The Fourth Estate and FREE @#$*ING TRADE

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“About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”

Excerpt from Thomas Jefferson
First Inaugural Address
In the Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, March 4, 1801

Free school, free college, free trade? When an employer pays for one’s college or training, your education is in fact earned. When an employer pays for your health insurance, your health insurance is in fact earned. When a group of corporations negotiate your trade in secret your free trade is ORWELLIANLY named. As of this typing Trump, Stein, and Sanders strongly oppose the TPP, Weld, Obama, and Clinton are for it, and Johnson, whom has had harsh words for NAFTA, is on the fence but believes that he would sign the agreement, pending a review of the finer details. “The TPP is horrible deal,” Trump said. “It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.” There’s just one problem with Trump’s words on the TPP. China is not part of the TPP. I think that most can agree that free trade is a wonderful and great thing. I think most can agree that trade agreements in our lifetimes have been Orwellianly named at best. I figured that we would take a look at this one.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries signed on 4 February 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand, after seven years of negotiations. It has not entered into force. The 30 chapters of the TPP concern many matters of public policy and the following stated goals: to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” Among other things, the TPP contains measures to lower trade barriers, such as tariffs, and establish an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. The United States government considers the TPP a companion agreement to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a broadly similar agreement between the U.S. and the European Union.

Implementing the TPP has been one of the trade agenda goals of the Obama administration in the U.S. A version of the treaty text “Subject to Legal Review (…) for Accuracy, Clarity and Consistency” was made public on 5 November 2015, the same day President Obama notified Congress he intended to sign it. Most nations are today members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral trade agreements. However, most governments still impose some protectionist policies that are intended to support local employment, such as applying tariffs to imports or subsidies to exports. Governments may also restrict free trade to limit exports of natural resources. Other barriers that may hinder trade include import quotas, taxes, and non-tariff barriers, such as regulatory legislation. The notion of a free trade system encompassing multiple sovereign states originated in a rudimentary form in 16th century Imperial Spain. American jurist Arthur Nussbaum noted that Spanish theologian Francisco de Vitoria was “the first to set forth the notions (though not the terms) of freedom of commerce and freedom of the seas.” Vitoria made the case under principles of jus gentium. However, it was two early British economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo who later developed the idea of free trade into its modern and recognizable form. Economists who advocated free trade believed trade was the reason why certain civilizations prospered economically. Adam Smith, for example, pointed to increased trading as being the reason for the flourishing of not just Mediterranean cultures such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but also of Bengal (East India) and China. Free trade policies have battled with mercantilist, protectionist, isolationist,communist, populist, and other policies over the centuries. Henry George’s 1886 book Protection or Free Trade was read out loud in full into the Congressional Record by five Democratic congressmen. Tyler Cowen wrote that ‘Protection or Free Trade “remains perhaps the best-argued tract on free trade to this day.”.

One thing is for certain, the next President and Congress have recently been given the continued power to agree on this agreement. Renamed the trade promotion authority (TPA) in 2002, fast track negotiating authority is an impermanent power granted by Congress to the President. Fast track authority remained in effect from 1975 to 1994, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, and from 2002 to 2007 by the Trade Act of 2002. In early 2012, the Obama administration indicated that renewal of the authority is a requirement for the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which have been undertaken as if the authority were still in effect. After several years of debate, trade-promotion authority was again granted by the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, along with a law providing for “trade adjustment assistance, the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. 62 Senators voted for, 37 were opposed.

List of 62 Senators who voted for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade authority

 

The fast track authority for brokering trade agreements is the authority of the President of the United States to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or deny but cannot amend or filibuster. If the President transmits a fast track trade agreement to Congress, then the majority leaders of the House and Senate or their designees must introduce the implementing bill submitted by the President on the first day on which their House is in session. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(c)(1).) Senators and Representatives may not amend the President’s bill, either in committee or in the Senate or House. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(d).) The committees to which the bill has been referred have 45 days after its introduction to report the bill, or be automatically discharged, and each House must vote within 15 days after the bill is reported or discharged. In the likely case that the bill is a revenue bill (as tariffs are revenues), the bill must originate in the House (see U.S. Const., art I, sec. 7), and after the Senate received the House-passed bill, the Finance Committee would have another 15 days to report the bill or be discharged, and then the Senate would have another 15 days to pass the bill. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(e)(2).) On the House and Senate floors, each Body can debate the bill for no more than 20 hours, and thus Senators cannot filibuster the bill and it will pass with a simple majority vote. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(f)-(g).) Thus the entire Congressional consideration could take no longer than 90 days.

I believe that we will not have truly free trade until said trade can be discussed and agreed upon, openly and honestly, in congress. Here is the full text for you to review for yourself.

https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/tpp-full-text

 

 


“Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important far than they all.“ Thomas Carlyle

Marco Battaglia writes for the Iowa Free Press and is a proud member of The Fourth Estate