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Will Obama Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

This week there has been discussions between leaders from the Pacific Rim over the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Bali, Indonesia at APEC.

President Barack Obama has demanding a ‘trade promotion authority’ from the United States Congress to fast-track the Pacific Rim treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[1]

The fast-track authority plays a pivotal role in determining the extent to which the United States Congress can engage in a critical review of trade agreements.[2]

The United States Chamber of Commerce has supported a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would enhance the intellectual property rights and investment rights of corporations.[3] Thomas Donohue, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, has vowed: ‘We will launch a full-scale lobbying, grassroots, and education campaign to win passage [of the Trans-Pacific Partnership] in Congress.’

However, there has been a growing concern within the United States Congress and in civil society about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on democracy, jobs, the environment, and public health.

1.         Democracy

The United States Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren has been one of the most eloquent critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Warren has written to the Obama Administration, complaining: ‘While I have no doubt that President’s commitment to openness to genuine, I am concerned about the Administration’s record of transparency regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership.’[4] She observed: ‘If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that agreement should not be the policy of the United States.’

Warren opposed the nomination of Michael Froman as the United States Trade Representative because of his failure to prioritize transparency and public debate.[5] She insisted that ‘the American people have the right to know more about the negotiations that will have dramatic impact on the future of the American economy’ and that ‘will have a dramatic impact on our working men and women, on the environment, on the Internet.’

In a rousing speech, United States Congressional Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren warned of the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

‘For big corporations, trade agreement time is like Christmas morning. They can get special gifts they could never pass through Congress out in public. Because it’s a trade deal, the negotiations are secret and the big corporations can do their work behind closed doors. We’ve seen what happens here at home when our trading partners around the world are allowed to ignore workers’ rights, wages, and environmental rules. From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters, and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the upcoming trade deals in their favor’.[6]

She commented: ‘I believe that if people would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen.’

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