Obama is fighting both grassroots activism and opposition within his own party as he tries to force through the controversial trade deal.
LONDON — WikiLeaks has announced a new crowdfunded “prize” for leaking chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade deal, shrouded in secrecy, that Congress is expected to consider soon.
Wikileaks released three other parts of the TPP, including the chapter on intellectual property, a chapter on the environment and memos that reveal the negotiations between participating countries. Now, the organization hopes to raise $100,000 through donations to create what it calls the “Prize for Understanding Good Government,” or PUGG. The PUGG Prize, which had raised more than $60,000 by Tuesday afternoon, will be awarded to anyone who can leak the remaining 26 chapters of the TPP.
Despite widespread opposition from activists and even some elected members of the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama wants “fast track authority” to pass the TPP trade deal, which requires Congress to vote on the deal without amendments or detailed discussion of its contents, which — apart from the three leaked chapters — remain available only to members of Congress, trade negotiators and some corporations. The TPP passed the Senate under fast track last month, which means approval from the House of Representatives is the next step before Obama can sign the deal into law.
Speaking from the Embassy of Ecuador in London, Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, told Democracy Now! he targeted the TPP because of the broad effects it would have on global freedom.
“[I]t is the framework, if it gets through, of international law, and filtering into domestic law. It is the construction of a new world, a new way of doing things, a new legal regime,” Assange said. “So it’s, in historical terms, the largest-ever such agreement negotiated.”
House fast track vote hangs on a handful of undecided representatives
Opposition to the TPP comes from diverse quarters, from doctors, who warn that the TPP could increase prescription prices and prevent healthy eating campaigns that cut into corporate profits, to environmentalists, who warn the deal would remove legal barriers that prevent corporations from destroying the environment.
“Rich shareholders would profit and smile but ordinary working Americans would face more unfairly advantaged foreign competitors, unemployment and more downward pressure on wages,” Peter Morici, an economist from the University of Maryland, wrote for The Hill on Tuesday. “The richest 10 percent would get richer, working Americans would become poorer.”
Remarkably, the deal seems to be growing worse over time even as opposition grows: Stan Sorscher, a labor organizer from the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, reported in The Huffington Post blog that the House version of the TPP actually removes human rights protections added by the Senate. Under the Senate version, countries with poor human rights records would be barred from the agreement.
“Incomprehensibly, the Obama administration is asking House members to weaken the Senate’s language to let Malaysia into TPP without any actual improvement in workers’ conditions,” Sorscher wrote on Thursday. “It would let Malaysia maintain human trafficking exactly the way it is now.”
In recent days, Obama has fought opposition to the deal within the Democratic Party by offering legislators reelection support in return for approving the fast track deal. According to Politico, the TPP marks a rare point of agreement between Obama and the Republican Party. House Democrats widely oppose the deal, but its passage hangs on the decisions of as few as a dozen undecided representatives. A vote is expected sometime this month.
Ron Kind, a Democratic representative from Wisconsin, who is leading the push for passage of the TPP, told Politico: “I am confident that we are going to have the Democratic votes needed to pass.”
A key deciding vote will be Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority Leader from California. Labor unions have put intense pressure on Pelosi to oppose the bill, but “the White House has said privately it thinks the California Democrat is more inclined to support the bill when it comes to the floor for the vote.”
Watch WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, discuss the TPP with Democracy Now!: