goods made with slave or indentured labor to include goods that made through the use of coercion or goods made by victims of human trafficking.

      The US can already restrict trade in regards to countries that violate US law regarding human trafficking. However, application of laws seems to be extremely selective. Russia, Iran, Venezuela; can already face sanctions.

      The “poison pill” is no poison pill at all. It just looks good and makes it more palatable to pass. It is all in the enforcement and US law enforcement, Congress, and The Administration; seemingly have no interest in enforcement unless it achieves a political goal.

      However, the “poison pill” amendment – again – makes it look good for the rubes.

  2. Marko

    The Senate just voted to pass Trade Promotion Authority (fast-track) bill 62 to 37.

    48 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for it. 32 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against it.

    Here are the 14 Democraps:

    Michael Bennet (D-CO)
    Ben Cardin (D-MD)
    Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
    Tom Carper (D-DE)
    Chris Coons (D-DE)
    Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
    Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
    Tim Kaine (D-VA)
    Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
    Patty Murray (D-WA)
    Bill Nelson (D-FL)
    Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
    Mark Warner (D-VA)
    Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    Here are the 5 Republicans

    Susan Collins (R-ME)
    Mike Lee (R-UT)
    Rand Paul (R-KY)
    Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
    Richard Shelby (R-AL)

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/23/1387078/-Senate-Votes-62-to-37-on-Cloture-for-Fast-Track-Let-s-Look-at-the-Amendments-too

      1. Marko

        I posted the tally of Democrats who voted for passage , as I knew it would be of interest to some here , and it was not included in the post above.

        It might help if you refrained from commenting altogether.

        Also , bite me.

        1. jrs

          It’s nice to see Jeff Sessions actually followed through on his reservations. Of course the thing still passed. All those Rs including Rand and Sessions originally voted for it the first round then voted against it. I’m not sure why, it may be a kayfabe thing, but I don’t understand it. How did they vote on closure?

          The handful of Rs voting “no” and if they mean it or just kayfabe are more interesting than the traitor Dems at this point, whom we really just need to remove (but that might not actually be any punishment as all, as they’re in it for the payout not for reelection iprobably).

          1. Carla

            RE:…traitor Dems whom we really just need to remove (but that might not be any punishment at all)

            Traitor removal is not punishment for them, but self-protection for US.

            Anyhow, I believe the mandated punishment for treason is death.

            1. Susan Truxes

              I emailed Mike Lee with my thanks and told him I would at least read his positions on issues I am interested in in the future.

        2. RalphR

          Given the poison pill. voting for Fast Track with it is not at all the same as voting with Fast Track without it. In fact, give that Obama would almost certainly succeed it getting it passed in the Senate, getting this version passed was a great act of sabotage. Now it is probably true that none of the people who voted for it appreciated that, but you can’t be certain.

          1. jrs

            Nah it’s too eleventy dimensional chess. If you are opposed to Fast Track just vote against Fast Track.

            1. Lambert Strether

              It surely would have been better for Fast Track to fail entirely, but that was highly unlikely, and conventional wisdom was that it would sail through. This outcome sets up what was always going to be the real battle in the House better than we could have hoped for. So let’s take Yes for an answer!

              1. c.raghavan

                the ‘poison pill’ is neither poison nor a pill for administration bent on tpa and tpp. they just have to move any partner in category iii to category ii

                1. JM Hatch

                  Spot on. The Executive Branch writes these reports and makes the classification, the same Executive Branch that appointed Loretta Lynch, savior of HKBC,to AG and has not jailed a single Bankster. It’s a snow job on their base by a few Congress critters, I suspect ALEC even coached them in how to word the “poison” pill.

                  Alle Ding’ sind Gift, und nichts ohn’ Gift; allein die Dosis macht, daß ein Ding kein Gift ist. — Paracelsus
                  All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose makes that a thing is not a poison.

                  1. Ned Ludd

                    Also, arguing over the precise wording of the trafficking language makes no practical difference because, already, if the State Department determines that Malaysia is “addressing their trafficking problems”, they can simply leave them at Tier 2.

                    Because both Thailand and Malaysia had been in a Tier 2 “watch list” category for four consecutive years, both were due for automatic downgrades to Tier 3 this year unless the State Department judged that they had made significant strides in addressing their trafficking problems.

                    The trafficking language in the Trade Promotion Authority ensures that Malaysia (or any other TPP country) would never again fall to Tier 3, but would instead stay at Tier 2 as long as corporate and military interests favor their inclusion in TPP.

          1. Marko

            “First, NC published the list two days ago.”

            No , you did not , because it’s not possible to post a vote tally for a vote that hasn’t occurred yet. That was the cloture vote you posted , and if you’ll look closely at the list of Dems on each vote , you’ll see a difference. I thought others might have been interested in knowing who had “switched sides”. Whatever. Goodbye.

            1. Lambert Strether

              You’re right; I saw red at “Bite me” — as a first response, yet! I’ve got no plans to moderate for interchanges like that, especially with an election season coming up, where escalation is common. This is a family blog, too. I hope you find happiness elsewhere.

  3. Jack

    Honest question: is Obama the most inept leader this country has ever had? We’ve had more overtly evil ones, but they were at least able to get things done, even if those things were mostly bad. Obama is a bumbling fool at the horrible things he clearly means and wants to do, and seems to stumble around making things worse even when he isn’t actively trying to achieve the worst possible outcome (unless, of course, chaos is the actual goal, which is entirely possible). I’m not super versed in the actions of every one of our presidents however.

    1. James Levy

      I’ve been very hard on today’s “leaders” but I Have to say that two factors make Obama look worse than he is (which is bad enough): 1) I’ve never seen a president so hated and obstructed by the Opposition; the Dems hated Nixon but they worked with him on the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, OSHA, and the ABM Treaty, all significant accomplishments by Tricky Dick the Dems didn’t scuttle just for spite; 2) the President has become so central to the process, in a way he wasn’t for much of the history or the Republic, that he gets dragged into everything, and therefore has many more opportunities to screw up than was the case 50 or 100 or 200 years ago.

      Again, not excusing or exonerating Obama, who is pretty inept. But Bush really did leave him a mess. And Obama really did want to work with the Republicans and they really did spurn almost every effort he made to do so. It doesn’t help Obama that he is maladroit and aloof with a bad set of insider advisers which he has foolishly chosen and stuck with. Yet circumstances beyond his control are not working in his favor.

      1. scott

        The Democratic party is splitting between the Obamaists and the progressives. Obamaism is a kind of political random walk, a collection of gifts to large corporations and banks, negotiated in secrecy and spun as a way to help the poor and middle class. Unfortunately, the media are pretty much Obamaists, having worked so hard to get him elected.
        This is reminiscent of what happened to the Bolsheviks in the early 1920s. The communist/Marxist idealists were driven from the party as it became a cult of (Lenin’s) personality.
        The next year should be interesting. Obamaism works best when the Obama is in power. Who will Obama’s “Josef Stalin” be?

        1. Hayek's Heelbiter

          Why is that whenever I see the word “Obamaism” in print my mind automatically substitutes “Onanism”. Is this a form of dyslexia?

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        Thank heavens the Republicans have made Obama look worse than he is by (sometimes insane) obstruction for otherwise we would already have the Obama/Boehner Grand Bargain meaning serious damage to SS and Medicare.

        If cat food is what we get when Obama is at his best (or least inept), I can muddle along without it, but thanks anyway.

      3. Llewelyn Moss

        All good and valid points. But I don’t agree with this one.
        ” a bad set of insider advisers which he has foolishly chosen and stuck with”

        I see Obama as more of Neoliberal Chicago School Scum, a Shock Doctrine Disciple. Bush handed him a historic mess, that’s true. But he proceeded to use it to enrich the financial class and the MIC by robbing from the taxpayers. He appointed in wall street hacks early and often (Summers, Geithner,… the list is looong). Obama is not a fool. He served up masterful theater as he betrayed the commoners.

      4. roadrider

        Obama’s most serious errors were unforced errors of commission – things he wanted to do and were not obstructed by the Republicans:

        1) hiring Tim Geithner
        2) the too-small stimulus
        3) the fake, ineffective “assistance” programs for homeowners
        4) not prosecuting the Wall St criminals
        5) not breaking up the big banks
        6) ruling out single-payer
        7) using the public-option sparkle pony to sucker progressives into supporting the ACA and then selling out, as originally planned, in a sleazy back room deal with the insurers

        We can add the TPP to this list if it passes

        1. pdh

          You forgot extending the Bush tax cuts. All he had to do to end them was … nothing.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          None of these are errors or failures. All were calculated and deliberate. Nor will TPP be an error if it passes. For Obama, it will be his greatest achievement and the linchpin of his legacy. A few failures include the failure to bomb Syria, despite his worst intentions (thanks to Putin), the failure of the Ukrainian coup to date to provoke Russian aggression, the failure to seize Russia’s Black Sea port in the Crimea, the failure to destroy Social Security (so far) via the Cat Food Commission, the failure so far to effect a coup in Venezuela despite great effort, the failure so far to completely defund Medicare via ACA, though he’s made progress, failure to thwart China’s Asian Infrustructure Bank, and an apparent failure in losing Yemen to Houthi rebels. These are failures to be thankful for. Let’s add TPP, TTIP, and TISA to that list. In almost every endeavor, if Obama fails, we the people succeed.

          1. roadrider

            Well, yes. I would call them calculated, deliberate acts that were massive errors in judgement based on a misguided philosophy.

            Our only differences are semantic.

    2. gardener1

      Having seen far more incompetent presidents than should even be possible to remember, I would say – yes.

      And who wudda thought anybody could out-incompetent GW Bush. Unimaginable, but Obama’s done it.

      Now here’s the really nasty question: what if the next puppet fekwit is even worse? It seems possible.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Yeah, sheesh, modulo Iraq, the Bush era looks like good times. I even had dental back then. (Yeah, they were a hideous private equity run mill whose fillings rotted in a year or two, but still, it’s the principle of the thing.)

        Adding, why do you call Bush “inept” and Obama “incompetent”? I think you must be assuming both had some public purpose in mind they were unable to achieve. That assumes facts not in evidence.

        1. hunkerdown

          W sent me the better part of a grand in cash money (i.e., delivered concrete material benefits for workers). Man, that find in that Thai paper, about how delivering materially on campaign promises is now evil corruption… I am simply baffled at how someone could have written it with a straight face without a gun to their head (?).

    3. Doug Terpstra

      Obama is the more effective evil, according to Glen Ford, and IMO, the most effective ever, who makes his idol Ronnie look like an amateur B-Movie actor. Among his many “accomplishments” are amnesty for torture and all war crimes; immunity for wall street fraud, money laundering, rate-rigging, currency and commodity price-fixing; the prosecution of more whistleblowers than any pres in history; the most secretive regime ever; rolling bailouts and bankster welfare; the perpetuation of Gitmo and other gulags; the continuation of ex rendition; the indefinite suspension of habeas corpus; the overt expansion of a presidential assassination program; telecom immunity for illegal surveillance; expansion of total global surveillance; Patriot Act 2 (worse than 1); the health insurance racket bailout bill; more wars and coups than GWB; the complete abandonment of Palestinians; and on and on. I do not believe any nominal Republican could possibly have “achieved” so much.

      On TPP, this is something to celebrate. Somehow, a morally principled miracle occurred in the Senate, despite herculean efforts to avoid it. But the president and both parties in Congress have shown time and again that when the chips are down and the outlook really dim, they’ve been able to come together in bipartisan unity to get things done for their corporate masters and screw the American people.

      1. Sanctuary

        I never understand the hatred of James Buchannan. Why exactly is he thought of as the worst president? His choices make sense to me in the sense that he saw a war was coming and he was trying everything in his power to prevent it. Even if he ultimately failed, he succeeded in postponing the war for a little while. There is at least some nobility in trying to prevent a devastating civil war. Granted, I know little of his presidency, so any other facts are appreciated. Johnson was execrable and I believe is most deserving of the title “worst president”.

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    David Dayen seems of the opinion that Menendez did get his poison pill neutering compromise (Malaysia only has to look like its improving on slave/sex trade) into the bill.

    Menendez agreed to amend his measure, reducing the penalty to denying Tier 3 countries “market access” benefits from trade agreements. Still, even this limitation could be waived if, according to the amendment language, the State Department was to “submit to the appropriate congressional committees a letter” explaining that a Tier 3 country is “taking concrete actions” to improve its stance on trafficking.

    […]
    In the end, one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in this Congress sailed through the Senate to a final vote with no debate, virtually no amendments and compromises of only a symbolic nature — or made only to ensure countries with bad records on slavery are given a lighter touch [(I assume that means, “are trying”)]. All because the White House demanded that the Senate pass fast track before they go home for Memorial Day recess.

    – Dayen’s article (Lambert’s link) in the The Fiscal Times

    See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/05/22/Fast-Track-Nowhere-Good-Dirty-Details-Senate-s-Compromise

    Note above (perhaps Lambert’s point) the article only states Menendez agreed to amend the measure. But still, Dayen goes on in the article as if it were a fait accompli. This seems slightly different than Dayen simply not wanting to say, or not knowing, who the senator is that screwed up getting the amendment through.

    I assume I’m missing something, but it may help if someone who can see it were to make it clear. I can’t find the link if there is one to Lambert’s underlined quote, Ironically, it was Senate Republicans, or at least one Republican, who enabled the provision to stay[without the amendment].

    1. Dday

      There was a deal. All sides had agreed to it. All that had to happen was to get the amendment a vote, and it would have passed. But the amendment got bound up with a collection of other amendments, and someone (we don’t know who) objected to one of them. We know it wasn’t Sherrod Brown, but that’s it. The bill was at a point where they needed unanimous consent to agree to a vote on those 16 amendments. That wasn’t granted and Hatch just said “fuck it” and moved to final passage. Democrats could have dragged it out until Sunday night, but they figured leaving the poison pill in the bill was better.

      The Cruz amendment also didn’t get a vote, and that’s a bigger problem for House passage. It’s about immigration, and large factions on the right won’t pass fast track without it. So this is going to have to go through the Senate again at the very least.

      One other point: the State Department’s new annual report on human trafficking is due this summer. So look out for Kerry certifying that Malaysia has miraculously cleaned up their act on slavery.

      1. diptherio

        Ok, I’m a little confused…and looked over your article a couple of times now. So you’re saying that the Menendez amendment stayed in un-altered? i.e. that it requires no fast-track or kicking Malaysia out of TPP, rather than just the “market access” provisions?

        If that’s the case, maybe it is a real poison pill (although I’m still skeptical).

        One other question, what exactly does “special dispensation” mean in the following sentence:

        One amendment getting special dispensation modifies a bipartisan provision inserted into fast track in the Senate Finance Committee.

        Like, the Pope gave it a pardon or something?

      2. Ned Ludd

        Trade Promotion Authority could have been tied up in the Senate, but Democrats chose this hollow victory instead.

        Democrats could have dragged it out until Sunday night, but they figured leaving the poison pill in the bill was better. […]

        One other point: the State Department’s new annual report on human trafficking is due this summer. So look out for Kerry certifying that Malaysia has miraculously cleaned up their act on slavery.

        Steven Dennis, White House Correspondent for Roll Call also noted: “Final trade vote could happen today [Friday], if senators want to save recess. But any 1 member could force 30 hour delay”.

        Republicans, while in the minority, used the Senate’s rules to block legislation. Democrats, in contrast, keep the Senate moving swiftly along, pinning their hopes to red herrings.

        Why did no senator raise their hand to delay the vote? Why did no one exercise their right, under Rule XIX, to speak without interruption? Why did no one move to suspend cloture (Rule XXII), a tool used by Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint to tie up legislation?

        Coburn and DeMint used to introduce multiple motions to suspend the rules (to offer an amendment), after cloture. After each defeat, they would simply move on to their next motion to suspend the rules. This is allowed by Rule XXII, paragraph 2 (emphasis added).

        “Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?” And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn — except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules

        Some Democrats appear to oppose TPP, but they are also adept at taking a dive.

      3. Lambert Strether

        Kerry could try that, but the human rights community in Southeast Asia is pretty strident; and they have a lot to be strident about. I’d be very surprised if Kerry got away clean. (I think the stronger motivation would be realpolitik with the various military regimes vis a vis China, but even so….) Some of the local reporting has been absolutely intrepid, and those stories play well internationally.

      4. purple

        Cruz’s campaign is foundering on his support of this, not that he was going to win anyhow, but his ‘icon’ status is definitely being damaged.

    2. diptherio

      Yeah, I’m a little confused as to why Lambert thinks this is good news. The poison pill is a red herring, as it were. Did Lambert miss this bit in Dayen’s piece?

      Menendez agreed to amend his measure, reducing the penalty to denying Tier 3 countries “market access” benefits from trade agreements. Still, even this limitation could be waived if, according to the amendment language, the State Department was to “submit to the appropriate congressional committees a letter” explaining that a Tier 3 country is “taking concrete actions” to improve its stance on trafficking.

      Both human rights groups and Menendez have argued that this would force proof of improvement on trafficking. But as surely as the State Department could remove a Tier 3 country from its list, it could work up a list of concrete actions taken by that country. Making this information public “has real meaning,” according to Menendez, but once the State Department sends that letter, the trade benefits are granted to the country, whether the allegedly “concrete actions” are legitimate or disputed. [emphasis added]

      Let’s get real people. Do we not know kayfabe when we see it? I’m curious as to who the “human rights groups” are that Dave mentions. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time otherwise commendable organizations have been duped into supporting objectively terrible policies because they see some benefit in it for their niche interest. Hence, the co-op community mostly supported the last Farm bill–the one that cut SNAP benefits–because it had some co-op friendly bits in it.

      What the left needs is something called solidarity–we’re pretty gawdawful at it right now, tending to remain siloized in our respective enviro/labor/racial justice/etc. groups. Because of this, we’re easy to divide and conquer. So we can get a human rights group to support fast track (undemocratic policy) on free trade (ditto) by promising to maybe at least mention doing something about human trafficking, rather than ignoring the problem altogether as usual. So now, pray tell, why would labor or enviromental groups stand with these human-rights groups on their issues, when these HR groups won’t stand with them on theirs and are so cheap to buy-off?

      Those HR groups need to pull their heads out their heinies and oppose fast track and TPP for labor and enviro issues, and demand that something REAL be done about slavery (abroad and here at home, I might add). Maybe if mass interest groups massed together, we could actually overcome the irrelevance of public opinion that Gilens and Page detailed. Barring that though, unless Japan really does stop it, I think we’re getting fast-track and probably TPP too, because oligarchy.

      1. jrs

        My hope has often been that the economy crashes, crashes hard and fast before TPP and the like can pass (takes U.S. hegemony with it … ok maybe that’s fantasy) and discredits neoliberalism so completely and thoroughly that it is never heard from again. True, it might not work out that way. True an economic crash wouldn’t be good for my or many people’s personal situations. But we have a corporate boot stomping on a human face forever here. A good image for it would be: the corporate logos from that U.S. flag with corporate logos on it, transposed on to the sole of a boot, that’s the TPP for ya.

        1. timbers

          “My hope has often been that the economy crashes, crashes hard … and discredits neoliberalism so completely and thoroughly that it is never heard from again.”

          Nice thought but…well, that has already happened in Europe and it’s still full steam ahead with neoliberal policies.

      2. Chauncey Gardiner

        Excellent comment, dip, although I fervently hope your insightful observations are not born out by subsequent events.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        The “taking concrete actions” language never got into the amendment. See the post:

        But that’s not even the best part. This is the best part. As it turns out, the Menendez amendment could have been rewritten so as not to be a poison pill.

        [Menendez had] settled[3] with GOP leaders over modified language that would allow Malaysia to stay in the deal as long as it made progress toward reducing its dependence on slave labor.

        But then this happened:

        The modification, however, never made it into the bill.

        “It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, about Menendez — it didn’t get fixed,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a staunch opponent of the trade bill, said Friday night after the final vote. …

        Ironically, it was Senate Republicans, or at least one Republican, who enabled the provision to stay. The Senate needed unanimous consent to move forward on votes on a series of amendments, including the Menendez modification, but was denied when a Republican senator objected.

      4. Yves Smith Post author

        Ryan Grim by e-mail clarified what happened:

        The trafficking piece was added in committee. Menendez agreed to an amendment that would modify it in an acceptable way to the WH and Malaysia. But that amendment was never voted on because somebody blocked it. Heard it was McCain but not sure.

    3. Dwight

      Dayen’s article states “Both human rights groups and Menendez have argued that [the compromise] would force [Malaysia to show] proof of improvement on trafficing.” Who are these human rights groups? The only person quoted in the Reuters article on the compromise, to which Dayen linked, is David Abramowitz, former House and State Department lawyer, of Humanity United, part of the Omidyar Group. Are there other human rights groups that support this compromise?

  5. QuarterBack

    This gives me a little different perspective on Menedez’s indictment now. I have been slowly developing an opinion that having ‘fatal flaws’ are actually required for passage into the leadership of the highest positions of power because they are desired by the power brokers so that they can be exploited if ever that official ever gets in the way of the most lucrative agenda issues. To be a trusted lieutenant one must have an impeccable background, but to be in the top ranks, one must have fatal flaws that can be used to reward or punish when the time is right. I think of Petraeus, DSK…

    Color me highly cynical I know, but Menendez probably knew that obstructing forces like the TPP would lead to exposure of his corruption, but he chose to push back anyway. I can’t say that I know where I stand on him as a person or as a Senator, but it does give me a different perspective on him.

    1. hunkerdown

      having ‘fatal flaws’ are actually required for passage into the leadership of the highest positions of power

      Exactly. It’s absolutely asymmetric. We can’t fire them, but they can fire themselves. And we sit still for this, for some reason.

  6. Disturbed Voter

    This is much like admiring a chess master who gets beaten in every game, but has a few clever moves toward the start of the game. Weasel words … and lack of enforcement … means that it doesn’t matter what the text of the treaty says … the bought and paid for judges and regulators … will tell us it means whatever the masters tell them it means. Tactical negotiation with treason is strategic failure.

  7. timbers

    “TPP Bans Slavery: Deal Now Doomed”

    Remember it’s the “most progressive” trade deal ever! THAT’S why it’s failing.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Exactly. You need hip boots to wade through the irony of just about anything coming out of this administration. Consider this from Grim’s Huff Post article:

      Menendez, the author of the provision, has described it as a human rights protection that will prevent U.S. workers from competing with modern-day slave labor. The administration has pushed against the provision, saying it would prevent Malaysia from participating in the deal, and eliminate incentives for the country to upgrade its human trafficking enforcement. Human rights advocates strongly support the language that passed the Senate on Friday.

      So, Menendez calls it a Human rights protection, Human rights advocates strongly support it, but Obama (think of Kerry saying no country should invade another without provocation) apparently thinks the TPP is so toxic that it wouldn’t be an incentive for Malasia to stop trafficing little kids to be eligible for the financial rewards. I guess Obama thinks the only incentives that are worth anything are massive amounts of cash and promises not to prosecute anyone ever no matter what crimes they commit; always look forward, never backward (for the .01% only).

      So in effect, yes, Obama is saying that unless Malaysia can continue to deal in slaves and child sex trafficking, they will not have an incentive to stop doing so. More twisted than Palin. Kind of reminds one of the WH premise: unless we shovel massive amounts of bail out money into the pockets of CEO and upper management bankers and promise never ever to prosecute them for any crimes whatsoever, they will have no incentive to choose the moral path.

  8. Eureka Springs

    Sure would be interesting to see the names of the ten pro-slavery senators in committee who cast a no vote on the amendment.

  9. timbers

    Good thing Hillary said yesterday she would need to see the final draft of TPP before she takes a position! And she’ll only need to wait 5 years after it’s implemented to see that final draft if what I’ve read is accurate.

  10. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank You, Thank You, Senator Menendez!!

    Not to diminish his role, but perhaps the senator who overlooked the Menendez amendment was Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) with his mea culpa: … “I DON’T KNOW FULLY WHAT’S IN TPP MYSELF.”

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/21/sen-hatch-defends-obamatrade-shuts-down-push-for-transparency/

    Of course, it could have been someone else.

    In any event, the level of secrecy about the contents of this document has been beyond absurd and part of an elaborate culture of secrecy and deceit that should have no place in a representative democracy. Funny in a way that the very process established by the proponents of this so called “trade” agreement has come back to bite them. I hope it sticks.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/21/tpp-secrecy_n_7417116.html

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.” —Sir Walter Scott, “Marmion”

    1. hunkerdown

      Well, the elaborate culture of secrecy and deceit IS representative democracy. It’s not representative (except, perhaps, in the same sense as “customer service representative”) and it’s not democratic (except, perhaps, for the 1%, and they’re the problem, not the solution). Is there any particular reason people like to promote this false model as fact and then complain when their actions don’t produce the desired response?

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        Perhaps I misunderstand you, hunkerdown, but it seems to me that based on your first sentence, secrecy and deceit are central to your view of how representative democracy should work. If so, I disagree with your view.

        Further, rather than being a “false model”, I consider representative democracy to be the best option among the various models of public governance, although it is a vulnerable system which requires active support and participation by knowledgeable citizens who are capable of critical thinking, together with a low tolerance of corruption and government secrecy.

        With respect to the latter issues, I feel the Citizens United ruling and the “revolving doors” between government positions and lucrative private sector employment have been particularly damaging to both representative democracy and the general welfare of the people of this country.

  11. TG

    You say the anti-human trafficking provision is a ‘poison pill’? We can hope, but perhaps not.

    The thing to remember about a law nowadays, is that nowadays, if it gives power to corporations or the rich, it gives them power, but if there are provisions that limit their power, those provisions will be ignored.

    Consider tha Obama is simply ignoring the laws against illegal immigration (cheap labor uber alles!). It doesn’t matter what the laws are! So if TPP passes, we will get unlimited guest workers, and asecret court with unlimited unaccountable power – but any provisions aimed at human trafficking or labor standards etc. will simply be ignored. Just like they always have been in recent trade agreements.

  12. Cassiodorus

    Okay, now I’m confused. Provisions against human trafficking will be enforced by whom? The unaccountable ISDS courts, who are free to ignore them? Please clarify.

  13. Antifa

    Malaysia’s membership in the circle of TPP nations is not vital because Malaysia — it’s vital because of the Malacca Straits, through which virtually all the shipping in that part of the world passes. It’s a bottleneck, a chokepoint, and if Malaysia is “driven into the arms of China” then China can close those Straits to shipping how, when, and as they please.

    Which would neuter the US Navy in that part of the world, reducing them to observer status. When people at the Pentagon talk about America’s role as the world’s policeman, they are talking about the Navy’s ability to project overwhelming force wherever and whenever needed. The three little chokepoints world trade and shipping depend on are the Strait of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca, and the Panama Canal. Taking one of those and giving control of it to China and Friends — or to anyone but the US Navy — puts the world’s policeman in a clown suit.

    1. QuarterBack

      Exactly why the Nicaragua canal is being built. The power of the USA, as with any nation, is much more about the circumstances of its leverage, and therefore it’s influence and world power, rather than its inherent wealth or industry. That is why conflicts over control of global leverage are much more likely to spawn war than any other issue.

    2. purple

      Malaysia, like all countries in ASEAN, has a prominent Chinese business community. Chinese influence isn’t going anywhere with or without TPP. It’s just a sad and dangerous American pipe dream.

  14. susan the other

    Thanks for this post. I’d like to know what stupid thing Hillary is going to say next too. There’s no real accounting for politix because it’s all money all the time. It was strange enough that Menendez accompanied Bibi to give his obscene speech. Almost makes you wonder who is really pulling Menendez’ strings. What does Israel stand to benefit from a failed TPP? Just a defeated Obama who is more easily manipulated? I think China is doing a fine job of that. Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, pointed out that China is not being sidelined by the TPP at all because China has plenty of Pacific bilateral trade deals, but even more amazing China has now bailed out Brazil and received permission to do a road (of the silk variety) from Brazil’s ports across South America to Peru. This flap in the Senate and House are serious, but consider how transparent the whole TPP scheme is now. The only justification for the TPP is to allow our own corporations to trash our own environmental and labor laws. The rest is bullshit because there’s no possibility of “isolating” China. China is making a mockery of the TPP.

    1. James Levy

      American “leaders” seem to be under the delusion that they can control the terms and conditions of any military confrontation with China, and that we can outlast them in a protracted war. I don’t see why they are so sanguine on this topic. Britain lived, and her war economy functioned remarkably well, with over a 50% drop in imports during WWII. China could do the same. And Russia could break any blockade through the back door if they wanted to (and, for a hefty fee, the would).

      My dear dissertation advisor once told me that politicians should never be shown maps; it gives them a false picture of what is actually militarily feasible. I think the Americans are looking at maps and imagine that if we build a chain of military alliances from Alaska to Pakistan that we will then have “contained” China. This may be the origin of their unrealistic expectations of “isolating” China.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The DC elite probably have internalized the military cheerleader mentality too. The soldiers and bases are invincible in their minds. The third world peons can’t fight back against such heroes who are promptly forgotten when they can’t fight anymore.

        If U.S. troops were in a real conflict, how long would those soldiers stomach not having access to a TGIFRIDAYS and other commodities not available to soldiers (not the Marines, the biggest bunch of whiners) who were fighting at Guadalcanal? I don’t think they have a clue how soldiers fighting for transnationals will react without air conditioning and booze filled weekends.

        1. micky9finger

          This second paragraph makes no sense.
          Marines whiners?? And whatever the rest is trying to say.

    2. timbers

      Hillary told us what she’s gong to next, yesterday! She’s going to wait until she sees the full final text before deciding to support it or not. So that’s about 5 years AFTER it passes (if it does) – well into her hoped for 2nd term.

      Courageous of her.

    3. Lambert Strether

      Well, if TPA passes, and it’s because an anti-slavery provision got watered down, it’s hard to see how Hillary comes out looking good. Neither feminists who are Democrats, nor the actual Christians on the right, will allow her to get away with fudging her position on the basis that Malaysia was “really trying” or some such. She could try to argue that this came under the heading of her qualified pro-TPP position based on labor provisions, but everybody knows that’s (a) about wages and working conditions for factory workers, and (b) whoever said slavery is labor issue? Much as I’m in favor of card check, etc., it doesn’t rise to the level of a change in the Constitutional order, as human ownership did.

      What a shame. Neither Sanders, nor the non-Sherman Statement-issuing Warren, have this problem…

  15. Mang

    Why did they do it this way? As always, two birds with one stone. Zionazi camp-follower Menendez complicates life for Israel’s frenemy Obama, And how? With a thumb in the eye for Malaysia – seat of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal. In case you don’t think the defendants (US, UK, Israel) care about this avowedly moral judgment, the so-called Equation Group infected Malaysian civil society with its precisely-targeted droppers.

    1. Marko

      After hearing his speech on the floor , I’d have put Sessions high on the list of suspects as to who blocked the amendment to the poison pill clause , although since he also voted no on the overall bill , I really don’t know what to think. If it was him , kudos.

  16. Paul Tioxon

    Lambert’s analysis reveals the deteriorating relationship among Dems, between Obama and Sen Menendez in particular as the heart of the disruptive maneuver that is creating extreme turbulence and causing the Fast Track authorization to run out the clock of Obama lame time in office. Reading the same Ryan Grim piece in Huffington post, what came to my mind as much as the punishment meted out by the indicted NJ Senator against the Oval Office, was another point of contention between these two men. Namely the normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. A historic conjuncture had arrived which allowed Obama to graciously, with the help of the Roman Catholic Pope, dispel over a half century old political embargo with a nation 90 miles from Miami. Cuba had been a USSR darling, and was again being courted by Russia. This more than anything else gave the political green light for any means necessary to keep Russia from successfully pushing the Cuban reset button.

    This also kicked Marco Rubio in the teeth, allowing the ambitious baby faced Rep Senator from FLA, to do his best impression of a cranky octogenarian Cold Warrior. The last thing Millenials want to see is one of their own trying to be cool or important by imitating their grandfather. Puerto Ricans can fly back and forth to their isle. Same for Domincans to the DR and Jamaicans and just about everyone else in the Caribbean. Except for Cubans, and the younger Cubans can’t make any sense out of the American Government’s policy. That’s because it doesn’t make any sense. But that is not enough reason to change policy because of long standing political repercussions. Until now. The people who cared the most about Castro’s Cuba being deposed by force are either dead or in such advanced stage of decline as to be politically irrelevant. Talking to you Patrick Buchanan.

    So, why really did Obama go for the full policy change if there was to be bad fallout for him, for Dems in general in the next round of elections, for Hillary? Russia. Here are some of the specifics that set off alarms and granted Obama permission to go ahead with this announcement without fear of beheading future Dems running for the Senate, Congress or President.

    ” The Guardian reported in July that Russia had quietly struck a deal with Cuba to reopen the Lourdes military base, a 28-square-mile, Soviet-era signals intelligence spy base and military facility that was the USSR’s largest foreign base during the Cold War. The Soviets reportedly used the base for 40 years to intercept American radio and telephone communications.” From Dec 2014 Op-Ed in The Jerusalem Post

    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Obamas-Cuba-lovefest-A-real-move-to-check-Russia-385092

    And there are more Russian signals of sticking a finger in the eye of America. Russian Naval Warships going to and from Cuba, Venezuela in a vain attempt to re-establish global influence. Hardly likely with the rust bucket flotilla, but the small response by Obama in the scheme of things will blunt any move by Russia in our sphere of influence. So, Menendez a Cold Warrior when it comes to Cuba instead of standing with the prez in a new policy against Russia, stands with the past and is openly critical. Menendez has stepped down from his leadership position with Dems on the Foreign Affairs committee after his indictment was announced, after he couldn’t STFU about his beloved Cuba. News Flash Menendez, Rubio, Cruz, less Cubano and more ‘Merican would serve you well.

    And in true political fashion where you punish your enemies, Menendez meets and greets with Netanyahu and puts a poison pill that mysteriously is allowed to stay put by a Rep senator. Et Tu Menendez? Yeah, exactly. Expect more monkey wrenching as we go along where ever the indicted NJ Senator can muster the most leverage and commit the most sabotage of anything, anyone that the Prez holds dear as we count down the final days til vacation for Summer recess and beyond, the final months of a lame duck who will pursue foreign policy with at least one former Dem ally out to screw him, and tattoo him. Who knows, maybe Sen Menendez may find enough leverage to quietly have the Dogs of the DoJ called off. This is a public pissing contest worth pay close attention. It will make strange bedfellows out of certain Rep Senators that now have a useful tool to mess up anything or anyone Obama wants. And, it’s all because of Russia trying to get back into its former role of Co-Hegemon. Like the British Empire, that ship has sailed.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        I’ll stick with the McCain conjecture. His youngest daughter, Bridget, is originally from Bangladesh.
        That’s probably one of the sources of Malaysian slaves. So, letting the compromise amendment get through just stuck in his craw. In addition, there’s also hid deep love of sticking it to Obama!

  17. ian

    Before we pop the champagne corks, are we really sure the WH really considers this poison pill a deal-breaker?

      1. skippy

        If this adversely affects the ***Party Scene*** at the Palace – some serious BSD are going to be massively PO’ed.

        Skippy…. not being able to – scratch that itch – could have profound economic and political ramifications…..

      2. Synoia

        Either the administration doubles down on Menendez, or drops the legal assault. If they drop the legal assault, condition (2) below probably applies.

        Hmmm, what would a calculating, duplicitous person do? Would he try to cram a huge trade treaty through and
        (1) plan on it failing to pass, yet claim “He’d done the best he could but….the Tea Party,” and expect large post position donation to his “foundation,”
        or
        (2) would he actually do everything he could to make it pass, and reap his rewards, but then he’s played his hand and looses all leverage, except gratitude, and gratitude does not pay well…(thanks and a handshake)…

        It is not the results which earn money, but the journey…the influence…

        It is his legacy – and he knows what’s in it….

      3. Ned Ludd

        Malaysia was automatically downgraded because “Malaysia had been in a Tier 2 ‘watch list’ category for four consecutive years”. I would guess that something similar happened to downgrade China to Tier&nbsp3 in 2013, and the State Department simply raised them back up to Tier 2 the following year.

        I have no idea why David Dayen sees this as a “deal breaker”, when he also writes above:

        One other point: the State Department’s new annual report on human trafficking is due this summer. So look out for Kerry certifying that Malaysia has miraculously cleaned up their act on slavery.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The longer the deal is delayed, the lower the odds of it getting done. The other TPP signatories won’t make their “final offers” until all moving parts have been sorted out on our side. Moreover, Malaysia has been very strident in the negotiations. Their stance has been that they won’t accept a provision like this and there’s no particularly good reason for them to reverse it just on promises from Kerry.

  18. Vatch

    Just yesterday there was an article about the way that NAFTA was portrayed 20 years ago as a vote for less pollution. We know how that turned out. So will voting for TPP be a vote for less slavery? And won’t that follow the same pattern as the vote for less pollution?

    Also, is this even relevant for TTIP?

    1. Ned Ludd

      To answer your second question: the Senate approved Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which will cover both the TPP and the TTIP.

      TPA renewal may become a more pressing issue in the 114th Congress because current trade negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) are in progress.

      Congressional Research Service, April 27, 2015

      1. Vatch

        Thanks, but I was referring to the slavery/trafficking portion of the bill. Of course TPA is hugely relevant for the TTIP, but does the slavery/trafficking text matter?

    2. Lambert Strether

      No. The slavery wording matters (a) because it puts procedural roadblocks in the way of TPA/TPP passage, and (b) because it puts some pro-TPP Democrats in hilariously awkward positions, and so it should. Menendez may (or may not; see the notes) think there’s a good policy outcome, but that’s not the focus of this post, or most of this thread.

      1. micky9finger

        OK, is Menedez that wiley?
        Could he be the real hero of fast track?
        Actually, whether he knew what he was doing or not doesn’t matter if it works as we hope. If it works he a genius who accomplished what no one else could .

      2. Vatch

        I hope you’re right! The Pro-TPP politicians deserve to be embarrassed and humiliated.

  19. TG

    You might not like Matt Drudge. But. Consider this.

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/23/matt-drudge-slams-boehner-for-promising-to-pass-obamatrade-clearly-treason/

    Perhaps there are significant differences between grass-roots conservatives and real progressives. Or perhaps these differences have been magnified so the rich can play divide-and-conquer.

    But before you revile me as a ‘racist’. ask yourself – what is more to your heart? Matt Drudge? or the utterly vile Hilary Clinton, who talks like Eleanor Roosevelt but walks like Marie Antoinette?

    1. Lambert Strether

      Limbaugh is a horrible human being. But I think the sovereignty issue applies across the board. If left and right can unite to defeat the death penalty in Nebraska, it’s at least possible they can unite to defeat TPP.

  20. ogee

    As merely one of the afflicted, by the corporatist takeover of the world.
    The watching of the horse race of “this” trade deal or “that” one, is more a curiosity, than a reality. I can’t as a casual observer differentiate any time delineations since, gatt/wto/ nafta agreements. These things are a universally moving blob. It is proceeding. It has been proceeding since the days of british federalism, acting to covertly influence our political/economic/cultural experiences since before the Victorians set it in stone with groups like the council of foreign relations, fronting for the economic forces that shaped our laws,opinions,education,culture,etc. Our American establishment, has engendered every move to this corporate take-over of our American individualism since corporations were given “personhood” as a result of the 14th amendment in the 1870’s. World wars I and II, were both moves that have never had a stopping point. “Gradualism”, is the way to influence people and societies. The National security act of 1947, legally created the police state . But it was in existence long before. and the patriot act and NDAA, are just modern enumerations of rights people don’t have.
    The TPP( as horrible as it seems), is just another mile marker on this journey. Just like nafta may have been the legal framework for what the major multi nationals wanted at the time. If they got it, or if they didn’t, they wouldn’t give up on any ideas. If the TPP doesn’t pass now. The political powers that be,may change. Their period up front is finite, but the money and plans behind what they are trying to do; will not cease.
    The reality is, those people do what they want, and can get away with. They just use these “deals” as a way to “get away with more”, in the open. But the reality is always the golden rule. Those with the gold, make the rules. And really, when they break the rules, no one gets to prosecute them for it. look at the slew of banking rules/laws broken, with the resultant slap on the wrist miniscule(for them) fine. Big deal.
    Rather than just thinking the passage of this deal is bad. Which it seems like it would be, but how would we know. Sometimes it is the power grab of the elites that is their own downfall. They become too top heavy, even for themselves and they break under the weight. Look at the George W Bush administrations, Their crimes against humanity and the people(though they are being excused by current law), are at least a clear example offered to history of what the republicans do when they are given control of every branch of government at the same time. That historical anecdote is priceless. Now , they ought to have been hung for treason and high crimes for the false accusations to manipulate a war, among all the other crimes they chose to perpetrate . But that is our lot. We the people don’t get justice. And likely never will. Not until a general representation of humanity can agree what “justice” is. But that is another story.
    What is needed to happen, is America needs to form that more perfect union, take back our ability to create our own money, and use the power that engenders; to do the “right” thing, . Rather than let those that make our money, continually and perennially use the proceeds to construct legal frameworks for the “wrong” thing.

  21. Mang

    Mahathir is pulling a very long thread and it’s knotted onto Quasha’s naughty bits.

  22. cnchal

    This reminds of two words. Petard. Hoist.

    The plutocrats must be furious at their narcissist hirelings.

    Happy Memorial Day to all you crazy Americans.

  23. justman

    Human trafficking: When an American man manages to get laid by a non-citizen woman.

    Not human Trafficking: When an American woman travels to Jamaica or Bali or Spain for sex with the local men.

    Not Human trafficking: When Bangladeshi construction workers work under horrible and dangerous conditions in Dubai.

    Human trafficking: When Filipino women travel to Dubai to be maids, and get involved with local men.

    I assume the double standard and my sarcasm is obvious to most. Human trafficking advocacy in the US all but ignores the plight of men, and is fact largely a ruse to advocate against the possibility that American women might face some much-needed competition from abroad, or even domestically by commercial sex.

  24. Veri

    Relax, the “poison pill” is no poison pill at all. It’s all in the enforcement. Malaysia MAY make the list, but a President will announce that there is an “agreement” in which Malaysia will step up their enforcement of human rights laws (if only cosmetically). Congress might even vote Malaysia an exemption.

    Consider the violations of The Arms Export Control Act in regards to Israel and nuclear weapons. Every Congress member who votes aid to Israel violates Section 101 and Section 102. Given that this passed Congress: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4133/text

    The US is mandated to technology transfers and mandated to provide US-taxpayer dollars to Israel.

    What are the penalties for violating AECA, as Congress as so willfully done? Up to 20 years in prison and/or a $1,000,000 fine per each violation.

    ITT violated The AECA by transferring night vision technology to Singapore, China, and The UK. $15 million dollars. The People’s Republic of China thanks ITT for providing some of America’s most sensitive military hardware.

    Malaysia need not worry and this is no poison pill amendment. It’s for show.

    The US is hardly a “rule of law” nation. Congress likes to make sh*t up and then pretend violations never happen. Look at Chinese currency manipulation.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Malaysia is a small country and the TPP strips them of rights. Would YOU trust the US to be nice when it is the US that holds the cards and has to recertify? And the US and Malaysia don’t have great warm fuzzy relations to begin with, unlike, say, Australia or Japan (Japan may not like the US per se but accepts that it is a military protectorate of the US). Any of these small countries can see what has happened in Ecuador, Australia, and even Germany with these investor-state dispute settlement panels.

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