Thursday, May 14, 2015

THE GREAT AMERICAN UPSELL

A CHOIR TO JOIN BENEDICT ARNOLD
Temecula, CA – The President has come out publicly denouncing Elizabeth Warren as wrong, all the while sounding like he was selling cars as he pitches praise for the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty being fast-tracked [meaning Congress just gets a 'ya' or 'nay' vote rather than a read-through and debate]. 
 
Being a reporter, I was looking for a ringleader or at least a spokesperson for this betrayal but a mole from inside the food activist circle, another group actively fighting against fast-tracking TPP, spoke to me saying they, meaning Congress, or most of it, are all in on it.
The Trans Pacific Trade Partnership would place the private interests of corporations like Monsanto, Dow and Dupont above even international law. When agreements like the TPP govern international trade — when every country has agreed to similarly minimal regulations — multinational corporations can return to the practices that were common before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts became law (in 1970 and 1972, respectively) and before the latest financial crisis hit. Corporations everywhere may well agree that getting rid of regulations would be good for corporate profits. Trade negotiators might be persuaded that these trade agreements would be good for trade and corporate profits. But there would be some big losers — namely, the rest of us.
I looked at him. “For the money?” “Yep” "And where was Hillary on this?"
For the record. This country has now been split into the 1% and their system to stay in power, the mega-producers who wield the marketplace aka money, and the peasants, aka citizens. In effect, the country has become like a monarchy. But what is 'fast track' and the TPP? First, they are two separate things but they are connected.
On April 15, 2015, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, otherwise known as “fast track.”
Rather than seize a historic opportunity to create a new model of trade that would deliver actual benefits for communities, workers, and the environment, this fast-track bill replicates an old, failed model of trade authority. The bill, which would extend fast-track procedures to any trade deal that is signed before July 1, 2018 or, with extension, July 1, 2021 (Sec. 3(b)(1)(C)), would rush dangerously flawed trade pacts including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through Congress and strip away the abilities of the public and our elected representatives to provide vitally important oversight and protections.
This bill is particularly concerning given what we know about the TPP and TTIP. Under negotiation in these deals, for example, are rules that would:
Grant foreign corporations the right to sue governments, in private tribunals, over environmental, climate, and other protections and policies that corporations allege reduce the value of their investment;1
Require the U.S. Department of Energy to automatically approve exports of liquefied natural gas to countries in the pacts, paving the way to more fracking and more climate-disrupting emissions;2
Require the automatic approval of crude oil exports to the European Union,3 therefore chipping away at the decades-old crude oil export restrictions which, if lifted, could lead to the production of an additional 9.9 billion barrels of crude oil4 between 2015 and 2050, therefore increasing oil fracking, climate emissions, and crude-by-rail traffic; and
Establish a system for “harmonizing” regulations that could significantly weaken public health and environmental protections by offering new opportunities for foreign governments and corporations to intervene early on in our rule-making process.
With so much at stake in today’s expansive trade deals, it is absolutely critical that the public and our members of Congress are fully engaged in the whole process of negotiating and implementing trade pacts. This fast-track bill trades away that right.
Replicating Old Fast-Track Bills, Removing Congressional Oversight and Accountability
The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan fast-track bill is almost identical to the failed fast-track bill introduced in January 2014 by Sens. Baucus and Hatch and Rep. Camp that limits Congressional oversight and accountability over trade and keeps the public in the dark.5 The bill would:
Empower the president to send already-signed trade pacts to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments and only 20 hours of floor debate; require the House to vote on trade deals and their implementing legislation within 60 session days and the Senate to vote on trade deals and their implementing legislation within 90 days (Sec. 3(b)(3)(A)).
Provide no meaningful role for Congress in setting the contents of trade deals. All the negotiating objectives in the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill are unenforceable, and the executive branch is granted the right to sign a trade pact before Congress votes on it—whether or not the negotiating objectives have been met (Sec. 3(b)).
Allow the president to unilaterally select trade negotiating partners and commence trade negotiations after giving Congress 90 days of notice and pro forma consultations (Sec. 3(d) and 5(a)).
It is important to note that the bill’s new mechanism to take a pact off of fast-track consideration, called a “consultation and compliance” procedure (Sec 6. (b)(3)(C)), could only be utilized after a pact was signed and entered into and would require approval of the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance committees. In the Senate the consultation and compliance procedure requires approval from 60 senators—nine more Senators than is needed to simply vote down a fast-tracked deal in the first place.
Negotiating Objectives Disregard the Environment
While the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill fails to make negotiating objectives binding, it also omits negotiating objectives that could help protect our environment and includes negotiating objectives that, if adhered to, would seriously harm our environment. For example:
The bill’s negotiating objectives include the minimal protections that have been included in all U.S. trade deals since 2007, including that countries not waive or otherwise derogate from environmental safeguards (Sec.2(b)(10)), but fails to address any of the critical outstanding issues of the environment chapter of the TPP. For example, still under negotiation in the TPP environment chapter are whether countries will be required to put in place a legally binding prohibition on illegal timber and wildlife trade and whether countries will be required to ban harmful practices like shark finning and commercial whaling. The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill is silent on these critical issues.
The bill includes a negotiating objective to ensure that each U.S. trading partner “adopts and maintains measures implementing … its obligations under common multilateral environmental agreements” (Sec. 2 (b)(10)) and lists the same seven multilateral environmental agreements that have been included in all U.S. trade deals since 2007 (Sec. 11(6)). Unfortunately, all reports indicate that the U.S. is not on track to meet this negotiating objective. However, because the negotiating objectives in the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill are unenforceable, even if the final TPP
text does not meet this objective, the fast-track bill would still permit the U.S. executive branch to sign and enter into the TPP and receive fast-track treatment for the deal.
The negotiating objectives on investment would expand the dangerous system of investor-state dispute settlement which has allowed foreign corporations to sue governments in private trade tribunals over environmental, climate, and other public interest policies that corporations allege reduce their profits (Sec. 2(b)(4)).
The bill includes several harmful negotiating objectives related to “regulatory practices” (Sec. 2(b)(7)), including a requirement that proposed regulations be based on “cost benefit analysis” and “risk assessment,” providing new tools for multinational corporations to intervene in the rule-making process and stall or stop new climate and environmental policies.
The negotiating objectives do nothing to address rules in trade pacts that would increase climate-disrupting emissions and fracking by facilitating more crude oil and gas exports from the U.S.
The bill is silent on whether or how climate change issues should be handled in trade deals despite the potential for trade rules to undermine climate progress.6
Fails to Address Lack of Transparency
The supposedly new transparency features of the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill do not address the total lack of transparency that surrounds U.S. trade negotiations. For example:
The bill would require the president to publish the full text of a trade deal 60 days before the president enters into the deal (Sec 6. (A)(1)(B) – but after the deal has been completed and after it is possible to still make changes. This bill, therefore, maintains the unacceptable practice of excluding the public from the entire trade negotiation process.
With respect to increased transparency for members of Congress and their staff, the bill instructs the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to lock in the practice of requiring congressional staff to have security clearances to view any draft trade pact text, meaning even many congressional staff would be unable to see negotiating text (Sec. 4(a)(3) (ii)).
Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Bill Fails to Take Into Account Civil Society Policy Recommendations
In late 2014, more than 550 civil society organizations representing environment, labor, family farm, consumer, faith, and other concerned constituencies outlined a process for creating a new, democratic trade policy.7 Our organizations called for a new model of negotiating and implementing trade deals that would include a congressional role in selecting appropriate trade partners; enforceable negotiating mandates to ensure trade deals deliver broad benefits; full transparency to ensure meaningful congressional and public input; congressional certification that negotiating mandates have been met before negotiations can be concluded; congressional approval of deals before the executive branch can sign and enter into them; and a mechanism for a sizeable minority of Congress to obtain a vote to remove expedited consideration for a deal. The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan legislation fails to deliver on any of these reforms. (Source - Andrew Linhardt, Sierra Club andrew.linhardt@sierraclub.org.)



Now here is the latest.
We are being HEARD on the Fast Track of the Transpacific Partnership. There was a vote on "cloture" on Tuesday 5/12 in the U.S. Senate. and the results were in our favor! This is a big deal! We have won the battle but not the war yet. No matter what tomorrow brings, I want to thank you to all of you for your calls, emails, letters, activities to educate. We are making excellent progress - last year, I hear some congressional leaders told Obama that they would pass this easily. We are doing a great job! So take a little break I think but we will need to continue on this path till we are done!
Cloture="the parliamentary procedure by which debate is closed and the measure under discussion is put to an immediate vote". 52 of the 100 senators (including Boxer and Feinstein) voted no on the Cloture vote - which means they voted NOT to close the debate. Every Dem voted on our side, except for Sen. Carper of Delaware. Boxer made a great speech about how the TPP is a threat to the middle class and she has concerns about it and she is against Fast Track. Boxer voted No and Feinstein voted No on calling the vote. Thank them!
This means the Senate did not vote on Fast Track yet. Since we don't like the bill this is good news. If they call a vote, it means they think they have enough votes to win. If they call a vote and if the bill looks like the one that came out a few weeks ago, that would have been a bad step for us. SO: THIS IS A SUCCESS BUT FAST TRACK IS NOT DEAD. In fact, we expect it will still go the House and Senate for votes. It can go back to the Senate anytime per the CA Labor Federation.  This is ours to win in the House. But having it pass in the Senate would have caused the TPP supporters to gain momentum.
Remember, our goal is to stop the TPP by killing the Fast Track bill, so all the House and Senate can take a good look at the TPP and hopefully allow for the public to read it too, then change it if not vote it down completely.
We need to stay focused on Sen. Feinstein - she has not committed to stand with us.
Here are Congressmembers that we need to focus on at this time: Brownley (Conejo Valley), Cardenas (Van Nuys), Knight (Republican-Simi/Santa Clarita/Palmdale), Waters (So. LA), Bass (West LA) & Lowenthal (Long Beach). There is also a big concern to bring San Diego Co. reps. Susan Davis and Scott Peters onto our side. Here are the reps in So. Cal that I know of whom we are sure are in our corner based on public statements: Sen. Boxer, and Congressmembers Schiff, Lieu, Chu, Sherman, Becerra in L.A., Torres in Riverside, Capps in Santa Barbara, Sanchez in Orange County. For more info, you can look at this article:

Current Update

Food Democracy Now reported this afternoon that they just got word that the Senate is CUTTING A DEAL to pass the TPP Fast Track, Monsanto’s Secret Trade Deal! Right now the White House and members of Congress are desperately working behind the scenes to pass this disastrous secret trade deal.
Stay tuned. I will try to keep you informed. Please let me know how I can support your efforts. Thanks again!
L”

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