United States Senators have voted to block a plan that would have given President Barack Obama “fast track” authority to advance a 12-nation trade deal between the US and Pacific Ring partners. In a 52-45 vote on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate opposed moving forward for now on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) a close sibling of the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a negotiated-in-secret, corporate-friendly trade deal which has been arousing strong opposition across Europe.
A procedural vote requiring at least 60 “ayes” in order to let the Senate host discussions on whether or not to give the God - King Obama “fast track” authority (i.e, the power to create laws by decree) on the matter was defeated. Failure to get imperial authority for Obama on this puts the future of the trade agreement in jeopardy. Ironically the president who throughout his term in office has been at loggerheads with The Republicans, has their support on this while he is being blocked by his own party, The Democrats. A reading of the extracts leaked so far from the treaties (mostly by Wikileaks) shows however that far from being about free trade in the true sense, it is in fact about freeing corporate business from the obligation to obey national law.
Had this week's Senate vote gone the other way, lawmakers would have hosted a debate to decide whether to give President Obama the power to approve the potential deal on his own, before asking Congress to either ratify or reject any agreement. Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Reuters the possibility of expediting the process as the White House had requested “may be dead” due to lack of support soon after the procedural vote failed.
“In the future, if we see a sharp decline in US agriculture and manufacturing,” Hatch said after the votes were counted, “...people may very well look back at today’ events and wonder why we couldn't get our act together.”
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) raised concerns on the Senate floor over the Obama administration's lack of transparency with regards to what’s being discussed by TPP participants.
“Let me tell you what you have to do to read this agreement. Follow this: you can only take a few of your staffers who happen to have a security clearance — because, God knows why, this is secure, this is classified. It has nothing to do with defense. It has nothing to do with going after ISIS,” Senator Boxer said, according to the Intercept.
President Obama has been touting the TPP as a catalyst for the domestic jobs market and an enabler of workers’ rights abroad, and last week he pitched the deal at the main office of footwear giant Nike. Critics of TPP and TTIP say it will do the opposite by making the offshoring of jobs by corporate employers to take advantage of low labour costs and lax employment laws and workers' rights legislation.
While Obama has been pushing the secret deal through mainstream media the, public disclosures about the in-the-works agreement have been few and far between, and in many instances provided by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
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