Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations wrap up in Brunei

Obama quietly started pushing the secretive TPP on an unsuspecting U.S. public in 2008 with an ambitious Asia-Pacific free trade region that would cover 40 percent of global economic output representing about one-third of world trade. None of the negotiations or documents has been made public.

By Terri Hall | September 11, 2013

With President Barack Obama’s popularity at home and overseas suffering, there’s yet another area of policy where his influence is diminishing: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a key part of his globalist free trade agenda. World leaders from 12 countries wrapped up a week of negotiations in the Sharia-Islamic Southeast Asian country of Brunei on August 23 and will meet again later this month in the United States. The TPP represents the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history.

As Congress returns from its August recess, it’ll be facing big questions about U.S. intervention in Syria as well as raising the debt ceiling, putting the administration’s goal of completing the TPP by year’s end in doubt. Negotiators have run into protectionist roadblocks at home, and with many of the main sticking points making no progress during the Brunei talks, some countries, such as Islamic majority Malaysia, admit things have reached a critical stage and they’re contemplating whether to withdraw from the pact completely.

Japan, who only joined talks mid-summer, is seeking exceptions to aspects of the TPP, which is causing other countries to balk at the effects the TPP could have on their own native, many of them state-owned, industries. Japan is seeking to shelter certain key agricultural crops from the removal of tariffs as required by the TPP. The five major products it’s seeking to protect are: rice, wheat, beef and pork (counted as one), dairy products and sugar.

However, the ‘official’ joint statement by TPP members claimed the negotiations were ‘successful’ and that progress was made as “discussions both jointly and bilaterally were successful in identifying creative and pragmatic solutions to many issues and further narrowing the remaining work.”

Progress was touted on market access, rules of origin, investment, financial services, intellectual property, competition and environment, as well as providing access to each other’s markets for “goods, services, investment, financial services, temporary entry and government procurement.” But insiders say some working groups were not as successful as desired, including the environmental work group that made less than 40 percent of the progress expected. This was the last of the major negotiating sessions, and now the focus is said to be turning inward to ‘intercessional’ talks ahead of a planned TPP summit on October 8 in Bali home of Indonesia’s Hindu minority.

Obama’s brain-child

Opposition isn’t just brewing overseas. Obama, though he’s cozy with big labor interests, quietly started pushing the secretive TPP on an unsuspecting U.S. public in 2008 with an ambitious Asia-Pacific free trade region that would cover 40 percent of global economic output representing about one-third of world trade. The countries at the table so far include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The TPP is expected to be a ‘docking agreement,’ leaving the door open for more nations to join with Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and others already expressing some interest.

Keeping the public in the dark

None of the TPP negotiations or documents has been made public. Yet 600 corporate lobbyists have been named official ‘advisors,’ giving them access to both documents and negotiators. Some of the multinational companies involved are Walmart, Cargill, Monsanto and Chevron, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce leading the charge for its “top legislative priority.” The challenge facing the conservative movement today remains this conflict between the global elites, represented by the establishment Republicans and their multinational allies, and the grassroots, represented by the tea party organizations.

According to the liberal-left Citizens Trade Campaign, which seeks a ‘fair deal’ or ‘no deal’ with respect to labor and environmental issues, these corporate interests are seeking new access to cheap labor (Vietnamese workers are paid one-third that of Chinese workers), the ability to skirt environmental laws, longer drug patents (delaying the production of low-cost generic drugs), financial de-regulation (preventing regulations that could stave off ‘too big to fail’ bailouts), caps on food safety protections (i.e. – limit liability for pesticides and genetically modified foods), concentration and hence control of global food supplies (making ‘buy local’ initiatives harder), and tax advantages.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), first implemented under President Richard Nixon as “fast track,” is a trade negotiation and approval process designed to keep the terms of trade agreements out of the hands of the public and its elected representatives and into the hands of an un-elected trade representative and private corporations. TPA will allow the TPP to be signed before the public can see or scrutinize it. Fast track rules allow such trade agreements to be rushed through Congress without amendments and bypass normal Congressional review through the legislative hearing process. On the conservative tea party side, Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann (MN) and Walter Jones (NC) have teamed up with liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro (CT) to oppose granting the president fast track trade authority. They contend that Congress should not cede to the executive branch its constitutional authority under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.”

Threat to U.S. jobs

Opponents claim the TPP is another NAFTA and will threaten more U.S. jobs at a time when unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high, especially among 18-35 year olds. The lack of high-paying, gainful employment relevant to one’s college education has sparked an effort by the administration to forgive student loan debt riddling the millennial generation, debt that’s causing many to be stuck living at home with their parents delaying home ownership and starting their own families.

The success of upcoming meetings in Washington and later in Bali will largely determine how quickly the TPP could come to fruition. But with some countries re-thinking the threat to their own economies and key markets, the TPP may be another Obama initiative that bites the dust in 2013.

Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of eight turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.