JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a partial secret draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The 12-nation agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors, and the release is one of the few times the public has been able to read any of it. If passed, the TPP would have serious ramifications for a range of issues, including intellectual property rights, internet freedoms, and prescription drug prices.
Now joining us to discuss this is Kevin Zeese. He’s codirector with PopularResistance.org. He’s codirector of It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Kevin.
KEVIN ZEESE, CODIRECTOR, IT’S OUR ECONOMY: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me on.
NOOR: So, Kevin, even before this release, the TPP was described as a corporate wish list. What new information have we learned from what WikiLeaks has released?
ZEESE: We learned it’s as bad as we expected. The chapter that was released deals with intellectual property. And what was interesting about it was it really showed that the Obama administration was pushing for the agreement in the direction of the transnational corporations more than any other nation. In fact, other nations are resisting. And many times the United States is isolated, ’cause it’s so extreme in pushing for corporate power—it’s really quite amazing—going further than he has even said that his administration would go under domestic law. So it’ll make things worse than Obama says he would do at home.
The agreement, what they dealt with was intellectual property. And what that means is copyrights and patents and trademarks and those kinds of things. And what it shows is that these corporate powers that are being given are going to make things much worse for the internet. We’re going to see our internet freedom diminished. It’ll make things much worse for health care. Prices will go up for both pharmaceuticals and for medical procedures. And much worse on almost every aspect of our life where those kinds of powers play. And they play almost all through our lives. This will be corporate power gone wild.
And it’ll be an agreement that you can see was written by the corporations. As you know, for the last almost four years now there have been negotiations, and throughout that time there have been 600 corporate advisers suggesting to the Obama administration, you know, what needs to be done to make the agreement stronger from their perspective. So they’ve been playing in clauses and paragraphs and sections that favor corporate power. So this agreement, which will be over 1,000 pages long, is going to be a totally—written by essentially corporate lawyers for the benefit of transnational corporations.
NOOR: And, of course, the public hasn’t had any input in this.
And I wanted to ask you about the arguments for the TPP. Supporters claim the trade deal will increase access to goods and services, lower prices, and benefit consumers. Does this release represent a blow to those arguments?
ZEESE: This release represents a blow to the Obama administration and this agreement. I think it’s much less likely it will pass. It’s almost a lethal blow, because the more people know about this agreement, the less they’re going to like it.
It’s not going to make things more available. It’s going to make things more expensive, and more corporate profits on top of that. Plus we know from previous agreements that these don’t help our economy. Our trade deficit’s gotten worse with every agreement we’ve had. We’ve lost more jobs. It’s not a job-creating opportunity. We lost 600,000 jobs with NAFTA. We lost 100,000 jobs with the Korean trade pact—it was just a year old. And so this is going to be a job loser. Is going to be an undermining of our economy. It’s going to make many important issues—health care, internet, and other aspects—more expensive and more difficult for us.
NOOR: And it seems like opposition is really—well, bipartisan opposition is really focused on this fast-track process that the Obama administration is calling for. Explain what the ramifications of fast track would be. And what kind of opposition are we seeing in Congress to this right now?
ZEESE: Well, that’s also what came out on Wednesday. It was a really double-blow day—two lethal, near-lethal blows to the whole process.
Fast track essentially undermines the constitutional responsibility of Congress to be the branch of government really responsible for trade. It shifts the power to the executive, the president, without much checks and balances from Congress. It really weakens Congress’s role dramatically, even though the Commerce Clause gives Congress the responsibility. So it’s a real undermining and turning on its head of the Constitution.
What’s interesting about the fast track is that back in 2012, the U.S. trade representative at the time, Ron Kirk, said we must have fast track. Those were his exact words, we must have it, because without it they can’t complete the negotiations.
They’re trying to push these countries. You can see in these documents released by WikiLeaks, the United States is bullying countries to do things they don’t want to do. Why does a country want to make health care more expensive for their people? Why do they want to make prescription drugs more expensive? Why do they want to make textbooks less available? They don’t want to do any of that stuff. They are being pushed by the bully, the United States, to do that.
And now the bully is not going to likely have fast track. It means he probably won’t be able to get this through Congress. Why would they negotiate from a position of weakness? Now they’re strengthening their position. So these people who oppose this corporatization will be able to say no to President Obama and his representative, the U.S. trade representative, Michael Froman. And we can see them standing up to the U.S. Empire. So that’s a positive step.
The opposition is deep, really deep. There were several letters sent to President Obama by Republicans and Democrats. A total of 179 members of Congress have signed on to various aspects of these letters. The biggest one was from Rosa DeLauro and George Miller, circulated by them and signed by 151 members of Congress.
There’s 200 Democrats in the Congress. Three-quarters signed on to this letter saying no to fast track. So if President Obama is going to pursue fast track, he’s going to be doing it against his party. And of those people who signed, 28 of them would be committee chairs if the Democrats took control of Congress. These are not just minor leaguers. These are not just backbenchers in the Democratic Party. These are the leaders of the Democratic Party saying no to fast track. So President Obama has a real problem there.
And he’s got a real problem with the Republicans. There was a letter sent around by Michelle Bachmann and by Walter Jones in North Carolina. You know, you had a couple of dozen Republicans sign on to that.
So you’re seeing bipartisan opposition. Almost a half of the Congress—we’re on the way toward a half of the Congress saying they oppose fast track already. And that’s only one of the—some of the problems. There’s been other letters written complaining about other aspects of this.
I don’t see how it’s going to [incompr.] fast tracked. I think we are on the verge of actually stopping this horrible bill. I mean, it’s not dead yet. People need to keep doing their work. There’s a lot of great work going on by activists across the country. We need to keep doing that, need to keep the pressure on, ’cause we are in a battle between the people and the transnational corporate powers.
And if the people can win this battle, it’ll be a tremendous victory that can show really that the people do have power, that when we’re organized, when we’re mobilized, when we push, we can actually win. And if we can win this, then we can begin to turn around the whole discussion of trade away from this rigged corporate trade toward, instead, fair trade, where the people and the planet come before profits. Right now, profits are dominant. That’s the whole goal is make money for the oligarchs, make money for the transnational corporations. Our goal is to change that and move it toward people and planet before profits.
NOOR: And I wanted to ask you more about that grassroots opposition. On the 19th, in just a few days, the chief negotiators of all twelve countries are meeting in Salt Lake City. What do activists have planned?
ZEESE: Activists are ready. There’s going to be a big demonstration outside. And who knows if there may be some disruption inside? But there’ll be a strong opposition from activists that’ll be quite visible. Massive signs will be out there. They will definitely see that Americans are opposed to this.
And we’ve seen protests, by the way, across the country and around the world. Japan—major protests. I don’t know how their prime minister, Abe, is behaving the way he is. He’s almost like a Washington, D.C., puppet. He’s in favor of, you know, militarizing Japan, dealing with them on—doing what the United States wants on nuclear energy and doing what they want on TPP. Even though he ran, by the way, against the TPP, he’s now pushing the TPP. So I don’t know what the United States has on him, but he seems to be a U.S. spokesman.
But the people are very opposed in Japan, Australia, New Zealand. We’ve seen multiple countries with protests. And in the United States we’ve seen protests consistently. You see a lot on Twitter, a lot on the streets. You see all sorts of activities going on, people saying no to this agreement. And the more people know about it, the less they’ll like it.
And that’s what’s so important about the WikiLeaks leak, because it really shows that we have a good reason to oppose this. This is really a corporate trade agreement. President Obama is pushing the corporate line. He is trying to make this into a corporate trade agreement.
We’re seeing opposition in Asia. We’re seeing opposition in Latin America. One trade negotiator quit over this because he thought it was going in the wrong direction. Another legislature is saying they want to see either the full text before they vote on it. And so you’re seeing it all kind of unravel. This is, I think, a disaster for the Obama administration, and I don’t see how they’re going to push this through if we keep up our activity and keep the pressure on.
NOOR: Kevin Zeese, thank you so much for joining us.
ZEESE: Thank you for having me.
NOOR: You can follow us at The Real News on Twitter. You can Tweet me questions, comments, concerns at @jaisalnoor.
Thank you so much for joining us.
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