Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Big Trade Off

Fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was never, ever, ever in real trouble, but Senate Democrats got their win.

Senate Democrats handed President Obama a stinging rebuke on Tuesday, blocking consideration of legislation granting their own president accelerated power to complete a major trade accord with Asia. 
The Senate voted 52-45 on a procedural motion to begin debating the bill to give the president “trade promotion authority,” eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed. Republicans and pro-trade Democrats said they would try to negotiate a trade package that could clear that threshold. 
But the vote Tuesday presented Mr. Obama what might be a no-win situation. He may have to accept trade enforcement provisions he does not want in order to propel the trade legislation through the Senate, but those same provisions might doom the Pacific trade negotiations that legislation is supposed to lift.

So now Senate Democrats can step in and force changes to the negotiations, and that was exactly the plan.

According to several Senate sources — whose accounts match up with what some reporters are spilling forth on the twitters — the deal between Senate Dems and Republicans looks something like this: 
1) The Senate would vote first on a package that includes a measure stiffening enforcement on foreign companies evading import duties and a measure that would force the administration to take action against countries manipulating currency to juice exports. Those were chiefly sought by Senators Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer. There might also be a vote on a measure that would favor U.S. imports of some products from certain African countries. 
2) Then the Senate would proceed to a vote on whether to move forward with Fast Track, which would mandate that a final Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is subject only to an up-or-down Congressional vote, with no amendments or filibusters. The vote on Fast Track would also include Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers hurt by trade policies. Presumably, if the first two above items sought by Dems pass, a group of around a dozen pro-trade Democrats — who helped block Fast Track yesterday — would then vote to move it forward. 
Previously, that group of pro-trade Democrats had joined the filibuster of the Fast Track vote because it only included assistance for workers displaced by trade, and not the currency manipulation or enforcement provisions.

And in the end, there may be no deal at all...or the rest of the world will simply make a deal and we will have no seat at the table for US workers at all.

It's funny.  This is basically the exact situation the Senate placed the President in when it came to the Iran negotiations: the insertion of a poison pill that would scrap the entire deal.  Senate Dems sure were pissed off when Republicans tried it, and the fate of an Iran nuclear deal remains up in the air as a result.

But putting in a poison pill measure doesn't seem to be a problem for Dems anymore.  That currency manipulation provision may be the straw that breaks the entire TPP.

Amazing how that works.


Horace Boothroyd III said...

Thank you, Zandar.

This whole thing with the TPP is a big deal involving lots of countries, and lots of people have interests at stake. Negotiating trade deals like this and other international agreements is what the professionals at the State Department do for a living - it's like being a doctor or a lawyer or a professor or a pizza maker - and there are going to be agreements whether we like this particular one or not. The position of workers in America has crashed since 1975, for a melange of reasons, and blaming the whole tragedy on this or that specific agreement is the height of simpleminded stupidity. Getting the thing over the finish line is going to be a big deal, involving lots of horse trading and jockeying for position as you observe: a symbolic victory to placate the gibbering idiots at FireDogLake and the Daily Kos is a cheap sop to surrender in exchange for the legal framework that will govern international affairs for the next half century.

Now, is this deal a good deal? I do not, personally, know. What I do know is that I trust the system of professional negotiators directed by the President and overseen by our elected Representatives. If they do their jobs - which they may not - this is going to turn out OK. The other thing that I know is that if we turn the whole process over to the bomb throwers and the chronic whiners then in five minutes everything blows up and we all lose. Big Time.

Yastreblyansky said...

Note that the House has also passed a bill this afternoon to end NSA bulk data collection along the lines Obama has been asking for. We may approaching something like normality as a nation!

Scopedog said...

Funny how "along the lines Obama has been asking for" was never mentioned in the news media or on several "progressive" sites that constantly hammer Obama about the NSA.

Or it could be that I might have missed that.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Your eyes are as sharp as ever. The approved narrative is that Obama is even worser than Bush even, taking Bush's crimes and blowing them up into an all encompassing National Security State. I swear to God, if I read that phrase one more time I am going to hit somebody. East Germany enrolled one third of the populace to spy on the other two thirds. The squealers are enraged that the NSA wants a hard drive with its own copy of cellphone numbers/times/durations so they don't have to carry the warrant over to ATT every time they need to execute an authorized search. SAME THING!!!

As an aside, it has been amusing how the Snowden fanatics have been squealing with delight over the recent court case that totally vindicated him and proved that Obama has been a lying tyrant all along. Which is pretty much an admission that they had been bullshitting us all along, with all of the pretexts they have been serving up repetitively all along - every one of which has melted away upon sober examination just like this one will be overturned on appeal.

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