Fast Track Authority For Trans Pacific Partnership Defeated


I’m feeling a bit sheepish.  For the first time in a couple of years that I write to my Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet (from Colorado), to oppose the Fast Track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, a position I haven’t waivered from holding.

But, just after sending off my missive, I learn that the U.S. Senate already voted to reject Fast Track authority (or strictly speaking, voted to force debate in the face of a filibuster threat made by Senate Democrats) two hours earlier, by a vote of 52-45, in a case where 60 votes were required to debate the proposal.

The initial story from the Denver Post disappointingly doesn’t say how he voted.  He joined a bipartisan majority to advance the bill from the Senate Finance Committee to the full Senate for consideration last month.  I had to got to Daily Kos (which is reporting a 53-45 vote) to find out that “All but one Democrat—Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware—opposed the motion to proceed with debate on the bill.”

Thus, Bennet voted against cloture, despite his earlier vote in favor of the bill in the Senate Finance Committee.  Good for him.  Despite the fact that I know by definition that he didn’t listen to my vote for reasons that are entirely my fault, he did listen to other constituents in his base.

Of course, the oddest part of this picture is that a united front of Democrats have to unite against a Democratic President to achieve their objective.  President Obama has been particularly tone deaf on this issue.

There are basically two kinds of knocks against the TPP.

One is process oriented.  The negotiations have been conducted in secret, except for panels of consultants, about five hundred in all, chosen by the administration and mostly made up of executives of big businesses and corporate lobbyists and sworn to secrecy themselves.  Senators have access to the drafts but are also sworn to secrecy. Fast Track authority on the TPP would allow corporate interests to achieve legislative policy gains that they could not have achieved through the ordinary legislative process in a dozen member countries including our own.

The other is substance oriented.  Rather than merely reducing tariffs and quotas, the TPP imposes substantive economic regulatory stances in a wide range of areas from monetary policy, to labor and environmental regulations, to intellectual property, and more, and appears to vest the ability to order national governments to change their current regulations to super-national arbitration bodies chosen in ways that are not disclosed.  This is a huge amount of substantive economic policy to put in stone, at home and abroad, without full disclosure and democratic participation in the process of making it, and the groups involved in the drafting process don’t leave the general public with good cause to believe that those substantive choices are ones that they would agree with, on average.

For example, the TPP appears to favor very strong intellectual property regimes, when the emerging consensus is that the economy would be better off in many circumstances if we moved in the other direction and weakened excessively harsh intellectual property laws.  Intellectual property laws are also often used in Asia as tools to prevent free access to ideas and to suppress political dissent.

from Wash Park Prophet
via Denver News

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