With Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks expected to resume in January, District 1 Congressman Jeff Miller is silent on whether he supports allowing President Obama to pass the agreement without open Congressional debate or amendment.
Launched in 2005, the proposed neoliberal “free trade” agreement includes the United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Other nations such as China and Korea have also expressed interest in participating. It has been referred to as “Super NAFTA” and “NAFTA on Steroids.”
TPP negotiations are closed to the public, including Congress and the press. The secret talks include Obama administration trade envoys, representatives from foreign governments participating in the pact, and over 500 banks and corporations.
Watchdog group Public Citizen says leaks show the agreement contains provisions to offshore American jobs, roll back Wall St. reforms, reduce Internet freedom, ban “Buy American” policies, raise medicine costs, expose Americans to unsafe food and allow foreign corporations to dictate American government policy.
“Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues,” according to Public Citizen. The group has challenged secretive trade processes and “free trade” provisions in NAFTA, CAFTA and other agreements they contend harm America’s economy.
President Obama is seeking “fast track” approval authority for the pact. Fast Track would allow him to sign the agreement before Congress approves it. It would then go to the House and Senate for a yes or no vote, with no chance for amendment and limited debate.
NAFTA was passed with “fast track” approval. So were The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and similar 2011 pacts with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. Presidential Fast Track authorization has since expired.
Although the President holds general Constitutional authority to negotiate treaties, subject to 2/3 approval of the U.S. Senate; America’s founders placed foreign trade regulation in Legislative Branch hands. That means the House and Senate must approve trade agreements.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution confers authority to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes” to Congress (House and Senate).
Congress has abdicated that authority to the President through “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority twice before: from 1975 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2007. Miller voted for the 2002 fast track bill, as well as CAFTA and the 2011 trade agreements.
Although the public have been banned from TPP proceedings, a number of leaks affirm the agreement contains investor state lawsuit provisions.
Investor state lawsuits allow corporations, including non-American ones, to sue governments for policies they allege “interfere with profits.” Taxpayers foot the bill for “damages.”
In October 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico that American “country of origin” meat labeling discriminates against imports. The U.S. now faces financial sanctions if the labeling continues. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative appealed the ruling in November.
Investor State lawsuits are mediated in secret tribunals, subject to United Nations rules.
Critics say the lawsuits allow international law to supersede American ones. Public Citizen says the lawsuit provisions “elevate individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations.”
“More than $430 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations in a series of investor-state cases under NAFTA-style deals,” according to Public Citizen.
“This includes attacks on natural resource policies, environmental protections, health and safety measures and more. In fact, of the more than $38 billion in the 19 pending claims under NAFTA-style deals, nearly all relate to environmental, energy, financial, public health, land use and transportation policies – not traditional trade issues.”
NAFTA cost the United States 682,900 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The 2011 Korean Free Trade agreement lost 60,000 jobs, EPI says.
“President Obama said…that KORUS would increase US goods exports by $10 to $11 billion, supporting 70,000 American jobs from increased exports alone. Things are not turning out as predicted,” writes EPI economist Robert E. Scott.
“In first two years after KORUS took effect, U.S. domestic exports to Korea fell (decreased) by $3.1 billion, a decline of 7.5%, as shown in the figure below.
“Imports from Korea increased $5.6 billion, an increase of 9.8%.
“Although rising exports could, in theory, support more U.S. jobs, the decline in US exports to Korea has actually cost American jobs in the past two years.
“Worse yet, the rapid growth of Korean imports has eliminated even more U.S. jobs. Overall, the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has increased $8.7 billion, or 59.6%, costing nearly 60,000 U.S. jobs. Most of the nearly 60,000 jobs lost were in manufacturing.”
EPI economists dismiss claims that “free trade” agreements promote jobs.
“Presidents of both parties from Clinton through Obama have sold free trade agreements on the basis of export growth,” according to EPI.
“But free trade agreements impact a lot more than exports—they increase imports and encourage outsourcing, which means fewer American jobs.
“We should stop negotiating new free trade agreements, and work to fix the ones we have. The United States needs to base its projections on the real impact of free trade agreements—including effects on exports and imports, outsourcing, wages, and employment.”
Do “free trade” agreements threaten U.S. sovereignty?
“NAFTA was a radical experiment — never before had a merger of three nations with such radically different levels of development been attempted,” according to Public Citizen.
“Plus, until NAFTA, “trade” agreements only dealt with cutting tariffs and lifting quotas to set the terms of trade in goods between countries.
“But NAFTA contained 900 pages of one-size-fits-all rules to which each nation was required to conform all of its domestic laws — regardless of whether voters and their democratically-elected representatives had previously rejected the very same policies in Congress, state legislatures or city councils.”
President Obama is also pushing a “free trade” agreement with Europe.
- Representative Miller’s office did not respond to two email inquiries with the following questions:
- Is Rep. Miller in favor of giving President Obama “fast track” authority to sign the agreement without Congressional debate?
- Is Rep. Miller concerned that Investor State Lawsuit provisions may compromise the sovereignty of the American people?
- Is Rep. Miller concerned about President Obama’s efforts to pass far-reaching trade legislation without public disclosure and debate over its content?
- Is Rep. Miller concerned more jobs may be lost from TPP?
The 114th Congress convenes January 6, 2015.
Contact Representative Jeff Miller’s Pensacola office at 850-479-1183.