11/5/15, "'It's 'worse than anything we could've imagined': Progressives revolt against Obama's 'job-killing' trade pact and Sanders pledges to do everything he can to defeat it," Daily Mail, by Francesca Chambers, White House Corresp. for DailyMail.com and Reuters
"Progressives are in an uproar over the text of President Barack Obama's trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which finally became public today. Left-wing group Democracy for America was among the first of the organizations traditionally aligned with Obama but enraged over the trade agreement to proclaim that the 'job-killing TPP is worse than anything we could've imagined.'
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders agreed it was 'even worse than I thought' and promised to 'do everything I can to defeat the TPP.' The international accord now goes to Congress for consideration.
Unions, lawmakers and interest groups questioned the long-awaited text of the landmark U.S.-backed Pacific trade deal that was released today, setting up a potentially long and difficult path to ratification by the United States, the biggest of the 12 partners.
GOP leaders say they may push the legal limits and wait nearly a year to bring it up, until after the 2016 elections have passed [meaning it could be passed in the "lame duck" session before the new president takes office].
Arguments over the agreement, aimed at cutting taxes and tariffs on commerce in 40 percent of the world's economy, focus on transparency and how the pact affects workers and businesses.
'It's worse than we thought,' Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, told reporters on a conference call.
U.S. labor representatives, who had already voiced opposition to the deal, said the agreement contained weak, poorly worded or unenforceable provisions.
'There are improvements, but we do not believe those improvements are significant or meaningful for workers,' Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, said on the same call.
Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said the 'agreement would push down wages, flood our nation with unsafe imported food, raise the price of life-saving medicine, all the while trading with countries where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death.'
'That’s what you get when you negotiate a deal with corporations behind closed doors and keep the public and the press in the dark until the very last minute.'
Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro - a staunch opponent of the deal - noted the 'secret negotiations' in her statement and declared the 'massive deal appears to be even worse for the American public than we had feared.'
'Its main problems can be simply stated: it would have us do more business with several low wage countries that have undemocratic regimes and rampant human and labor rights abuses, and it would cost Americans their jobs and reduce wages,' she said.
Sanders said in a statement posted to his Senate website, 'Outrageously, the proposed agreement includes violators of international human rights, like Brunei, where gays and single mothers can be stoned to death and Malaysia where tens of thousands of immigrant workers in the electronics industry are working as modern day slaves.'
Obama, who championed the deal, will have to muster support among moderates in Washington to ensure ratification.
'The TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century,' Obama said in a post online. 'If we don't pass this agreement - if America doesn't write those rules - then countries like China will.'
If ratified, the TPP will be a legacy-defining achievement for Obama and his administration's pivot to Asia, aimed at countering China's rising economic and political influence.
China has responded with its own proposed 16-nation free-trade area, including India, that would be the world's biggest such bloc, encompassing 3.4 billion people.
The TPP agreement would set common standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property protection. Details have been under wraps during the more than five years of negotiations, angering those concerned over its broad implications.
On Capitol Hill, where some Republicans and many Democrats have opposed the deal, reaction was mostly muted. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner for president, was mum, as well.
That perhaps was because the full text of the pact contains 30 chapters plus add-on agreements, running into thousands of pages.
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said in a statement this morning that he would 'study the agreement carefully, consult with my colleagues and constituents in the coming months, and give the administration the opportunity to answer all of our questions and address our concerns before we vote on it.'
Paul Ryan, the new Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, reserved judgment.
'I don't know the answer to what my position is on a trade agreement I have not even yet read,' he told reporters. 'But again, I am pleased with the process we have coming before us.'
The White House formally notified lawmakers this afternoon that the president intends to sign the deal.
It started the 90-day clock before his signature triggers the next step in a process of seeking final congressional approval.
'It is vital that we use this 90-day review period - established for the very purpose of evaluating the agreement before the President signs it - to dig into the details and engage in a vigorous back-and-forth,' said Representative Sander Levin, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, whose support will be vital for ratification.
The earliest the TPP could come before Congress is March, just as the U.S. presidential primary season is heating up, creating the risk that the deal becomes a campaign issue.
That's why leadership in the legislative branch wants to wait the full 90 legislative days allotted before a vote is taken, until after the November 2016 election during the lame duck period between the current session of Congress and the next one.
The White House noted today that it would be nearly a year before the accord undergoes a formal review if leadership on the Hill goes that route.
'We don't believe it's necessary to wait that long,' White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose support will also be crucial for passage through Congress, said today that it looked forward to examining the details, while U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman warned that trying to reopen the complex deal could unravel the whole package.
There was little immediate reaction from Asia.
Canada's new Liberal government said it would review the deal, negotiated by the outgoing Conservatives and opposed by some of the country's dairy farmers and auto workers.
'We are committed to reviewing the agreement...and, crucially, to giving Canadians a chance to read it and to respond to it,' said Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
If the deal goes into effect, Japan has pledged to ease trade barriers on imported french fries and butter, which have been in short supply in the Asian market, while Malaysia will eliminate tariffs on all imported alcohol for the first time in a trade agreement.
Other firsts cited by the partners - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam - include a prohibition on subsidies to harmful fisheries [so currently "harmful fisheries" are being subsidized] as well as commitments to discourage imports of goods produced by forced labor and to adopt laws on acceptable working conditions.
Malaysia will have to implement reforms to combat human trafficking, and Vietnam will have to allow independent labor unions before they can reap benefits of the pact.
But the deal does not include measures demanded by some U.S. lawmakers to punish currency manipulation with trade sanctions, disappointing car maker Ford Motor Co, although members pledged not to deliberately weaken their currencies.
The TPP would be a boon for factory and export economies such as those of Malaysia and Vietnam.
Anticipated tariff perks are already luring record foreign investment into Vietnamese manufacturing, and both countries are expected to see increased demand for key exports including palm oil, rubber, electronics, seafood and textiles.
That could put pressure on several of Asia's major developing economies, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which have recently expressed interest in signing up to the pact. Thailand said it was studying the deal and might consider joining."