By Stan Santos
The Trans Pacific Partnership continues its seemingly unstoppable march as U.S. media report wide ranging and misleading statements regarding its fate. According to McClatchyDC, U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman, formerly of the Clinton administration and multinational investment/finance firm Citigroup said, “Failing to implement the TPP would cost the country about $94 billion in the first year, a price tag that breaks down to a $700 tax on each American family.”
Froman remains confident that the TPP will pass after the November General Election. One reader reacted to his statement with, “Does that mean I will get a $700 rebate if it passes?” A recent opinion piece in the conservative U.S. business magazine Forbes sheds light on both the larger stakes and the fact that candidate Clinton is more than a bystander in this tragic farce.
The title of the Forbes piece declared, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Essential to Regional Peace and Global Prosperity”. The author admits that larger regional issues are at stake and, “The TPP was borne of geopolitical considerations in Hillary Clinton’s State Department as the economic component of the Obama administration’s ‘strategic pivot’ to Asia.”
It reveals a regional strategy with China as the target. If China does not bow to U.S. financial interests, the military card will likely follow. In fact, TPP partners, Vietnam and Brunei, along with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan are involved in a South China Sea territorial dispute with China.
In 2011, Clinton said China was on a “fool’s errand” to try to halt the march of freedom. In 2012 she tried to help a blind dissident flee China via the U.S. Embassy. She recently declared the U.S. has, “a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea.” U.S. naval operations are being carried out in the disputed area by two aircraft carrier groups, with training in air-to-air combat and long range bombing missions.
While our attention is diverted by the “Asian Pivot” the U.S. continues to bleed jobs and our wealth. If the plan succeeds, the United States could become the center of global financial services. Our productive capacity would be reduced to a huge casino for the super-rich with a shrinking working class attending to their needs.
What’s up with the Republicans
Recently, millions of eyes witnessed history unfolding at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. On Monday, July 17, the Republicans opened with an anti-Trump, GOP loyalist floor fight over the rejection of a routine request for a “roll call”.
The ensuing program ranged from a bizarre account of the deaths of U.S. State Department officials in Benghazi, Libya, to war mongering, interspersed with videos of “illegal aliens”, border killings and the promise to “Make America Safe Again.” It became a cult of warrior worship with men in uniform, both police and military, delivering speeches and sound bites.
The air was thick with testosterone and fear along with a strong undercurrent of fascism. The outbursts and violent expressions against Hillary Clinton and anything “other” were astounding.
The high and low point of the evening came when Melania Trump, wife of candidate Trump, read as her own, two paragraphs which were lifted almost word for word from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech. Running behind schedule, the evening culminated with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired under the Obama Administration, speaking for over an hour to an emptying hall.
What’s up with the Democrats
While the Republican convention launched with a meltdown, the Democrats had not yet begun when they were engaged in hot debate over Platform amendments; the most over the Trans Pacific Partnership. At a June 24 meeting in St Louis, Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, argued that since both candidates are on record as opposing TPP, the platform should also. It was ironic to see staunch supporters of immigrants, labor and progressive groups, Barbara Lee and Louis Gutierrez, voting against the Ellison amendment.
What was more perplexing was when they said that they did not want to embarrass Obama or contribute to the perception of a lack of Democratic unity. Cornell West argued that we are placing the price for that loyalty on the backs of poor and working families.
Labor support of TPP?
In the Florida meeting, Lee Saunders of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), rose to proclaim on the behalf of labor, proposed language which, “…protects working families from the private and secretive courts that privilege international corporate interests over the common good and undermine our very democracy.”
Saunders stated that his amendment would protect American workers from the ravages of international trade without going into detail how. Speakers in favor of his amendment included representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
These are some of the largest unions in the United States, representing over 3 million workers, and they all spoke in favor of the TPP. The amendment would supposedly turn it into a vehicle for change. TPP measures would force the highest labor standards ever known on corporations in backward countries. Many rely on child labor and oppressive working conditions to eke out profits while taking American jobs.
Ben Jealous, former NAACP President proposed a simple addition, “… and that is why we oppose the TPP.” He pleaded for its inclusion to prove to the world that the Democratic Party is against such trade deals. The Jealous “friendly” amendment went down with 74 delegates for and 106 against.
During debate over the Saunders amendment, a Nevada delegate declared it leaves it open for a “Frankenbill”. She concluded, “This opens it wide open for a lame duck Congress to vote in support of TPP.” The Saunders amendment passed 117 to 64.
Jim Hightower, prominent Texan, columnist and author, proposed, “It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans Pacific Partnership must not get a vote in this Congress or future sessions of Congress.” He cited the fact that, “Donald Trump is telling working class Americans all across this country that he will flat out kill the TPP. No equivocation in it, particularly effective in swing states that we are counting on.”
Hightower added that the GOP Platform opposed a lame duck vote on TPP and warned they would hammer Hillary on the “wimpy” language in her platform. He called the TPP 2000 pages of “horse manure” and said that 85% of Democrats are opposed to it. His amendment failed on a vote of 71 to 104.
The saga of the dueling conventions is now history, although the outcomes on both sides were predictable. There was no doubt that Trump would storm away with the Republican Party in tow. The fate for Democrats was also sealed from the beginning, as could be observed in the lopsided vote counts.
Bernie Sanders supporters were successful in passing important amendments including a call for a $15 federal minimum wage, steps to break up large Wall Street banks and support for the end to the death penalty. However, many of their proposed amendments such as those opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership, were defeated by margins of between 30 and 50 votes out of about 180 voting delegates.
There will be no consequences for Israel over crimes committed against the Palestinian people. The Platform condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, one of the few avenues left for peaceful resistance. There is no end in sight for hydraulic fracturing for extraction of oil and natural gas. There were no amendments to reduce military spending nor curb continuing interventions throughout the world. In fact, the draft states unabashedly that the U.S. “must continue to have the strongest military in the world”.
Unless opposition in the United States can reach critical mass very quickly, the Trans Pacific Partnership is on a path to a vote following the election. At least we will know then who’s side our congressional representatives are on.
Stan Santos is an activist in the labor and immigrant community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.