Dear Congressman Grayson,
Two days ago I peeked into Global Trade Watch to see if they had any new information on the ugly trade deals under negotiation, and I found they had a couple potentially important items. One they’d named ‘Pressure Pays Off: Obama Administration Finally Lets Congress See Secretive TPP Text (But Still Not the Rest of Us)’. Well, I clicked their links, and one that mentioned you went to a HuffPo piece. It turns out that what the author means by ‘Congress’ really amounted to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) finally being allowed by the US Trade Representative to see three chapters of the text. This Great Gift by the USTR (US Trade Representative) followed a burgeoning chorus of Congresss-Critters (whose collective national approval rating of Congress being 10% in recent polls) hollering for transparency and many petitions and Congressional letters to the White House, not to mention your own ‘successful’ petition to the USTR.
Zach Carter noted what we’ve read before, that:
‘Corporate representatives account for about 500 of the “cleared advisors” on those panels, while representatives of organized labor, environmental and other groups account for about 100 others. These cleared advisers are not permitted to discuss provisions with the press or the public.’
We don’t know how truthful or accurate those numbers are, of course, or what value the point of having silenced limited observers comprising the ‘about 100 others’ amounts to. But I digress.
After speaking of the Obomba administration closely guarding the full negotiation text and prohibiting members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters, he quoted you as saying:
“This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost. “They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”
A few questions occur to me, Congressman. Your email used a graphic saying: ‘Classified Top Secret’; were the documents you read classified as such? Do you mean that you weren’t warned of that restriction before you read what text you did? You indicate that it was so. Then after saying that what you’d seen ‘was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it’, you were also quoted as saying:
“Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty,” Grayson told HuffPost. “And I would further characterize it as a punch in the face to the middle class of America. I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why!“
Curious about all this, I trudged over to your Congressional website and saw no mention of your having seen any of the TPP text in a quick search, so I Giggled to see who else might have more, and found your ‘email tumbler account’, Rep. Grayson . In an entry you named: ‘I Saw the Secret Trade Deal’, by which you were referring to the secret negotiated-in-progress Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. You rather humbly thanked the 10,000 people who had signed your petition to the USTR for the victory that was granted you, then:
“We asked that the government not sell out our democracy to corporate interests.
Because of this pressure, the USTR finally let a member of Congress – little ole me, Alan Grayson – actually see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a large, secret trade agreement that is being negotiated with many countries in East Asia and South America.
The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.” Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.
1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified]. (Well, I did promise to tell you only two things about it.)
I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way. [snip] True Blue Democrats. Get ready. We’re coming.” (then ‘Courage’, and your signature)
I’d like to offer the following for your consideration…
First, you said it was ‘a punch in the gut to the middleclass of American’; I’d ask you to consider the poor Americans as well; somehow the burgeoning underclass is always invisible to politicians, even though based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty now. ‘Little ole you’ might want to consider their/our plight in your rhetoric.
For many Democrats, you have been an iconic champion of The People. You write heady posts using the words of great moral activists, as in MLK’s ‘Letter from Birmingham jail’ and so forth. Whether or not I share their respect and hope for you is immaterial as I write this. But what I’d ask you, and especially given the many interviews you’ve given recently, angrily denouncing the NSA as per Michael Snowden’s revelations is:
What trouble do you imagine for yourself if you were to go public with what you saw in the TPP language (including which chapters you asked to see), and can you imagine that given what you’ve said about those buts amounting to ‘a gross abrogation of American sovereignty’, *and* knowing well that unless we stop this in its tracks, much of the world’s 99% will be severely negatively impacted in so many hideous directions by this ‘agreement’ as well as TAFTA: Why don’t you speak up, Congressman? I can’t imagine that you haven’t imagined yourself in the Oval Office one day, or if not, that you’ve seen yourself celebrated as ‘a hero of the People’ or something. Could these trade deals in aid of multinational maximum profit and control *coupled’ with the investor-state ‘tribunals’ being able to prove damages by virtue of our, or any nation’s regulations…be construed as ‘treasonous’? Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch seems to think that diluting just that investor-state language would be a major victory; I do not.
Is this not crunch time for the global 99% and the planet in so many directions? And are these crap trade deals not ‘game over’ for us if they pass into statutory form as predicted?
In closing, please allow yourself to imagine that you risk some trouble, and speak truth to power, Congressman: Tell the nation what you saw! Don’t just use all this as a fund-raising device. Please!
In other trade agreement news:
Lori Wallach and others believe that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) is in trouble due to the information Michael Snowden revealed on NSA spying and hacking. She lists some of the concerns various EU nations have, and there may be indications that this deal isn’t expected to accommodate side deals, as have some of the other ‘free trade’ agreements. My cynical side says that they’ll work things out, as there’s plenty of good money to be made…and the Elites are pushing it hard; most stories in the news are waxing about the positive sides, ignoring the negatives, of course. I’d love to be proven wrong, of course, but who can say to what use any of the information and ability to listen, threaten, hack computers might be used as a hammer? And the US could cut some side deals, despite the ‘all or nothing’ language. This piece at Bloomberg must be the shallow end of the Corporate Information Sharing pond. But back to the public disinformation, is this from Ireland at the opening of the G-8 conference:
This page at the US Trade Representative’s website (ustr.gov) shorthands what he and Oboma say about the agreement’s effects.
In stark contrast, from GTW:
The incredible inclusion of the investor-state disptue settlement regime in TAFTA was first revealed when the German blog Netzpolitik leaked the EU Council’s mandate to the European Commission to negotiate the deal. This extreme system empowers corporations to circumvent domestic court systems and directly challenge a government’s public interest laws before a three-person, extrajudicial tribunal if the corporations feel the laws affect their ability to make a profit. Corporations have already used the system to attack a slew of environmental and health policies, resulting in tribunal orders for taxpayers to pay more than $3.5 billion to foreign corporations under U.S. trade and investment deals alone.
Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute have teamed up to publish a joint report taking a closer look at how the inclusion of investor privileges in the agreement would grant exorbitant rights to corporations and threaten crucial public interest laws in both the U.S. and the EU.
The report outlines the lobbying efforts of corporations advocating for the inclusion of investor privileges in the agreement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement to USTR that the investment chapter of the U.S.–EU trade pact should serve as “the ‘gold standard’ for other investment agreements.” Chevron has requested that TAFTA require governments to fulfill foreign investors’ “expectations” and that such investor privileges cover “both existing and future investments.” Chevron is intimately familiar with the investor-state system, having launched an investor-state case against Ecuador to avoid paying the $18 billion that Ecuadorian courts have ordered the company to hand over to clean up its mass-contamination of the Amazonian rainforest.
From the report (published under Creative Commons):
Leaked draft versions of the EU negotiating mandate for a far-reaching free trade agreement with the US – to be approved at next week’s trade minister meeting (14 June) – reveal the European Commission’s plans to enshrine more powers for corporations in the deal. The proposal follows a persistent campaign by industry lobby groups and law firms to empower large companies to challenge regulations both at home and abroad if they affect their profits. As a result, EU member states could soon find domestic laws to protect the public interest challenged in secretive, offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight and politicians no powers to intervene.
The Commission’s proposal for investor-state dispute settlement under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)1 would enable US companies investing in Europe to skirt European courts and directly challenge EU governments at international tribunals, whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US.
Across the world, big business has already used investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim dizzying sums in compensation against democratically-made laws to protect the public interest (see Box 1). Sometimes the mere threat of a claim or its submission have been enough for legislation to be abandoned or watered down. In other cases tribunals – ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest – have granted billions of Euros to companies, paid out of taxpayers’ pockets.
On June 9, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch discussed her new book, The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority during an FDL Book Salon.
Here’s Matt Yglesias at Slate who says ‘The biggest trade deal of all time is being negotiated and nobody’s paying attention’.
This link will take you the Public Citizen’s signup page for weekly email notifications of highlights of their blogs.
“He’s very smart, he’s very tough, he’s the right person for the job as the United States begins to negotiate trade agreements with Asia, the so-called TPP, as well as trade agreements with the Europeans,” said the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, in support of Mr. Froman.
Mr. Froman worked as Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin’s chief of staff during the Clinton administration.
He was a managing partner at Citigroup and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations before joining the Obama administration.
Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary is up next. ;~) More Chicago mobsters to rule us, lol. Chicago Boys economics team, yada, yada. ‘That toddlin’ town!’
Tell it, Buffy!