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Text Still Secret One Month After TPP Deal

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/11/2015 Lori Wallach

By Evan Ottenfeld and Lori Wallach
Negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12 nation agreement seven years in the making, were finally concluded a month ago. Yet the Obama administration still has not released the text of the agreement. Not even to Congress, much less the public.
But this has not stopped the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the office responsible for the negotiations, from making outlandish claims about how great the TPP is.
For instance, we hear the TPP ensures that Brunei can no longer exercise Sharia law punishments against unwed mothers and gay people. Unless Vietnam says it's ok. And Vietnam can't continue to jail union organizers and ban independent unions. Unless Brunei and Malaysia both agree. Of course, Mexico is allowed a veto on both issues, although none of these rules apply on Tuesdays.
OK, this claim and the items below may exemplify the outlandishness of USTR's sales job. But until we see the text, we cannot know for sure what all is included in the most impactful "trade" agreement in a generation. And USTR has not always been particularly truthful with its past claims about what the TPP includes.
Indeed, it is very convenient not to release the text and continue the spin. But even with the extreme secrecy, we know quite a bit due to leaks and admissions by TPP negotiators.
We know the pact will lower wages by throwing Americans into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents per hour and increase U.S. income inequality.
We know it will offshore more American jobs because it includes the investment protections that eliminate many of the risks and costs of relocating American jobs to low wage countries, incentivizing more offshoring. That chapter leaked in March 2015 with those provisions already agreed.
We know from that leak that the TPP includes the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Unlike past U.S. pacts with ISDS that were mainly with developing nations, the TPP includes Japan and other countries with thousands of firms operating here. So, we know the TPP would empower at least 9,000 additional foreign corporations to attack our domestic environmental and health polices in the outrageous investor-state extra-judicial tribunals comprised of corporate attorneys and demand payment of our tax dollars over policies affirmed by our domestic courts.
We also know that the TPP does not include enforceable disciplines against currency cheating. That means TPP nations can lower their currency rates to take away new market access the pact would provide via tariff cuts. Who says these terms demanded by bipartisan majorities in Congress are MIA? That would be President Obama and other administration officials. That means the TPP countries known to manipulate their currency rates to gain trade advantages can flood us with imports and price out our exports with impunity.
And we know the TPP would extend new monopolies to pharmaceutical firms to raise medicine prices, because Wikileaks just gave us the final text of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter.
But in addition, we have been hearing some surprising claims and rumors about the TPP that we just can't verify either way until the text is released:
1.The rumored side agreement on currency, though unenforceable and consisting only of a new discussion forum, also includes a term that would automatically have Donald Trump appointed as U.S. ambassador to any country that meets the International Monetary Fund's currency manipulation criteria. Sure, the currency side deal is non-binding, but what country would risk even the threat of that?
2.The TPP has been touted as having "unprecedented enforcement," which experts agree equates to all parties vowing to call the country in violation of the treaty to say "What happened dude? You used to be cool."
3.USTR claims that the TPP addresses the horrors of human trafficking but fails to mention that if a nation pinky swears it doesn't have a trafficking problem, this provision does not apply.
4.On a footnote elsewhere in the text, pharmaceutical companies have promised not to raise the price of wart cream, dandruff treatments or zinc oxide above the rate of inflation, for "at least 5 years plus maybe 3 more years depending on how they feel."
5.Buy American procurement preferences, which reinvest American tax dollars used for government purchases into local firms and jobs, will still be allowed for categories of goods no longer made in America thanks to past trade pacts.
6.Japan can sell tariff-free automobiles to the U.S. and other TPP nations made of parts from non-TPP countries if at least the cup holders, floor mats and "that little thing, what's it called? The plastic thing on the uh... dashboard. You know what I'm talking about. That thing" are made in Japan.
7.Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, one of the TPP's main promoters, is allowed to publicly state "If the TPP were a hockey game, Canada and I won, hands down. No contest really."
8.The U.S. can export as much tariff-free rice, beef and pork into Japan as it wants, except under TPP there would still be quotas and tariffs on rice, beef and pork.
9.Caving in to conservative domestic political pressures, to counter the TPP's chapter on "Temporary Entry" visas, the TPP obligates the U.S. to construct walls along the Mexican and Canadian borders, as well as its borders with Australia, Japan and Singapore, "just to be safe."
10.New Zealand gets nothing from the deal, economically speaking, but has been assured by all TPP member nations that Flight of the Conchords is "one of the funniest TV shows in recent memory."
11.China will be allowed to join (despite previous administration claims that the TPP was meant to contain China) if they promise to "cut it out with making those stupid selfie sticks."
If USTR can say the TPP contains "the strongest labor and environmental standards in history," we can just as easily say "Despite the fact that Congress, labor and environmental groups were repeatedly ignored during negotiations, the almost 500 corporate advisors who helped write the text got nearly everything they wanted."
Actually, it's safe to say that last one is true.
Release the TPP text.

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