Thursday, June 25, 2015

TPP ALERT


The trade agreement known as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) has now been afforded fast-track status, meaning that changes to the agreement are barred when it goes before the US Senate for vote.

This agreement was negotiated in secret and its details remain undisclosed to the public after fast-track authority was approved by the US House in June (23) 2015. The TPP will lower tariffs and other import barriers, yet the scope of its applications extends well beyond trade to include many other concerns of international corporations, including intellectual property, creation of new standards for Internet access, and investor protections:
Ellen Brown ‘Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards’: The Alice in Wonderland World of Secret Trade Agreements
Jonathan Weisman June 23, 2015 “Trade Accord, Once Blocked, Nears Passage,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/us/politics/senate-vote-on-trade-bill.html?emc=edit_th_20150624&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32962000).

Many progressive economists have warned that the investor protection clauses could significant undermine environmental and worker protections while eroding public services. Ellen Brown's recent article is a must read ‘Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards’: The Alice in Wonderland World of Secret Trade Agreements

Additionally, Elizabeth Warren explained in a June 23, 2015 op. ed. that investor protections, such as those codified in the TPP, will erode worker and environmental protections:
…modern trade deals give corporations the right to go straight to an arbitration panel when a country passes new laws or applies existing laws in ways that the corporations believe will cost them money. Known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), these international arbitration panels can force countries to pony up billions of dollars in compensation. And these awards stick: No matter how crazy or outrageous the decision, no appeals are permitted. Once the arbitration panel rules, taxpayers must pay. Because of how costly these awards can be, ISDS creates enormous pressure on governments to avoid actions that might offend corporate interests.
ISDS cases have in the past been leveled against “countries that have raised their minimum wage, attempted to cut smoking rates, or prohibited dumping toxic chemicals.” Warren notes that in 2015 a foreign corporation successfully challenged “Canada’s decision to deny a blasting permit because of concerns about the environmental impact on nearby fishing grounds, and now the company could get up to $300 million from Canadian taxpayers.”
Elizabeth Warren, “Trade agreements should not benefit industry only,” The Boston Globe, June 23, 2015https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/06/23/warren/CJluXWm4B5VDTdUDsCkwEL/story.html).
Exports May Plunder
The US oil and natural gas industries will win big from the TPP. A report issued by the Energy Security Program titled, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership as a Pathway for US Energy Exports to Japan,” argues that “energy” will be covered as a good or service unless specifically excluded from the TPP, as interpreted by the Office of the US Trade Representative stipulates (USTR). The report also notes the TPP’s “nondiscrimination clauses” could also impact oil and natural gas exports (p. 7):
 (Tom Cutler, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership as a Pathway for US Energy Exports to Japan,” NBR Energy Security Program (2015), http://www.nbr.org/downloads/pdfs/eta/ES_essay_cutler_012815.pdf).
The TPP constitutes a major reversal of US energy policy since President Carter (Cunningham, 2015). Carter signed the energy ban in 1975. The ramp-up of US oil production over the last 10 years has resulted in enormous pressure to lift the ban. Fracking production increased from 5.4 million barrels per day in 2010 to approximately 9.3 million barrels in June 2015 (Cunningham).

Over-production resulted in the US, driving down prices and causing financial distress for the fracking industry, causing ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Total to borrow $31 billion to finance balance sheet deficits in the first quarter of 2015. The industry has consolidated during the price collapse and many smaller companies have declared bankruptcy. The US carbon complex sees exports as a solution to over-production and has formed a lobbying group, Producers for American Crude Oil Exports (PACE). I strongly recommend essay below for review:
Nick Cunnigham ,“Oil Exports Are the Next Step in Obama’s Fossil-Fueled Presidency,” Common Dreams (June 11, 2015 http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/06/11/oil-exports-are-next-step-obamas-fossil-fueled-presidency).

PREVENT LIFTING of ENERGY EXPORT BAN



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