So, Why Did Japanese Lawmakers Not Get To Read The TPP Text?

Because, Japan doesn't have the legislation that would make it illegal to reveal what the trade negotiations entail. There would be leaks. Big protest planned for May 26: More updates on twitter, (J) tppfes

This TPP involves consumer issues such as food labels and safety standards, environmental standards, labour rules, access to medicines, and a lot of other important issues that you would expect national lawmakers in any parliament or congress or diet to care about. These are the very rules that these "lawmakers" make promises about when they try to get elected. Jobs, economy, food safety, rural development - rather than promoting profits for multinational corporations (that do not pay taxes). But they don't tell voters that deals are made secretly.

You are not to supposed to be able to influence the details of such trade deals, NAFTA, KOFTA/KORUS (Korea US) etc.

On Saturday night, amid a biting February wind, protesters chanted, "Annul Korea-U.S. FTA!" and "Stop the effectuation!" As speakers and celebrities voiced their opposition, the crowd held up signs reading "FTA is pro-plutocrat, anti-democracy, anti-labor, anti-welfare. It will kill South Korean economy and the masses" and "Be mournful, Be angry! The U.S. colonization of South Korea has started!"

“We’ll make preparations to allow lawmakers access to the text next week” at the earliest, Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office, told reporters Monday in Washington.

Did not happen.

Case in point 1:

Japan says hard to hold TPP ministerial talks without U.S. fast-track bill

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Tuesday it is becoming "extremely difficult" to hold ministerial talks on a Pacific trade pact unless a fast-track bill is passed in the United States.

Approval of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives would give momentum to negotiations on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)trade deal.

"TPP talks won't be concluded unless the TPA bill is passed," Amari told a news conference adding he is hoping for a swift passage of the bill in the United States.

"It is becoming an extremely difficult situation as to whether ministerial talks will be held."

Isn't that just great (sarcasm). You can't make rules that affect everyone in Japan unless lawmakers in the Senate and Congress in Washington make up their minds, first.

Case in point 2:

Michael Wessel: I’ve Read Obama’s Secret Trade Deal. Elizabeth Warren Is Right to Be Concerned.

Read more:

You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago,” a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what's hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

So-called “cleared advisors” like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist.

What I can tell you is that the administration is being unfair to those who are raising proper questions about the harms the TPP would do. To the administration, everyone who questions their approach is branded as a protectionist—or worse—dishonest. They broadly criticize organized labor, despite the fact that unions have been the primary force in America pushing for strong rules to promote opportunity and jobs. And they dismiss individuals like me who believe that, first and foremost, a trade agreement should promote the interests of domestic producers and their employees.

I’ve been deeply involved in trade policy for almost four decades. For 21 years, I worked for former Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt and handled all trade policy issues including “fast track,” the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Uruguay Round, which is the largest trade agreement in history. I am also a consultant to various domestic producers and the United Steelworkers union, for whom I serve as a cleared advisor on two trade advisory committees. To top it off, I was a publicly acknowledged advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008.

Obama may no longer be listening to my advice, but Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren might as well be. Warren, of course, has been perhaps the deal’s most vocal critic, but even the more cautious Clinton has raised the right questions on what a good TPP would look like. Her spokesman, Nick Merrill, said: “She will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas. As she warned in her book Hard Choices, we shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers.”

On this count, the current TPP doesn’t measure up. And nothing being considered by Congress right now would ensure that the TPP meets the goal of promoting domestic production and job creation.

The text of the TPP, like all trade deals, is a closely guarded secret. That fact makes a genuine public debate impossible and should make robust debate behind closed doors all the more essential. But the ability of TPP critics like me to point out the deal’s many failings is limited by the government’s surprising and unprecedented refusal to make revisions to the language in the TPP fully available to cleared advisors.

Bill Clinton didn’t operate like this. During the debate on NAFTA, as a cleared advisor for the Democratic leadership, I had a copy of the entire text in a safe next to my desk and regularly was briefed on the specifics of the negotiations, including counterproposals made by Mexico and Canada. During the TPP negotiations, the  United States Trade Representative (USTR) has never shared proposals being advanced by other TPP partners. Today’s consultations are, in many ways, much more restrictive than those under past administrations.

All advisors, and any liaisons, are required to have security clearances, which entail extensive paperwork and background investigations, before they are able to review text and participate in briefings. But, despite clearances, and a statutory duty to provide advice, advisors do not have access to all the materials that a reasonable person would need to do the job. The negotiators provide us with “proposals” but those are merely initial proposals to trading partners. We are not allowed to see counter-proposals from our trading partners. Often, advisors are provided with updates indicating that the final text will balance all appropriate stakeholder interests but we frequently receive few additional details beyond that flimsy assurance.

Those details have enormous repercussions. For instance, rules of origin specify how much of a product must originate within the TPP countries for the resulting product to be eligible for duty-free treatment. These are complex rules that decide where a company will manufacture its products and where is will purchase raw materials. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 62.5 percent of a car needed to originate within NAFTA countries. In the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, it was lowered to 50 percent. It further dropped to 35 percent in the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). In essence, under our agreement with Korea, 65 percent of a car from South Korea could be made from Chinese parts and still qualify for duty-free treatment when exported to the U.S.

That fact is politically toxic, and for that reason, we should expect the TPP agreement to have higher standards. But will it reach the 62.5 percent NAFTA requirement? Or will it be only a slight improvement over KORUS? Without access to the final text of the agreement, it’s impossible to say.

State-owned enterprises may, for the first time, be addressed in the TPP. But, once again, the details are not clear. Will exemptions be provided to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, all of which could be heavily impacted by such a rule? What will be the test to determine what is or is not acceptable behavior? Will injury be required to occur over a substantial period of time, or will individual acts of non-commercial, damaging trade practices be actionable? Again, it’s impossible to say for sure.

Advisors are almost flying blind on these questions and others.

Did Japanese media give you any such clues to why TPP may be bad for consumers and business?

Case in point 3:

Big event in Tokyo to protest against TPP at Yoyogi Park on May 26 (Tue) from 15:30 to 20:30 with music, speeches, parade to Shibuya, and more. People in Japan have been an integral part of the global protests for a long time, a chronicled by the Another Japan Is Possible, by Jennifer Chan and so many others (check out Ten Thousand Things and Japan Focus/The Asia Pacific Journal). PARC and Consumers Union of Japan also have websites with records from a long legacy of activism. Why did Japanese elected lawmakers not make more of a fuzz and complain when they cannot read the TPP texts? They know that in Washington, some of their colleges are able to read the proposed rules. Are they not able to reach out and talk to any of them?

Case in point 4The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Deeply Flawed Partnership

The American people have become used to government trickery in foreign affairs—wars and interventions based on lies and falsified evidence, “national security” used to justify the whittling away of privacy, classification of documents to hide embarrassing disclosures, massaging of budget figures to mask outrageous spending on arms, and demands for new weapons when already in possession of an unmatched conventional and nuclear arsenal.

Now comes trickery in a different domain: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has substantial bipartisan support and strong presidential endorsement.  Eleven countries1 are awaiting the outcome in Congress as President Obama seeks approval to put the TPP on a “fast track,” meaning skipping hearings, public input, and amendments and going directly to an up-or-down vote after 90 days to review.  Once passed, the TPP will do for US corporations operating in Asia what the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) did for them in Canada and Mexico—provide new incentives to send jobs abroad, increase corporate earnings, and downgrade protections of the environment and workers at home as well as abroad.

Case in point 5: WikiLeaks and the Release of the Secret TPP Environment Report ウイキリークス流出のTPP秘密環境報告 

...The documents reveal that Japan plays a major role in obstructing the progress of the Environment Chapter. Japan is “concerned” with the language relating to equivalency in the scope of the coverage, that is, the question of how a country may deal with imported products that are identical or almost identical with domestically produced products. For example, imported timber from tropical forests would compete with “similar” wood products produced domestically, unless rules are in place to prevent this. Without international rules, it would be impossible for an importing country to compete with countries that export wood products manufactured by corporations that engage in clear-cutting. Increased trade in such timber would lead to even more destruction of rainforests, and less ability to control the corporations that engage in unsustainable logging practices. Efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and provide consumers with information about how food has been produced could also be curbed.

On the other hand, we learn that Japan has joined all other nations in opposing a proposal by the United States related to how to address other environmental agreements. This is connected to whether or not the novel dispute settlement mechanism in the TPP should be implemented. The United States, which has refused to ratify many global environmental agreements, seeks to settle trade conflicts in the TPP rather than the WTO. This could make it difficult for countries like Japan to maintain stricter domestic legislation that resulted from having ratified other environmental agreements.

WikiLeaks also reveals disagreement regarding marine capture fisheries and fish products, including a proposal about overfishing and overcapacity. The leaked text has provisions that might help deal with fisheries bycatch. As a free trade agreement, the aim is to make it more difficult for governments to control corporate interests, for example by limiting investments in ever larger fishing ships. But Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia cannot agree to the language on bycatch as it is currently drafted. Shark fins is one such product that some countries are trying to make illegal. Over-fishing of Pacific Bluefin tuna is another issue that is managed by governments through negotiations, in a complex process that should not be undermined by TPP. The language on fisheries subsidies only say that countries “shall make best efforts to refrain” from introducing new subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. If TPP can do no better than hoping that countries make “best efforts”, that is, if it fails to establish guidelines to prevent overfishing that threatens endangered species, it seems futile to hope that international trade in fish and fish products will become more sustainable.

Biological diversity is another area of contention due to the United States failure to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – due in turn to pressure from its biotech industry, which saw the Convention as a direct threat to the introduction of patented genetically modified organisms around the world. As for conservation, which includes a reference to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international agreement among governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and precious plants does not threaten their survival, Japan and all other negotiating parties remain opposed to the US proposals in the TPP.



Pandabonium said…
Trust us. You don't want to know.

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