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Obama's Last Gasp At Trade Deals: Lame Duck Push On TPP; And 'Lite' Version Of TTIP

from the this-is-not-legacy-building dept

Lots of people have expected President Obama to push for a Congressional vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) ratification in the "lame duck" session after the election, but before the new administration takes over. Last week, the President made it pretty clear that he was planning to do exactly that, and magically a bunch of "business groups" that make up the "President's Export Council" are suddenly pushing for a lame duck TPP vote, and lots of old school business lobbying groups are out talking to the press about how totally amazing the TPP is. Meanwhile, on the flip side, TPP opponents are (not surprisingly) gearing up to oppose a lame duck vote.

It's still not clear if there are enough votes in Congress, but of course, no one wants to talk about it before the election, because there's so much populist anti-TPP feelings from the public on both parties that speaking up in support of TPP now may harm election chances. Of course, after the election, when elected officials can go back to ignoring the will of the people, things may miraculously shift back to the way they were before.

Meanwhile, the other big "trade" plan that was supposed to be a part of Obama's legacy is the deal with the EU, known as the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership). That's run into lots of trouble as well, and there are serious concerns on both sides of the Atlantic about how it will work. With time running out on the clock, apparently the USTR is now pushing for a "light" version of the agreement so that something is accomplished:
The U.S. and EU countries supporting free trade are increasingly worried that the landmark Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will collapse if they do not secure a preliminary accord before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

They now accept that a full agreement will not be possible by the end of 2016 because of an impasse over agriculture and public procurement, but they don’t want to surrender what they regard as concrete progress made in other fields over the past three years of negotiations.
So to "lock in" something, they are looking at taking the pieces they have agreed on, and coming up with a simplified deal. What's interesting here is that the agreed upon parts are the ones that are normally used as the example of why we need TTIP in the first place. In the past, we've joked about how frequently those defending TTIP point to the single example of different automobile standards, such that automakers need to build different cars for each market. And it looks like that issue might make it in TTIP-lite:
U.S. and Italian officials are now weighing the option of a “Step 1” deal to lock in elements that can be finalized by December, possibly including joint testing regimes and mutually agreed upon standards for cars, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
So, uh, that sounds good. Why do we need the rest of the crap that they're debating, around corporate sovereignty ISDS provisions -- especially since the entire basis for those kinds of agreements was supposed to be to encourage investment in developing countries. The EU and the US have perfectly decent court systems, so any dispute shouldn't need a special tribunal.

But, of course, those who have relied on shoving all sorts of pork and special interest protectionism through trade deals do not like the idea of a "lite" agreement that covers the officially discussed reasons for a trade deal. Why, that would be horrible! How could they continue to hide all the sneaky stuff they want to get in?
The idea has sparked immediate skepticism in the European Commission and in some EU member countries, which argue that any form of a downgraded deal will be very hard to sell politically, particularly after French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl and German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel turned hostile on the negotiations.
And, of course, anything that's "rushed" through may have problems on its own, so there are legitimate reasons to be wary of a "lite" deal anyway. But it is kind of amusing that they might dump all the "good" reasons for TTIP into a deal, and then have to continue to try to justify the rest of the stuff.

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  • identicon
    Norahc, 16 Sep 2016 @ 8:03pm

    There's a reason

    There's a reason that TPP and TTIP have TP in their names...all three are good for the same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Mayor, 16 Sep 2016 @ 11:23pm

    TGP AND TTIP

    I just had a wonderful thought re this mess involving the TPP and TTIP!
    .
    Simply put... there are those for and against both scripts, and there will be those who are actively advocating through businesses, bureaucracies, and through NGO+NPOs to support, and to reject these "arrangements"!
    .
    But what if a global coalition of interests simply proactively scripted an entirely new agreement that was fashioned by, and for, the citizens of the world! And regardless of these two aforenoted scripts... and their respective outcomes!... this new parallel initiative begins being proffered by this coalition, as a public/ social response, to each and every element (and beyond!) of these aforenoted "elite agreements"!
    .
    And this new script... and I'll call it here and now, the TRANS GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP!... will be signed off by all of the major global NGO+NPO advocacies, and by as many global citizens as can be called upon to support its contents!
    .
    And so... and regardless of the outcomes of the TPP and TTIP!... governments, "elite business interests", and "collusive NGO+NPOs", will find staring them in the face, a competing TGP and TTIP (i.e., Transglobal Trade & Investment Partnership!) that is an expression of the will of the citizens of the world!... and, thereby, a "leveraging tool" against the potential manifestation of SAID "publicly supported" agreements, created in the backrooms by "less-than-public-interests"!
    .
    Please!... no emails!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 17 Sep 2016 @ 3:11am

    extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...

    Re: "The EU and the US have perfectly decent court systems..."
    evidence proffered for the above statement ? ? ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2016 @ 11:45am

      Re: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...

      I would claim the "EU court system" is not entirely competent to rule on the areas of these treaties. That would be national courts.

      While most national courts are perfectly decent, certain countries in southern and eastern europe have severe problems with even reaching "decent"-status.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2016 @ 6:28am

        Re: Re: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...

        "Decent" meaning that
        1) only a few are railroaded rather than a lot?
        2) there are no plea bargains?
        3) public defenders are provided?
        4) there is no high court / low court?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Sep 2016 @ 3:53am

    Telling silence

    It's still not clear if there are enough votes in Congress, but of course, no one wants to talk about it before the election, because there's so much populist anti-TPP feelings from the public on both parties that speaking up in support of TPP now may harm election chances.

    If the public is against something and the politicians are silent on it that's a pretty good indicator that the politicians are in favor of whatever it is and don't want to say so.

    While it's not a guarantee that a politician speaking out against TPP will actually vote against it, one staying silent on it will almost certainly do so given the public's stance on it means they have nothing to gain by staying silent unless they plan to vote in favor and don't want to tip their hand when it could actually affect them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2016 @ 5:16am

    Re: TPP

    The TPP is not a free trade deal, it is a regulatory orgy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2016 @ 5:32am

    Obama: "Come on, just the TTIP!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bye bye bummer, 17 Sep 2016 @ 8:40am

    There goes "Hope and Change"

    See subject

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 4:48am

    This story is bogus

    You seriously expect us to believe that the Democrats are corporate puppets? I'm sorry, but only the Republicans are corporate puppets. The Dems are for the little guy. You know, like the Clintons who made more than $100 million selling access while Hillary was Secretary of State. They would never bend to corporate puppet masters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 6:36am

      Re: This story is bogus

      Not sure what your point is, but I doubt anyone here was implying that only one party is corrupt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:40am

    Calling These Pacts "Free Trade" is a Lie

    "U.S. and Italian officials are now weighing the option of a “Step 1” deal to lock in elements that can be finalized by December, possibly including joint testing regimes and mutually agreed upon standards for cars, pharmaceuticals and medical devices."

    Once again, these are not Free Trade deals. They are regulation simplification deals, and corporate sovereignty deals. As Techdirt has written, they bind the hands of our elected leaders, and empower multinational corporations.

    We basically already have free trade. What are the normal impediments to free trade?
    - bans or blockades
    - quota
    - tariffs
    - price fixes
    - subsidy or domestic favoritism

    So, if a so-called "Free Trade" deal does not focus on reducing one of the above, it is NOT a Free Trade deal. It is probably more of a "Regulation Equalization Deal", or such...but that doesn't sound as good.

    Smart people, and in particular economists, are universally in favor of free trade, because we've seen the math that shows that it floats all boats. Free Trade has a good brand, for good reason.

    Regulatory Equalization, OTOH, could be good or bad. But what we usually get from it, in practice, is the worst of any national quality standards, or the lightest of any national regulations.

    Corporate Sovereignty, OTOH (I have three hands) is most definitely bad for the citizens. It takes power from our elected officials, and gives it to corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Sep 2016 @ 5:56am

      Re: Calling These Pacts "Free Trade" is a Lie

      ^This. What scares me, though, is that if these are like ACTA, and they get the "lite" versions through, they can change the rules of the game without consulting the rest of us after they've been signed and sealed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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