Obama and the true nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

May 05, 2016


Republican front-runner Donald Trump's warning against the "false song of globalism" strikes a sharply different note than President Obama did in his recent performance in London.

[Curtis Ellis| May 2, 2016 |The Hill]

Obama has provided further evidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) more closely resembles a scheme for international governance like the European Union rather than a traditional trade agreement.

 When Obama penned an editorial telling the British people they should vote to remain in the EU, among the reasons the president cited were the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), the EU-U.S. companion to his wildly unpopular TPP.

He was asked at a joint news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron what would happen if Britain decides to leave the EU. Being painfully — if not insultingly — clear, he said Britain would be "in the back of the queue" and there wouldn't be a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement anytime soon. The reason: "our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc" like the European Union, "rather than trying to do piecemeal trade agreements."

The president was reinforcing what U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said back in October: "We're not particularly in the market for FTAs [free trade agreements] with individual countries. We're building platforms ... that other countries can join over time."

"Platforms other countries can join over time" describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership — and the European Union. Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan have already expressed interest in joining the TPP, and the president has said he envisions China entering the club.

While this "docking mechanism" distinguishes the TPP from say, NAFTA, it's not the only aspect that puts this more into the category of an economic union rather than a conventional trade pact.

The White House says the TPP is a "living agreement" that will be updated to address future issues "as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement."

Who does the updating is, of course, the rub. The power to "amend or modify" the agreement is vested in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission. The commission oversees the pact's implementation and interpretations of the agreement through decision-making procedures that effectively cut the U.S. Congress out of the process.

In its scope and powers, the Tran-Pacific Partnership Commission is analogous to the European Commission, the unelected rule-making body of the EU to which Europe's national parliaments bow.

And like the EU, the TPP seeks to establish a supranational entity where "people, goods and money" will flow freely. That's how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described TPP after meeting with Obama last year.

Obama and Froman made clear what folks on the other side of the pond have known for a long time: "ObamaTrade" in its dual incarnations of TPP and TTIP — and indeed the administration’s entire "trade agenda" — is actually about establishing borderless, transnational governing authorities, not unlike the European Union.

Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party blasted Obama's Atlantic pact as another example of "supra-national bodies going over the top of nation state democracies."

Of course, Obama and his fellow travelers will deny this. They present the agreements as purely economic measures, telling us, "if you like your sovereignty, you can keep your sovereignty."

And that is another similarity between ObamaTrade and the European Union.

The EU was born in 1952 as the European Coal and Steel Community, with goals of "economic expansion, growth of employment and a rising standard of living." Over the ensuing 40 years, it grew into the European Common Market, and then into its present incarnation: a superstate with judges and unelected bureaucrats handing down edicts to member states on everything from food labels to immigration policy.

Keep that in mind when the president and his men tell you they are building "platforms" other countries can join.

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