Friday, June 12, 2015

Concerning the TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a topic which has bubbled around the internet for a while. I admit, I've been uncertain about it myself. As with most such issues, there are always lots of allegations which may or may not have any substance to them. With all of the issues out there, the TPP was mostly drowned out.

Recently, however, with StormCloudsGathering finally resurfacing after a long hiatus and putting out a video on the TPP, I decided it was probably worth giving a serious look at. It didn't really take me long to confirm that his concerns were founded on fact.

Primary concerns include:

The language of the bill itself being kept from the public.

Corporations paying lawmakers to fasttrack the bill.

And the most concerning part, the one I actively care about, is the "Investor State Dispute Settlement" clause, which creates international trade tribunals with the power to undermine the sovereignty of nations, their laws, and the people who comprise those nations. It would be rule by judges, and international judges at that.

(You can read the leaked partial draft of the TPP here.)

And deliberations on fasttracking this bill are apparently going on right now in the House. So, I'm urging people who recognize this as an issue to put the pressure on those in DC. Because this is a potentially serious issue.

As such, I sent this e-mail to my region's own representative, Vicky Hartzler:

I am not sure what your position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is, but I am writing you to urge you to consider the situation carefully, and to oppose the TPP until such time as the language of the bill is made public in its entirety, and until it can be assured that it will not compromise the sovereignty of the People of the United States over ourselves and our country.

I am very much in favor of cultivating international trade that might stimulate the economy and create jobs. However, this bill concerns me both because of the secrecy surrounding it, the fact that it's language has not been made public, and the indications that it will set up international trade tribunals that can overrule national sovereignty and law. This is alarming to say the least.

If government is to be derived from the informed consent of the governed, and if we are to be a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, where the sovereignty of self-government is to be maintained, then it is imperative that any law or bill which might compromise this be accessible to public review and scrutiny. Or else, self-government is lost. Compromising self-government is not an appropriate or effective way to stimulate the economy.

I urge you again to oppose the TPP, pending that it's language would be released publicly and it be made certain that it will not compromise national sovereignty.

Thank you.

If she responds back, I will post it below for all to see.

Update: The TPP Fasttrack, which would disallow debate and amendments, putting it to an up and down vote, has been defeated in the house. That doesn't mean it's over. They can still repackage it and try again. But, it does mean that they have to take a strategic retreat and lick their wounds first.

Update II: It's complicated.

Update III: I finally received the following generic e-mail back from Rep. Hartzler:

Dear Mr. Brown,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also sometimes referred to as "fast-track authority." I appreciate the time and effort you took to share your concerns with me on this vital issue. I value your input and welcome all comments so I can stay informed on the issues most important to the citizens of Missouri's 4th Congressional District.

First, it is important to note that TPA and TPP are two separate issues. As you may know, TPA lays down the negotiation perimeters and objectives desired by Congress for any trade deal the administration may negotiate in the next five years to ensure the United States secures the most effective trade agreements possible and the people's voice is represented during the process. TPA's guidelines provide greater transparency to the negotiating process by empowering Congress to participate directly in the negotiations, if desired, and to conduct vigorous oversight of the process to hold the administration accountable.  

TPP, on the other hand, is the name of the trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam which has been under discussion for a while but is not yet finalized. The agreement hopes to focus on emerging trade issues and the creation of a new global trade standard for tariff and nontariff trade barriers. If the TPA bill passes, it will govern how the negotiations are finalized on the TPP deal and others in the future with other countries.

TPA gives Congress the ability to see the negotiating text throughout the process with the authority to ultimately kill the deal if they do not find it to be satisfactory; to receive detailed briefings of the proceedings; and to be afforded the opportunity to attend negotiating rounds. Additionally, TPA protects U.S. sovereignty. Just as importantly, TPA requires that any proposed deal be made public for at least 60 days – giving the American people a chance to see for themselves what any deal will contain and voice their opinions accordingly – before Congress votes to approve or disapprove of the deal.  I am confident TPA will help deliver the strongest possible trade agreements that will boost American exports and benefit American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, and job creators.

Ninety-six percent of the world's customers live outside the United States. In order to create more high-paying jobs here at home, we need to sell more American-made products and services overseas. That means tearing down barriers to American exports.

Trade has a huge impact on our nation's economy. In Missouri, trade supports over 800,000 jobs, and enables it to export roughly $23 billion in goods and services annually through more than 900 exporters. Through lower trade barriers, these opportunities will only grow as more of our products reach more consumers. Additionally, by laying down strong and enforceable rules through TPA for our trading partners, American workers will be given the chance to compete on a level playing field. If we don't expand our opportunities through trade agreements, other countries (like China) will fill the void.

I support free trade, but it must be fair. American workers are the backbone of our great country. They can compete with workers anywhere in the world when they are given a level playing field. I will continue to advocate for common sense legislative provisions that bring fairness to American trade policies. Unfortunately, there are consumers and markets across the globe that still cannot be accessed by American sellers because of high tariffs, quotas, and other barriers to international trade. It is time to knock down those barriers. 

While I have heard from many constituents on this issue, it is unfortunate that many have heard misinformation regarding TPA and what is accomplished through the perimeters Congress puts on the administration and how a trade deal is negotiated. That is why I have included a link to a "Myth vs. Fact" sheet on my website that I hope you will find useful:  "Setting the Record Straight on TPA" 
Please know that as trade negotiations move forward, I will monitor the terms and conditions of any agreement to ensure that America's best interests are met and that American industries are fairly represented. As always, I greatly appreciate your concerns and perspectives. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on other issues important to you and your community. It is a privilege to be your voice in Congress.
With best regards, I remain,

                                                                                   Very truly yours,

(Note that I did not include the irrelevant PS or her custom signature graphic, the former because it was irrelevant, the latter because I didn't know if reproducing it would be considered an issue or not.)

Make of it what you will, but it basically seems to boil down to "my mind is made up, you're wrong, and I'm right, so I'm going to correct you and you should take my word for it".