There were two troubling stories in the news yesterday. One is now somewhat less troubling because Chuck Schumer recused himself from anti-trust oversight of the Comcast/Time Warner merger (but ONLY after his brother's role in the proposed merger was exposed by Little Sis). Prior to his recusal, Chuck has been gung-ho on the deal; he also claimed he knew nothing of his brother's involvement.
That just leaves one troubling story . . . after the squiggle
The details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations remain for the most part unknown to both the American people and their elected representatives.
Who does know the details? The Obama administration has deemed negotiations to be classified information -- banning members of Congress from discussing the American negotiating position with the press or the public. Congressional staffers have been restricted from viewing the documents.
Corporate tools have been busily crafting said agreement under the cloak of darkness. And finalization of the deal is getting very close:
Negotiators are "very close" to completing a US-led Pacific trade pact this year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says ahead of a crucial meeting in the city-state this weekend.In a moment of transparency he may later regret, Lee added:
Trade ministers from 12 countries will meet from Saturday to Tuesday in a bid to iron out kinks in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after negotiators failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to strike a deal by the end of last year.
...he hoped the US congress would pass a bill that would empower the Obama administration to negotiate major trade agreements that the US legislature could approve or reject - without making changes.Supporters of TPP said the four-year extension of the powers under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which last ended in 2007, is indispensable to speeding up trade negotiations, because it extending TPA may face stiff opposition from House Democrats who feel it is too far-reaching.
Lee said the (TPA) powers would ensure that US lawmakers would not be able to vote down items in the TPP that they were not in favour of as the pact is a negotiated package.Yes, indeed, we should all hope that the Obama Administration, the most transparent in US history, will be able to ensure that our elected representatives cannot take away any of the secret gifts to Big Money hidden in the nooks and crannies.
And just who is negotiating on OUR behalf?
Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.Selig is currently awaiting confirmation as Undersecretary in the Senate. Meanwhile:
Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.
Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. . . CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman's] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.There have been reports circulating since December concerning the extraordinary powers TPP will grant to corporations, powers that will allow them to circumvent state or national courts laws or regulations. These details were referenced in leaked documents which are available for viewing HERE.
One of the controversial provisions includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government allowing allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations.
Corporations are people, my friend (and apparently also sovereign nations when it suits their purpose)
The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations.