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Secret trade pact could be bad for almost everyone (with video) Comment on this post ↓
November 7th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Trans Pacific Partnership

on fast track to approval

without public input

Economist, columnist and IMF Consultant Dean Baker is wary of the TPP.

A SECRET TRADE deal being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim nations including the United States rose to a prominent place in the public eye with a mysterious editorial in The New York Times on Wednesday.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is something every American needs to know about. Yet media coverage has been scant – even in The New York Times itself.
If agreement is reached as the Obama administration hopes before the end of the year, it could be a gift to the richest American corporations at the expense of everyone else.
Negotiations are proceeding largely out of sight and without participation by anyone except huge, multi-national corporate giants.
But details are available, if one looks hard enough, and they are frightening in their potential consequences.
WATCH A VIDEO ON THE TOPIC BELOW THE FOLD.

ATTENTION WAS DRAWN to the issue over the weekend by one of the best shows on television, Moyers & Company in The top secret trade deal you need to know about.
The show featured the two most knowledgeable experts on the topic.
Dean Baker is co-director of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He’s been a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and a consultant to Congress and the World Bank.
Yves Smith is an expert on investment banking and the founder of Aurora Advisors, a New York based management consulting firm and blogger at “Naked Capitalism.”

The web site of Moyers & Company, where you can find the show on the TPP. Click image to enlarge.

At the start of the segment, Smith encapsulates the central problem with the negotiations:
There’d be no reason to keep it so secret if it was in the interest of the public,” Smith says.
Baker then explains it in terms everyone can understand.
 This really is a deal that’s being negotiated by corporations for corporations and any benefit it provides to the bulk of the population of this country will be purely incidental,” he says.
Smith has been writing prolifically about the negotiations for months, and her knowledge is both broad and deep.
It is demonstrated in her May post Secret “Free Trade” Negotiations Will Gut Regulations, Further Enrich Multinationals and Big Financial Firms.
“One of the most disturbing aspects of [the] negotiations is that they are being held in secret … secret, that is, if you are anybody other that a big US multinational who has a stake in the outcome,” Smith wrote then.
“If that isn’t bad enough, there’s another side of these planned pacts that is often simply ignored. These “trade” deals are Trojan horses to erode or eliminate national regulations.
“At a minimum, voters and the press need to demand that these talks be conducted in the open to prevent Congress from being presented with a fait accompli.”
This point was raised over and over on the Moyers show.
“It’s very peculiar to have an agreement of this importance be kept so much under wraps,” Baker said.
Smith elaborated.
 “It’s a mistake to call it a trade agreement. This is really an agreement that’s purpose is substantially to weaken nation-based regulation while at the same time strengthening intellectual property protections. So it’s basically a gimme to companies on both ends.”
In his inimical way, Moyers summed it up.
“This is the paradox to me. I mean … stronger copyright and patent protection is the very opposite of free trade. They involve government interference and intervention in the market. They restrict competition. They lead, as you’ve just said, to higher prices for consumers. How can you describe this as a free-trade agreement?”
You can’t.

A search of The New York Times database reveals scant reporting on the TPP in the past 12 months. Click image to enlarge,

The most detailed reporting on the negotiations can be found at the web site of Public Citizen, where the latest story shows the rush to finish the deal may be futile.
In its Oct. 3 account Trans-Pacific Partnership: What End Game? (No End in Sight…) Ben Beachy reports on why an agreement is so far away:
“Until recently, US Trade Representative Michael Froman was declaring that the TPP was in its “end game.”  Except:
“There is no text agreed for major swaths of at least three of the pact’s 29 chapters;
“There are multi-year deadlocks on a long list of controversial “behind the borders” issues in a dozen other chapters …
“There are no deals on any of the controversial market access issues…
“And, as details have leaked out about the draft texts that have emerged from three years of extremely secretive negotiations, political opposition is building in several TPP countries among parliamentarians, powerful professional associations, business sectors, unions and the public.”
With this background we discover the editorial in The New York Times on Wednesday headlined: A Pacific Trade Deal.
“Officials from the United States and 11 other countries bordering the Pacific are trying to complete a trade agreement by the end of the year that could help all of our economies and strengthen relations between the United States and several important Asian allies,” it says.

Dean Baker’s response Wednesday on his blog “Beat the Press.”

The editorial is mysterious because a quick search of the NYT database shows virtually no reporting whatsoever in the past 12 months on the negotiations or the details of the pact itself.
Then the editorial board concludes:
“A good agreement would lower duties and trade barriers on most products and services, strengthen labor and environmental protections, limit the ability of governments to tilt the playing field in favor of state-owned firms and balance the interests of consumers and creators of intellectual property. Such a deal will not only help individual countries but set an example for global trade talks.”
Oh really?
Baker was quick with a response on his blog on Wednesday in NYT Endorses Imaginary TPP Deal.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade deal that is being negotiated completely in secret. The main actors at the table are large corporate interests like Wall Street banks, multinational drug companies, and oil and gas companies,” Baker writes.
“[But] this is a “next generation” trade agreement that is primarily about regulations, not reducing traditional trade barriers like tariffs and quotas.
“Bizarrely, the NYT editorialized in favor of the the TPP… Yes, boys and girls, Goldman Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and Pfizer will put together a deal that does all these things. This is serious?”
The negotiations for a trade agreement as far reaching as the TPP need far more attention from the media and the public. The consequences for competing national interests among the 12 players are enormous – they’ve been compared to the serious unintended consequences of NAFTA, signed under Bill Clinton, and regretted by many ever since.
The very secrecy shrouding the talks must make everyone suspicious that something nefarious is taking place that is not in the public interest.
It is time for a robust debate on the issue. The headlong rush to finalize the deal is wrong-headed and dangerous before a full public airing of everything at stake.

Watch the video below and decide for yourself.

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