It’s not yet the new year, but the Obama administration appears to be preparing an all-out effort to push through the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in 2015 despite the widespread concerns among his Democratic base, the unified opposition of hundreds of progressive organizations, and vocal warnings from individual lawmakers.
To its critics—along with a similar deal now being secretly negotiated with European nations known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the TPP represents an anti-democratic and regressive set of economic and regulatory policies, many of which have little to do with trade and much more with consolidating corporate power across international borders.
Led by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the White House push to gain support for the TTP—which would lower trade barriers and codify reams of corporate-friendly rules between the U.S. and twelve Pacific rim nations—will likely be a top policy priority in the months ahead. Though administration efforts in 2014 to gain executive “trade promotion authority” (aka “fast track”) failed in Congress, the White House seems hopeful that a new Republican-controlled Congress will be more willing to give away their right to review or amend the content of the deal before it receives a single up-or-down vote.
In fact, when fast-track authority was floated to Congress earlier this year, more than 500 labor, environmental and social justice organizations sent a joint letter voicing their strict opposition. That was enough to help squash the effort, but in a profile featured on the frontpage of the New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Froman expressed full confidence that the administration can achieve passage in the year ahead.
“The endgame is a long game,” Mr. Froman told the Times in regards to the TPP. “But we’re in that endgame.”
The profile of Froman said the “genial charm” of the man most responsible for pushing the White House trade agenda “masks a relentless drive that propelled him from senior posts in the Clinton administration to a career at Citigroup, where he earned millions of dollars before resigning to join the Obama administration.”
In a partisan twist, the Times piece describes how Froman himself suggests that the “political stars have aligned” now that Republican control of the new Senate “has elevated pro-trade lawmakers to key positions in leadership and committee control.”
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Progressives in Congress, however, may not be so easy to convince and some, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, have indicated they will do everything in their power to block passage of the TPP.
“The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world,” said Sanders in a statement earlier this week. “Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process. Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.”
In a joint letter (pdf) sent to Froman’s office prior to the Christmas holiday, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) outlined their opposition to TPP based on the likely negative impact it could have on the stability and fairness of financial markets both in the U.S. and abroad.
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