24 May 2015

Bob Menendez Shafts Barack Obama on TPP

He managed to get an amendment in the Senate's TPP bill, which has the effect of toughening human trafficking requirements of member countries, which means that Malaysia's horrific human trafficking record would make the treaty ineligible for fast track:
Remember, passing Fast Track in the Senate was supposed to be the easy part. Not only did Fast Track get rejected on its first try — “Welcome aboard the S.S. Lame Duck, Mr. President!” — now we get this. Ryan Grim explains:
The Senate approved a bill to “fast-track” trade agreements negotiated by the president. The agreement will prevent Congress from amending or filibustering Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP deal would have a hard time surviving without fast-track authority.
But a key crackdown on human trafficking survived the legislative jujitsu. The White House considers the provision a deal-breaker, as it would force one of the nations involved in the TPP talks — Malaysia — out of the agreement.
From the US State Department:
Malaysia (Tier 3 [the worst]) is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and two million or more undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia.
Foreign workers typically migrate willingly to Malaysia from other countries in Asia—primarily Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Thailand, and Laos—in search of greater economic opportunities.
Here I pause to note that somebody decided that it would be a good idea for the US to take in the Rohingya, the Muslim boat people who have turned to traffickers to escape a slow motion Burmese genocide, after which the Malaysians offered temporary, one-year status to such Rohingya as actually reach their shores.


Complicating any efforts to “fix” the bill, however, is the possibility of an alliance between feminist factions in the Democratic party, and Christianist factions among the Republicans, both of whom take strongly principled positions on human trafficking.

Complicating the picture even more, when you think about it, is the potential for agita in 2016. Suppose Obama, very ironically, gets the anti-slavery provisions “fixed,” i.e. removed, and the bill passes in time. The campaign ads practically write themselves. “A vote for TPP is a vote for human trafficking.” “Why does Senator X support slavery?” Cue the ominous music. Cue pictures of skeletal women and children. Cue the die-ins on the trail. I’m sure campaign shops on both sides are practically drooling with joy, because the only way TPP will pass is with bipartisan support. Getting that amendment in there was GENIUS, and we’ll get to how that happened in a moment.
So what we are seeing here is a pissing contest between Menendez and Obama.

The time line is:
  • Menendez does his level best to submarine any potential nuclear deal with Iran, including politically attaching himself to Benyamin Netanyahu.
  • Menendez is indicted for corruption. (BTW, good luck getting a conviction under recent Supreme Court rulings)
  • Menendez inserts an amendment to Fast Track which basically excludes Malaysia from the treaty.
Note also the consequences of excluding Malaysia, the most populous Muslim majority state in the world the only sizable majority Muslim state in the TPP, so its exclusion would leave the rump state of Brunei (population 415,717) as the only majority Muslim nation in the agreement.

I cannot believe that I am actually on Menendez' side on all of this, but the TPP is clearly bad news, as the TTIP with Europe, (more on that later) so to the degree that these treaties can be stopped, the better it is for everyone but the multinational business for whom this is a big government subsidy.


Stephen Montsaroff said...

Indonesia not Malaysia is the most populous Muslim majority state in the world.

Matthew Saroff said...

Doh! You are correct. Will fix actually strike out

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