An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton on the TPP

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

As of right now, you are the early and, it appears likely, eventual Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2016. Dare I say, barring some strange surprise, you are the shoe-in for the Presidency.

You need to state clearly and unequivocally where you stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). So far you have ended up straddling the fence on this issue, with one foot down on either side. When you were Secretary of State, you supported the TPP. I understand, you kind of had to. It was part of your job. In your book, “Hard Choices”, you raised serious concerns about the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision. That provision allows corporations from partner states in the TPP to sue the United States and change or ignore laws meant to safeguard the American people and protect businesses and the environment. The TPP challenges American sovereignty. You recognize this, yet even when pressed by the media you will not articulate a clear stance on the TPP. It’s not like you haven’t had time to consider this.

Senator Bernie Sanders, against whom you will be competing for the Presidential bid, clearly opposes the TPP and from what I’ve seen he will be happy to bring it up in the debates you will be having. President Obama described the TPP as “the most progressive trade deal in history”. Sanders is widely regarded as one of the most progressive politicians around. He describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist”, which makes him the closest thing to a Canadian in the race (yes, including Ted Cruz) and is likely why I identify with him so much.

In April of this year, Sanders described the TPP as “simply the continuation of a failed approach to trade – an approach which benefits large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but which is a disaster for working families“. That ‘failed approach’ that Sanders mentions is NAFTA. Ask Bill about it over dinner tonight. NAFTA was the baby of his Republican predecessor in office, the senior Bush, but he couldn’t fast-track it to get it signed before leaving office. As a result, Bill signed it, but not before slapping two significant protective agreements on top of it, the NAALC and NAAEC, designed to add protections for workers and the environment. Those were two very important measures and prevented NAFTA from being an even bigger disaster than it already has been. Your husband has already been there. Ask his advice.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the most progressive Democrats and a potential competitor for the Democratic nomination, is also sounding the alarm bells over the TPP, and she is right on the money with her concern.

In his interview with Chris Matthews, Obama simply said that while he respects Senator Warren, “she’s wrong on this”. He offered no further explanation, no more information or evidence on it, which makes his statement little more than a simple assertion. Obama said that the American people will like the agreement when they see it, but then he said that the American people will only get to see it if it gets fast-tracked. That’s like a car salesman saying “You’re honestly gonna fall in love with this car, but you can only take it for a test drive if you let me cut the brake lines first. Just trust me!”

Elizabeth Warren is calling for transparency. She wants accountability. She wants to make sure that the corporate interests and lobbyists who have negotiated the TPP thus far have not agreed to measures that will hurt American people, American jobs, or America’s sovereignty. Her concerns are legitimate. Her requests for better oversight and public scrutiny are reasonable. Warren feels the TPP deserves a sober second thought by people who are not acting in the best interests of corporate mega-conglomerates.

Transparency is golden political capital these days. People want it and will do a lot to get it. Promise it and you will have peoples’ attention. Why is such an important trade deal actually classified as “top-secret”? Secrecy foments distrust. It does not boost the confidence of the American people that their interests are being protected. Warren says that people tell her ‘We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it’. From what little has been leaked of it, I would have to say that’s an accurate statement.

Warren also shares your concern about the ISDS and what it means to America’s sovereignty – America’s ability to govern itself independently of foreign powers. Many people do not fully understand what this means. As a lawyer yourself, and after watching the decades of lawsuits under NAFTA, I’m sure I don’t need to explain that to you.

I like President Obama. No, that’s not strong enough. I deeply respect President Obama. What he has been able to accomplish with the opposition he has faced in his Presidency is monumental, and unlike his predecessor, we don’t have to wait for the distance of time and an army of revisionist historians to recognize the positives and accomplishments of his leadership. Between your husband and President Obama, you have had two tremendous learning opportunities. Mrs. Clinton, I honestly think you would make a fantastic President. Your time in office both as First Lady and as Secretary of State make you the most experienced of any other candidate from any party. With all of that working in your favour, another bad Free Trade deal would still loom over your presidency like a cloud of failure. Now is not the time to be wishy-washy. A President needs to be a leader. I’m not saying you need to be a “decider” like Dubya, but you do need to take an informed and well-reasoned stance here. People need to know what they are voting for.

The Republican Party is entirely in the pocket of the corporations who are negotiationg the TPP, and yet they manage to find some opposition to it. Democrats are divided. Some are “business-friendly”, while others fight for their worker base. When push came to shove, however, your Democrat compatriots could not support the deal. Just yesterday afternoon (May 12, 2015) they rallied WITH the Senate Republicans to block passage of the TPA, the bill designed to fast-track America’s participation in the TPP. Yes, the most dysfunctional and least productive Congress that ever existed managed to work together on something, and that was to put up a roadblock on the TPA. How much more of an obvious message do you need?

If you do not oppose the TPP, at least please oppose the fast-tracking of it. Nothing good ever came of recklessly ramming through such a massively important bill without oversight. Please make your position clear soon.

This is the sixth article we have written on the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

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