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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The TPP But Were Afraid To Ask

What is the  TPP?  

TPP is a short way of saying Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s a proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. If the deal is approved, it would cover almost 40% of the world’s GDP.  

Canada, Japan, Mexico and Australia are on that list. Doesn’t the US already have trade agreements with those countries?  

Oh yeah. And those countries also have trade agreements with other potential TPP countries. In fact, many of those agreements could present problems for implementing TPP, but we won’t know until the proposal is made public.  

Wait a minute, the TPP proposal hasn’t been made public?  

Nope. The negotiations are mostly done behind closed doors.

Hold on. Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized the fact that these negotiations were held in “secret,” and President Obama basically said that’s baloney…  

They’re secret in the sense that the negotiations are classified. Members of Congress are allowed to review the transcripts of the negotiations, along with other documents relating to the TPP discussions. But if a member of Congress shared those documents, or any other information from the negotiations, they could be charged with treason.So as far as you and I are concerned, they’re secret by definition of being “classified.”  

But I heard Oregon Senator Ron Wyden talking about the specifics of TPP on OPB’s Think Out Loud. Was he breaking the law?   

Senator Wyden – one of the driving forces behind the TPP – was talking specifically about the TPA – and generally about TPP.  

Wait…what the heck is the “TPA?”  

So, the TPA is short for the “Trade Promotion Authority.”

Here’s how the government describes it: “TPA is a legislative procedure, written by Congress, through which Congress defines U.S. negotiating objectives and spells out a detailed oversight and consultation process for and during trade negotiations.  Under TPA, Congress retains the authority to review and decide whether any proposed U.S. trade agreement will be implemented.”   Basically, it’s the way Congress says, “this is what we want, and this is how we’re going to oversee it.”  

So the TPA helps set the parameters for the TPP?  


And when Senator Wyden talks about “fast-track?”  

That’s all TPA. Fast Track would mean the agreement would get an up or down vote, but could not be filibustered or amended. A time frame for passage can also be applied. Critics of fast-tracking say it gives the President too much power, and puts member of the U.S. Senate (which approves treaties) in a no-win situation:  either kill years of negotiations by voting no, or approve undesirable compromises by voting yes.  

Proponents, meanwhile, say fast-tracking gives the President’s negotiating team the ability to negotiate in good faith.   Either way, it gives Congress the ability to load up the TPA with all kinds of proposals important to members.  

Okay, so bottom-line this for me. Is the TPP “NAFTA on Steroids” as experts have claimed?  

That’s definitely one way of looking at it. But if you take a step back and look at TPP as part of the larger trade policy of the U.S., it looks a bit different. As Lisa Desjardins of  PBS NewsHour told OPB, the TPP “could be seen as more like NATO than NAFTA. “  

Newsweek expands on that, calling TPP an alliance of money over guns.  

In fact, TPP is just one of a host of new trade policies that would solidify U.S. relations and entrench U.S. power through global economic alliances. Another proposed free-trade zone with Europe, the TTIP, would be the biggest bi-lateral trade agreement in history. And both the TTP and TTIP have been in the works for more than a decade.  

More than a decade? Why are we just hearing about it now?   Well, as President Obama once put it: elections have consequences.        

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