The Widdershins


Posted on: July 9, 2012

[Warning Widdershins:  This may become boring reading, but keep with it and especially, check out the links I’ve put in]

Ron Kirk is our United State Trade Representative.  His responsibilities and those of his office are the represent the United States in trade negotiations.  Here is the mission statement from their website:

American trade policy works toward opening markets throughout the world to create new opportunities and higher living standards for families, farmers, manufacturers, workers, consumers, and businesses. The United States is party to numerous trade agreements with other countries, and is participating in negotiations for new trade agreements with a number of countries and regions of the world.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. The head of USTR is the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member who serves as the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.

Lately ole Ron has been working on something called TPP or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As you can see from the Wiki link, we weren’t even in on this thing in the beginning, but we are now.  Apparently what Ron is doing is sooo secret that he doesn’t even want Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon who is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade Customs and Global Competitiveness to even get a look-see at what’s he’s up to.  In fact, Senator Wyden literally had to create an act of Congress just so that staff members could get access to certain documents involved in the TPP, as he stated:  the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.  So what in the world is so hush-hush about this?  Well for one thing, according to HuffPo it “addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws”.  Hmm. wonder what those things are?

Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.  [italics/bolding mine]

And as the HuffPo piece says, “the terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.”  Oh no he diduh, did he?  Why, of course he did.

Here is a brief breakdown of how some aspects of the TPP could affect the U.S.

  • Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
  • Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
  • Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
  • Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.

Some of the other countries involved in the TPP are not agreeing to portions of it, like Australia, when it comes to this International Tribunal stuff.  And I don’t blame them.  It is more or less ceding authority over things that happen or laws that are written within our own borders to an entity outside of our country.

  • Australia has refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the “investor-state” private corporate enforcement foreign tribunal system;
  • U.S. negotiators are alone in seeking to expand this extra-judicial enforcement system to allow the use of foreign tribunals to enforce contracts that foreign investors may have with a government for government procurement or to operate utilities contracts and even related to concessions for natural resources on federal lands;
  • Other countries are proposing safeguards for financial regulation and limits to the corporate tribunals that the U.S. has not supported.

Furthermore, this will have impacts upon labor in the country, much like NAFTA and union officials are voicing concerns over that.

Union officials also expressed outrage over the leaked info or distress over the state of the negotiations. Joseph Nigro, the president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers, said over email that the leak showed that “this Administration would seek to extend the worst parts” of “horrible trade agreements like NAFTA.” Nigro said the leaks offered an example of why his union “will only support and work for those candidates and parties that serve to support working people.” Without mentioning Obama by name, Nigro urged “supporters of this measure” to “cut out the caviar, celebrity photo ops and cocktail parties and spend a day in the shoes of the average working person and seeing the damage it will cause.”

“This is what happens when you get an administration that is pretty much in the lap of corporate America,” said Chris Townsend, the political action director for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and a longtime Obama critic. “That’s who they perform for, and that’s who most of them will go to work for after they lose the election in November.”

Okay, there were several mentions of a “leaked” portion of a document in my quotes above so here is the link to that document.

Now it is chock full of all kinds of legalese and diplomatic language and such, but, dig around in it and you can find the references to the “tribunal”, U.N. arbitrator  and other such things.  Check around page 25 or so.

Lastly, here’s a video of Mr. Kirk appearing before Sen Wyden and explaining why all is well.  As a side note, the Administration has been saying all along that they do not need the Senate to ratify TPP or ACTA (which deals with copyright laws) but…”the claim that this does not need Senate ratification appears to be incorrect. The fact that it is restricting Congress’s ability to act on an issue which is Congress’s mandate (not the administration’s) suggests that there is simply no way that the President can sign ACTA without it being ratified by Congress. Even if it doesn’t force Congress to change laws today, it does unquestionably hinder Congress’ ability to change laws in the future. ”

This is a very long video with the Senator and Kirk talking about several different things, SOPA, ACTA, and TPP.
None of this is my forte’ but a favorite blogger, dakinikat at SkyDancing had a piece about this entire thing and it intrigued me greatly; especially why all the hush-hush and not letting member of Congress or their staffs have a look at what’s going on.  The Administration seems to think they will be able to sign this Partnership without Senate approval but I’m seriously hoping that is not correct.  Additionally, I have to wonder why our media has not covered this topic.  I do not recall seeing even one piece about TPP on any major national news sites, television shows or anything of the like.

This is an open thread.



Jesus wept. It just doesn;t seem to get better, does it?

The media is not covering this topic because they are too busy camped outside Katie Holmes building waiting for the “fireworks” to begin.

Damnit Pat, I *knew* there was a reason! But naturally Haliburton, Phrma and the rest get a look-see because they have *vested* interests in it. We poor schmucks apparently don’t.

OMG…George Gershwin stopped by!! 😯 But he’s in spammy because he was only interested in selling generic meds of the e.d. type or something and in spammy he shall stay until I delete him!

Are you worried about the possible zombie apocalypse? If so, here’s a few handy-dandy places for sale that might give you a place to hold out.

This is happening while Prez-I’ll-put-on-a-pair-of-shoes-and-join-the-strike-line okays it. During the lame duck session, him and his friends on the Hill look forward to “reforming” Social Security and Medicare.

I am so bored with the ZOMG the Repubs are so Awful! threads elsewhere. Tell me what the Democrats have done that’s better. So far, there’s no answer.

(The pointless window-dressing on gay marriage doesn’t cut it, nor the election-year immigration ruling that could have been done in 2009. We should go for a war criminal kleptocracy in exchange for one and a half human rights that shouldn’t be endangered to begin with?)

Nor does it cut it to say Romney would be even worse. Of course he would. Duh. But at least a few people in Congress and the media would make bleating noises against it. With Obama, it’s all just crickets and plain sailing.

Anyway, I sure hope the noise you and a few others are making about this horrific “trade” agreement will throw sand in the gears.

Oh, and yes, I am worried about the zombie apocalypse. I used to laugh my scientific head off about it, but now that I see it happening all around me, I’m not so smug any more.

quixote, I think it really doesn’t matter who is president–they both suck. I’m voting for neither so I can still face myself.

I think the most important races this time around are at the state level because in fact, Democrats do not introduce legislation for vaginal probe wands or to invent pregnancy start dates or to give a fetus more rights than the woman. To me, there’s a big difference there between evil and do-nothing and yes, ZOMG, the Repubs are so much worse.

It’s another story at the federal level. I hope we don’t end up with three branches all from the same party. I don’t see the Democratic party fighting very hard in congressional races but that’s where it matters.

Very interesting post, Fredster. I hadn’t heard of Ron Kirk.

quixote@6 and 7: Thanks for the comments. I have zero experience in econ but the more I read about it the angrier I got and esp. when even Australia had the good sense to say “Oh hell no we are not submitting to some U.N. tribunal crap!”. And, as I said, I’ve seen nothing about this in the msm, only dk’s post on her blog.

Oh and on the zombies…I just spent the weekend watching the marathon of “Walking Dead” episodes that were on AMC. 😆

SophieCT: Former mayor of Dallas and he had some dirt on him back then.

I had to do a lot of editing with this post but wanted to add that Wyden also got some help on his bill from Sen. Richard Burr-R-NC when his staff got the same “clearance” crap from the USTR.

USTR’s refusal to share documents with congressional staffers has also raised the hackles of Senator Richard Burr (Republican, North Carolina), who agreed to co-sponsor Wyden’s bill after his own staffer was turned away.

For some more information about TPP and some of the more outrageous aspects of it, you can read the post here on this blog:

State level races, definitely. Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to vote for any politician, regardless of label, if they have a record of protecting rights and helping the people who need help.

Just to add to my tirade, I don’t give the Democrats points for not inventing state-sanctioned rape. Do they fight against it with everything they’ve got? No? Do they stand back and try to take credit for not being as bad? Yes? Then they can go rot in hell with their partners in their goddamn protection racket. Because that’s what it is. Give me your vote and I’ll keep the other guy from breaking your thumbs. For now.

quixote: I’m looking at possibly leaving off the top of the ballot or maybe voting green. That may be my solution to the choices of “bad choice A/bad choice B”.

(Sorry for the double comment! The first one gave me an error message. I thought it’d vanished into cybervoid. Please delete one if and when convenient.)

Fredster, yup, me too. Probably Green. I wish there was some way to mark my ballot “anti-kleptocracy, anti-war crimes.”

quixote@16: It was my bad. I saw it sitting in “lockdown” and just released it not realizing it was a dupe. It’s a disgusting “choice” we have this year. Neither one is interested in the 99%, but only one (Romney) will half-way say so. Imho of course.

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