On Monday President Obama signed into law the so-called “fast-track” bill, setting the stage for approval of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The fast-track bill, officially known as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), was one of two bills signed by Obama. The president also signed the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) act which is supposed to extend aid to workers who might lose their jobs as a consequence of the TPP or other so-called free trade deals.
Following the signing, Darlene Superville, White House reporter for The Associated Press, tweeted:
@POTUS at trade bill signing: ‘I thought I’d start off the week with something we should do more often, a truly bipartisan bill signing’
Despite the bipartisan nature of the bill, President Obama acknowledged the hurdles that remain for the TPP. “We still have some tough negotiations that are going to be taking place. The debate will not end with this bill signing,” Obama said.
CNET reports that an Australian parliamentary committee has released a “Blind Agreement” report warning of an impending “attack [on] internet freedoms,” and criticizing the negotiations as lacking “oversight and scrutiny.”
The joint-Parliamentary report stated that, “Parliament is faced with an all-or-nothing choice” and is being “kept in the dark.”
“Parliament should play a constructive role during negotiations and not merely rubber-stamp agreements that have been negotiated behind closed doors,” the report reads.
With the passing of the TPA and TAA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is possibly only weeks away from approval. The trade agreement has been notoriously secret, with the public only viewing chapters of the text which have been leaked by WikiLeaks.
TruthInMedia previously reported on the growing opposition to the TPP:
As the trade agreement nears completion both the Anglican and Catholic churches of New Zealand are demanding the government be more transparent about the negotiations. Radio NZ reports that bishops from the churches are concerned with the lack of openness and that corporate interests are influencing the agreement while the people are being excluded. The churches also called on the New Zealand government to make the draft text of the agreement public.
In early February, doctors and health professional representing seven countries released a letter warning that the TPP will lead to higher medical costs for all nations. The letter, published in The Lancet medical journal, states that, “Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.” The doctors called on the governments involved in the trade deal to publicly release the full text of the agreement. They also demanded an independent analysis of the impacts on health and human rights for each nation involved in the deal.
Also in February, an analysis by The Washington Post revealed the US government’s numbers on expected job increases from TPP are not factually correct. The Fact Checker examined several quotes from government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Both Kerry and Vilsack claimed the international trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs. However, these numbers do not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government own sources imports and exports would increase by the same amount resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.