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The Terrible Policy for the People (TPP)

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From flickr.com/photos/75610371@N08/7983324834/: TPP Leesburg Rally
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The full text of the 5,500-page 10-years-in-the-making Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is finally online for all to read: https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/TPP-Full-Text

Progressives, and some Republicans as we'll see, are vehemently opposed to the deal, which has been described as "NAFTA on steroids" in terms of what it will give away, from our labor, environmental and consumer rights, to the loss of jurisdictional protections due to non-national arbitration courts staffed by a set of judges that rotate in and out of being corporate counsels.

I am slowly wending my way through "CHAPTER 17 STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES AND DESIGNATED MONOPOLIES" because of my interest in Public Banking (I am the NY Coordinator). This chapter alone is 36 pages of dense legalese.

However, several of the worst progressive fears do seem warranted. For example (emphasis added):

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Article 17.4: Non-discriminatory treatment and commercial considerations
1. Each Party shall ensure that each of its state-owned enterprises, when engaging in commercial activities:
11 For the purposes of this paragraph, "a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority" has the same meaning as in the WTO General Agreement in Trade in Services, including the meaning in the Financial Services Annex where applicable.
12 Examples of regulatory, administrative or other governmental authority include the power to expropriate, grant licences, approve commercial transactions, or impose quotas, fees or other charges.

17-7
(a) acts in accordance with commercial considerations in its purchase or sale of a good or service, except to fulfil any terms of its public service mandate that are not inconsistent with subparagraph (c)(ii);
(b) in its purchase of a good or service,
(i) accords to a good or service supplied by an enterprise of another Party treatment no less favourable than it accords to a like good or a like service supplied by enterprises of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(ii) accords to a good or service supplied by an enterprise that is a covered investment in the Party's territory treatment no less favourable than it accords to a like good or a like service supplied by enterprises in the relevant market in the Party's territory that are investments of investors of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(c) in its sale of a good or service,
(i) accords to an enterprise of another Party treatment no less favourable than it accords to enterprises of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(ii) accords to an enterprise that is a covered investment in the Party's territory treatment no less favourable than it accords to enterprises in the relevant market in the Party's territory that are investments of investors of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party.13

This chapter is full of language emphasizing the so-called equal treatment of state and commercial enterprises. On the surface, that might even sound benign - treat all enterprises the same.
But how is this even possible? By definition, state-owned enterprises are supported by the State in ways that commercial enterprises are not. Even though other parts of this chapter say that regulatory functions shall not be impeded, the subsections make it clear that competing state-owned enterprises, like a State Bank, should have no special privilege over commercial enterprises.

Moving on (emphasis added):

2. Each Party shall ensure that each of its designated monopolies:
(a) acts in accordance with commercial considerations in its purchase or sale of the monopoly good or service in the relevant market, except to fulfil any terms of its designation that are not inconsistent with subparagraphs (b), (c) or (d); and
(b) in its purchase of the monopoly good or service,
(i) accords to a good or service supplied by an enterprise of another Party treatment no less favourable than it accords to a like good or a like service supplied by enterprises of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
13 Article 17.4.1 (Non-discriminatory treatment and commercial considerations) shall not apply with respect to the purchase or sale of shares, stock or other forms of equity by a state-owned enterprise as a means of its equity participation in another enterprise.

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17-8
(ii) accords to a good or service supplied by an enterprise that is a covered investment in the Party's territory treatment no less favourable than it accords to a like good or a like service sold by enterprises in the relevant market in the Party's territory that are investments of investors of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(c) in its sale of the monopoly good or service:
(i) accords to an enterprise of another Party treatment no less favourable than it accords to enterprises of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(ii) accords to an enterprise that is a covered investment in the Party's territory treatment no less favourable than it accords to enterprises in the relevant market in the Party's territory that are investments of investors of the Party, of any other Party, or of any non-Party; and
(d) does not use its monopoly position to engage in, either directly or indirectly, including through its dealings with its parent, subsidiaries, or other entities the Party or the designated monopoly owns, anticompetitive practices in a non-monopolised market in its territory that negatively affect trade or investment between the Parties.14

This is all about investor's rights, nothing about consumer rights or labor rights (to be fair, this might be elsewhere I haven't read yet).

This one is killer, IMO:

Article 17.6: Non-commercial Assistance
1. No Party shall cause17 adverse effects to the interests of another Party through the use of non-commercial assistance that it provides, either directly or indirectly18 to any of its state-owned enterprises with respect to:
(a) the production and sale of a good by the state-owned enterprise;
(b) the supply of a service by the state-owned enterprise from the territory of the Party into the territory of another Party;
(c) the supply of a service in the territory of another Party through an enterprise that is a covered investment in the territory of that other Party or a third Party.


Well, an "adverse effect" could mean a lot of things according to provisions a - c. It sounds to me like this would prevent everything form funding companies like Tesla with Dept. of Energy grants, to "subsidizing" a State Bank with taxpayer money (e.g. from pension funds, or even, as North Dakota does, through funneling tax revenues directly into the State Bank).
Basically, a State-owned enterprise is to be stripped of everything that might make it more efficient than a commercial enterprise (perhaps including paying its workers lower civil service salaries, as the Bank of North Dakota does), which would essentially eliminate it.

There are 30 chapters in the agreement, and chapter 17 is actually on the short side, in part because several other chapters have all kinds of country-specific exceptions. Then, there are also hundreds of pages of Annexes and "related instruments".
So, the total will be thousands of pages (remember, this was begun under the Bush II Administration!). No wonder Obama wanted fast-track on this ponderous, extremely delicate agreement. But the fact remains that for all its specificity, there are loopholes big enough to drive a dangerous over-loaded truck full of under-regulated cigarettes produced by near slave-labor through.
It is unrealistic to expect lay people to go through such a document, which is certainly as it was intended by the corporate-sponsors of it, as well as the government-enablers.
But progressives are right to point out that the actual text differs from the progressive "TPP Issue-by-Issue Information Center" compiled by Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The other summaries seem equally to be instances of wish-fulfillment, unbacked by references to specific clauses in the agreement.
Take a look at this summary about State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) from the fact-sheet on that:

" SOEs ranging from steel companies to telecom monopolies to energy
companies are increasingly competing with U.S. businesses and workers on
a global scale.
" TPP is the first U.S. trade agreement to ensure that private sector businesses
and workers are able to compete fairly with SOEs.
" In many cases, SOEs can distort global markets and compete unfairly by
blocking U.S. exports, undercutting U.S. companies with cheap subsidized
imports, or exploiting preferential regulatory treatment.
" TPP ensures that SOEs in TPP countries compete fairly in their market and
ours, making purchases and sales on the basis of the market, rather than on
the basis of government interference, subsidies or discriminatory policies.
" TPP ensures that SOEs operating in the U.S. or other TPP members cannot
claim legal privileges reserved for governments to avoid regulation applied
to private companies.
" At the same time, TPP ensures that U.S. SOEs providing public services
continue to operate without interference.

After making all sorts of provisions preventing unfair competition from SOEs, the last point assures us that ""SOEs providing public services (will) continue to operate without interference." Huh? You can't have it both ways!

It's even possible that the top level officials don't understand themselves what all the loopholes are. It seems almost impossible to me, though I am no lawyer. But lawyers and judges - not those as part of our normal jurisdictional review process in many cases, itself a Treasonous abrogation of our Constitutional rights - will be arguing these subagreements for decades. It seems unlikely the average consumer, laborer, or environmental activist will have the resources or presence to make much of a difference in those decisions.

Not all Republicans are onboard either. Here is a list of Republicans, and 30 Democrats who opposed President Obama, who voted against TPA - Fast Track Authority - last June, and may be expected to be seriously skeptical if not outright opposed to the final agreement:
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List of 37 Senators who voted against H.R. 2146 to grant fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement on June 23, 2015:

5 Republicans:
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)

30 Democrats:
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

2 Independents:
Angus King (I-ME)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Learn More:


Note that two Republicans running for President - Ted Cruz and Rand Paul - voted against the TPA, as did Independent-turned-Democrat Bernie Sanders. Since then, Hillary Clinton has come out against the TPP. Populist-turned Republican Donal Trump blasted it as a disaster:

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http://newthinking.blogspot.com/

Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:
http://www.americaisnotbroke.net/

Scott is a former President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of articles for (more...)
 

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