President Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress are united. Yes, that’s right. No, not on Obamacare, or on the budget, or on negotiations with Iran, or on equal pay for women. But on so-called free-trade agreements, which increase corporate power and reduce the power of people to govern themselves democratically, Obama and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder. This has put the president at loggerheads with his strongest congressional allies, the progressive Democrats, who oppose the TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the most far-reaching trade agreements in history. TPP will set rules governing more than 40 percent of the world’s economy. Obama has been negotiating in secret, and the Democrats are not happy.
The battle lines are being drawn over the TPP and TPA. If you are confused, well, that is exactly what many of the most powerful corporations in the U.S., and around the world, are counting on. Trade policy is arcane, complex and long the domain of economists and technocrats. But the real-world implications of these dry texts are profound. President Obama wants to pass the TPP, which is a broad trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. In order to expedite the process, President Obama is seeking the second acronym, TPA, or Trade Promotion Authority, also called “fast-track.” Fast-track gives the president authority to negotiate a trade deal, and to then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed. A growing coalition is organizing to oppose TPP and the president’s request for fast-track. The outcome of this conflict will reverberate globally for generations to come.