Despite President Obama’s spirited pledge to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor, his administration has been covertly involved in negotiating a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement whose potential fallout would only exacerbate, not lessen, the economic divide, consolidating what is essentially an oligarchy of Wall Street interests.
You may be unfamiliar with the TPP, as it’s not played up in the media, unless you’re a rare aficionado of the marketplace. Briefly, 14 nations bordering the Pacific, controlling 40% of the world’s GDP and 26% of its trade, have been at work for more than a year, hammering out the final details of a complex agreement that would eliminate tariffs on goods and services. Composed of 29 chapters, its scope would include not only the area of finance, or banking, but telecommunications (i.e., the Internet), and even food services. It would have devastating consequences for those of us committed to environmental concerns that include global warming.
Ominously, it includes proposals that would curtail consumer protection across a wide spectrum. According to Republican Reports, leaked TPP negotiation documents reveal the Obama administration’s attempts to stymie other governments from implementing financial regulations, believing they could mitigate another bank collapse.
These leaked documents (see citizen.org) indicate proposals allowing corporations to sue governments under the auspices of “foreign tribunals,” thus circumventing domestic courts and local laws. Corporations could even demand financial compensation for “tobacco, prescription, and environment protections” that undermine their profits.
As Senator Elizabeth Warren–I like her more everyday–warns, such provisions allow “a chance for these banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place without the cameras rolling and the lights on.”
Alarmingly, even without the TPP, over $3 billion has already been paid out to foreign investors under current U.S. trade and investment agreements, with another $14 billion pending, “primarily targeting environmental, energy, and public health policies” (citizen.org).
Representing the U.S. in the negotiations is Obama appointee Stefan Selig, a former Bank of America investment banker nominated to become Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce. Since his nomination, he’s received $9 million in bonuses. (He had received $5.1 million incentive pay the previous year.)
Slated to join him in the negotiations, pending Congress’ approval, is Michael Froman, presently U.S. Trade Representative. He received $4 million from CitiGroup as an exit payment in addition to $2 million in connection with his holdings in several investment funds.
This practice of banks lining the pockets of their former cohorts upon joining government is pervasive in the banking industry, pocket money for establishing influence in contexts affecting public financial policy.
Unfortunately, for all the pretty rhetoric coming out of the White House, the oligarchy of the one percent remains entrenched, and even abetted, while the TPP, added to its already formidable arsenal of financial peddling, poses a potent means to intimidating the common citizenry, here and abroad, opposed to its hegemony of privilege.
It certainly doesn’t contribute to economic parity. According to a study by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, as reported in the Washington Post, the economic gains would largely accrue to the wealthy.