President Obama’s fast track process for TPP gets dealt another blow by leaked environment chapter
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
WikiLeaks has just released the draft text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) Environment Chapter. The TPP is a trade deal that is being negotiated in secret between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific bordering nations. WikiLeaks had previously leaked the TPP Intellectual Property Chapter and the TPP Agreement documents.
Now joining us in-studio to discuss the latest leaked document is Kevin Zeese. Kevin is the organizer with PopularResistance.org.
Thanks for joining us, Kevin.
KEVIN ZEESE, CODIRECTOR, IT’S OUR ECONOMY: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me on.
DESVARIEUX: So, Kevin, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher, he’s come out and he’s stated, quote, that “Today’s WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetner in the TPP is just media sugar water. The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism.”
What’s your response? Do you agree?
ZEESE: Well, everyone who’s looked at this chapter–and I wrote an article about it today for Popular Resistance–has reached the same kind of conclusion. It’s really interesting, ’cause what it looks like is President Obama’s actually worse on environment and trade than President George W. Bush was. It’s actually taking a step backwards.
Back in 2007, in order to pass a trade agreement, President Bush agreed to move enforcement of the environmental problems into the main agreement of the trade agreements so that they could actually be enforced. And that was in every trade agreement he put forward since 2007. Now we get to this trade agreement, and this leak shows us there’s no enforcement. There’s just some pablum talk and nothing to enforce it. And so if a state, a country is violating the environmental standards, there’s nowhere to bring them to enforce it.
It’s totally the opposite of the power of the investors, the corporations. They have very strong enforcement. They can take it to the trade tribunal. They can sue for potential lost damages. They go for a rigged trade tribunal made up of corporate lawyers that already support them, and they get a verdict that can’t be appealed.
There’s nowhere to sue here. There is no way–any mechanism.
What it puts in place is a discussion process between governments. And they can go to an arbitrator and come to a–here’s our agreement; how are you going to fix things? And then beyond that there’s nothing. Okay, I agree to fix everything, like you say. But there’s no way to enforce it. So it’s a real step back.
And a number of environmental groups have commented on it today, and they’ve all come to the same kind of conclusion, that this is just an unacceptable agreement, that this really is a missed opportunity to really get the environment right when it comes to trade.
And it’s an important time. I mean, it’s a missed opportunity, because we are in this environmental crisis stage. We’re seeing, you know, species die off. We’re seeing the oceans being destroyed. We’re seeing climate change coming quickly. We’re seeing, you know, issue after issue, diversity issues, all sorts of issues. And so it’s a real time to put the planet before profits, or there’ll be no profits in the future. There are no profits on a dead planet. And so there’s a pretty strong case to be made that you should be putting the planet–actually, that’s understating a pretty strong case. There’s a clear case, imminent case to be made to put planet before profits, and this doesn’t do that.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. And let’s talk a little bit about President Obama’s push for this fast track. Can you first describe what’s happening right now with his plan?
ZEESE: This is the most amazing political fall-down I have seen since President Obama’s been in office. We thought, you know, that it would be a tough–a year ago, people thought there was no way we could stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is–you know, all the big corporations in the world are involved in this. There are 600 corporate advisers. They spent four years negotiating this in secret. There’s trillions of dollars in profits each year at stake for these corporations. President Obama’s legacy–you know, he wants these corporations to be his benefactors of the future. You know, it’s also–it’s important to all of them.
And here we are, after four years of negotiations, and they’ve wanted fast track now since 2011. The trade negotiator Ron Kirk [incompr.] said, I need fast track to complete this deal. If I don’t get fast track, I can’t do it. No fast track in 2011. In March of last year, you had Max Baucus, Senator Max Baucus saying, we’ll have a fast track by June of last year. Not even produced. Then you had the Asian-Pacific meeting in October. We’ll have it by then. Not produced. Obama didn’t even bother going, because he had nothing good to report. By the end of the year, nothing produced.
So, finally they come back from break after Christmas and New Year’s and the holidays, and Baucus, along with, you know, a couple of Republicans, one in the Senate and one in the House, David Camp in the House, Orrin Hatch in the Senate, introduced fast track. And the reaction has been like, you know, a death knell. You know, [incompr.] he didn’t show it to many senators in the Democratic Party, because there’s been a backlash. The people are angry at Baucus for putting this forward without getting their approval first. And half a dozen members of the Finance Committee have written a letter complaining about–to President Obama complaining about the fast-track provisions, saying they can’t support it. Max Baucus is going to hold a hearing on this Thursday, but he’s going to then not mark up the bill, because the amendments will be so terrible, it won’t be the bill that he hoped to see.
On the House and also in the Senate, Harry Reid, the majority leader, says he’s not even sure he’ll bring it to the floor if it gets through committee. So that’s looking pretty shaky in the Senate.
The House is worse. In the House, first the Republicans said, we’re not going to introduce this bill unless you have one Democrat cosponsor it. One. Out of 200. They couldn’t find one to cosponsor fast track.
DESVARIEUX: Not one?
ZEESE: Not one. And so they decided, okay, well, we’ll introduce it anyway. So David Camp, the chair of Ways and Means, introduces it. Representative Levin, the ranking member of Ways and Means, comes out opposed to it and saying he’s working on his own version. If he’s doing that I’m not even sure. But he may just not support fast track. We’ll see where that goes. So not one supporting it.
So now Speaker Boehner is saying he will not bring it to the floor unless 50 Democrats say they support it.
And the reason they’re doing this, the Republicans, is they know that the people don’t like this.
The reason you’re seeing this fall apart is really two things. First, there is a big social movement, a movement of movements bringing together labor, internet freedom, environmental protection, worker rights, you know, food safety. Everything gets affected by TPP. And so a lot of people are coming together. And for more than a year now, Congress [incompr.] getting letters and phone calls and emails and visits and protests about TPP. So they’re hearing from their constituents. You know, it’s a steady stream of opposition from this movement of movements, this social movement that’s saying no to this global corporate coup, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So that movement’s very key.
And that movement’s gotten stronger and stronger. Every leak that comes out, it gets stronger. And Ron Kirk–you might remember Ron Kirk, you know, the former trade representative–before he retired in January, he negotiated three years of this. So he knows what’s in it. He said that the reason we keep it secret is because if people know what was in it, it would be so unpopular it could never pass. Well, that’s becoming true. Every leak that comes out makes it less and less and less popular, and people are getting more and more mobilized against it. That’s one thing.
The other thing is President Obama. He’s already got the Republicans against him. And now he’s–the chickens are coming home to roost with the Democratic Party. He’s been, for his whole presidency, trying to make deals with the Republicans, trying to kowtow to Wall Street, kowtow to big business, putting Monsanto in as his food czar, putting General Electric in as his jobs czar. You know. So he’s kowtowed to the big business interests, and Republicans and the Democrats are fed up with it. They know they’re up for election this year, and they can’t support this fast track and keep any hope of a majority in the House and keep a majority in the Senate. If they go with the fast track, they can kiss their political future in the next few years goodbye.
DESVARIEUX: Kevin, I have to bring up the counterargument for why people should be–.
ZEESE: There’s a counterargument?
DESVARIEUX: Yes, there actually is,–
ZEESE: No way!
DESVARIEUX: –’cause $942 billion in 2012, they’re saying that we’re essentially going to be producing more, there’s going to be more boosts to jobs if import tariffs are largely eliminated, and things like that. What do you say to that?
ZEESE: Well, you know, those numbers come from the Pete Peterson Foundation, which is a neoliberal kind of extremist foundation. Unfortunately, President Obama relies on them a lot. They funded his deficit commission, for example, provided offices and executive directors. And so they helped to make that mistake of Obama’s happen.
They’re doing the same thing here, the same kind of things about NAFTA before NAFTA was put in place. We’ve had NAFTA now for 20 years. People know what the truth is. And the truth of NAFTA is we lost a million jobs. We saw the agricultural economy of Mexico destroyed. We saw a massive influx of immigration in the United States because they couldn’t make it in Mexico any longer. And we’ve seen in the last year and a half with the South Korean agreement, which is a modern trade agreement, the same kind of results–lost jobs, increased trade deficit, not much good coming for people, either country. Only the wealthiest get wealthier. And there’s been studies by the independent economists who have looked at this and have come to the conclusion that [incompr.] 90 percent of Americans would see their wealth go down, their income go down if TPP passes. Ninety percent. What member of Congress wants to sign on to that? And a tiny increase in the GDP–0.1 percent per year–it’s like putting a new phone on the market. You know, it’s a blip. And so it has almost no growth on the economy, makes the middle class and working-class poorer, and it makes the wealthier wealthier, so it’ll increase the wealth divide.
So when President Obama’s going to make a big push on this in the State of Union, you know, and he’s going to use these kind of fake numbers, the media’s going to tear him apart. I mean, we’re going to tear them apart. He’ll be–the truth will–he’ll look foolish when he makes those arguments. He’s going to say he wants to create jobs, when NAFTA lost us a million jobs. So a trade agreement is going to lose jobs, not create jobs. He’s going to grow the economy. This isn’t–this grows the trade deficit. It doesn’t grow the economy. I mean, so he’s going to be making false arguments.
I just don’t understand why these politicians still believe that these so-called free trade agreements, which really are rigged trade for the wealthiest, why these rigged trade agreements are a positive for the economy. They’re not. They’re an undertow on the economy. They make us weaker.
We have to–I’m not against trade. No one’s against trade. The issue is what kind of trade. And we have to–we’ve now got, you know, all this experience with these corporate trade agreements going back 20, 30 years now. It’s time to rethink it. It hasn’t worked. We’ve had a growing international trade deficit. Workers are going downhill. They’re getting less income, less wealth. The economy’s less stable. The wealth divide’s gotten bigger. You’re seeing revolutions all over the world because this is affecting the whole world. It’s time to rethink trade.
And what that means is we need to move toward a new goal, a fair trade regimen, and a trade regimen where people and their needs and the planet and its protection come before profits, people and planet before profits. And we need a new process. It can’t be this secret, behind closed doors, telling us it’s all great, like Assange says, you know, “sugar water”, telling us sugar water stories about how fantastic this modern trade agreement’s going to be, and then the truth comes out, it’s all lies.
We have to–in fact, we have to, you know, have an open, transparent process where civil society is a participant. It’s our future too. That’s what everyone around the world is revolting for. They’re revolting for real democracy. This is the opposite of real democracy. This is oligarchy, hidden from the people, designed to put profits before anything else, and it’s a big mistake for the world and it’s a big mistake for President Obama’s legacy.
DESVARIEUX: Well, Kevin Zeese, organizer of PopularResistance.org
ZEESE: Thanks for having me on.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.