Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Problem Complicating TPP

Though the US Senate was perfectly willing to surrender some sovereignty to forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), human rights advocates were able to insert a provision into the granting of fast track authority that could doom the agreement.

A provision against human trafficking was inserted into the bill which the White House worried could knock Malaysia out of TPP given the country’s longstanding problems with human trafficking. Those problems came into focus again last week when mass graves of human trafficking victims were discovered on the Malaysia side of the Malaysia-Thailand border.

With this latest grisly discovery it is going to be considerably harder for the White House to persuade Congress to take out the human trafficking provision on TPP.

Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they have discovered a series of graves in at least 17 abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar have been held. The finding follows a similar discovery earlier this month by police in Thailand who unearthed dozens of bodies from shallow graves in abandoned camps on the Thai side of the border.

The grim discoveries are shedding new light on the hidden network of jungle camps run by traffickers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families.

Of course, there is an opportunity for spin here by the White House and the Malaysian government – that these latest discoveries prove that Malaysia is making a good faith effort to stop human trafficking and therefore no provision within the TPP fast track bill is necessary. But Malaysia appears to be a long way away from getting control of its human trafficking problem.

The State Department notes Malaysia is not only integrally involved in international human trafficking networks but that the country’s agricultural and domestic industries use forced labor.

Talk about racing to the bottom.

Senator Feinstein Says TPP Is Not For Corporate America, Critics Should ‘Take A Good Look’

The rhetoric for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is hitting new levels of absurdity. Though all available evidence – including leaked portions – shows the TPP is a massive give away to corporate interests, the agreement is being framed by Democratic advocates as some sort of bizarre achievement for working people.

First the White House called the TPP the “most progressive trade agreement in history” and now Senator Dianne Feinstein has claimed that TPP is not for Corporate America.

Instead, Feinstein offered that small businesses will be the real beneficiaries and that critics of the measure should more closely examine the proposed agreement.

“I want to straighten one thing out, and that is that most people think this is a bill for corporate America,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on ABC’s “This Week.” “In California, 95 percent of the trade is carried out by companies and business of less than 500 people.”…

Feinstein also said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who’s been criticized for dodging the debate on the issue, should “take a good look” at the measure.

Aye, there’s the rub. Can we “take a good look” Senator Feinstein? The answer, of course, is no. That lack of transparency from the “most transparent administration in history” is exactly why people are skeptical about other claims. That and the history of so-called free trade agreements which, to put it lightly, is unimpressive.

But if the White House and corporate Democrats really do believe what they say about how progressive this deal is then they should be committed to showing it to the public shouldn’t they? Anytime now.

Senate Democrats Fold, Obama To Get Fast-Track On TPP

For a brief shining moment it looked like Senate Democrats might actually stand up for their own constituents and oppose a terrible so-called “trade deal.” But now comes the seemingly inevitable capitulation with Senate Democrats agreeing to give President Obama fast-track authority to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The cosmetic concessions offered to the weak-kneed Democrats included some empty votes on currency manipulation and an extension of an African trade agreement – in short, nothing. Senate Democrats have set themselves up to get rolled when TPP comes up for a final vote and voting no means scuttling an agreement all their donors will be demanding they approve. Then again, maybe that was the plan all along – offer token opposition to appease the base, cave, then say your hands are tied because the fast-track has made the vote on TPP so binary you have to vote yes.

For all the drama, Senate Democrats may have ended up where they started, with tough trade enforcement provisions that are broadly supported but without a vehicle to get them into law. Lawmakers from both parties say that even if the enforcement and currency bill passes Thursday, they may try to break off some provisions as amendments to the trade promotion bill that Mr. Obama must sign into law.

Same as it ever was.

In any case, the White House continued to crow that TPP is the “The most progressive trade agreement in history,” with pairs well with their claim that they are “The most transparent administration in history.” Neither statements are true, but when has that stopped a talking point from being repeated ad nauseum?

And as the economic statecraft heats up to empower Western corporations in Asia so to does the military planning. The US Marines recently announced a new project to integrate military forces in Asia with the exclusion of China which compliments new expansive US military agreements with China’s neighbors such as Japan.

Can you guess where America’s next war will be?

Democrats In Senate Block TPP Fast-Track Authority For Obama

President Barack Obama’s campaign to give him authority to jam a secretive “trade” deal down Congress’ throat hit a roadblock in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats refused to vote to cut off debate. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware was the only Democrat to vote in favor of advancing controversial fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Despite claims by White House officials that President Obama is leading “The most transparent administration in history,” the TPP deal has been shrouded in secrecy with a ban on members of Congress speaking about what is in the bill with the public. Members of Congress know that Obama wants fast-track authority so he can negotiate the entire agreement without Congressional amendments then demand Congress pass the agreement or risk hurting the economy.

The con did not work this time. President Obama responded to the defeat by lashing out at his own party and claiming that an economic agreement that would last years and effected numerous countries was “personal.”

President Obama’s dismissive attitude towards TPP opponents within his own party had already been an issue especially concerning his statements on Senator Elizabeth Warren which some claimed were sexist. Obama and his supporters have been waging a full scale campaign against progressive TPP critics in press releases and social media.

For now the campaign seems stalled thanks to the efforts of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown which are prevailing within the Democratic Party. TPP has already been scrutinized by economists as being mostly irrelevant to new job creation leaving the downsides of the bill which will lead to further diminished labor and environment standards, more expansive intellectual property “rights” at the expense of health and innovation, and a surrender of national sovereignty to corporate tribunals.

With Republicans eager to officially turn America over to transnational corporations and the global 1% it seems unlikely that fast-tracking the TPP is completely off the table. The House is set to take up the proposal soon and there is no guarantee that Democrats in the Senate will stay united. TPP is far from dead.

Victory for Grassroots as Fast Track Goes Down in Crucial Senate Vote

‘We know the forces pushing the job-killing TPP won’t stop here, and they should know, neither will we,’ says Democracy for America

By Deirdre Fulton

Update (3 pm EDT):

In what was immediately heralded as a victory for the grassroots, Senate Democrats on Tuesday stymied President Barack Obama’s corporate-driven trade agenda by voting to prevent the chamber from taking up Fast Track legislation.

According to news reports, a cloture motion to cut off a filibuster and proceed to debate fell short of the 60 votes necessary to pass(52-45). Sen. Tom Carper, of Delaware, was the only Democrat to vote yes.

Civil society groups lauded Tuesday’s outcome and what it could mean for future trade votes.

“The Fast Track train went off the rails today,” cheered Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. “The U.S. Senate vote was supposed to generate momentum for Fast Track in the U.S. House of Representatives, where it’s in deep trouble, with almost every House Democrats and a significant bloc of GOP opposing it.”

Still, now is not the time for the grassroots to become complacent, warned Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain in a statement released just after the vote.

“While we celebrate today’s failed Fast Track vote for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, the hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists who have united behind Senators Warren, Brown and Sanders to defeat the TPP will not rest until it’s dead, buried, and covered with six-inches of concrete,” Chamberlain said. “Today, the army of corporate executives and industry lobbyists who wrote the Trans-Pacific Partnership by and for themselves failed to secure support for the Fast Track legislation they know they need to ram their bad trade deal through Congress.”

However, he added, “We know the forces pushing the job-killing TPP won’t stop here, and they should know, neither will we.”

And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been a vocal opponent of Fast Track and gave a stirring speech on the Senate floor prior to the vote on Tuesday, added: “The Senate vote today was an important first victory in what will be a long battle.”

“Today was a good step forward,” he said, “but much more needs to be done.”

Earlier… (more…)