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New Trade Rep. Froman Wants to Fast-Track Trans-Pacific Partnership, Ignore the Public Interest

Froman and Obama Fast-Track TPP
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In an exclusive interview with, The Hill U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman recently said that President Obama is willing to work with Congress to win “fast-track trade negotiating authority” which Froman labeled as as “critical tool.” Froman hopes that a deal can be struck before he begins the next round of negotiations around the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the highly controversial free trade agreement which lacks transparency and has drew the ire of Sen. Elizabeth Warren during Froman’s confirmation hearings.  

The authority to fast-track trade negotiations existed until the middle of the Bush Administration.  Without it, Froman argues that the U.S. is at a disadvantage in negotiations because partners are less willing to give concessions if they believe they will be later changed by Congress.  

With this kind of rhetoric from a new appointee it is becoming clear that public outcry is not having an impact.  Japan is now planning to enter TPP negotiations:

“There is a long history in trying to open Japan’s market,” Froman said. “TPP gives us another opportunity to try to do that. We’re going into this with our eyes wide open.”
He said U.S. negotiators have made clear to the Japanese that the TPP “will be a high standard agreement” and that they should be “prepared to open their market consistent with those high standards.”

While “fast-track trade negotiating authority” may be what is best for Froman and his team, critics of the TPP are up in arms.  Congressional oversight could be the last line in defense against the all-encompassing, far-reaching “NAFTA on steroids.”  

Malaysia Today guest columnist Anas Alam Faizli provides a particularly damning review of the TPP:

The TPPA is neither about fair trade nor even about free trade alone, since it seeks to lock in the monopolistic position of big corporations over their industries. It is about ensuring the protection and prioritization of corporate interests above those of public welfare, safety and the socio-economic interests of less affluent economies than the obvious economic master here, which is America.  

The Institute for Food and Development Policy warns that Japan’s decision to be involved in the TPP would be a threat to their democracy and food sovereignty.  

In New Zealand, critics are warning the public that the TPP will deprive New Zealanders of promised copyright consultation. Tech Dirt files the deal under the “national sovereignty who needs it files.”

One of the myths perpetuated by governments taking part in major international treaty negotiations like ACTA, TPP and TAFTA/TTIP is that somehow no national sovereignty is given up during the process, and that therefore the public shouldn’t worry about what goes on in those secret meetings. That’s clearly absurd, because negotiations involve concessions, usually by the weaker parties, which often touch on national competences.

The reality — that smaller countries lose some of their autonomy — is illustrated starkly by what has just happened in New Zealand, as reported by The National Business Review:

New Zealand’s copyright laws were meant to be reviewed this year, five years after the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act in 2008. The government, has decided not to stick to this timetable, waiting instead to know what terms it may have to agree to under the TPP.

American TPP critics have many of the same worries as their foreign counterparts. An August 1st LTE in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call calls on neighbors to tell Congressman Charlie Dent to oppose the fast-track proposal that Froman has deemed necessary:

The Morning Call published the recent story about Lehigh Valley businesses hiring at faster pace. This is good news but gains could be lost with the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership dwarfs the North American Free Trade Agreement both geographically and economically and could result in serious job and wage loss in our area.

The proposed pact not only covers traditional trade matters such as tariffs and quotas but also is said to contain some 29 separate chapters affecting everything from food safety standards and banking regulations to energy policy and government purchasing decisions.

Despite having completed 18 major rounds of negotiations on that agreement, the Obama administration has refused to tell the American public what it has been proposing in our name, instead classifying all the draft texts. Now the administration wants Congress to pass new fast-track legislation that would enable the partnership to circumvent ordinary congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.

Our congressman, Rep. Charlie Dent, should oppose fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress should instead exercise its constitutional authority to ensure that each provision of this mammoth pact is written in the best interests of working families.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership represents a degree of trade deal secrecy that no self-respecting nation should be comfortable with. In seeking to exacerbate this trend by greasing the wheels of trade through fast-tracking authority, Froman is displaying utter disregard for the health of not only our national sovereignty, but the global economy as a whole. What a way to start a term in the cabinet…


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