EW YORK – It was in last year’s State of the Union address that President Obama announced an ambitious trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors with North American and Pacific Rim nations – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – that drew little attention.
Now, ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Secretary of State John Kerry presented evidence that a plan originating with the George W. Bush administration to evolve NAFTA into a European Union-style confederation in North America between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been put into overdrive with the Obama administration’s effort to obtain “fast track authority” to rush the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress with limited debate.
In a joint press conference in Washington Jan. 17 at the conclusion of a ministerial meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade, a reporter posed a question to Kerry. The secretary of state was asked if the U.S. planned to reopen NAFTA and engage in direct negotiations with Mexico and Canada to avoid future conflicts between the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently before Congress and the forthcoming Atlantic counterpart, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, now being negotiated with the Europeans.
Kerry’s surprising answer suggested that with the expected ratification by Congress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the Obama administration already considers the U.S., Mexico and Canada as part of a “post-NAFTA” world.
“I think that stepping up, all of us, to the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA,” Kerry answered. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.”
The Canadian foreign minister, Baird, reinforced Kerry’s point.
“Now listen, we believe that NAFTA’s been an unqualified success; the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which all three of us are in, offer us the opportunity to strengthen the trilateral partnership, and we’re keen to use that opportunity to do so,” he said.
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Anticipating the rubber-stamp passage of the TPP by Congress through “fast track” authorization, the White House will have an opportunity to kick off the “post-NAFTA” era at the next North American Leaders Summit meeting between the “three amigos” of President Obama, Mexican President Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The meeting in Toluca, Mexico, is scheduled for Feb. 19.
As WND reported, Obama announced in his 2013 State of the Union address the plan to add the trans-Pacific free-trade agreement to the trans-Atlantic agreement already in place.
“Fast-track” authority would allow the Obama administration to move the TPP through Congress with a simple majority vote. The rules would limit debate so that no amendments could be introduced to modify the language of the agreement the Obama administration has negotiated behind closed doors.
As WND reported, the Obama administration has shut down the Security and Prosperity Partnership website, spp.gov. The last joint statement issued by the newly formed North American Leaders Summit, operating as the rebranded SPP, was issued April 2, 2012, at the conclusion of the last tri-lateral head-of-state meeting between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, held in Washington, D.C.
Without much fanfare, the White House wrapped Mexico and Canada into the TPP negotiations.
On June 16, 2012, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk issued a statement announcing that Mexico had decided to join the TPP negotiations.
“We are delighted to invite Mexico, our neighbor and second largest export market, to join the TPP negotiations,” said Kirk. “Mexico’s interest in the TPP reflects its recognition that the TPP presents the most promising pathway to boosting trade across the Asia Pacific and to encouraging regional trade integration. We look forward to continuing consultations with the Congress and domestic stakeholders as we move forward.”
Three days later, with similar language, the USTR announced Canada had decided to join the TPP negotiations.
“Inviting Canada to join the TPP negotiations presents a unique opportunity for the United States to build upon this already dynamic trading relationship. Through TPP, we are bringing the relationship with our largest trading partner into the 21st century,” said Kirk. “We look forward to continuing consultations with the Congress and domestic stakeholders regarding Canada’s entry into the TPP as we move closer to a broad-based, high-standard trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Now, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Obama administration appears to have leapfrogged SPP ambitions to work toward creating an EU-style confederation by including Mexico and Canada in the TPP configuration.
The 12 nations in the TPP – along with Mexico, Canada and the U.S. – are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.
A graph shows the reach of the agreement across the Pacific, including Peru and Chile in South America; Australia and New Zealand; Malaysia and Vietnam in Southeast Asia; Singapore; and Japan.
Republicans join in
As WND has reported, Republicans under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner, with the willing cooperation of Reps. Mark Cantor and Paul Ryan, have given way to multi-national corporate interests backing the party and are preparing to support the White House on passage of the TPP.
On Jan. 9, in a little-noticed statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, together with ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., announced they were introducing “fast-track” trade promotion authority.
The last line of congressional resistance to TPP appears to be coming from House Democrats concerned that more U.S. union jobs will be lost.
Last year, 151 House Democrats opposed to TPP, led by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and George Miller, D-Calif., wrote a letter to President Obama stating their opposition to using “outdated ‘Fast Track’ procedures that usurp Congress’s authority over trade matters.”
This week, as WND reported, political analysts with an impressive group of 564 labor, environmental, family farm and community organizations in the Democratic Party’s voting base sent Obama a strongly worded letter charging that pushing TPP undermines the president’s message on income inequality.
“President Obama can’t have it both ways,” Arthur Stamoulis, the spokesman for Citizens Trade Campaign, the group organizing the letter, told WND. “Either the president is for reducing income eligibility as we expect he will say in the State of the Union address, or he can push for Fast Track legislation on the job-destroying TPP free-trade agreement. He can’t have it both ways.”
The power of the punch the Citizens Trade Campaign plans to deliver the White House can be seen by the letter’s signatories.
They include labor unions such as the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; United Autoworkers (UAW); United Brotherhood of Carpenters; United Steelworkers (USW); and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Among the environmental organizations are 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club.
Family farm organizations include the National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Consumer groups include Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, National Consumers League and Public Citizen.
“Income inequality and long-term unemployment are serious problems that the job-killing TPP would only worsen,” Stamoulis said.
Obama’s 2-ocean globalist plan
As WND reported, in his SOTU address last year, Obama announced a two-ocean globalist free-trade agenda:
“To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”
It marked the first time that a decision was made public by the U.S. trade representative to expand on-going trade negotiations to create a free-trade zone with Pacific-rim as well as EU countries.
WND reported in 2009 that the Obama administration had “rebranded” and “refocused” the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America to advance the Bush administration’s agenda of North American integration under the rubric of the “North American Leaders Summit.” The rubric was a less controversial banner, according to confidential sources in the U.S. Department of Commerce and State Department who agreed to speak with WND only if their comments were kept off the record.
In a series of articles dating back to June 13, 2006, WND reported the activities of the extensive tripartite “working-group” designed for the bureaucrats of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to create the regulatory structure needed to transform NAFTA into a fully-functioning regional confederation.
The SPP was simply announced at a tripartite summit meeting held between President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005.