Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Basic facts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are under public dispute. Fast track must not be approved until this is cleared up. We the People deserve to know what is being voted on with fast track.
There is a big public dispute between President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren over certain facts about the TPP. This dispute is hardly only between the president and Warren, it is about the effect TPP could have on all of our lives. This dispute is mainly over (but not limited to):
- Whether the agreement gives corporations certain powers that could let them overrule the laws and regulations of the US and other governments.
- Whether the agreement could undermine our Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms.
- Whether the agreement has clearly enforceable "progressive" labor and environmental provisions.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Senator Elizabeth Warren and others warn that TPP has Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that set up "corporate courts" in which corporations can sue government, and that can overrule U.S. laws and regulations. More than 100 legal scholars recently wrote an open letter to Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) objecting to this and saying they need to "protect the rule of law and the nation's sovereignty" in trade agreements like the TPP. The letter says, "ISDS threatens domestic sovereignty by empowering foreign corporations to bypass domestic court systems and privately enforce terms of a trade agreement. It weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the justice system and using an unaccountable, unreviewable system of adjudication." (The scholars' statement is available online at: http://bit.ly/1EA5zeO and the letter itself is available at http://bit.ly/1KX6WYB.)
President Obama has responded, saying,
"This is the notion that corporate America will be able to use this provision to eliminate our financial regulations and our food safety regulations and our consumer regulations. That's just bunk. It's not true. ... Under these various ISDS provisions, the U.S. has been sued a total of 17 times. Thirteen of those cases have been decided so far. We've won them all. They have no ability to undo U.S. laws. They don't have the ability to result in punitive damages."
The White House has assembled a web page to answer criticisms of ISDS.
Undermine Dodd-Frank Financial Reforms
On the ability to undermine Dodd-Frank financial reforms, Warren says, "fast track creates a procedural loophole that could be used to push major legislative changes to Dodd-Frank through Congress as part of that upcoming deal."
The president has responded, "The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don't repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I'd have to be pretty stupid."
Bloomberg News took a "fact check" look at this in "Why Obama Is Wrong and Warren Is Right on Trade Bill Quarrel." The title states the conclusion.
Broken Promises On Enforcement
The president says the labor and environmental standards in TPP are "the most progressive in history." (Which isn't saying much, if you think about it.) Warren released a report Monday, "Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements," that says, "... the history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. FTAs lags far behind the promises. This analysis by the staff of Sen. Warren reveals that despite decades of nearly identical promises, the United States repeatedly fails to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards in free trade agreements."
This enforcement makes all the difference. As I wrote in the post "How TPP Increases Corporate Power vs. Government -- And Us," it isn't just the words in an agreement that matter, it is the enforcement of that agreement. Corporations have written the special ISDS enforcement channel into TPP to make sure their concerns get address and on their terms. The corporate negotiators also made sure that labor and environmental concerns do not getan enforcement channel. "Corporations get a special channel of their own for enforcement of rules written by their representatives at the negotiating table. Labor, environment and other stakeholders don't get that in TPP. This is how TPP will increase corporate power over governments and working people."