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The Trans Pacific Partnership is another putrid so-called "free trade" deal. All these NAFTa-style agreements are a core reason behind the collapse of the middle class across the world. And, at least with the TPP, some senior Democrats are making it clear to the president: this deal is dead on arrival without significant changes.

Via the brave warriors at Global Trade Watch, we get some specifics from a press conference held with various senior Democrats (here is the full recording):

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT): We all know next week the trade ministers from the 12 nations will meet in Singapore. Their goal is the announcing of a deal on the TPP free trade agreement, a deal on an agreement that we know still has outstanding many of the core demands that have been made by the Congress and the U.S. public….. Currency manipulation has expanded the U.S. trade deficit and it’s cost us jobs. In fact you have the Peterson Institute for International Economics which has said a minimum of 1 million American jobs have been shipped overseas as a result of currency manipulation. Several of our TPP partners have a history of or are currently manipulating their exchange rates to promote their exports, which is why including currency discipline in the agreement is critical, which will allow us to level that playing field for American workers. Several of our TPP partners have a history of or are currently manipulating their exchange rates to promote their exports, which is why including currency discipline in the agreement is critical, which will allow us to level that playing field for American workers. The Congress has been very vocal, our colleague Mike Michaud has led a bipartisan effort in the House, that received more than half of all House members, with 230 signed a letter urging the administration to include currency disciplines in the agreement. A similar letter in the Senate was signed by 60 senators. So not doing something on currency in this agreement would be a slap in the face to Congress…. There appears to be no discussion about currency manipulation, and like labor, environmental standards, intellectual property chapter, among other things- it threatens to limit access to affordable medicines – that remain undecided going into Singapore to this gathering next week…. It is Congress that has a final say on whether a trade deal is approved. Any deal that does not meet the Congress’s prerogative such as insistence that such a deal includes disciplines against currency cheating will not pass in Congress. In other words, any deal announced as final next week is far from it.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA): I’m deeply concerned about the question of labor protections and what role labor and labor rights are going to play in the trade that is envisioned to expand between these countries and the United States….  it’s become pretty clear from just reports in the media and other sources that this is a fundamental area of disagreement on the question of whether or not those labor rights will be enforced and what are those labor rights? Are they going to recognize the ILO’s core conventions? Will they recognize enforceable labor rights at all, as President Bush did in 2007? And, if they’re not, then this is very bad news for American workers, for American businesses, trying to compete. And that’s why many of us have raised this question of Fast Track… on the labor rights issues: sidebar agreements don’t do terribly well. You’re either in the agreement or you’re left out. Left out means you’re left out...These countries are much more hostile to labor than even Colombia. Colombia at least had some recognition of labor unions and rights as part of their history. They weren’t very good on it but the fact of the matter is that we just completed a trip to Colombia and the Colombian government has not argued with our report and the U.S. government has not argued with our report. We found huge gaps in the protections of laborers, the rights of workers, payments of workers, the abuse of workers. So we are terribly concerned when you think about the basic ILO core labor standards and you think about Vietnam, which absolutely does not recognize the right of workers to organize, and how does that play into it? And we know that these are countries where wages are going to be even more difficult in terms of American competition, so I think when we look at Korea, when we look at Colombia we see a road map to failure on behalf of protecting the rights of workers in those countries and improving the rights of workers and we also see a barrier to fair competition for American workers and American companies.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D- CA): " looks like there would be new restrictions on limitations and exceptions to copyright such as what we in the U.S. enjoy as fair use. I believe that fair use in the digital age is absolutely crucial to creativity, education, social commentary, free speech, and yet it appears that the signatories would confine copyright limitations to certain special cases. This could lead to an abuse by rights holders, it is not innocuous and would be at odds with the First Amendment of the United States. Third, the leaked TPP provides extensive provisions on technical protection measures such as DRM to prevent copying or modifying copyrighted work. This is something which has come to the public’s attention here in the United States when the librarian said you couldn’t unlock your cellphone! We’re trying to change it, this provision looks like it would lock in really backward provisions of law.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer  (D-OR): We should not let the Trans-Pacific Partnership slide by without building on the previous progress in the environmental chapter. We need to work to make sure that the environmental chapter is binding and subject to dispute settlement... And the U.S. needs to make sure that it contains strong marine conservation provisions, particularly because these are the countries, who will be a party to this agreement, that represent over a third of the global catch…. It needs to have robust and legally enforceable prohibitions on the trade in illegally harvested timber and wood products…. We want to make sure that this agreement prevents the trade in endangered wildlife and plants…

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY): I’ve been a longstanding supporter of free trade and I also understand that free trade has to be fair. And the only way you’re going to get free and fair trade is if Congress is able to assert oversight in review of trade agreements; there’s got to be checks and balances and I’m very concerned that TPP does not currently provide those checks and balances. My bottom line this weekend, our trade representatives will join trade ministers from other TPP countries to try and make a final deal, a good deal is more important than a final deal. And the only deal that I can support is one that has verifiable standards that Congress can oversee and monitor. I’m going to be continuing to lead the fight on a process that ensures that.

I will only comment that I don't believe any of these deals can be made "better." The criticisms above reflect a view that members of Congress should be able to push for changes in the existing framework. That's better than to ram-the-deal-down-your-throat "fast track" process.

BUT...when Cong Israel says he's a "longstanding supporter" of free trade, he's basically regurgitating the myth that there is something called "free trade". It's a myth. It doesn't exist.

We have to tear down the whole mindset of deals that address trade and start from scratch where the first guiding principle is "how do these deals make the lives of the majority of people better".

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