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  • Eyes on Trade is a blog by the staff of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (GTW) division. GTW aims to promote democracy by challenging corporate globalization, arguing that the current globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor "free trade." Eyes on Trade is a space for interested parties to share information about globalization and trade issues, and in particular for us to share our watchdogging insights with you! GTW director Lori Wallach's initial post explains it all.

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June 19, 2012

Leaked TPP Chapter Sparks Outrage

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Investment Chapter that leaked last week has been making waves. Trade scholars, talking heads, citizens and politicians are all discussing the ramifications of this chapter, which outlines the process that multinational corporations can use to sue governments that enact laws to protect public health, workers’ rights, and the environment.

The leak of this secretive chapter has amplified the voices of bipartisan congressmen and numerous civil society organizations who have long been demanding transparency in the TPP negotiations. Huffington Post ran an article which opened on the front page and has drawn a record number of reader comments- 29,959 to date. The text of the article cites the list of calamitous effects the TPP Investment Chapter could have, including raising the cost of vital medicines and effectively ending “Buy American” preferences for domestic manufacturers. Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach warned that "the outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations."

The progressive online magazine Salon ran a story warning its readers that TPP could grow “bigger than NAFTA.” Other articles have also appeared in a variety of domestic and international outlets, including RT (which also interviewed our own Todd Tucker), Inside US Trade, The New Zealand Herald, Law360, the Santiago Times and the International Economic Law and Policy Blog, among others.

Wallach has also discussed the leak on numerous radio and television programs. On the news show “Democracy Now,” Lori spoke with Amy Goodman and Juan González about the dangers of TPP as “a 'one-percenter' power tool that could rip up our basic needs and rights." She also appeared on numerous other TV and radio outlets, including the Viewpoint with Elliot Spitzer on CurrentTV, Let’s Talk About It Radio, Pacifica Radio, CounterSpin, the Dave Sirota Show, the Nicole Sandler Show, Stand UP! With Pete and Dominic, the Bill Press Show, and Sly in the Morning.

The leak has incited extremely significant dialogue, especially in Australia, which according to the leaked document would be the only TPP nation exempt from the Chapter’s provisions on investor-state tribunals.

Providing the public with access to the TPP Investment Chapter is a significant beginning step towards unearthing the secrets of the TPP negotiations and promoting awareness of the powers it bestows upon corporations at the expense of the citizens of America and the eight other TPP nations. (Or eleven, if you include this week's announcements that Canada and Mexico would join the talks.) The more exposure this document receives, the more pressure can be put upon negotiators to live up their promises of transparency.

Thanks to Jed Silver for contributing to this post.

May 03, 2012

Members of Congress Urge Obama to Stop the TPP from Banning Buy American

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear President Obama,

 We write in strong support of Buy American procurement policies, including the various federal programs that have been in place since the enactment of the Buy American Act in 1933 and passage by many states of similar preference policies.  We are concerned about proposals we understand are under consideration in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations that could significantly limit Buy American provisions and as a result adversely impact American jobs, workers, and manufacturers.

Under the proposed TPP framework, individual states and the federal government would be obligated to bring existing and future domestic policies into compliance with norms set forth in 26 proposed TPP chapters, including one covering government procurement policy.  Failure to conform our domestic policies to these terms would subject the United States (U.S.) government to lawsuits before international dispute resolution tribunals empowered to authorize trade sanctions against the U.S. until our policies are changed.

In the past, U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTA) required that all firms operating in a signatory country be provided equal access as domestic firms to U.S. government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold.  To implement this “national treatment” requirement, the U.S. waived Buy American procurement policies for firms operating in FTA-signatory countries. Effectively, in exchange for opportunities for some U.S. firms to bid on contracts in smaller foreign procurement markets, we traded away an important policy tool that can ensure that billions in U.S. government expenditures are recycled into our economy to create jobs, strengthen our manufacturing sector, and foster our own new cutting-edge industries.

We do not believe this approach is in the best interest of U.S. manufacturers and U.S. workers. Of special concern is the prospect that firms established in TPP countries, such as the many Chinese firms in Vietnam, could obtain waivers from Buy American policies.  This could result in large sums of U.S. tax dollars being invested to strengthen other countries’ manufacturing sectors, rather than our own.  At a time when U.S. manufacturing only employs 11.71 million people, a 40% decline from its peak in 1979 and the lowest since 1941, we simply cannot allow this to happen. 

As you know, procurement policy established in trade agreements cannot be later modified without consent of all signatory countries.  This would deprive Congress and U.S. state legislatures of their authority to modify procurement policies despite fundamentally changed national or international circumstances.  Therefore, we are writing to inquire about U.S. negotiators’ procurement proposals for the TPP and to encourage your Administration not to provide “national treatment” for U.S. government procurement.  This matter is of considerable urgency given the stated goal of completing these talks this summer and the special TPP intercessional negotiations on procurement held early last month.

 While we may have different views on other aspects of the prospective TPP, we are united in our belief that American trade agreements should not limit the ability of Congress and U.S. state legislatures to determine what procurement policies are in our national interest.  Thank you for your consideration of our views, and we look forward to your response on this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

Donna F. Edwards                                                                Nick J. Rahall, II

Member of Congress                                                      Member of Congress

 

 cc: The Honorable Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative

July 30, 2010

Lori Wallach on HuffPo: "Turn Away from the Cliff on Trade, State Legislators Group Tells Obama"

Check out Lori Wallach's latest piece on the Huffington Post:

HuffPo logo

Turn Away from the Cliff on Trade, State Legislators Group Tells Obama

"It says a lot when the new trade policy platform adopted by the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is more progressive than where the Obama administration is signaling it may be heading on trade.

"On the other hand, the "Free Trade and Federalism" resolution passed at the NCSL's annual conference in Louisville yesterday largely restates Obama's campaign commitments to fix the most damaging aspects of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model.

...

"So what the heck was the administration thinking - politically or policywise - when President Obama announced a few weeks ago that he wanted to resolve some outstanding commercial issues with one of Bush's leftover NAFTA-style trade deals and get Bush's Korean Free Trade Agreement to Congress in early 2011?"

Read the entire piece at the Huffington Post.

June 03, 2009

Meet the New USTR Website, Same as the Old USTR Website

President Obama's promises during the campaign to shift our trade policies got the base psyched. Yet in the first five months of the administration, the most oft-touted shift in the USTR's workplan (working "rigorously" to pass a Bush FTA doesn't count as a shift, and thankfully appears to be put off for the moment) has been the upgrade to a new website.

We've taken a look at the website, which is purtier and more consistent with other Obama campaign and admin webpages, and here are some things we noticed:

  • Up until yesterday, this link had Panama, Colombia, Korea as agreements in force. This was corrected this morning.
  • A lot of the specific trade agreement pages seem to have lost a lot of their material. For instance, look at this cached page on the Panama FTA, which includes advisory committee reports, and then compare with the new page. The old link that would have gone to the advisory pages doesn't work.
  • The Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority page seems to be removed. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I couldn't find it.) If USTR is looking for content, we've got a book for them to post - The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority!

We're going to be migrating to a new website in the coming months, and the years of planning for it already has me nervous. So, some bumps in the road seem inevitable. The thing that is most concerning about the USTR's new website is the lack of meaningful reference to Obama's trade commitments on the campaign - which would seem like the biggest update needed, with some of the full-throated advocacy of bad trade deals tamped down or removed.

So, here's my question for "Ask the Ambassador" (a new "interactive" feature for the website): When will the Bush talking points on trade come down, and the Obama talking points on trade go up? (Some illustrative examples suggested after the jump:)

Continue reading "Meet the New USTR Website, Same as the Old USTR Website" »

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