Speaking of the president's negotiating skills, I was poking around the Wikileaks documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership environmental negotiations the other day, trying to figure out exactly how upset I'm supposed to be and why, and saw something, I think, that I'm not hearing about from any of the commentators, which is that the most hateful provisions of the draft agreement are things the US negotiating team is committed to getting rid of.
That is, on the one hand the posted draft agreement (from Salt Lake City, November 2013, and thus presumably superseded by now, more than a year and a couple of rounds later) is, as Wikileaks says,
noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in 'environmental' goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.But on the other hand, if you remember that these are drafts, over the contents of which the participants are fighting, and consider the Environment Working Group Chairs' Report, which lays out the dissenting positions of the individual countries, the US is pushing to correct all these problems, very much alone:
TPP critics seem actively engaged in hiding this from us. A visualization of the difference from Gabriel J. Michael at the To Promote the Progress? blog (also at Wapo's Monkey Cage), for instance, shows you the distance between the US parties, but not whose side anybody is on:
The environment chapter also shows a distant United States position. Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Brunei cluster together quite close to the centroid, while Peru, Chile, Vietnam and Malaysia (all lower-income and middle-income countries) appear on the other periphery.We're left assuming, and not without good historical reason, that the US, world's hegemon, must be the outlier forcing everybody else into a reactionary position, as I imagine it really is in the copyright negotiations, presumably dictated by Disney. But this is not at all the case for the environmental area, as we see. In fact it's exactly the opposite. We're the outliers trying desperately to save the Chilean seabass from the greedy Chilenos.
Speaking of Disney, the WikiLeaks Mickey Mouse cartoon (above) seems to be snarking: "Of course we've included the environment, did you think we'd skip an opportunity to screw the planet?" But if you think back over the history of selling trade negotiations to the (liberal) US public, it's been predicated for years and years on promising us that the environment, and labor issues, would be included, against the will of the other selfishly economistic parties. You might not like that free trade, they told us, but we can use the negotiations to guarantee standards for caring for the environment and for working people. This is written into the statute governing the negotiations:
(As far as I can tell WikiLeaks hasn't posted any draft agreements on labor standards.)
The more appropriate way to criticize Obama, then, on this issue, would be for his arrogance in believing he can overcome the resistance of Malaysia and Vietnam and the vile Nats governments of Oz and New Zealand and Canada to get this stuff done and make the MEAs work with real teeth. It's pretty damn arrogant. But it would also be, if he were to succeed, the very best thing that could happen in these negotiations. Even if Disney gets its copyright extended out to the Crack of Doom.