By Bonner Cohen, Ph.D. ~
What does a 5,544-page treaty touted by its supporters as promoting free trade among 12 Pacific Rim nations have to do with efforts by global elites to impose restrictions on the use of abundant and affordable energy? The answer is far more than the backers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) want you to know.
After six years of behind-closed-doors negotiations, the text of the TPP was finally released to the American public by the Obama administration on Nov. 5. A careful reading of the treaty shows why the White House had gone to such extraordinary lengths to keep the public in the dark about the TPP. The deal is a Pandora’s Box of troubles that, among other things, subjects the U.S. to the whims of an unaccountable trans-national TPP Commission (see below), undercuts patent protection for American pharmaceuticals, slaps quotas on exports of U.S. agricultural products, and greases the skids for imposition of the recently adopted Paris global climate change pact.
The PTT is an outgrowth of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) adopted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in 1994. In addition to the U.S., other TPP partners are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Aside from the expansion of the number of nations involved, the biggest difference between NAFTA and the TPP is the scope of the agenda hiding behind the latter’s “free-trade” pretensions. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the agreement’s section on the environment.
The TPP and COP 21
Release of the TPP just over three weeks before the opening of the UN-sponsored Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris was, as the old Bolsheviks were want to say, “no coincidence.” Like the launch of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in late September, the TPP is intimately related to the climate change talks in Paris. Those talks culminated in the adoption of an agreement — enthusiastically backed by the Obama White House — that will see the U.S. commit to steep reductions of its carbon emissions, mostly CO2, below 2005 levels over the next few years. China, on the other hand, refused to fast-track its emissions, even though it is a larger emitter than the U.S.
As pointed out by Howard Richman, Raymond Richman, and Jesse Richman in the American Thinker (Nov. 20), the Paris treaty “will set up its own governing body, its own court system, and its own tax collecting system. The treaty will also include annual reparations to be paid by the developed countries to the underdeveloped countries of the world. The amount of the reparations will be negotiated in Paris.”
This is where the TPP enters the picture as an auxiliary enforcement mechanism for the Paris treaty. Chapter 20 of the TPP requires compliance with all previous multilateral environmental agreements. That mandate can, and likely will, be extended to include the Paris climate change treaty. The TPP’s all-powerful Commission can incorporate the Paris deal into the trade pact once the global climate agreement has been adopted.
The TPP’s Commission Trumps Congress
And what exactly is the TPP’s Commission? It is modeled after the European Commission, an unaccountable and unelected body that has spewed a torrent of regulations and mandates on the EU’s struggling economies. Once the TPP goes into force, its Commission will have the power to modify or amend the trade agreement “or take such other action that the Parties may agree…” Should any disputes arise over a signatory’s compliance with the TPP, they will be handled by “Arbitration Tribunals,” which will have the power to hand down multi-billion dollar judgements against any member government that violates its decisions. In this way, the TPP’s Commission and its Arbitration Tribunals can punish the U.S or any other signatory for violating the terms of the trade pact, including failure to comply with the Paris climate agreement.
Indeed, because it can amend the TPP, albeit through a unanimous vote of its commissioners (hand-picked by member governments), the Commission can do what the U.S. Congress cannot. When the Republican-controlled Congress last summer, after a bitter political fight, granted Obama fast-track authority to seek approval of the TPP, it surrendered much of its leverage to the White House. Fast-track authority means that the TPP cannot be amended or filibustered in the Senate, greatly enhancing its chances of approval in the Upper Chamber. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, in which a simple majority in both Houses suffices to approve the trade pact.
Prospects for Approval
Now that the text of the TPP has been released, many in Congress who were so eager to grant the president fast-track authority are having buyers’ remorse. Lawmakers from the Farm Belt are disappointed that U.S. agricultural products will be subject to quotas; pharmaceuticals are worried about patent protection; people who warned about the loss of U.S. sovereignty see their worst fears confirmed. The list goes on. Because 2016 is an election year, the TPP may be too hot to handle until after Americans have gone to the polls next November. The TPP’s opponents can be thankful that Obama’s negotiators agreed to such a patently bad deal.
Sold as a job-creating trade pact, the TPP is really another in a long line of global governance schemes written by trans-national elites for trans-national elites. That’s why Obama supports it.