Calling all Birdies!
Regardless of who you are planning on voting for in November, we must unite to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)!
When presidential candidates across party lines are on record as being against a piece of legislation–you know it shouldn’t pass (see positions Clinton (D), Sanders (D), Trump(R) and Stein (G)). Nevertheless, on Friday June 24th, a majority of members of the Democratic National Convention drafting committee rejected a statement of opposition citing a desire not to be at odds with President Obama. While Sanders renewed pressure on the Democratic Party to oppose the TPP in its platform in a recent press release, as the title of an article by Dave Johnson at Common Dreams says, the Democratic Party Platform Committee Undermines Clinton On TPP, and we’ve heard little from the Clinton campaign.
Recently, the Republican National Committee obtained and released a video of Clinton in Australia promoting the TPP as “the gold standard,” while Donald Trump suggests Clinton’s current opposition was solely for show, a feint for election purposes.
As reported by Deidre Fulton at Common Dreams:
He [Trump] said Clinton took “a leading part” in drafting the 12-nation deal, noting that the former secretary of state “praised or pushed the TPP on 45 separate occasions, and even called it the ‘gold standard,'” according to prepared remarks.
“Hillary Clinton was totally for the TPP just a short while ago, but when she saw my stance, which is totally against, she was shamed into saying she would be against it too,” he said. “But have no doubt, she will immediately approve it if it is put before her, guaranteed. She will do this just as she has betrayed American workers for Wall Street throughout her career.”
If Clinton recognizes our struggles, the emerging sentiment–especially post Brexit–and is against the TPP, then she must encourage her platform members to vote with her, not against her.
This Café Call asks you to put pressure on the DNC, platform members, and our Congress to take a stand.
- DNC general contacts:
- Send an electronic letter/message to https://demconvention.com/platform/
- Tweet a message to @demconvention
- Call/leave a voice mail message: 215-398-5070
- If you’re in the Orlando area July 8th/9th picket the platform committee meeting
- Platform committee members selected by Clinton:
- Paul Booth LinkedIn Tel: (202)-429-1000 Fax: (202)-429-1293 (AFSCME DC office)
- Carol Browner email Tel: (202) 759-5100 Fax: (202) 759-5101
- Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) Tel: (773) 342-0774 Fax: (773) 342-0776 or Tel: (202) 225-8203 Fax: (202) 225-7810 @RepGutierrez
- Alicia Reece (D-OH) email Tel: (614) 466-1308 Fax: (614) 719-3587 @aliciareece
- Wendy Sherman email Tel: (202) 759-5100 Fax: (202) 759-5101 Tel: 617-495-1400 Fax: 617-495-8963 @
- Neera Tanden email Tel: (202) 682-1611 Fax (202) 682-1867 @neeratanden
- Active petitions and requests
- Letters and requests
- Ally with Bernie and let the DNC know you Strongly Oppose the TPP in the Party Platform
- Let Bernie know you want “NO TPP” (and anything else in the Democratic Party Platform
- Write your Congress Person: Input your nine (9) digit zip code at Public Citizen, they will locate your Representative and, after completing personal information, will send the letter on your behalf.
- Write your own letter using the Public Citizen template (provided at the end)
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More US residents viewed TPP as probably ineffective than probably effective (46% to 40%) while many are unsure (16%) according to Ballotpedia, although earlier, less specific surveys find roughly 65% oppose free trade deals, perhaps indicating that lack of knowledge regarding the TPP itself is the issue. If you’re unfamiliar with why the TPP is such a bad deal, here are some “YUGE” reasons to work against it and a quick video introduction.
National autonomy: Often described as NAFTA on Steroids, as currently written, TPP almost completely strips our right to self-governance by handing it over to Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which are staffed by revolving door corporate lawyers who will defend profits above people and the health and well-being of all creatures on the planet. As Larry Cohen reminded us, once adopted, the TPP can never be reversed or amended without the agreement of all 12 nations.
How would this erode our capacity to govern ourselves? How would corporate profits be put before our interests? Well, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is an instrument of public international law, that allows corporations (investors) to sue or dispute a foreign government’s policies or laws if it has adverse or potentially adverse impact on their bottom-line. As the Economist stated:
IF YOU wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Yet that is precisely what thousands of trade and investment treaties over the past half century have done, through a process known as “investor-state dispute settlement”, or ISDS.
Back in 2015 Elizabeth Warren explained these tribunals
wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat? (emphasis added)
the contents were kept completely secret from both ordinary Europeans and Americans, yet was easily accessible if you’re a giant corporation. So naturally, the terms are heavily tilted toward big business at the expense of the environment, health and safety standards.
As well, potential involvement by Clinton–in terms of whether she helped it advance or even had a hand in crafting language while serving as U.S. Secretary of State—is unknown. Further, last year IBT Editor in Chief, David Sirota, filed a FOIA request for Clinton related correspondence. However, after being told these would be available by April 2016, the Obama Administration now refuses to release these until after the elections. As Sirota stated earlier this month:
Clinton’s shifting positions on the TPP have been a source of controversy during the campaign: She repeatedly promoted the deal as secretary of state but then in 2015 said, “I did not work on TPP,” even though some leaked State Department cables show that her agency was involved in diplomatic discussions about the pact. Under pressure from her Democratic primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, Clinton announced in October that she now opposes the deal — and has disputed that she ever fully backed it in the first place.
Subsidy of multinationals: Potential losses by governments–at taxpayer expense–means subsidizing corporations. Under NAFTA Canada was sued by conglomerates five times, of which 40% of legal challenges were for environmental policies and the USA over 15 times. While the US has never lost a challenge, Canada has paid hundreds of millions of dollars on ‘lost profits’, or what the former Ontario Environmental Commissioner argues “amounts to a form of taxation of the Canadian public by multinational corporations.” He further reveals the ‘rigging of the system’ in favor of corporations by exposing the fallacy of the key corporate claim:
How can these corporations claim the loss of future profits is real money? Future profits have to be earned in the marketplace. There are no certainties in markets, only risks that must be addressed. Companies must convince customers to make a purchase presumably in a marketplace fraught with uncertainties and active competitors.
If a corporation can prove that they have lost future profits with certainty, it can only mean that they are operating in a monopolistic environment. That’s the only way they could be assured of profits. If that is the case, they are not operating in a free market. It’s not the responsibility of government to support such a broken system. It’s the job of the government to break up those those monopolies, restore the free market, and in doing so, remove the guarantee of future profits that they claim to have lost.
Ironically, subsequent to the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline the US is facing two legal challenges and is being sued for $15 billion by TransCanada.
Health & Safety Regulations: Last year, New York Senator Schumer described ISDS as
really troubling…It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.
Although the NY Times went on to note that “The United States Trade Representative’s Office dismissed such concerns as overblown. Administration officials said opponents were using hypothetical cases to stoke irrational fear when an actual record exists that should soothe worries.” Trade Secrets notes, however, that
Food safety issues have been part of trade disputes for decades. The U.S. has tried to overturn EU food safety rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. complained that EU restrictions on planting and importing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and beef from cattle fed with hormones banned in Europe are not based on science and unfairly restrict trade. TTIP and TPP could grant new legal rights for agribusiness and food companies to sue, or threaten to sue, governments over rules and laws that protect consumers and the environment.
The Environment: A key concern as more ISDS provisions are written into agreements is that climate change policies will also be weakened or nullified in response to active and potential lawsuits. This not an ‘irrational fear.’ Bill Moyers notes:
In large part because of ISDS, groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have become outspoken opponents of Obama’s current deal with Pacific Rim countries — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and another trade agreement with European countries that is still being negotiated, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The environmentalists argue that while the administration is pursuing agreements with countries like China and India to cut emissions, and backing action through the UN Paris climate pact, it simultaneously is pushing new trade deals that, like NAFTA, would allow foreign fossil-fuel companies to sue to protect their interests and keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
[Take for example], a suit against Germany by a Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall. In 2009, after the German government imposed stricter water regulations on a Vattenfall-owned coal plant near Hamburg, the company used ISDS to sue for €1.4 billion, saying the regulations violated Vattenfall’s rights under the multilateral Energy Charter Treaty. The case was ultimately settled after Vattenfall won a victory in a separate suit in German courts. Under the settlement, Germany weakened the regulations in a way that the EU later said was harmful to protected fish species.
Trade Imbalances: Have our ‘free trade’ agreements worked? A recent study by the Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch of past U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projections and outcomes was disheartening:
The new study reviews USITC trade balance, job and economic sector projections in the statutorily required reports for the three most economically significant trade pacts prior to the TPP and finds the government study on each pact proved dramatically inaccurate – not only in degree, but in direction. (emphasis added)
What the report found is that the actual deficit in 2015 resulting from these three agreements exceeded $425 billion dollars, as depicted in the attached figure.
Human Rights: Human Rights Watch, Public Citizen and others argue that the labor, intellectual property, and privacy rights are inadequately addressed. HRW states plainly:
The agreement should have gone further to protect labor rights, and there are serious concerns with provisions related to the right to health, free expression and privacy online. The agreement’s labor chapter and associated bilateral agreements do not have adequate labor rights safeguards for countries with poor labor rights records, like Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and Brunei.
John Sifton at the Diplomat emphasizes that:
The TPP’s partners will include oppressive undemocratic countries like Vietnam and Brunei, and other countries with problematic human rights records like Malaysia, Singapore, and Mexico. Lawmakers who focus on religious freedom may be alarmed at how Vietnam locks up leaders of unsanctioned churches. Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are horrified at anti-LGBT laws in Malaysia and Brunei.
And just about everyone is alarmed at pledges made by the Sultan of Brunei to operationalize a form of Sharia (Islamic law) that would mandate whipping homosexuals and stoning to death persons engaging in sexual activity out of wedlock.
And, there will be no place to ‘hide’ for citizens attempting to find respite virtually, trying to share and get out information, or endeavoring to keep their data private. The Electron Frontier Foundation offers these choice warnings regarding the TPP:
Expand Copyright Terms: Create copyright terms well beyond the internationally agreed period in the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The TPP could extend copyright term protections from life of the author + 50 years, to Life + 70 years for works created by individuals, and 70 years after publication or after creation for corporate owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).
- Escalate Protections for DRM (aka Digital Locks): It will compel signatory nations to enact laws banning circumvention of digital locks (technological protection measures or TPMs) [PDF] that mirror the DMCA and treat violation of the TPM provisions as a separate offense even when no copyright infringement is involved. This would require countries like New Zealand to completely rewrite its innovative 2008 copyright law, as well as override Australia’s carefully-crafted 2007 TPM regime exclusions for region-coding on movies on DVDs, video games, and players, and for embedded software in devices that restrict access to goods and services for the device—a thoughtful effort by Australian policy makers to avoid the pitfalls experienced with the U.S. digital locks provisions. In the U.S., business competitors have used the DMCA to try to block printer cartridge refill services, competing garage door openers, and to lock mobile phones to particular network providers.
- Create New Threats for Journalists and Whistleblowers: Dangerously vague text on the misuse of trade secrets, which could be used to enact harsh criminal punishments against anyone who reveals or even accesses information through a “computer system” that is allegedly confidential.
- Enact a “Three-Step Test” Language That Puts Restrictions on Fair Use: The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is putting fair use at risk with restrictive language in the TPP’s IP chapter. Companies that adopt more user-friendly rules could also risk lawsuits by content industry investors who believe these rules limit their profits.
- Place Greater Liability on Internet Intermediaries: The TPP would force the adoption of the U.S. DMCA Internet intermediaries copyright safe harbor regime in its entirety on other countries. Chile and Canada have gotten exceptions to allow their forward-thinking regimes that better safeguard user rights to stay in place. However, the TPP would still help entrench the United States’ flawed takedown regime as an international standard.
Adopt Heavy Criminal Sanctions: Adopt criminal sanctions for copyright infringement that is done without commercial motivation. Users could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over file sharing, and may have their property or domains seized or destroyed even without a formal complaint from the copyright holder.
Simply put, if the TPP was passed, the likelihood that we could share all of this content free from restriction, would be reduced! There is a wealth of material on the internet with quite cogent analyses available. Hopefully, we’ve offered you enough of a sample to prompt your own research–and take action against its approval.
———————————————————————-Public Citizen Form Letter—————————————————————
I write today as a constituent asking you to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP was just signed in New Zealand. But it is nothing more than a 5000-page doorstop unless majorities in the House and Senate approve it and the president signs that implementing legislation.
Now that the deal has been signed, every elected official must take a public position on the TPP. The majority of Democrats in the House oppose the deal, as does a large bloc of Republicans. All U.S. presidential candidates with more than five percent support in any state oppose the deal, and vibrant TPP opposition movements are growing across the country and around the world.
As one might expect for a deal negotiated behind closed doors for seven years with 500 corporate representatives serving as official U.S. trade advisers but the public and Congress cut out, the TPP would:
– Make it easier for corporations to offshore American jobs. The TPP includes investor protections that reduce the risks and costs of relocating production to low-wage countries. The pro-free trade Cato Institute considers these terms a subsidy on offshoring, noting that they lower the risk premium of relocating to venues that American firms might otherwise consider. It would ban Buy American procurement preferences, offshoring our tax dollars instead of reinvesting them in our communities to create jobs here.
– Push down our wages by throwing Americans into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents an hour. The TPP’s labor rights provisions largely replicate the terms included in past pacts since the “May 2007” reforms forced on then-president George W. Bush by congressional Democrats. A 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that these labor rights provisions had failed to improve conditions on the ground in countries subject to the terms in past U.S. free trade agreements, including Colombia, which also was subjected to an additional Labor Action Plan similar to what the Obama administration has negotiated with Vietnam.
– Flood us with unsafe imported food. The TPP would allow new trade challenges against our safety standards and inspection policies. This is especially dangerous given that Vietnam and Malaysia import massive quantities of shrimp to the U.S., significant amounts of which are now rejected as unsafe under current policies.
– Raise our medicine prices, giving big pharmaceutical corporations new monopoly rights to keep lower cost generics drugs off the market. The TPP would roll back the modest reforms of the “May 2007” standards with respect to trade pact patent terms.
– Include notorious violators of international human rights. In Brunei, LGBT individuals and single mothers can be stoned to death under Sharia law. In Malaysia, tens of thousands of ethnic minorities are trafficked through the jungle in modern slavery.
– Eliminate most of the seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements that are the standards for the Environment Chapter. Past U.S. trade pacts have required the terms of seven key environmental treaties to be implemented and enforced by agreement signatories. The TPP eliminates all but one of these.
– Expand the scope of domestic policies that can be challenged by corporations, including allowing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) enforcement of World Trade Organization intellectual property terms and new challenges to financial regulations. This is especially dangerous because the TPP would double U.S. exposure to ISDS challenges – empowering an additional 9,200 corporation to use ISDS tribunal to attack our laws.
It is clearer than ever that this is not a deal you should support.
Please write back to me to let me know that you will vote “no” and do whatever you can to safeguards our jobs, wages and health by stopping this sinister agreement.