Trans-Pacific Partnership Coming to Congress


We’re at a critical juncture on the trade front. According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Obama administration already has sent Congress the draft “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Statement of Administrative Action.”

That 36-page statement, which this writer reviewed, is not the TPP implementation bill itself, but it is the key preliminary step that immediately precedes a congressional vote on the implementation legislation.

The Trade Promotion Authority that Congress unwisely approved last year empowered the White House to finalize TPP negotiations, yet it also required Congress to vote on the final implementation bill only with a straight yea or nay vote—with no amendments allowed.

So, the only “amendment” that informed Americans should urge Congress to pass is to reject the TPP altogether. No “reform” No addressing this or that “weak” chapter. Just drop it. Stopping the TPP would be a major victory for common sense, transcending partisan boundaries.

Multi-lateral trade agreements like TPP represent a new and growing world-wide infrastructure of private governance that tends to second-guess or undermine national and local controls, affecting large swaths of existing domestic laws and regulations They tie individual nations to a scaffold of new rules which, for example, would deny nations the right to enact reasonable tariffs to protect industry so more revenues can be raised through tariff duties instead of higher income taxes.

These shady deals also erode nations’ ability to properly limit the importation of unhealthy genetically-modified foods and food products, among many other problems in the labor and environmental realms.

Referring to the actual pending bill to fully enact the TPP into law, the Statement of Administrative Action on page 5 says, “Section 102(a) of the bill establishes the relationship between the TPP Agreement and US law. The implementing bill, including the authority granted to federal agencies to promulgate implementing regulations, is intended to bring US law fully into compliance with US obligations under the TPP Agreement.”

True, this administrative statement, larded with legalese, does give general assurances that federal and state laws (and the legislatures at both levels) must comply with TPP rules but cannot be fundamentally undermined, suggesting the preservation of sovereignty. But these assurances sound thin. And to the extent that inevitable legal conflicts are negotiated, a difficult and expensive process is highly likely.

The forwarding of the Administrative Action document meets the requirement that the White House submit such a draft statement to Congress at least 30 days before submitting the trade agreement’s implementing legislation to Congress.

This writer learned during a Washington visit in March that those Congress members who are seeking re-election likely would want to postpone a vote until after the Nov. 8 general election, to avoid voter backlash over a widely unpopular trade and investment treaty disguised as a “partnership”—a misrepresentation that avoids the Senate’s constitutional treaty consent and the higher hurdle that would present to TPP backers.

Then it becomes a question of whether the final TPP vote would be sought in the risky lame-duck period after the general election but before the newly-elected and re-elected legislators are seated for the 115th Congress in January, along with a new president.

Given President Obama’s fixation on leaving “legacies” like Obamacare, chances are high that he and his ministers, especially US Trade Rep. Michael Froman, will push for a TPP vote this calendar year—but after Nov. 8. Still, anything can happen, perhaps sooner than expected.

To object to TPP, you might want to call your Congress members at their local offices and in Washington at 202-224-3121 or 225-3121. Letters help, too, along with visits to campaign stops of House and Senate members seeking re-election and newcomers seeking office, especially those running for seats where the incumbent has stepped down.

All House seats are up, as are one third of the Senate seats. The presidential election is not the only political game in town, despite the big media’s obsession with it.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2016

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