"President Obama "talked the talk" about renewing the American manufacturing sector and the broader economy at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Now, he faces a "walk the walk" challenge. President Barack Obama attends a meeting with the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the APEC summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. At left is Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, and right is U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
"The Obama administration's trade representative continues to engage in secretive meetings with multinational corporations as part of the process of negotiating a "new NAFTA" known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
"The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the "level playing field" both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet, they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics.
"'NAFTA on steroids' is the term Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, uses to describe the direction behind-closed-door negotiations for the TPP appear to be headed. Indeed, argue Global Trade Watch analysts: "The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 'free trade' agreement is a stealthy policy being pressed by corporate America, a dream of the 1 percent, that in one blow could:
- offshore millions of American jobs
- free the banksters from oversight
- ban the 'Buy American' policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy
- decrease access to medicine (especially generic drugs)
- flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products
- empower corporations to attack our environmental and health-care standards."
More than 130 members of Congress -- including many prominent speakers at the Democratic National Convention (Maryland's Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, Illinois' Luis Gutierrez, Missouri's Emanuel Cleaver) have urged Obama administration U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk "to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the wide-ranging issues involved, and to ensure there is ample opportunity for Congress to have input on critical policies that will have broad ramifications for years to come."
"Yet sessions shaping the agreement -- in consultation, according to the Citizens Trade Campaign, with Cargill, GlaxoSmithKline, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Nike, Wal-Mart and other major corporations -- continue to be held behind closed doors, with the latest taking place Sunday at the posh Lansdowne Resort in Virginia."
Can Obama do what needs to be done for the 99%? For American workers? For the shrinking Middle Class?
President Obama spoke in Charlotte about seeking "a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs." Trade agreements play a critical role in determining that future. Good trade agreements, grounded in "fair trade" values and a commitment to aid the workers of the U.S. and other countries, produce good results. Bad trade agreements, grounded in "free trade" fantasies and the demands of Wall Street speculators and lobbyists for multinational corporations, produce bad results.
What Americans need to know is whether the TPP, which is being negotiated in their name but without their informed consent, is headed in a good or bad direction.
In Charlotte, President Obama declared: "You elected me to tell you the truth."
He can start by ordering his trade representative to remove the cloak of secrecy, begin serious consultations with Congress and make TPP negotiations open and transparent.
The picture is of a steel plant closed because millions of jobs emmigrated overseas