On November 5, the White House released the text of the 5,544 page Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that President Obama had just finished negotiating under the FastTrack authority that Congress gave him. That trade pact can no longer be amended. The up-or-down votes in the House and Senate will take place as early as January 2016.
So what’s in the TPP? Here’s a quick summary:
A legislative body superior to Congress
A vehicle to pass Obama’s climate change treaty
Increased legal immigration
Reduced patent protection for U.S. pharmaceuticals
Quotas on U.S. agricultural exports
Increased currency manipulation
Reduced U.S. power
That’s the summary. Here are the details.
1. A Legislative Body Superior to Congress
It turns out that Senator Jeff Sessions was correct when he said that the treaty creates a new legislative body called the “Commission,” a term meant to invoke the European Commission, known for its recent decision to require that all the countries of the European Union take in Moslem refugees from the Middle East.
This is not a limited government. This is a government that can decide almost everything. Here is the relevant passage from Article 27 of the treaty itself:
The Parties hereby establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission (Commission) which shall meet at the level of Ministers or senior officials, as mutually determined by the Parties. Each Party shall be responsible for the composition of its delegation…. The Commission shall:… (c) consider any proposal to amend or modify this Agreement;… (h) take such other action as the Parties may agree….
The first session of the Commission has been scheduled to occur within one year of the date the treaty goes into effect, which will likely be before President Obama leaves office. At that meeting, Obama could change the agreement in any way that he wishes to, so long as he has the approval of the other 11 countries. He would not need Congress’s approval to change the deal.
The good news is that all of the countries of the deal would have to approve unanimously whatever legislation is passed by the Commission. The bad news is that those countries can change that rule at any meeting so that their future votes would not have to be unanimous.
The Commission would not be particularly powerful if its decisions could be ignored. However, the “Arbitration Tribunals” in the pact will have the power to award multi-billion dollar judgments against any member government that violates its decisions.