Sri Lanka Express

FM Samaraweera's TPP Proposal:
Is he jumping the gun?

The TPP has yet to be ratified and support for Obama's mega trade deal is waning
Protest in Atlanta
April 15, 2016
By Hassina Leelarathna
SL is exploring the possibility of joining the sweeping Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) championed by President Obama, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told an audience during a visit to Washington, DC.

Addressing a conference at the Institute of Peace, February 25, the minister said Sri Lanka was “very seriously” exploring applying to join the TPP and that a that a leading government "think tank" was preparing a "feasibility study."

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera
The details of controversial trade deal were only made public in December 2015 and at the time had not been translated to the languages of all participating countries.  Currently, it is stalled in the US and going nowhere. 

Is Minister Samaraweera getting ahead of himself?

The massive free trade pact, seen as the cornerstone of President Obama's economic policy, was inked on February 4th in New Zealand  by representatives of the 12 partner nations.  While widely publicized, the signing was just a preamble.  As one writer put it, "...the signing is a totally meaningless bit of theater.  The real fight is over ratification."

 Technically the TPP goes into force 60 days after all the parties ratify the agreement.  If that doesn't happen, within 2 years if at least six of the 12 participating countries ratify the treaty AND the six account for 85% of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 countries.


In essence, if the US, being the biggest partner, fails to ratify, the TPP will be dead.
 
Republican backing in the House essential for its passage is waning by the day and there's skepticism that the deal will go before Congress for a vote before the November elections.   Interestingly, despite their legendary opposition to any propositions coming from the Obama White House, it was the Republicans who helped pass the Senate bill to enable the president to fast track TPP through Congress without having its contents available for debate or amendments.
 
How was that?  As usual, big corporate cash allegedly helped buy the Senate "yeas." Corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP contributed an average of $19,673 to the campaigns of the Republican senators and an average of $9,689 to the Democrats who voted for the fast track measure. (Source: Guardian.com). Ironically, it was the very One Percent – Corporate America  -- that Democrats rail against that saved Obama from a humiliating defeat by members of his own party!
 
But GOP support all the way to ratification is not a certainty.  On February 14, House Speaker Paul Ryan when asked by Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,”  where TPP stands now, said, “Right now I don’t see the votes there for TPP, because I think the administration negotiated an agreement that has some problems in it, has some flaws in it, and they’re going to have to figure those out and work those out if they want to get the votes to pass it through Congress, which I just don’t see the votes there right now.”  He didn't say the deal is dead, “but right now they have a lot of work to do. If we brought it to the floor today, it wouldn’t pass.”
 
In the meantime, Minister Samaraweera might want to take note that the deal is being trashed by all the 2016 presidential front runners.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after much flip flopping gave the TTP the thumbs down in October declaring in an interview with PBS, "As of today, I'm not in favor of what I have learned about it."
 
Clinton who is favored to be the party's nominee in November said the deal did not meet the "high bar" she had set earlier in the year. This despite actively advocating for the TPP between 2010 and 2013.  "I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security, and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet," she said by way of explaining the back peddling.
 
Rival Senator Bernie Sanders (who is fast gaining on Clinton at the Democratic primaries) has made no bones about his belief that TPP is a “disastrous trade agreement.”  Sanders has opposed similar trade pacts ( NAFTA & CAFTA) in the past and vows, if elected, to get rid of TPP on the very first day in office.   “The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process,” he said in a statement. 

Speaking at a press conference, Sanders said: “Trade is a good thing. But trade has got to be fair. And the TPP is anything but fair.”
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump whose support base is largely disaffected blue collar workers never misses a chance to attack the TPP at his huge rallies.   

"It's a horrible trade agreement," Trump told a rally in Ohio.  "You have 12 countries – all of whom want to rip our heart out. You have China, which is not a part of it but wants to be a part of it at a later date. They're watching every move. .. It's too complicated. It's too big. Each country knows every word of that document and our people have never even looked at it or read it. We don't know what the hell it says. We should not do it."

It is also noteworthy that Republican support (despite the previous horse trading) is not a certainty.  Although, he helped pass the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already signaled that the trade agreement will have to wait until after the November elections for ratification. 

McConnell, in a press interview, signaled that he was undecided on how he would vote on the deal, adding that he was sure the TPP would be defeated if sent to Capitol Hill in the spring or summer, as the administration was planning to do.

“It certainly shouldn’t come before the election. I don’t think so, and I have some serious problems with what I think it is,” McConnell said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”

Before expending too much of cerebral energy on the feasibility of getting Sri Lanka into the Trans Pacific Partnership, that “leading government think tank” might do well to assess the likelihood of the TPP ever becoming a reality.


























TPP Countries:

United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after much flip flopping gave the TTP the thumbs down in October declaring in an interview with PBS, "As of today, I'm not in favor of what I have learned about it."
Senator Bernie Sanders
The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process,” -- Senator Bernie Sanders