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Blog Posts: Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

May 18th, 2015

UPDATE: Senate Begins Trade Debate

BlogThumb_WoodallPatrickBy Patrick Woodall

Yesterday, the Senate voted 65-33 to begin debating Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, a few days after Senate Democrats prevented Republican leadership from bringing up the controversial trade legislation. Thirteen Democrats joined the Republicans in voting to start consideration of the Fast Track legislation that will be used to accelerate the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. No Republicans voted against it.

The bakers dozen corporate trade backers included: Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Thomas Carper (D-Delaware), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Diane Feinstein (D-California), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and, the co-sponsor, Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

This vote was never really in doubt; the legislative setback earlier in the week sent a strong message that the corporate-Republican-White House trade juggernaut could not even ram Fast Track through the pro-trade Senate. Now the Senate will debate the bill and even consider some amendments, and that process will take more than a few days. Ultimately, next week or the week afterwards, the Senate will pass Fast Track. Then the legislation moves on to the House, where the considerable public opposition to the corporate trade agenda can derail Fast Track once and for all.

Contact your Representatives and Senators right now and tell them to vote NO on Fast Track!

May 13th, 2015

Corporate-Republican-Obama Trade Alliance Fails to Clear First Legislative Hurdle

BlogThumb_WoodallPatrickBy Patrick Woodall

Yesterday, Senate Democrats gave a stinging rebuke to White House efforts to push its corporate trade agenda. The Senate Republicans refused to offer a comprehensive package of trade measures and nearly all the Democrats voted to prevent the Senate from even debating the Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority bill that will be used to cram the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress.

This was supposed to be the easy legislative lift because the Senate is generally more supportive of the corporate free trade agenda than the House of Representatives. The President and Senate Republicans, along with their army of corporate lobbyists, hoped to swiftly pass Fast Track in the Senate to create the illusion of legislative momentum and inevitability. Seamless passage in the Senate would be a Fast Track Jedi mind trick that would encourage the House to follow suit and pass Fast Track.

Fortunately, the corporate-trade proponents ran headlong into broad-based public opposition to their trade agenda, helped along by some suboptimal political maneuvering. The Republican leadership refused to include some bipartisan trade enforcement measures and this strong-arm tactic turned even pro-trade Democrats against the White House’s trade priorities. And President Obama did not help himself by demeaning thoughtful progressive Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren that are legitimately skeptical of trade deals that benefit big business but damage workers, consumer protections and the environment.

So, yesterday’s vote took the wind out of the sails of the Fast Track proponents and prevented them from celebrating illusory momentum. But they will be back to take another run at the Senate. Last night, President Obama huddled with the pro-trade Senate Democrats while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) started talking about how to move forwards on Fast Track. The effort to force Fast Track through the Congress over the will of the American people won’t be as easy as they had hoped.

Even with yesterday’s setback, they won’t stop trying, Fast Track will return soon to the Senate. But the real battle remains in the House where we need keep up the pressure to beat back Fast Track.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

April 24th, 2015

TPP Update: Fast Track Not on Track Despite Proponents’ Bluster

By Patrick Woodall

Patrick_WoodallThis week, both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee approved Fast Track trade authority, designed to accelerate Congressional consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But this is merely what the politics of Fast Track looks like on the surface. The dueling committee hearings were designed to give a false sense of momentum and inevitability to the Fast Track fight, but passage was practically guaranteed in these two committees largely stacked with corporate free trade apologists.

Just below the surface, underneath the spin and the lobbying, this week’s committee action shows the broad-based and passionate opposition to Fast Track. The House Ways and Means passed Fast Track, but it did so on an almost entirely party-line vote, with only two Democrats joining the Republicans (Reps. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon and Ron Kind from Wisconsin). The rest of the House Democrats voted no, and this solid opposition to Fast Track in the pro-trade committee suggests that Fast Track does not have an easy road forwards in the House. Republicans even refused to allow a vote on the Democratic trade authority alternative bill (offered by the dean of Democratic trade policy, Rep. Sander Levin). Stalwart critics of corporate-driven free trade like Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) put up a spirited attack on the Senate side, foreshadowing contentious debates to come.

Now, Fast Track proponents want to bring the bill to the full House and Senate and pretend that the Committee passage gives the controversial legislation momentum. Don’t believe the pro-corporate trade hype; there is widespread, bipartisan opposition to Fast Track in the Congress and right now is a great opportunity for engaged citizens to give our Representatives the backbone to stand up for working families and the environment.

The Fast Track hucksters hope to bring the bill to the floor in early May, so RIGHT NOW is the time to contact your Representatives and Senators today and urge them to oppose Fast Track (TPA-2015).

Only people power can defeat the corporate free-trade agenda. And, stay tuned; we will keep you up on the trade shenanigans in Washington.

April 16th, 2015

Same Old Hatch-et Job on Trade Agenda on Fast Track

By Patrick Woodall

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Today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced their Fast Track trade promotion legislation (The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, TPA-2015) to a flurry of adulation that this bill signals momentum on the Big Business-Republican leadership-Obama trade agenda. The free trade fanfare cannot overcome the broad-based public opposition to fast-tracking trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Far from an exciting new trade initiative, this is pretty much the exact same retrograde legislation that Hatch introduced last year. Fast Track is a parliamentary mechanism that prevents Congress from providing oversight to presidential trade negotiators and relegates the Congress to rubber stamp trade deals like the TPP on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The Hatch-Ryan Fast Track (they like to call it “trade promotion authority”) not only sets the rules for how Congress votes on trade deals but the Fast Track fine print prioritizes business interests ahead of consumer protections, food safety rules, public health safeguards and the environment.  Read the full article…

March 27th, 2015

Leaked Documents Underscore How TPP Will Provide Special Rights for Corporations

By Patrick Woodall

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Are you working on state legislation to label genetically modified foods? Or are you working to pass a local ban on fracking? If you are, you’ll want to know what the TPP has in store for you, according to recently uncovered documents.

This week, Wikileaks released the long-secret investment provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that revealed the trade deal would give big business the ability to sue governments for protecting the public interest – confirming our worst fears about the trade deal being pushed by the business community, Republican leadership and the Obama administration.

Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted the risks of these so-called investor-to-state suits in a Washington Post opinion piece last month, but the release of a current draft of the TPP investment chapter brings these legitimate concerns into sharper focus. These TPP investment provisions provide a new and powerful avenue for foreign corporations to attack commonsense public health, environmental and consumer safeguards as well as effectively rollback any local or state legislation or ordinances that threaten their bottom lines.

The TPP investment language allows foreign companies to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations that the companies claim “indirectly expropriate” their “reasonable investment-backed expectations.” International investment rules were originally designed to prevent other countries from seizing private property without compensating the owner (by building a highway through a company’s land or nationalizing a factory). But the TPP’s indirect expropriation language expands that idea to allow corporations to sue (for financial damages) over rules and regulations that curb dangerous or abusive business practices (like pollution or financial fraud) or even require companies to provide sensible disclosure (like food labels).

So far, the United States has been sued but not faced a penalty under these investment cases, but that is because our trade deals have been primarily with countries in the developing world with few investments in the United States. The TPP would empower major companies from New Zealand, Australia and Japan with new rights to attack federal and local laws. If the companies prevail in these suits, the government defendants (either national or local) could be forced to pay damages for harming expected earnings. Already international trade tribunals have already awarded $3.6 billion to foreign investors that brought successful investor-to-state corporate lawsuits under NAFTA and other U.S. trade deals, according to Public Citizen.

A measure to prevent pollution (like a local fracking ban) would indirectly expropriate the anticipated future profits from fracking, so a foreign drilling firm could sue for damages. One natural gas company has already challenged a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec under NAFTA’s investment provisions. These corporate lawsuits have an especially chilling effect on communities that want to protect their citizenry but lack the resources to defend against a colossal corporate lawsuit, including the more than 250 localities (including New York state) that have banned or imposed moratoriums on fracking.

The leaked investment text highlights the total lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations. It even includes a provision that keeps the investment chapter confidential until four years after the TPP goes into effect. If these special rights for corporate interests are so beneficial, why keep it classified?

March 20th, 2015

Ten Ways to Protect the Human Right to Water on World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo and Ryanne Waters

“Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right.” — Maude Barlow

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an essential common resource that nobody, and no thing, can live without. But around the world, even here in the United States, the human right to safe, clean, affordable water is under great threat; a global water crisis is looming, and in some places, has already begun.

Here are ten ways you can protect the human right to water and promote sustainable water management on World Water Day. Let’s dive in.

1. Join Tap-a-palooza! Mobilize your college campus to kick the bottled water habit and take back the tap.

The commodification of water by the beverage industry is a huge con. Research shows that in the United States, bottled water is not safer than tap water and it only serves to perpetuate our planet’s plastic bottle waste problem. When corporations like Nestlé commoditize what many consider to be a human right, communities lose out and executives fatten their wallets. If you’re a student, encourage reusable water bottle use by pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on your college campus.

TBTT

2. Say “no” to international water privatization schemes; oppose fast track of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The United States and the European Union are secretly negotiating a deal that would make it easier for the world’s biggest corporations to privatize our public water systems. And when private companies buy out public water systems, community members often experience degraded service at a higher price. Opposing fast track would make it harder for Congress to pass terrible trade deals like the TTIP.  Tell your member of Congress to oppose fast track today.

Fast Track

3. Support the campaign to stop water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria on twitter.

The city of Lagos, Nigeria is in great need of water supply and infrastructure improvements. But research shows that private ownership of municipal water systems does not benefit the community and often results in poor service at an unjust rate. 180 cities in 35 countries have fought hard to “re-municipalize” their water systems because of these failures. Lagos should not have to go down the same path. Tweet your support Tweet: I stand with Lagos, Nigeria. NO to water privatization! #OurWaterOurRight #Right2Water @followlasg @tundefashola for public water to the Lagos state government (@followlasg) and the governor (@tundefashola) by using the hashtag #OurWaterOurRight and #Right2Water.

LagosShareFB_we

4. Write to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

Did you know that our national forests and land surrounding our national parks are being fracked? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and associated activities such as wastewater injection can contaminate nearby rivers and streams that feed these treasured places – their vegetation and wildlife. Stopping fracking on public lands will bring us one step closer to stopping fracking, and protecting water, everywhere. Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

PublicLands

5. Sign this emergency petition to immediately stop fracking in California.

According to NASA, California has only one year of water left. But did you hear that oil and gas industry regulators in California recently admitted that they’ve failed to protect the state’s precious water supply from toxic contamination? Regulatory systems like these are unacceptable. Join us in calling on Governor Brown to issue an immediate emergency moratorium on fracking in California.

California

6. Urge the Ohio Legislature to protect the Great Lakes from toxic algae blooms.

Industrial agriculture is threatening Lake Erie. Last summer, a huge algae bloom left half a million people in Toledo, Ohio without water. The state legislature is trying to address the problem, but their bill falls short of real, meaningful agricultural reform. Tell them to toughen up and protect the Great Lakes from factory farms!

Toledo Algae

7. Demand that authorities in Detroit restore affordable water service.

Detroit’s water is simply unaffordable, and thousands of residents have had theirs shut off as a result. The United Nations recently visited Detroit to investigate the water shut offs and found that they violate the human right to water. Protect public health and the human right to water by urging officials in Detroit to restore water service under a water affordability plan.

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8. Educate yourself and your friends on the global water crisis by reading Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow.

Maude Barlow is a water justice warrior. The latest in her best-selling series, Blue Future exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. It lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis and details the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Maude_Barlow

 

9. Keep an eye out for a pre-screening of the film Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice from Jon Bowermaster.

In this film, Bowermaster takes a national look at the issue of fracking and the threats it poses to water quality and public health. The film profiles the victims of fracking across the U.S., checks in with experts on the topic, and takes a look at alternative energy sources gaining traction around the globe.

DearPresidentObama

10. Stay up to date on global water issues and learn how you can get involved by signing up here.

Whether by banning fracking, stopping terrible trade deals, promoting public ownership of water systems or protecting waterways from agricultural pollution, Food & Water Watch is working with communities to hold the industries that threaten the right to safe, clean, affordable water accountable.

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Update, March 22: Check out Maude Barlow’s World Water Day post about how to address the world water crisis.

March 10th, 2015

Nobel Laureate Joins Food & Water Watch Opposing Fast Tracking TPP

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Food & Water Watch New York Organizer Eric Weltman speaks out against the TPP at a press conference in Manhattan.

By Eric Weltman

If there were ever a rock star among economists, Joseph Stiglitz would get my vote. On February 25, the Nobel Prize winner headlined a community forum in Queens on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The event was part of Food & Water Watch’s national campaign to stop the Fast Tracking of this dangerous trade agreement.

Three hundred people jammed the auditorium of PS 69, the neighborhood elementary school, to hear Stiglitz along with local community leaders. Our focus that evening was Congressman Joseph Crowley, the local representative and a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, whose opposition to Fast Track could be crucial. We were partnering with some great allies, including the Communication Workers of America, the Working Families Party and the Sierra Club.

Stiglitz’s credentials are a mile long. He was the chief economist for the World Bank and Chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. And he effortlessly and absolutely shredded the TPP and the entire process of negotiating and trying to win Congressional approval for the agreement.

Stiglitz targeted the Obama administration for its secrecy, asking, “What are they trying to hide?” He blasted them on Fast Track, calling the move “an end-run around Congress.” He discussed how previous trade agreements had destroyed jobs and increased income inequality. He noted that the TPP would limit access to generic medicines. And he declared that the bottom line is “moneyed interests, special interests trying to get what’s good for them.” You can watch for yourself here.

He was awesome. But it’s going to take more than rock star economists to defeat the corporate giants behind the TPP. This event was just part of the hard work that Food & Water Watch, along with our allies in New York and across the country, are engaged in to defend what’s most important: our jobs, our health, our communities, our environment. Take action now by asking your member of Congress to oppose Fast Track and the TPP.

February 10th, 2015

TPP is the Crazy Train, and Fast Track is the Highway to Hell

Stop Secret Trade DealsA quick guide to why the TPP and Fast Track would undermine Democracy and eliminate protections for food and water

By Rich Bindell

We’ve been exposed to an awful lot of banter and propaganda about international trade deals recently. In the past year, the words “Fast Track,” “Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” and “trade promotion authority” have been thrown around quite liberally, most recently in the State of the Union Address. While we’ve blogged about the TPP and Fast Track many times already, and produced a fact sheet or two to break it down for the uninitiated, it seems like it might be a nice gesture to explain why this topic is on the tips of many a political tongue as of late.

In a world of endless acronyms, international trade has produced its share, many of which can be noted for their potential to reap havoc on values that Americans hold dear. To put it simply, the TPP is a controversial and largely secretive global trade deal that the Obama administration is trying to push through Congress, and Fast Track is a convenient nickname for the mechanism that political leaders are trying to use to push it through Congress quickly, without any messy arguments about it’s details. If it helps you remember: TPP is the Crazy Train and Fast Track is the Highway to Hell.

For the better part of a year-and-a-half, the corporate lobbying machine, congressional Republicans and the White House have been united in pushing for Fast Track authority on trade deals that will hurt the environment, public health, workers and American democracy, but the TPP has the ability to do all of this in one fell swoop. Read the full article…

January 22nd, 2015

Opportunity for Some, Favoritism to Corporate Interests

Corporate_BS_Detector

By Wenonah Hauter

Once again, dark money ruled on Election Day 2014 when a slew of die-hard reactionaries swept into office, their victories clinched by donations from a small group of selfish big money donors. These wealthy funders seem to believe they can hide behind the gates of their fancy estates and not experience the adverse effects of global climate change or the consequences of the other regressive policies they promote. So how did these radicals, who are out of touch with the values of most Americans, spend their second week of the 114th Congress? Rubbing elbows with one another and the other sycophants that feed at the trough of dirty money.

I’m talking about the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action’s 2015 Conservative Summit, “Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None,” the perfect setting for a love fest of extremists that included a number of House and Senate members. Speaking on their frightening agenda for energy, the House budget, trade and other matters, the name of the game for the current Congress is DEFENSE. Read the full article…

December 9th, 2014

Climate Deniers Watch: Congress’s Climate Change Deniers (Brought to You by the Oil and Gas Industry)

By Mitch Jones

Global_Climate_Change_MapIn the 114th Congress, a shift in power in the Senate means that a group of climate change deniers, funded by the oil and gas industry, will be taking over key committees. Their goals: advancing an agenda to frack more for oil and gas, export more dirty fossil fuels, and attack an already weak EPA. We’re not going to let them get away with it.

We are launching a special feature on our blog – Climate Denier Watch – that will expose the ties between the oil and gas industry, the Koch Brothers, and other climate change deniers and their representatives in Congress. Because, let’s not be fooled, these climate change deniers are the representatives of the oil and gas companies, not of the voters.

Take, for instance, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the incoming Chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). Sen. Inhofe is a leader of the climate deniers in Congress, having proclaimed climate change “the greatest hoax.” In his role as chairman, we can expect Inhofe to continue his attacks on climate scientists, the EPA, and public interest groups working to prevent climate change. Why? Because the oil and gas industry has donated at least $1.7 million to his campaigns during his career, more than twice what any other industry group has given. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

Senator Inhofe isn’t the only climate denier serving in Congress on the oil and gas industry’s dime. As Ranking Member on EPW in the 113th Congress, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has used public money and staff resources to release malicious reports attacking Food & Water Watch and other public interest groups fighting to protect the environment. The attacks serve two purposes: First, to aid Vitter in his run for governor; and second, to try to intimidate Food & Water Watch and others into not standing up for the environment and the public interest. In the past, Vitter has voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and voted for protecting oil and gas subsidies. It shouldn’t surprise us that Vitter is aiming for us; he has said evidence of climate change is “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage”. Add to that the over $1.2 million in contributions from the oil and gas industry, and you can see Vitter is doing what he’s being paid to do.

All told, the Republican members on EPW have received over $5 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. That’s a major investment, and we can expect those companies will want to see a big return on it. That’s why we can expect more climate denial, more attacks on EPA’s weak regulations, a bigger push to frack us and ship the oil and gas abroad, and more attacks on the groups that stand up to fight them.

But we aren’t going to be intimidated by their imitation McCarthyism. We’ll continue to expose their climate denial, expose the connections between the deniers and their paymasters in the oil and gas industry, and most importantly we’ll continue to push to ban fracking, to have real solutions to the emissions of greenhouse gases, and to protect our food and water.

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