On November 5, the White House released the text of the 5,544 page Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that President Obama had just finished negotiating under the FastTrack authority that Congress gave him. That trade pact can no longer be amended. The up-or-down votes in the House and Senate will take place as early as January 2016.
So what’s in the TPP? Here’s a quick summary:
- A legislative body superior to Congress
- A vehicle to pass Obama’s climate change treaty
- Increased legal immigration
- Reduced patent protection for U.S. pharmaceuticals
- Quotas on U.S. agricultural exports
- Increased currency manipulation
- Reduced U.S. power
That’s the summary. Here are the details.
1. A Legislative Body Superior to Congress
It turns out that Senator Jeff Sessions was correct when he said that the treaty creates a new legislative body called the “Commission,” a term meant to invoke the European Commission, known for its recent decision to require that all the countries of the European Union take in Moslem refugees from the Middle East.
This is not a limited government. This is a government that can decide almost everything. Here is the relevant passage from Article 27 of the treaty itself:
The Parties hereby establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission (Commission) which shall meet at the level of Ministers or senior officials, as mutually determined by the Parties. Each Party shall be responsible for the composition of its delegation…. The Commission shall:… (c) consider any proposal to amend or modify this Agreement;… (h) take such other action as the Parties may agree….
The first session of the Commission has been scheduled to occur within one year of the date the treaty goes into effect, which will likely be before President Obama leaves office. At that meeting, Obama could change the agreement in any way that he wishes to, so long as he has the approval of the other 11 countries. He would not need Congress’s approval to change the deal.
The good news is that all of the countries of the deal would have to approve unanimously whatever legislation is passed by the Commission. The bad news is that those countries can change that rule at any meeting so that their future votes would not have to be unanimous.
The Commission would not be particularly powerful if its decisions could be ignored. However, the “Arbitration Tribunals” in the pact will have the power to award multi-billion dollar judgments against any member government that violates its decisions.
2. A Vehicle to Pass Obama’s Climate Change Treaty
In early December, world leaders, led by Obama, will meet to negotiate the final terms of a climate treaty, designed to reduce carbon emissions. We already know from a White House press release that the terms will be completely unfair to the United States. Obama will commit the United States to a huge reduction in carbon emissions of 26% -28% from 2005 levels, but will let China, already a much larger carbon emitter, continue to expand its carbon emissions until 2030.
We also know, that the climate 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 undeveloped countries of the world. The amount of the reparations will be negotiated in Paris.
Chapter 20, the environmental chapter of the TPP, already requires compliance with previous multilateral environmental agreements that have been negotiated. So, the terms of the climate treaty will likely be incorporated into the TPP when the Commission first meets after the TPP passes. This is more or less specified in Article 20.4 which states:
- The Parties recognise that multilateral environmental agreements to which they are party play an important role, globally and domestically, in protecting the environment and that their respective implementation of these agreements is critical to achieving the environmental objectives of these agreements. Accordingly, each Party affirms its commitment to implement the multilateral environmental agreements to which it is a party.
- The Parties emphasise the need to enhance the mutual supportiveness between trade and environmental law and policies, through dialogue between the Parties on trade and environmental issues of mutual interest, particularly with respect to the negotiation and implementation of relevant multilateral environmental agreements and trade agreements.
When President Obama finished negotiating the Iran Nuclear Deal, he went first to the UN Security Council, not to Congress, to get the deal approved. More or less the same thing could happen with the multilateral environmental agreement that Obama negotiates in Paris. It will be incorporated into the TPP, whether Congress agrees with its terms or not.
This wouldn’t matter, except that the “Arbitration Tribunals” in the TPP can impose multi-billion dollar fines upon the U.S. government if the U.S. violates anything that is in the pact. In other words, the tribunals can force whatever Obama negotiates in Paris upon the American people, and Congress will have very little say.