EXCLUSIVE: Jane Kelsey – What Trump means to the TPPA

By   /   November 15, 2016  /   28 Comments

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We will have a better idea next week when the political leaders of the TPPA countries meet on the side of the APEC leaders’ summit in Peru, one of Obama’s last appearances as president on the global stage. There will be lots of brave rhetoric, so we will have to decipher the noise from behind the scenes.


The dust is still settling in the US on the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Rationally we should say it’s a dead duck. But, to mess up the metaphor, we should not count our chickens too early. Everything still depends on what happens in the 16 sitting days of the lame duck session of Congress.

There are at least five points on the ‘dead duck’ side of the ledger – but warning, this account may not have a happy ending.

  1. Proceeding with implementing legislation in the wake of such a landslide victory for Trump would seem provocative, especially at a time when people on all sides are calling for calm and reconciliation.
  1. Key gatekeepers in Congress, especially Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, have said the bill will not be presented this year.
  1. There are several other measures competing for floor time. In particular Congress has to pass the budget bill or the government will close down at Christmas.
  1. The vote will be determined in the House of Representatives. They are currently short about 12 votes from people who are unlikely to shift because to do so would be political suicide. A number of Republicans in the House who supported Obama in the vote to grant fast track authority recanted on their support for the TPPA during the election for their own political survival. While politicians are fickle, a number of them will be up for re-election in two years and voters are unlikely to forget.
  1. Several fixes to the TPPA that were seen as pre-conditions to a vote have not been fixed: the solution to Wall St’s demands that they can hold financial services data offshore, by including it in the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is being block for now by the EU; the tobacco states remain furious with the exclusion of tobacco control policies from investor-state disputes; no TPPA country has said publicly it is prepared to give longer protection for biologics medicines than is in the text.
  1. New issues underpin the grievances of Republicans and some Democrats: demands for rules against so-called currency manipulation, which Japan could never agree to; changes to rules of origin for automobiles, which pit Canada and Mexico against Japan; and dairy. There is no sign of any change on any of these.
  2. Congress may not be willing to pass its own legislation when the other countries have not. To date New Zealand’s is the only (stupid) government to have (almost) passed its legislation – the third reading of the legislation was interrupted on Thursday and will probably resume and conclude next week. The next closest is Japan, where the lower house just approved the law and the upper house has 30 days to do so. All the rest adopted a prudent wait and see attitude.
  1. Even if Congress passes the implementing legislation that is not the end of the process. The US still has to certify the compliance of every other country with the US view of what the TPPA requires. That is a long way off and would happen under the Trump administration and Trump has said he would withdraw from the deal. So what’s the point?
  1. They already have a fall-back position in the TiSA negotiations, where chapters of the TPPA have been transferred across, especially on e-commerce and state-owned enterprises. Trump seems unaware of its existence and because he is most concerned about the industrial decline, he may not be too fussed about offshoring of services. Indeed, he might positively welcome the SOE chapter, as it attacks enterprises seen to unfairly compete and do Americans out of jobs.

On the downside of the ledger:

  1. The TPPA is a key part of Obama’s legacy. He has nothing to lose by putting it to the vote, probably not even his dignity. It is a bigger blow to his reputation to lose by default.
  1. The US Trade Representative’s office had the implementing legislation ready to roll before the election and is still talking about presenting it.
  1. The person who will decide whether the Bill gets to Congress, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is a total fan of the TPPA and has been ominously silent. If he brings it in, the Senate leader is likely to play ball.
  1. There are rumours of some kind of side-deal on biologics that will satisfy the demands of crucial senator Orrin Hatch, who is bankrolled by Big Pharma.
  1. Other Republicans who want changes to the financial data and tobacco issues also want the TPPA.
  1. The corporate lobby has been working hard to remind Republicans especially who pays their keep.
  1. China has called for urgent conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement as the principal rulemaking agreement, which will fuel the arguments that the TPPA is essential to show US leadership in the region and make sure America makes the rules for the 21st century, not China.
  1. There has been a lot of deliberate talking down of the prospects to get opponents to relax. Note that Trump himself has not said anything since the election, probably because his advisers say it’s not going to happen so he shouldn’t waste political capital on saying he will withdraw from it.
  1. Trump is a wild card. They might gamble on him not carrying through with his threats. At the least he might seek to renegotiate the deal rather than ditch it altogether.

So what’s my best guess? Despite the rhetoric, including from the USTR, I am not totally ruling out Team Obama trying to get it into the House. If the Speaker Paul Ryan lets them, they stand to lose, although nothing is certain.  We will have a better idea next week when the political leaders of the TPPA countries meet on the side of the APEC leaders’ summit in Peru, one of Obama’s last appearances as president on the global stage. There will be lots of brave rhetoric, so we will have to decipher the noise from behind the scenes.

So what to do? First, commiserate with progressive Americans and Trump’s potential victims that they have a racist, sexist, xenophobic narcissist as their new President.

Second, recognise that the groundswell against the TPPA in the US is not the work of Trump, but is the culmination of six years solid campaigning by allies there and across the TPPA countries.

Third, rest on our laurels. Once we put the final nail in the TPPA coffin we need to build from there. In the short term that means stopping other toxic deals that are currently on the table, starting with the TiSA and the RCEP, both of which have negotiating rounds next month. But more importantly seize the momentum and generate debate on what an alternative progressive international trade strategy might look like for a people’s 21st century.

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  1. Korakys says:

    Wait what? What is so wrong with RCEP that you call it toxic and put it on the same level as the TPPA?

    • Jane Kelsey says:

      The only leaked texts that we have so far (in another secret negotiation) show Japan and South Korea have transferred IP and investment provisions from the TPPA, and there are some aspects that are TPPA-plus. Other aspects are especially toxic for the developing countries, in particular the level of obligations that are being demanding of the least-developed countries who do not need to do anything similar in the WTO.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Listen to Jane Korakys, she has spent many years researching all these Trojan so called “deals”, so what she points out is gospel and nothing else mate.

  2. Jane Kelsey says:

    Please note that this was written several days ago and is out of date in several respects. There seems now to be acceptance that there will not be a vote in the lame duck period. There is lots of noise about other options, which will continue to be aired before, during and after the APEC trade ministers’ meeting. These include a TPPA without the US, which is not legally possible unless they either change the terms of the agreement’s entry into force, which requires US consent, or create a duplicate agreement, but there are too many countries that would not be interested in that option. Quite what Trump will do is still anyone’s guess. Meanwhile attention has turned to the fate of TiSA, with suggestions the ministerial meeting proposed for 4-5 Dec in Geneva won’t happen because they can’t conclude the deal due to positions taken in the EU, and no-one knows Trump’s view of TiSA, if he even knows that it exists. So watch this space …

  3. Priss says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion the neo-liberal element of the Republican Party will sneak through either an amended TPP or a re-branded version of it.

    Trump has shown he can back-flip with the likes of John Key, so expect Olympic-class somersaults and back-flips.

  4. Mike in Auckland says:

    Nope, I do not think they will try and run with getting the TPPA passed in that short time left for them. It will be political suicide for many, and Trump and his supporters will be furious, it would anyway be undone as soon as he gets his administration running.

    TPPA is a dead duck sinking in the water.

    • Priss says:

      I hope so, Mike!

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      Yep but our government just passed all the legislation needed to ratify it anyway:

      The government’s Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) legislation has passed its third reading at Parliament this afternoon, despite the likelihood the trade deal won’t proceed.

      Which, IMO, pretty much proves that this is not about doing what is right or good for NZ but doing what multinational corporations want.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        OUR government is so disconnected to reality, it is not funny, hence the slack action to address the climate change issues, and causes. Key and his lot live in the past, love the past, and are highly reluctant to change. That is a change from fossil fuel energy driven economic activity, from individual car traffic and from business as usual, the neoliberal way.

        And yes, corporations have open doors in the NZ government’s quarters.

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    ” But more importantly seize the momentum and generate debate on what an alternative progressive international trade strategy might look like for a people’s 21st century.”

    What ? ,…. and cut out the Mont Pelerin society , the Bilderbergers, the Rothchilds banking elites and all the other neo liberal hangers on like John Key?

    OK , then.

    Tall order but OK then.

    I like it.

    When do we start?

    Perhaps we can start with the man who likes to say … You’re (F.I.R.E.)D!!!

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yep WK

      I think Trump knows how these assholes all think, and as he said this week he will “drain the swamp” (Washington) beginning with the liberal Klingons that cozied up to NATO!!!!!

      That evil organisation is clearly just a front for Stoltenberg’s new era of the “Fifth Reich” nothing more.

  6. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    Trump is the best thing that ever happened to the fate of the TPPA. If nothing else, at least we can all agree that the Trump victory is a plus for NZ on this one issue. Perosnally, I think Trump is very much a moderate in so far such a beast exists in US politics, indeed more so than Hillary “there isn’t a war I haven’t supported” Clinton.

    • Perosnally, I think Trump is very much a moderate in so far such a beast exists in US politics

      And yet, Nitrium, he is surrounding himself with hard-right Republicans, Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon?

      The Guardian had this to say about Bannon;

      Bannon was the executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News for much of the past decade. The site is the most widely read conservative news and opinion site in the US, but it is charged with being racist, antisemitic and sexist, and of repeatedly peddling conspiracy theories to further its agenda.

      Breitbart has, among other things, accused Obama of “importing more hating Muslims”, compared conservative commentator Bill Kristol to a “renegade Jew”, likened Planned Parenthood’s work to the Holocaust, said young Muslims in the west were a “ticking time bomb”, and advised female victims of online harassment to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men”.

      Bannon stands on the far right of the Republican party. Following his appointment, the Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, issued a statement calling Bannon “hostile to core American values”.

      There’s more, but I think we get the gist of it.

      And Priebus;

      Priebus, 44, is the long-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and loyal adviser to the Trump campaign. He is a Washington insider, having worked in government since 2004, and his friendship with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, is expected to be instrumental in securing early legislative victories for the Trump administration.

      A lawyer by training, Priebus served as state treasurer in Wisconsin and worked his way up through the Wisconsin Republican party to become chairman in 2007.

      After he led his party to success in the November 2010 elections in the state, which had previously been held by the Democrats, Priebus, together with Ryan and Scott Walker, became known as part of a rising Republican movement in Wisconsin that was influential at a national level. “A trio of young Wisconsin politicians are now positioned to have a substantial influence on the future direction and success of the Republican party,” the Washington Post wrote in 2011.

      So much for hiring “fresh new talent” outside the political establishment.

      Expect more of the same, with more such appointees.

      The American Establishment Machine is purring along quite nicely.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Yep Frank you are right, we now know since the Corporate media and banks all railed against trump savagely and now fear him coming after them.

        We know he was their enemy and then must be more inline with us.

        • Strypey says:

          Wishful thinking. Look at the people who are taking control of the US state along with Trump. The only “outsiders” are corporate lobbyists who are now taking over regulation of the industries they shill for. Trump’s faux-nationalism was classic corporate PR and the fact that people are still falling for it now that the veil is lifted just demonstrates that old chestnut “there are none so blind as those who will not see”:

      • Nitrium Nitrium says:

        From that, I don’t see how Bannon remotely represents “The Establishment Machine”. Quite the opposite, in fact. Please explain.

        • Priss says:

          From what I know of Bannon and his vileness, he represents the Shocktroop defense of the US Establishment and all that it engenders in terms of white male privilege,

  7. Nick says:

    Forget the lame duck session.It is the new Presidency you need to fear.

    Trump will not kill the TPPA. He has been talking about “renegotiation”.

    Look for a way worse deal, signed off on by countries who will do anything for the Chimera of access to the US market. Countries will be bullied within the US hegemony, leaders will be schmoozed or bought as necessary, the TPP will proceed, and we may be thinking back longingly to the deal now to be overtaken.

    The art of the deal.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      I would agree on that, as Trump is a businessman, a tycoon of sorts, who runs business along the lines how you play POKER. You bluff, take risks, but wait for the opportunity to deal out to your competitor, and then pull him or her over the table, to sign a contract they can no longer refuse to sign.

      I oppose the TPPA as it was conceived and negotiated, and what is in it, some of it, but Trump is not simply against such trade deals, he wants just a BETTER DEAL for the US, and a worse deal for others, that is what he is about.

      Those welcoming Trump’s win here in NZ, they should have second thoughts about it all.

  8. Helena says:

    Trump – the brave man who, if he makes it to inauguration, will stop the TPPA, and investigate 9/11 which led to our soldiers being sent to war for war-mongers, banksters, drug dealers and child traffickers.

  9. Archonblatter says:

    Below is a Trump quote from an article on Katehon. ‘Did Trump Just Sell Out?’ Worth reading.

    “Everybody’s a lobbyist down there, that’s the problem with the system — the system. Right now, we’re going to clean it up. We’re having restrictions on foreign money coming in, we’re going to put on term limits, which a lot of people aren’t happy about, but we’re putting on term limits. We’re doing a lot of things to clean up the system. But everybody that works for government, they then leave government and they become a lobbyist, essentially. I mean, the whole place is one big lobbyist. I’m saying that they know the system right now, but we’re going to phase that out. You have to phase it out.”


    • Mike in Auckland says:

      “Katehon think tank is an independent organization consisting of an international network of people – from a wide variety of fields and disciplines – who specialize in the geopolitical, geostrategic and political analysis of world events. The group consists of political thinkers, international relations (IR) researchers, experts in security and counter-terrorism, and journalists concerned with international affairs, geopolitics, ethno-politics and inter-religious dialogue.”

      As these “thinkers” consider themselves so important and independent, I may announce, I am a more independent, qualified thinker, who has a shit dim view of the crap yo post here!

      The Illuminate and other conspiracy adherents, go take a hike, you are wasting our time, to address the real challenges and issues of this world.

  10. Mike in Auckland says:

    As much as I hate the man, but for Americans he has a message, that convinces:


  11. Jeromeco says:

    Jane hi
    So what about an article giving us an inspiring and clear picture of what a socially, culturally and ecologically ‘just’ international trade agreement looks like? Perhaps describe the Purpose, the Principles and some examples of the principles translated into action. How would desired outcomes be driven by this treaty? Tthis would help us understand and talk positively about our options/ opportunities – thanks

  12. Mike in Auckland says:

    Heard and saw Trump announce to the media today, the US will ditch the TPPA from day one of his presidency! And Japan’s Mr Abe will be correct with his conclusion, which John the Idiot Key and his government should perhaps also take note of, finally: