America’s First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus on TPP

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Huffington Post has reconfirmed its reporting from over the past weekend, namely, that the Administration has a hairball to untangle to get Malaysia to sign the TransPacific Partnership. Basically, Malaysia needs to have an anti-slavery provision that was inserted in the bill in committee watered down. And the reason that that has to happen, as our reader Antifa pointed out in comments, is that Malaysia controls the Straits of Malacca, a critical shipping choke point. One of the major objectives of the pact is to strengthen America’s position in the region relative to China. Thus Malaysia’s location makes it a critically important signatory to the pact.

From the Huffington Post account (emphasis ours):

On Friday night, in an impressive display of dysfunction, the U.S. Senate approved a controversial trade bill with a provision that the White House, Senate leadership and the author of the language himself wanted taken out.

The provision, which bars countries that engage in slavery from being part of major trade deals with the U.S., was written by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). At the insistence of the White House, Menendez agreed to modify his language to say that as long as a country is taking “concrete” steps toward reducing human trafficking and forced labor, it can be part of a trade deal. Under the original language, the country that would be excluded from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership pact is Malaysia.

But because the Senate is the Senate, it was unable to swap out the original language for the modification. (The chamber needed unanimous consent to make the legislative move, and an unknown senator or senators objected.) So the trade promotion authority bill that passed Friday includes the strong anti-slavery language, which the House will now work to take out to ensure that Malaysia (and, potentially, other countries in the future) can be part of the deal.

Observers are left with a deeper question: Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?

Cue 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.

And Andrew Watts added yesterday:

In terms of geopolitics, a pseudo-science imo, there isn’t a more strategic chokepoint in the world. A quarter of the world’s shipping goes through the Straits of Malacca. Look at a list of member states of TPP and tell me this isn’t an anti-Chinese military alliance or there are alternative shipping lanes. The transportation routes via the Eurasian Silk Road is one way to circumvent this potential naval blockade but shipping via the sea has always been cheaper than shipping by land.

The only reason why business and intellectual property rights is apart of the deal is because Obama needs to bribe as many domestic power centers as possible to pass it. This is straight outta his Obamacare playbook. The reason for the secrecy is probably due to the military nature of the pact. in any case nobody wants the perception that this is preparation for some future Sino-American war.

But if I were a Chinese political leader in Beijing I would not trust any assurances to the contrary that come from Washington.

Strait of Malacca control was also one of the domino theory issues that contributed to the Vietnam War.

Correct. Which proves that the US military has always had it in it’s sights AND they’re willing to go to war for control over it.

Of course, one might ask why we are now working so hard against China after having made the US dependent on her by allowing, even encouraging, US multinationals to outsource and offshore manufacturing in China.

A Malaysian government official effectively confirmed that the government expects Fast Track authority to include the watering-down language in the amendment that the Senate failed to pass:

Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed today minimised concerns that Malaysia could be excluded from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) over its dismal people-trafficking record..

“TPP is still being discussed and nothing has been finalised yet,” Mustapa told Malay Mail Online.

“In the event discussions are concluded, the outcome of these discussions will go to Cabinet and Parliament for approval. Regarding our Tier 3 position on human trafficking, this could be resolved if a Tier 3 country is seen to be taking concrete steps to implement recommendations in the Trafficking in Persons report,” he added.

Mustapa was referring to the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report that downgraded Malaysia last year to Tier 3, its worst ranking on human trafficking abuses globally.

Notice that same “taking concrete steps” phrase? That’s straight from that failed amendment.

As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim said in his initial report over the weekend:

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.

Since Obama has had the embarrassing spectacle of having set a ministerial meeting for the TPP this week at which the other intended signatories were to give their final offers, based on the assumption that Obama would have Fast Track authority in hand. the negotiators increasingly doubt that Obama can get the bill passed this year, and the general assumption is that Congresscritters won’t touch this issue in 2016, an election year.

I strongly urge you to keep calling your Senators and Representatives. Concentrate on the slavery issue, since there is opposition on the right and left, and the folks on the Hill are likely not well prepared for voter pressure on this aspect of the sausage-making, since the MSM has pointedly ignored it. I’d also call Hillary Clinton’s office, and tell her staffers how deeply disappointed you are that she clearly supports the TPP (see this Gaius Publius post for details), even though she has tried to keep that under wraps. Tell her that anything less than vocal opposition is a dealbreaker for you as far as her presidential candidacy is concerned. Thanks for keeping the pressure up!

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  1. Clive

    Just as an aside (the point was well made in the above article but wasn’t the main point, but it deserves a little highlighting here) — yes, it is entirely accurate to remind people that the U.S. ended up relying on China due to pretty much unrestricted offshoring. When you talk to businesses who have offshored, they have usually appreciated the risk that moving operations to another country introduces exposure to whatever factors are in play either domestically in the offshored-to country or in terms of political problems in relationships between the offshorer country and the country being offshored to.

    The usual mitigation which gets trotted out is along the lines of “oh, well, if anything bad happens, we’ll just reshore again”. Like so much analysis of risk countermeasures, this one is so full of holes, it keels over at the slightest prod. Once you have offshored, facilities, knowledge, supply lines, subcontractors and so on become embedded in the offshored-to country and are not at all easy to repatriate. And certainly not in a hurry.

    In many ways, the U.S. and China remind me of those unfortunate couples who, despite their obvious incompatibility have nevertheless decided to stay together “for the sake of the children” (the “children” here being the big multinational companies). Bound together in mutual dependence and hostility, rather than working out their differences and figuring out how to coexist separately, they insist on making themselves and everyone around them thoroughly miserable.

    1. Ignacio

      Interesting article, good commentary. I particularly appreciate the analogy in “for the sake of the children/multinatinals”.

        1. hunkerdown

          Cue Dbots falling over themselves to save the children/multinationals’ pwecious self-esteem in 3… 2… 1…

    2. Irene Rogers

      Yes, excellent point about staying together for the sake of the “children.”

      I’d add that as Secretary of State when TPP was being negotiated, Hillary Clinton was, well, in charge of US foreign policy then. She can’t walk it all back now.

      Furthermore it would only stand to reason that as SecState, Clinton would have had good knowledge — if not input — to the drafts of TPP as they were being written. While the Special Trade Representative (STR) walks point on trade deals, and STR reports to the Executive Office of the President, there appears to be substantial, and statutory, dotted-line authority from the Secretary of State. STR holds Ambassadorial rank and STR’s foreign based personnel work at US Embassies around the world.

      Maybe people who have worked at STR or State can confirm exactly how closely STR works with State.

    3. EmilianoZ

      It was never a marriage of love. China’s heart was always with that handsome dashing young man (Russia) who unfortunately was too poor at the time (90ies). She went with her head and chose the older but rich man whom she thought would build her a better future. But, after years of bitter hard work where she gave him her best years, she discovered that he never intended to leave her his fortune. It will all go to his children from a previous marriage. She will get nothing, nothing for her good looks disfigured by the unremitting toil, nothing for the anguish of nights spent worrying about the menage’s finances. And now, two decades later, with the flower of her youth gone, she is clumsily trying to win back her first love, the dashing young man who in the meantime inherited an immense fortune and is swarmed with proposals by the most attractive parties.

      1. different clue

        That’s a rather strange analogy and way to think of it, given the fact that China has our fortune now ( our vast massive offshored industries held captive in a foreign land) and we have nothing.
        I think the ChinaGov is much more pragmatic and less sentimental than to think in these terms.
        They will stay interwoven with America as long as America still has industry and technology and science left to steal. When China has squeezed all the profitable juice out of America, China will figure out how to cast America aside like an old shoe.

    4. barry stu

      Its probably worth pointing out that one of the biggest advocates of the TPP, Mitch McConnell, married the daughter of a Pacific shipping giant. Though at the time, the sham marriage was most likely to get around campaign finance restrictions, he stands to personally benefit greatly from outsourcing

  2. craazyman

    The top 10 Reasons why Malaysia’s Slaves Get Thrown under the Bus

    Reason #10
    They’re not slaves, they just have limited career opportunities.

    Reason #9
    A job without pay is still a jawb!

    Reason #8
    Hey, it’s the tropics! People pay good money to go boating down there.

    Reason #7
    Some studies show they’ll be even worse off if China takes over.

    Reason #6
    Well, if they’re willing to work hard, someday they can be a captain themselves.

    Reason #5
    All they need is access to consumer credit and they can buy their way out.

    Reason #4
    After a tough day in the office, working up a sweat on a boat deck sounds like fun.

    Reason #3
    That’s why they call it the Straits of Macaca.

    Reason #2
    if slavery is where market wages clear, then who are we to judge?

    And Reason #1 why Malaysia’s slaves get thrown under the bus . . . drum roll please . . .

    Because then they’ll get taken to an emergency room, and we all know poor people get free healthcare, a bed and hospital food whenever they want, right? whoa!

          1. Paul Hirschman

            Check out The Half Has Never Been Told, a great new study of the spread of slavery into Mississippi and Alabama between roughly 1810 to mid-century. The basis of this internal migration (forced of course) was the development of a highly economical use of force to squeeze labor from slaves in cotton fields. Turns out that with the right mix of terror and force, one can squeeze human beings for quite some time, and generate profits that surpass those from the use of “free labor.” So it is possible that, contrary to old Abe and his free labor supporters, the judicious use of terror, under the right market conditions, can issue in generous returns.

            So labor markets clearing at slavery can be, and has been, a very good deal. Ya just have to leave all scruples at the door…and I mean “all.” (Were the Nazis incompetent bastards–and must we thank God they were?)

            What a depressing reality…Obama facilitates the spread of slavery…as part of a geopolitical strategy that includes a persistent trend toward increasing “absolute” labor value as Uncle Karl used to put it, leaving “relative” labor based in capital improvements suspect.

  3. tv

    This negative angle seems a skosh (/sarc off) less than the unethical, immoral and duplicitous “coverup” regarding the secrecy of the TPP in a constitutional republic and “representative” government.

    1. hunkerdown

      There really isn’t that much of a difference what shape the colonizing force takes. Republics are still states, and states have shown that their citizens are disposable when their glory is at stake. Maybe humans will grow up and stop begging to schizophrenically outsource their bloodlust to their master.

  4. Jose Garcia

    Correction. He’s America’s first mixed race President. Why is it that everyone throws the white side of his family overboard? As if they are nonexistent?

    1. diptherio

      Everyone voted for the Black-Community-Organizer half of Obama, but it was the White-Lawyer half what took the oath of office….

    2. RUKidding

      Because in today’s Yew Ess Aaay, if someone is of mixed race African/caucasion, they are perceived as Black. Same as it ever was. We haven’t really gotten any further than that.

      1. different clue

        Way at the very start of the primary festivities, when a number of Congressional Black Caucus members were still quietly pro-Clinton, I remember hearing/reading a number of Black spokesfolk questioning whether Obama was really Black in any real sense to begin with, what with his immediate father being a Harvard student from EAST Africa and all. But Obama was able to trade very well on his putative “blackishness” and I remember Billy Boy Clinton making some nasty remarks about “fairy tale” this and “of course he’d get the South Carolina primary vote” that . . . remarks which certainly sounded racially interpretable. It was remarks like that which gave rise to speculation about whether Clinton might have “pump head” from his open-heart surgery, and made the Black Caucus members more pro-Obama. Also Oprah Winfrey gushing over “Is He The ONE?” on her TV show. And Obama is very good at playing Black on TV.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      He self-identifies as black. See:

      And he listed himself in the most recent Census as African-American:

      Basically, this is an echo of Southern theories of miscegenation, that if you have any black ancestors, you are black. By that standard, I’m black. In practice, in America, you are black if you can’t pass as white or Hispanic.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I wonder what life is like to look white and qualify on all government forms as non-white?

    4. craazyman

      all right all right, enough racial cake and cookie binging,

      the sugar’s going to yer heads and yer getting too goofy, even for the peanut gallery.

      I mean really.

  5. RUKidding

    O’Bomber has thrown everyone under the bus, if it was in his playbook to do so. Why not? He got HIS, so screw everyone else. Slaves in Malaysia? As O’Bomber’s distant cousin, the Dick Cheney, used to intone: “SO????”

    Guess O’Bomber’s wife, Michelle, doesn’t care either. That’s the way they roll. No surprises here; been this way since 2009. Keep on trucking.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The issue is not that this won’t get fixed. It will, assuming it passes the House, which is still very much in play/strong>. The more warts we can publicize, the more it increases the odds of it failing in the House.

      Moreover, the longer it takes, the more it works against getting the bill approved by the other signatories. Obama having a hard time is a loss of face (a big deal there, why should they trust a US leader who lacks the clout to get things done) and also shows visibly how unpopular the bill is (why should we sign up to a trade deal that even the US can’t get behind? This really helps domestic opponents).

      So throwing sand in the gears increases the odds that this won’t get done in what the other side perceives to be “in time”.

  6. nat scientist

    Samuel L Jackson played Stephen, the black slaver of CandyLand in Django Unchained (2012). The engineer of the TPP has a cinematic role-model as the lowest of the low to his people in this remake on the Potomac.

  7. Paul Tioxon

    Slavery is just a subset of labor. It has costs. Just not wage costs paid to the laborer but costs to someone to maintain the labor force to be prepared day in and day out to wake up and go to work. Someone has to do the work to produce economic surplus whether or not they are making the decision to freely go to work based upon mutually agreeable terms. Oh wait, nobody gets to freely avoid work because you need the paycheck to buy food and stuff or else you starve. Funny thing, all of the other paid workers don’t like the people who do not work and collect free money. But, they don’t seem upset about the people who work for free and the capitalist who collects their recruited labor’s money for free.

    Just like all of the indentured “contract” workers who have freed the American soldier from the life of KP, potato peeling purgatory. Freed from laundry duty, latrine duty, mopping, trash collection and inventory control of the gear in the rear. In Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places, the core mission of the military is pursued and the support services, like cooking and laundry and cleaning are contracted out. Only problem is, there seems to a human trafficking opportunity that is taken advantage of by entrepreneurs in places like India and Nepal. I guess we’ll see a lot more from Nepal since they have no place to live in much of the built up nation due to the earthquake. Hey, never miss a profit opportunity during a natural disaster!!

    The human trafficking is so bad in US Defense contracting that new burdens are being placed upon this business sector. Namely, the placement of posters against human trafficking. That’ll show ’em!!! If that’s not a concrete step in the right direction, I don’t know what is!
    Proposed anti-human trafficking far and DFARS revisions may impose significant new burdens and liability on government contractors

    “On the same day that DoD, NASA and GSA proposed the FAR changes, DoD proposed similar changes to the Defense Acquisition Regulation System (DFARS).3 DFARS proposed changes that would apply to defense contractors and impose requirements similar to those of the proposed FAR modifications. However, defense contractors also must ensure that their employees accompanying the U.S. armed forces are aware of their rights to “[r]eceive agreed upon wages on time” and to “[t]ake lunch and work breaks.”4 Further, in addition to the DoD Hotline posters that DoD contractors currently must display, the proposed DFARS rule changes will require contractors performing DoD contracts in excess of $5 million to display “Combatting Trafficking in Persons and Whistleblower Protection” posters at worksites.”


  8. Lambert Strether

    Viewing TPP as an anti-Chinese military alliance has a bracing clarity to it.

    When China takes one of our carriers out, that should do it for everybody but the Army of Northern Virginia — the consultants, military contractors, shouting heads — who will fight to the last man, or woman, that’s not one of them.

  9. different clue

    I continue to believe that China has nothing to do geo-strategically with TPP or the reasons for TPP pushing. “China” is simply being exploited as a handy scare-symbol to accuse opponents of TPP with being unpatriotic in the face of the “threat from China” which TPP is designed to help us contain. The “Molucca Strait” has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It is just a diversionary talking point.

    The whole, sole and only goal of TPP is to further the advance and entrenchment of Corporate Globalonial Fascism all over the world. If TPP can be used to re-legalize slavery, so much the better.

    Now . . . who will take the case to millions of Black American citizens that their beloved President First! Black! Man! Ever! supports slavery and is using TPP as his vehicle to re-legalize slavery. Would they be prepared to hear it? Or would they dismiss it as so much White Racist hate-speech against their racially-beloved President Obama? And how would they react if someone tried pointing out to them that Obama isn’t even Black? That he just plays Black on TV?

    Also too now . . . what do the members of the Congressional Black Caucus think of Obama’s cynical support for slavery and his underhanded plotting to make slavery legal again? Will Rep. John Lewis, the “Conscience of the Congress”, vote FOR America aGAINST TPP? Or will he vote FOR TPP aGAINST America out of misplaced racial solidarity with America’s ” first Black President” ? And as Lewis goes, so goes the Congressional Black Caucus? Are there credibly-Black spokesfolks who can reach Rep. Lewis and turn him against TPP?

    1. John

      Ask the black men and women how they’ve done under Obama.
      Most likely not too well just like the rest of us.
      I think they are more then ready to hear how Obama is an enslaver.

      1. different clue

        It would take a Black-identified AND Black-perceived-to-be person to be able to raise that question among Black people without immediate rejection. Perhaps the people at Black Agenda Report together with some other dissident Black intellectuals could figure out how to raise this case fast and furious among the Black communities without too much fancy offputing Marxistalk and clever intellectual blathering.

        So far the Black community has been entirely immune to receiving this truth, and the Black Agenda Reporters have only been able to bemoan it from a distance, so far as I know.

        Given the short time left to stop Fast Track in the House, it may be pragmatically better to try working with the Beckists and the Limbaughists and the Tea Partiers to try and help them torture the Republicans into withdrawing support from both the Fast Track launch vehicle and its Obamatrade payload.

  10. /L

    Is capitalism racist or does it enslave anyone it could equally, no matter what race or color they are. Have in the history of “great civilizations” there been any qualms to enslave any kind that was available.
    Isn’t time America treat blacks equal, they can be equally good protectors of the No1 corporate capitalist country. Why expect “less” from a black POTUS.

  11. different clue

    Someone with poster skills and photoshop skills and so forth could perhaps create posters and buttons and internet-launchable memes to cause Obama some image problems and degrade his ability to sell Fast Track.

    Things along the lines of . . ” if you like Obamacare, you’ll love Obamatrade”.
    And especially appropriate images to go with quotes satirically atributable to Obama like . . .
    ” If you like your local zoning ordinance, you can keep your local zoning ordinance.”
    “If you like your environmental protection, you can keep your environmental protection.”
    “If you like your banking regulation, you can keep your banking regulation”.
    and so forth.

  12. Edward Qubain

    The U.S. has its own slavery problem. I was astonished to learn a few years ago that there are an estimated 50,000 slaves in America.

    1. different clue

      Perhaps Obama’s TPP efforts to make slavery legal in Malaysia are part of his long range TPP plan to make slavery legal in America ( and in every other TPP country, if TPP gets passed). Something to think about?

  13. purple

    The US is not going to constrain China with any bill or trade agreement. The majority of big businessmen in ASEAN countries have Chinese heritage. Chinese sway is simply a historical fact in that part of the world. If the US doesn’t give a decent amount of ground on the various outstanding regional issues it will suffer a humiliating geo-strategic defeat in the near future.

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