Monday, May 11, 2015

Senator Warren's Arguments Against TPP Are Starting to Fall Apart

As we've seen, President Obama is pressing back pretty effectively against the opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. It is clear that his arguments are having an effect when you look at the interview Greg Sargent published today with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

She begins with her ongoing issue about how the text of the agreement is secret. But when Sargent pushes back with the fact that it will be public for 60 days before Congress takes it up, her criticism shifts from being about the agreement itself to the specifics of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA - or so-called "fast-track').
The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done.
But then she has to back track even further when Sargent points out that the trade promotion authority that will be under consideration in the Senate beginning this week includes the ability for Congress to revoke it if the agreement isn't to their liking. At that point her only argument is that it would take a "majority" (I assume she actually meant "super-majority" - or 60 votes) to revoke it.

I'm really glad Sargent brought this up. It is the first time a provision like that has been included in TPA legislation. In the bill itself, it is referred to as a "procedural disapproval resolution." That process is available to Congress to shut down TPA (and go back to allowing amendments and potentially 60 votes for passage) for several reasons - including if the final TPP deal does not adhere to the "trade negotiating objectives" that are laid out in the bill.

Senator Warren is right that a procedural disapproval resolution would require 60 votes in the Senate whereas the same legislation would allow TPP to pass with 51 votes. What that means is that the scales of the Senate - which have been tilted in favor of bills NOT passing by the overuse of the filibuster - would tilt this time in favor of TPP passing. That's all her complaint boils down to.

Next Sargent asks Sen. Warren about a provision in TPP called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) - which Warren has claimed would provide an opportunity to dismantle elements of Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform. He asks her whether or not she can envision an ISDS provision she could support. It's interesting to notice that he has to ask that question three times before he gets an answer. So kudos to Sargent for being persistent. In the end, the issue she identifies is that it is a process that is exclusively available to corporations.
Now, if a labor union says, ‘Vietnam promised not to work people for a couple of dollars a day, and to raise working conditions, and then failed to do it,” they have to get the U.S. government, through the trade rules, to go to Vietnam and prosecute the case. If corporations had to do the same thing, then it would be a level playing field…ISDS gives a special break to giant corporations, a break that nobody else gets.
In other words, labor unions would have to go through the court system in Vietnam (which could obviously be problematic) whereas corporations could take their case to arbitration with a UN or WTO panel. That might be cause for concern, but suggests that perhaps ISDS should be available more broadly rather than eliminated.

Finally, the conversation once again leaves the specifics of the trade deal itself and goes back to granting the president trade promotion authority. It's important to note that TPA would not simply be in effect for this particular trade deal. It generally gives the U.S. president trade authority for the next six years. That's where Warren's next issue comes into play.
Because trade will be fast tracked for six years….A direct run at Dodd Frank potentially takes 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. But doing it through trade authority needs to be done with 51 votes.
This is where President Obama's suggestion about hypotheticals comes into play. IF a Republican is elected president in 2016 and IF he has a majority in the Senate and if IF they decide it is prudent to take on Dodd Frank, it would only take them 51 votes to give it a go within a trade agreement - of course, assuming they could get their potential trading partners to go along. Whew!

There is definitely a valid concern couched in there. But in the end, we're down to that same argument about the number of votes needed in the Senate - 51 or 60 - rather than a substantive complaint. It actually sounds more like Senator Warren's concerns have to do with the rules and make-up of the Senate than they are about TPP.


  1. " I hate it when the Parents fight!"
    I consider Senator Professor Warren to be this Far Left Liberal's IDEAL Democrat.
    I also believe OBAMS should have been the Greatest President of my lifetime( 1952-2015), if not for the OVERT RACISM
    displayed by the REPUBLICAN Party's Elected, AND unelected KAKA makers, AKA Leaders in unethical groups.

    I am Naive enough to believe Both of these Politicians, especially Warren, so I don't know who is More right for what I would consider important.

    And that is the honest answer: RIGHT for what that person considers more important!

    OBAMA was my number one light of hope, Before Senator Professor Warren came around. LIz is THIS Liberals ideal
    Liberal. BUT I will vote Hillary without hesitation. The Professor and I know she can currently be more influential in the Senate, than being Hillary's Rabbit.

  2. How does one tackle a domestic law, Dodd Frank, via a trade agreement? If that is accurate, then what is NOT vulnerable to overturn? I think a great deal more information is required from Sen. Warren about how this could come to pass under a treaty agreement. It makes no sense to me at all.

  3. 'Extreme left: Ideologues who value their own “purity” (or of their hero of the moment) over getting anything done' …

    Meanwhile, PBO IS actually getting work done. Unlike the Warrens, Clintons, Sanders, or any other phony heroes [White Saviors] of the Left whom would rather play games & score points than to put in any work to resolve an policy issue of any kind.

  4. Ah, nothing like the "keyboard progressives" who happily lap up anything that proclaims "Obama has betrayed us!"

    Yep -- the same crowd that screamed "kill the bill" because they didn't think the Affordable Care Act was progressive enough. But of course, they now presumptively take credit for its continued success (uhm, Markos at DailyKos -- we're looking at you, sir).

    Of course, we can't forget how they lamented that Dodd-Frank didn't go "far enough", or that the 2009 stimulus package wasn't big enough. The left eagerly fell in lockstep with their "progressive hero" Paul Krugman who frequently lambasted the Obama administration for not doing enough.

    That's the same Krugman who constantly warned of a "double dip recession" looming on the horizon because Obama was beholden to Wall Street. Krugman has since changed his tune (which Nancy has written extensively about in recent months).

    And oh -- let's not pass up a trip down memory-lane to recall how liberals complained that Obama wouldn't sign an executive order to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Their highly-esteemed leaders Rachel Maddow and Dan Choi regularly criticized Obama for failing to "show leadership".

    But after Obama's plan was vindicated by pushing Congress to fully repeal the law, progressives are awfully silent in crediting the president and acknowledging that he did exactly what he said he would do.

    Is there any shortage of examples that can easily be shown about how liberal and progressives are more apt to take up the next "cause" without any understanding of the actual legislative work that must be done in order to accomplish their supposed goal?

    Oh, never mind ... that question has already been answered time-and-time again ...

  5. Obama is scamming you. Talking about exports only, instead of net imports/ exports is a ploy the right uses when they talk only about spending, but not revenues when discussing the deficit/ debt. Meanwhile, having Obama call Warren a "politician" is the kind of cognitive dissonance we've come to expect from the MediCare-addled Tea Party spouting about "takers" and "moochers".

    1. I find it interesting how often anti-TPPers come in to comment threads like this with statements that are completely unresponsive to what has been written while loaded with messages designed to inflame rather than enlighten.

      I'm going to leave this comment here so people will understand what I'm talking about. But in the future, Robert, I ask you to stay on topic to what I've actually written. Thanks.

    2. Maybe you could provide some facts NOT in the circular firing squad opinion posts? Imports and exports are how trade works. The issue is stopping NAFTA's free flight from US production, and this will impose ILO standards on ALL nation's labor so that it's not the 'race to the bottom' quest for slave wages. That can be read in the earlier version of TPP that did not get heard. See S.1900 at for 2014. You can read it - if that's not too much work for you. It undermines a lot of what Sen. Warren - who IS a politician since she has run for political office but has almost no legislation to her name - is saying. Nancy is pointing to details. It would be great if you could do the same instead of to gross generalities that don't actually mean anything.

    3. Salon? Yeah, nice try. And Senator Warren IS a politician--just like President Obama and anyone elected to higher office.

    4. I know, Salon is awful. Fortunately, the writer really nailed this one.
      Of course, Warren, like Obama, is a politician. Calling her one, while making believe he isn't one is Obama's nonsense.
      "Imports and exports are how trade works."
      That's what I know, too. Anyone, even your own political heroes, who tries to make believe it's only exports, without mentioning imports (which is exactly what PBO was intimating) is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
      Can you point me to the part of TPP which shows labor can solicit these tribunals in the TPP agreement for lost wages? Thanks.

    5. Please explain how an increase in both imports and exports is somehow harmful to the employment of either party in a trade agreement.

    6. Sure thing. A larger increase in imports to exports increases the trade deficit, and leads to a loss of demand for US goods. This loss of demand keeps the labor market loose, which keeps labor (workers) from seeing wage growth and their share of economic growth.
      Dean Baker had a nice primer on this and TPP recently.

  6. So the emos can't win the debate on merits, so they've chosen to shut down debate completely by accusing PBO of sexism?! Really?! All because a black leader had the nerve to defend himself. Seriously??

    Fuck the Democratic Party. They've officially lost the Black Vote. That's a promise.

    1. Thank You. They slander him, his wife, their children but god forbid he respond back. Sick of it all. Black people past & presently are being killed for this type of bullshit. Debate policy, not smears.

      2016 is going to be a bloodbath for the Dems. Keep it up!

    2. "2016 is going to be a bloodbath for the Dems."

      That's awful news for those who put party before people.


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