Planet Not For Sale

USITC ignores TPP food safety costs, overstates benefits for farmers

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  2016_05_18_USITC_Report_PR.pdf Minneapolis – The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has published its assessment of the potential impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the U.S. economy and on the “interests of U.S. consumers,” as required by the Trade Priorities Act. Judging by the agricultural trade deficits of past Free Trade Agreements, the USITC projections of the agreement’s impact on U.S. agriculture exports and imports are likely optimistic. Despite the best efforts of the USITC, it is questionable whether the report analyzes adequately the costs of trade that affect the interests of U.S. consumers. Steve Suppan, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade...

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New GTW Researcher Keeping an Eye on Trade

Eyes on Trade - 18 May, 2016 - 16:03

Today, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch (GTW) released a study on the United States International Trade Commission’s (USITC) General Equilibrium Model for estimating export and import growth as a result of trade agreements. I helped compile the background of the report, and I wanted to take a second to introduce myself.

My name is Justin Fisk, and I am the Senior Researcher at GTW. Since I first arrived in Washington, D.C. four years ago, I have been increasingly interested in international trade and its impact on the United States. During my graduate work at George Washington University, I focused my studies on international trade. At the same time, I interned full-time in many positions within the federal government and the private sector, including the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee at the Department of Commerce and the government affairs division of a trade law firm. After I completed graduate school, I worked for two years at the Council of State Governments helping states develop export promotion plans for small businesses in the United States.

I decided to leave the comforts of my previous job to take a more challenging role at Global Trade Watch. I am excited to be here, and I look forward to sharing the findings of our research in the coming months.

For my first blog, I wanted to discuss the USITC model. It is an important time to review and analyze this model since the USITC’s next report is expected to be released next week on May 18, which will analyze the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the United States.

Policymakers need to understand the data limitations of the current model employed by the USITC. Not only does it fail to take into account currency manipulation – which the TPP has no enforceable provisions against – it also assumes that workers who lose jobs to trade can easily and seamlessly find other opportunities for work (more examples of the assumptions the model incorporates can be found in the official report here). It shouldn’t be surprising that the USITC has consistently failed to estimate in any meaningful way the impacts of a free trade agreement.  

Looking back, the USITC predicted improved trade balances as a result of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 2007 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The agency projected only a small deficit increase from China’s 1999 World Trade Organization entry deal and the granting to China of Permanent Normal Trade Relations status.

Instead, the U.S. trade deficits with the trade partners increased dramatically and, as detailed in the text of the new study, manufacturing industries from autos to steel and farm sectors such as beef that were projected to “win” saw major losses. A government program to help Americans who lose jobs to trade certified 845,000 NAFTA jobs losses alone.

The USITC report also estimates changes of exports and imports of certain products. For example, the USITC concluded that NAFTA would result in little or no impact on meat imports into the United States because of already low U.S. tariff rates, and that if anything, U.S. exports of meat to Mexico would increase. The report projected that U.S. beef exports to Mexico would increase in the long-term by 16 percent or more. In reality, American cattle producers experienced the opposite outcome from NAFTA. In 1993, the United States exported 39,000 metric tons of beef and veal to Mexico and imported only 13,000 metric tons. By 2015, the United States imported more than 30,000 metric tons of beef and veal from Mexico more than it exported to Mexico.

In the China study, the USITC report estimated that U.S. exports of iron and steel would increase by 5.1 percent. The report does not project changes in import levels. In reality, U.S. exports of iron and steel increased by $1.1 billion or 239 percent. The USITC report did not however anticipate that U.S. imports from China of iron and steel would increase by $12.3 billion or by nearly 300 percent. The U.S. trade deficit with China in steel and iron products has worsened by nearly $7.9 billion, increasing from $2.7 billion in 2000 to $10.7 billion in 2015. In November 2015, nine steel associations wrote a joint letter insisting that China’s “overwhelmingly state-owned and state-supported steel industry” is the root problem of the 700 million metric tons of excess steel capacity in the world today, which is making it difficult for private sector firms in the U.S. to compete.”

The USITC report also projected that the U.S.-Korea FTA would likely increase exports of grain to Korea, “particularly exports of corn.” In reality, U.S. exports of corn have decreased by $1 billion or by 64 percent in the first 4 years of the Korea FTA. The Center for Economic and Policy Research released an interesting study in April that found, “there is no clear relationship between the expected effect of the KORUS on exports to Korea and the actual change in exports relative to trend.”

As mentioned earlier, the USITC model utilizes false assumptions which surely impact its results. With this in mind, policy makers should approach USITC report on TPP’s impact with caution.

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With Trade Commission TPP Review Due Next Week, New Study Shows Past Pacts’ Actual Outcomes Were Opposite of Agency’s Rosy Projections

Eyes on Trade - 18 May, 2016 - 16:02

Administration Expected to Tout Imminent USITC Study in New Push for TPP Passage Despite Agency’s Systematic Failure to Accurately Assess NAFTA, China and Korea Pacts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The reliability or usefulness of an imminent government assessment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was called into question by a study released today that shows that past U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projections of trade agreements’ benefits were systematically contradicted by the pacts’ actual outcomes.

The new study reviews USITC trade balance, job and economic sector projections in the statutorily required reports for the three most economically significant trade pacts prior to the TPP and finds the government study on each pact proved dramatically inaccurate – not only in degree, but in direction.

“Past government studies have systematically projected positive outcomes that were contradicted by the actual results, which is why members of Congress requested, without success, that the agency alter its approach to assessing the TPP,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

The USITC predicted improved trade balances, gains for specific sectors and more benefits from the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 2007 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in reports on those pacts. The agency projected only a small deficit increase from China’s 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) entry deal and the granting to China of Permanent Normal Trade Relations status.

Instead, the U.S. trade deficits with the trade partners increased dramatically and, as detailed in the text of the new study, manufacturing industries from autos to steel and farm sectors such as beef that were projected to “win” saw major losses. A government program to help Americans who lose jobs to trade certified 845,000 NAFTA jobs losses alone and econometric studies concluded that millions of jobs were lost from the China deal, in contrast to gains projected by the USITC reports.

The new report also reviews how the USITC’s use of a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model leads to projections entirely unrelated to actual outcomes by simply assuming away the very results that have often occurred under past pacts: long-term job loss, trade deficit increases and currency devaluations.

Under the model, the USITC collects information on current exports, imports, gross domestic product (GDP), tariff rates, investment flows and more. It creates equations to calculate how trade flows would change if a pact’s terms were fully implemented. The model looks to an endpoint, not the process of getting there. It does not consider whether there may be increases in trade deficits along the way, or whether other nations may not fully implement or enforce a pact’s terms. Rather it projects a final outcome assuming full implementation. Running this simulation generates data on potential changes in exports and imports. By design, it assumes the trade balance does not change and that employment levels remain consistent – that workers who lose jobs simply obtain new jobs in other sectors where wages are presumed to increase.

A growing body of academic criticism of the CGE model employed by the USITC has focused on the numerous assumptions researchers make, including what economic factors are included and excluded, and what included factors are assumed to remain constant. For instance, implicit in the assumption that the trade balance does not change is the assumption of flexible exchange rates. But in reality, currency manipulation is a significant problem among some of the TPP countries. The U.S. Department of Treasury just recently included TPP nation Japan on its new Monitoring List in its semi-annual report on “Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States.”

The assumptions baked into the model can contribute to gaps between projections about import and export levels and actual outcomes. Also, given that the results of the trade flow simulations are then used to project broader outcomes (such as on U.S. economic growth), assumptions piled on assumption can cause results that are incorrect, not only in degree, but in direction.

Different assumptions can result in diametrically opposed outcomes, as demonstrated by the recent Peterson Institute for International Economics and Tufts University studies on the TPP. The Peterson Institute used a CGE model with assumptions similar to those employed by the USITC in past studies and found the TPP would result in a modest increase in U.S. GDP, but not impact overall U.S. employment. Using an economic model that allows for the possibility of less than full employment and rising income inequality, called the United Nations Global Policy Model, Tufts University economists concluded that the TPP would reduce U.S. growth rates and lead to 448,000 American jobs lost.

The Tufts findings spotlight just how drastically the assumptions baked into a model affect the outcomes; the Tufts economists actually employed the Peterson Institute trade flow simulation data. They plugged the Peterson findings on import and export levels at full TPP implementation derived from one set of unrealistic assumptions into a model that applies more realistic assumptions about how trade flow changes affect growth and employment – and got the opposite results on growth and jobs.

Finally, the output of any model also is greatly affected by the data put into it. Issues to watch for in this regard for the USITC’s TPP study include:

  • How will the USITC TPP study treat “non-tariff barriers” (NTB)? What an international bank may consider an NTB may be what a policymaker or consumer considers an important safeguard to avoid costly financial crises. But recent trade pact projection studies have included guesstimates of gains resulting from the elimination of NTBs.
  • Will the USITC TPP study consider how TPP investment rules could affect decisions about where to invest in production and whether the TPP will alter foreign direct investment trends?
  • How will the USITC TPP study assess intellectual property provisions, given that longer monopolies may increase some U.S. firms’ profitability but also may cost governments and consumers more for medicines and access to information?

Under the Fast Track authority passed last year, the USITC is required to release a report projecting the economic effects of the TPP no later than May 18, 2016.

 

 

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Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”): Regulation Automated Trading (“AT”)

Language:  English IATP author(s):  IATP File:  CFTC ATS comment 3 16 15 final.pdf The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (“IATP”)2 appreciates this opportunity to comment on the Commission’s proposed regulation for Automated Trading Systems (“ATS”). IATP commented on the Commission’s “Concept Release and System Safeguards for Automated Trading Environments” (“Concept Release”) in December 2013.3 We became interested in the impact of ATS on commodity prices after reading research demonstrating the sustained and high price correlations among agricultural contracts, energy contracts and the S&P E Mini Futures Index of equities resulting from High Frequency Trading (“HFT”). Indeed, as the open interest share of...

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Contribution to Asia Regional Meeting on Agroecology

Subtitle:  Supporting Agroecology by Securing and Building on Appropriate Rights Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. M. Jahi Chappell Shiney Varghese File:  2016_05_05_Asia_FAO_JC.pdf Minneapolis, May 10, 2016—The Regional Meeting on Agroecology in Asia in November of 2015 marked the culmination of four FAO meetings on Agroecology. These vibrant meetings confirmed a rising tide that we have written about previously: agroecology’s prominence is growing worldwide. The importance of its concepts, tools, knowledge and its emphasis on respect for and collaboration with producers have been borne out by the reception it has seen across FAO meetings on four continents. More...

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New Data Reveal That Obama’s Korea Trade Pact on Which the TPP Was Modeled Resulted in Doubling of Trade Deficit

Eyes on Trade - 4 May, 2016 - 19:03

Likely to Fuel Bipartisan Trade Revolt in Presidential and Congressional Campaigns as White House Gears up Push for Congressional Passage of TPP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Obama administration intensifies its efforts to persuade Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), new U.S. government data released today reveal an “inconvenient truth” about the Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that served as the template for the TPP. The new data covering the first four years of the pact reveal that the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea has more than doubled. This 115 percent deficit increase with Korea comes in the context of the overall U.S. trade deficit with the world decreasing slightly. 

The increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Korea equates to the loss of more than 106,000 American jobs in the first four years of the Korea FTA, counting both exports and imports, according to the trade-jobs ratio that the Obama administration used to promise job gains from the deal.

The Census Bureau data showing the outcomes of the Korea pact are the opposite of the Obama administration’s 2011 “more exports, more jobs” promises for the deal. The administration is now employing similar claims to try to sell the TPP to Congress and the American public as bipartisan opposition to more-of-the-same trade policies surges and presidential and congressional candidates spotlight the problems with the TPP and the failure of U.S. trade policies.

“President Obama has stepped up his efforts to do a hard sell on the TPP, but much of the TPP text was literally cut and pasted from the Korea agreement, so to see what a disaster the Korea deal has been is a stark warning,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “President Obama has repeatedly asked that the TPP not be judged against his predecessors’ failed trade deals, but now we can see the disastrous results from President Obama’s signature trade package, which helps to explain why in this election cycle Americans are on the warpath against our trade policies.” 

Despite the Korea FTA including more than 10,000 tariff cuts, 80 percent of which began on day one:

  • The U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea has increased 115 percent, or $16 billion, in the first four years of the Korea FTA (comparing the year before it took effect to the fourth year data).
  • Since the FTA took effect, U.S. average monthly exports to Korea have fallen in 11 of the 15 U.S. sectors that export the most to Korea, relative to the year before the FTA. Exports of machinery and computer/electronic products, collectively comprising 28.6 percent of U.S. exports to Korea, have fallen 22.6 and 6.6 percent respectively under the FTA.
  • The 115 percent surge in the U.S.-Korea goods trade deficit in the first four years of the FTA starkly contrasts with the 5 percent decrease in the global U.S. goods trade deficit during the same period.
  • While U.S. goods imports from the world have decreased by 6 percent, U.S. goods imports from Korea have increased by 19 percent, or $11.5 billion, during the FTA’s first four years.
  • U.S. goods exports to Korea have dropped 9 percent, or $4.4 billion, under the Korea FTA’s first four years.
  • U.S. exports to Korea of agricultural goods have fallen 19 percent, or $1.4 billion, in the first four years of the Korea FTA despite the administration’s oft-touted point that almost two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports by value would obtain immediate duty-free entry to Korea under the pact. U.S. agricultural imports from Korea, meanwhile, have grown 34 percent, or $123 million, under the FTA. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade balance with Korea has declined 22 percent, or $1.5 billion, since the FTA’s implementation. The Obama administration promised that U.S. exports of meat would rise particularly swiftly, thanks to the deal’s tariff reductions on beef, pork and poultry. However, U.S. exports to Korea in each of the three meat sectors have fallen below the long-term growth trend since the Korea FTA took effect. Compared with the exports that would have been achieved at the pre-FTA average monthly level, U.S. meat producers have lost a combined $62.5 million in poultry, pork and beef exports to Korea in the first four years of the Korea deal – a loss of more than $5 million in meat exports every month
    • Despite the promises made by U.S. officials that the pact would enhance cooperation between the U.S. and Korean governments to resolve food safety and animal health issues that affect trade, South Korean banned nearly all imports of American poultry at the beginning of 2015 due to several bird flu outbreaks in Minnesota and Iowa. Comparing the FTA’s fourth year to the year before it went into effect, U.S. poultry producers have faced a 93 percent collapse of exports to Korea – a loss of nearly 100,000 metric tons of poultry exports to Korea. U.S. beef exports are finally nearing pre-FTA levels after declining an average of 11 percent during the first three years of the agreement. U.S. pork exports have also nearly recovered to pre-FTA levels after falling by an average of 16 percent in the first three years of the agreement
  • Record-breaking U.S. trade deficits with Korea have become the new normal under the FTA – in 47 of the 48 months since the Korea FTA took effect, the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea has exceeded the average monthly trade deficit in the four years before the deal.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has tried to obscure the bleak Korea FTA results, as congressional ire about the pact is fueling opposition to the TPP. The USTR’s standard data omissions and distortions include:

  • The USTR tries to dismiss the decline in U.S. exports to Korea under the FTA as due to a weak economy in Korea. But the Korean economy has grown each year since the FTA passed, even as U.S. exports to Korea have shrunk. Korea’s gross domestic product in 2015 was 11 percent higher than in the year before the FTA took effect, suggesting that U.S. exports to Korea should have expanded, with or without the FTA, as a simple product of Korea’s economic growth. Instead, U.S. exports to Korea have fallen 9 percent in the first four years of the FTA.
  • The USTR selects a few products that have gained exports to emphasize, while omitting the low value of such exports and the net trade deficit increase of 115 percent.

 

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Leaked TTIP Documents: Threats to Regulatory Protections

Eyes on Trade - 2 May, 2016 - 21:58

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Today, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked negotiating texts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, the proposed trade deal between the United States and Europe. The leaks include 13 of 17 consolidated texts, as well as a European Union memorandum on the negotiating state of play. This statement provides a preliminary analysis of one of the leaked chapters, Regulatory Cooperation.

Europe, beware. The leaked TTIP text confirms that the United States is trying to export its failed regulatory model. If the United States succeeds in its project, Big Business will gain enormous power to block, slow, undermine and repeal European regulations.

The leaked text makes clear that there are serious issues requiring analysis in particular sectors, but also that the Regulatory Cooperation chapter poses a major threat to health, safety, environmental, labor, consumer, civil and political rights, and other regulatory protections. The U.S. proposals in the Regulatory Cooperation chapter seek to export many of the worst features of U.S. rulemaking.

There is a lot to recommend about the U.S. regulatory process in theory, but in practice, the U.S. rulemaking process now evidences a massive tilt to favor the interests of regulated industries. It is far too slow; regulators are bogged down in seemingly endless analytic requirements that are themselves biased to favor the interests of regulated parties. Its veneration of “cost-benefit analysis” provides a pseudo-scientific cloak to industry’s apocalyptic claims about the costs of the next regulation and operates at loggerheads with application of the precautionary principle.

In the days ahead, Public Citizen will issue a more detailed analysis of the draft Regulatory Cooperation chapter. These are among our top line concerns from the U.S. proposals in that chapter:

  • Regulatory Delay – Paralysis by Analysis: Article X.13 would require parties to provide detailed and expansive justifications for their decision to issue a regulation, including consideration of regulatory alternatives. This is an inherently unequal obligation, because there is no burden to provide justification for doing nothing. In practice, the need to provide detailed justification for issuing a rule dramatically slows U.S. rulemaking.
  • Corporate-Biased Cost Benefit Analysis: Article X.13.1.c would require parties to conduct detailed cost-benefit studies of regulations and regulatory alternatives. It is important to understand that the U.S. understanding of the phrase “anticipated costs and benefits” is fundamentally different than the European conception of regulatory impact assessment. In the United States, cost-benefit analysis is an extremely technical concept involving extensive data collection and elaborate modeling, and it is generally understood to be a near-absolute decision-making criterion. Its highly technical nature obscures the fact that cost estimates frequently rely on regulated industry-provided data and are excessive, and that non-quantifiable or indirect benefits are frequently not captured.
  • One-Sided Analytic Requirements: Article X.13.2 would require parties to assess the impact of regulations on small businesses, a formal assessment under U.S. in certain circumstances that imposes extensive delay. It is also a one-sided required analysis, both under U.S. law and the U.S. TTIP proposal, because the specially required analysis looks to burdens (“adverse economic impacts” in the TTIP proposal) but not pro-competitive or other benefits to small business.
  • Look Back, Not Forward: Article X.16 would require parties to undertake retrospective reviews of regulations. This is, again, an inherently uneven process, because the instruction is to search for rules to revise or repeal, not for regulatory shortcomings or gaps requiring new initiatives. In practice in the United States, the obligation to undertake regulatory reviews demands valuable time and resources from agencies, and interferes with their ability to conduct forward-looking activity.
  • Trade Over the Public Interest: Article X.9 would impose a requirement for parties to consider trade effects of proposed regulations, and implicitly to justify any detrimental effects on trade. This is admittedly a soft requirement, but is notable inserting purely commercial considerations into regulatory decision-making and should be viewed as precursor to more robust demands in this area to follow.

Taken in their entirety, the U.S. Regulatory Cooperation proposals are affirmatively hostile to the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle counsels taking protective action in the face of uncertainty. The U.S. cost-benefit standards, demands for consideration of alternative regulatory approaches, and expansive analytic requirements also counsel for inaction in the face of uncertainty. Moreover, U.S.-style cost-benefit analysis places a premium on industry-provided cost estimates while effectively discounting benefits from action to prevent possible harm.

There is no need to overstate this tension; it is in fact possible to take precautionary action in a cost-benefit framework, as the United States sometimes does – but it is also the case that U.S.-style cost benefit is generally discordant with precautionary approaches.

The U.S. proposal notably does not include a requirement for judicial review of regulatory impact analytic requirements. This feature is central to the U.S. rulemaking process, but U.S. negotiators have recognized its incompatibility with European institutional arrangements. It remains to be seen how a regulatory cooperation chapter will intersect with the investment chapter. But irrespective of the intersection with the investment chapter, Europeans should be aware that, if the U.S. Regulatory Cooperation proposals are accepted and TTIP is approved, it is only a matter of time before the United States and U.S. corporations begin advocating judicial review of European compliance with the provisions of the Regulatory Cooperation chapter.

Judicial review is an inherent part of the logic of the U.S. system, and there is no doubt that U.S. corporate interests will insist that judicial review is required to enforce the terms of the Regulatory Cooperation chapter.

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Leaked TTIP text shows U.S. negotiators push to lower food safety standards, farmer protections

Subtitle:  Corporate fingerprints evident in U.S. trade negotiating positions Language:  English IATP author(s):  Karen Hansen-Kuhn File:  2016_05_02_TTIP_Leak_PR.pdf Minneapolis – Leaked negotiating texts for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) expose the heavy influence of corporate agribusiness in the negotiations, pushing to lower trade restrictions and public health regulations affecting food production, according to analysis of the texts by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The leaks, released by Greenpeace Netherlands today, provide compelling evidence in support of demands by opponents on both sides of the Atlantic for more democratic and transparent processes in trade...

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Minnesota Farm and Rural Groups Join 150+ Organizations to Ask Congress to Reject TPP, Stand Up for Independent Farmers and Ranchers

IATP author(s):  Ben Lilliston Author(s) (external):  Stephanie Porter, Land Stewardship Project File:  2016_04_27_TPP_Concerns_PR.pdf Minneapolis/St. Paul – The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation’s capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations, including four from Minnesota, sent a letter to Capitol Hill today, urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact. “The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition. TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers who are facing declining farm prices that are projected to stay low for years,” the organizations wrote. Minnesota...

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Environmental Impact Statement; Introduction of the Products of Biotechnology U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  APHIS biotech comment.pdf The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy[i] (IATP) appreciates this opportunity to comment on “reasonable alternatives and possible issues to be evaluated in the environmental impact statement” (Federal Register Vol. 81, No. 24, February 5, 2016, at 6225). IATP understands that the programmatic EIS resulting from the “Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement” (Notice) will be consistent with the guidance of the “Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology,” (Coordinated Framework) once it has been revised.[ii] IATP has submitted comments regarding that revision,x` and the following comment also reflects some of our views on the...

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TPP would hurt small scale farmers in developing countries, groups say

Subtitle:  Faith, development and sustainable agriculture groups call on Congress to reject TPP Language:  English IATP author(s):  Karen Hansen-Kuhn Author(s) (external):  Chloe Schwabe, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and Stephanie Burgos, Oxfam America File:  2016_04_18_TPP_Concerns_PR.pdf Minneapolis – More than 50 development, religious and sustainable agriculture groups are demanding that Congress reject the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) because of its potential impacts on small scale farmers and food production, especially those in developing countries. The signers include the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oxfam America,...

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Letter to Congress over concerns about TPP's impact

Language:  English Author(s) (external):  IATP, et. al File:  food security tpp letter.pdf April 18, 2016 Dear Member of Congress, We write to you as development, faith-based and sustainable agriculture organizations concerned about the potential impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on food security and sustainable development in the member countries and around the world. Many of us work closely with partners in developing countries and have witnessed the devastating impacts of previous free trade agreements on small-scale farmers and their communities. We urge you to reject the TPP. The TPP would expand many of the worst features of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Under NAFTA, more than two million Mexican farmers were driven from their lands after a dramatic...

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Audit of Administration’s ‘Tax Cuts’ Claim for TPP Reveals Cooked Numbers and Misdirects

Eyes on Trade - 18 April, 2016 - 15:50

The Obama administration’s claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will deliver “tax cuts for 18,000 Made in America products” is wrong, a new Public Citizen analysis shows. The new Public Citizen report also addresses the real question from which the administration’s redirect to an impressive-sounding number distracts: Would cutting even 18,000 tariff lines necessarily equate to more U.S. exports, jobs or growth?

“The administration owes the public and Congress an explanation of how it cooked up what obviously is a false ‘TPP tax cut’ number, but more broadly touting a large number of tariff lines cuts misdirects attention from the real question of whether the TPP will create more American jobs or cause damage,” said Lori Wallach, direct of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

The disconnect between tariff lines cut and economic gains is spotlighted by the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which cut nearly 10,000 tariff lines. Yet, in its first three years, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 7 percent and the U.S. deficit with Korea surged 90 percent.

Public Citizen’s new analysis reveals that:

  • The claim about 18,000 tax cuts on Made in America goods is obviously wrong.
  • In 2014, the United States exported items relating to a total of 8,687 tariff categories to all of the 11 TPP countries. Even assuming tariffs remained in each category of products, and many already are duty-free, the TPP clearly would not deliver “tax cuts” for 18,000 U.S. products. (The administration says the 18,000 figure refers only to cuts with just the five TPP nations that do not have a U.S. trade deal and to these nations we sent exports in only 7,289 categories.)
  • That the administration’s 18,000 figure represents double, triple or quadruple counting also is revealed by reviewing Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam’s TPP tariff schedules. None list more than 10,000 tariff categories with many lines duty-free absent a TPP.
  • Whether tariff cuts translate into more U.S. exports or jobs relies on whether we make or TPP nations demand the relevant goods. For 5,830 of 7,289 categories (80 percent) in which the United States exported anything to the relevant TPP countries, sales were less than $5 million. A quarter had sales of less than $100,000. In only 21 of 7289 lines did we export more than $500 million and some of these already are duty free.
  • 1,225 of the tariff reductions in the products we do sell to the five TPP nations without U.S. FTAs won’t be realized for a decade or more. This includes goods we produce in volume, like beef, which will still face a 20 percent tariff in Japan in the tenth year after the TPP would go into effect.
  • The six TPP partners with which the United States already has FTAs collectively account for more than 80 percent of the trade counted in the oft-touted statistic that the TPP covers 40 percent of world trade. Thus, tariffs on U.S. goods going to Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Singapore already are gone or are being eliminated. So while TPP countries may account for 40 percent of world trade, the TPP would cut tariffs on only 20 percent of that 40 percent share.
  • Among the items the United States simply do not export are those relating to species that the administration claims the TPP’s Environmental Chapter will help conserve. Yet perversely, the list of tariff cuts that the administration counts as a benefit of the TPP includes Malaysia’s shark fin tariff, Vietnam’s whale meat tariff and Japan’s ivory tariff. 
  • Even setting aside the problem of currency manipulation, cuts translate into more market access only when tariffs are significant enough to make U.S. products uncompetitive. Japan comprises fully 88 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the TPP countries that do not already have a U.S. FTA, but Japan’s average applied tariff weighted by product import shares is now only 1.2 percent. Indeed, the tariff levels in the remaining five TPP are generally low.
  • The raw number of tariff lines countries agree to cut also does not tell us much about a pact’s effect on consumer prices. The TPP includes tariff cuts on the shoes Nike produces in Vietnam to sell here, but currently shoes that retail for more than $100 cost about $10 to make. The tariff is charged on the cost, thus even a major percentage cut does not equate to much money. And, whether a firm like Nike will reduce prices or simply gain more profit on an item imported for sale here is determined by what consumers are willing to pay for the product.
  • While firms importing goods into the United States will determine whether to pass savings related to U.S. tariff cuts on to consumers, the TPP’s reduction or elimination of tariffs does necessarily reduce U.S. Treasury revenue. According to President Barack Obama’s proposed 2017 budget, the TPP would cost the United States about $28 billion in lost tariff revenue over the next 10 years. (The calculation is based on the assumption that the TPP takes effect in 2017.)

The administration’s “TPP Guide to 18,000 Tax Cuts” document oddly highlights goods that TPP nations simply do not buy in volume from anyone. Consider the 34 percent “tax” cut by Vietnam on Alaskan caviar. In 2014, Vietnam’s per capita GDP was about $2,000 and about $150,000 worth of caviar was imported by Vietnam from anywhere. Or Vietnam’s 5 percent tariff on skis from Colorado. Vietnam imported only about $50,000 in skis in total. Other highlights: Vietnam and Japan will eliminate their tariffs on silkworm cocoons, Brunei will cut its tariff on ski boots and Vietnam will eliminate its tariff on camels.

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Farm to Childcare Lessons Learned Appendices

Language:  English IATP author(s):  IATP File:  All Appendices.pdf Appendices for the Farm to Childcare Highlights and Lessons Learned Related documents:  Farm to Childcare: Highlights and Lessons Learned Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package

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Dairy in Crisis: TPP Dumping on Dairy Farmers

Language:  English Author(s) (external):  Erik Katovich File:  2016_04_06_DairyImports_EK.pdf The U.S. dairy industry is currently threatened by a global dairy glut. Worldwide, milk production has increased nearly 40 percent since 1995, with the fastest increase occurring in the last two years.1 In the United States, dairy output exceeded 157 billion pounds in the first three quarters of 2015, and likely broke all-time production records for 2015 as a whole.2 As a result of this oversupply, global dairy prices have plummeted 55 percent since their peak in 2014, and are now at their lowest levels since 2009, according to data from Global Dairy Trade.3 According to Bloomberg Business, in early 2015, dairies in the northeastern United States dumped 31 million pounds of milk when processors...

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Investigation No. TPA‐105‐001:Trans‐Pacific Partnership Agreement: Likely Impact on the U.S. Economy and on Specific Industry Sectors (and Consumer Interests)

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Dr. Steve Suppan File:  US ITC TPP SPS comment 2 16 15.pdf Lisa R. Barton Secretary to the Commission U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission) 500 E Street SW Washington, DC Investigation No. TPA‐105‐001:Trans‐Pacific Partnership Agreement: Likely Impact on the U.S. Economy and on Specific Industry Sectors (and Consumer Interests) Submitted electronically – February 16, 2016 Summary The U.S. agricultural trade performance of so called “Free Trade Agreements” (FTAs) since 1994 has been anemic.  A recent review of six FTAs puts their collective agricultural trade deficit at $1.6 billion.1 U.S. agricultural exports have not delivered prosperity to farmers and ranchers. Instead, they depend Farm Bill subsidies to...

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Rural Engagement Critical to Success of Clean Power Plan, New Report

Subtitle:  State Energy Plans Could Support Cleaner Energy, Greater Rural Equity Language:  English IATP author(s):  Tara Ritter File:  2016_03_31_CleanPowerPlan_PR.pdf Minneapolis – The success of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan will depend largely on state-level engagement with rural communities who are most directly affected by shifts in energy production, finds a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The report, “The Clean Power Plan: Opportunities for an Equitable Energy Transition in Rural America” by IATP’s Tara Ritter, concludes that states should actively integrate rural perspectives into their Clean Power Plan compliance plans. In February,...

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The Clean Power Plan

Subtitle:  Opportunities for an Equitable Energy Transition in Rural America IATP author(s):  Tara Ritter File:  2016_04_01_CleanPowerPlan_TR.pdf Rural America has long produced much of the nation’s energy. Most power plants, mines, gas drilling sites, wind turbines and dams are in rural areas, as are the farms and forests that provide the materials for biomass production. In many cases, these industries contribute greatly to rural economies. However, a majority of the nation’s energy is consumed in urban areas, where most of the nation’s people and infrastructure are located. This gap between energy production and consumption means that energy policy has very different implications for rural and urban communities. These differences are one reason why the Environmental...

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Talking Points: Response to 3/15/16 Peterson Institute Pro-TPP Paper

Eyes on Trade - 28 March, 2016 - 18:24
Below is a briefing note called, “Assuming Away Unemployment and Trade Deficits from the TPP” from the team at Tufts University that debunked the original Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) TPP study which this latest missive, “Adjustment & Income Distribution Impacts of the TPP” by PIIE’s Robert Lawrence and Tyler Moran, is premised. The key points are:
  • Of course Lawrence and Moran find that TPP’s benefits far exceed the adjustment costs: They use the findings of the PIEE TPP study (Petri-Plummer) derived from a model that does not allow for permanent job loss or increased trade deficits and assumes no increased income inequality. Those assumptions, which contradict the outcomes of each past major U.S. trade pact, mean TPP wage and employment losses are just temporary “adjustment costs” on the way back to full employment. If that were not sufficient to distort the new study’s findings, the authors also pile on more outlandish assumptions to minimize the number of workers likely to be affected and the impact on their wages.
  • With larger trade deficits and permanent job loss excluded by assumption, Lawrence and Moran then start discounting how many Americans would be hit even by temporary job displacement from the TPP by presenting three scenarios. 
    • They start with 1.69 million U.S. workers possibly displaced over ten years of the TPP.
    • They drastically reduce that total to 278,000 (mainly in manufacturing), by invoking another layer of assumption based on the underlying full-employment assumption: Rising demand will generate new jobs and thus limit job loss.
    • Then they reduce that to 238,000 workers by excluding workers who voluntarily leave manufacturing jobs, so the TPP can’t be blamed for those losses.
  • They then apply a formula to estimate the temporary adjustment costs (essentially lost wages) from those “displaced.” They compare these to Petri and Plummer’s reported U.S. TPP gains of $131 billion. Recall that these gains are based on the outlandish assumptions baked into the model. Another study that allowed for job loss and increased trade deficits found the TPP would result in net losses for the United States.
  • Lawrence and Moran’s resulting cost-benefit calculation does not report the costs, just the ratios, for the three scenarios. The authors report that for their “most realistic” scenario (#3), the one with the fewest displaced jobs, the benefits are 18 times the costs over the 10-year “adjustment period” (2017-26).
    • Then, they add in three “post-adjustment years” 2027-2030 and the ratio skyrockets to 115:1. Why? Presumably because with the full-employment assumption all displaced workers are, by then, happily employed in their new post-TPP jobs.
  • Finally, the authors also make the unfounded assumption that U.S. wages will increase at the same rate as productivity, though that has not happened for thirty years. This assumption automatically raises most workers’ incomes in their analysis. They also claim the assumed income gains will be much the same for each quintile of U.S. income distribution, with the bottom quintile seeing an increase 0.007 of a percentage point higher than the top. Technically, that’s mildly progressive. But consider it in terms of absolute gains: The bottom 40 percent sees just $8 billion in income gains, while the top quintile would get $48 billion. (i.e., more in absolute terms than the bottom 80 percent combined.)
  • The resulting cost-benefit calculations are misleading not only because the costs are assumed away, but also because the benefits are overstated. This latest paper takes the earlier Petri and Plummer estimates at face value, with all their flawed growth-boosting assumptions (such as a surge in foreign investment and most growth gains from non-trade measures). Plus, the gains are simply asserted to be large, when even the Petri-Plummer estimates of gains are incredibly small, just 0.5 percent of GDP for the United States in 2030, i.e., a paltry 0.029 percent per year on average over 15 years. How small is that? Even with all of the unrealistic assumptions, for the bottom 40 percent of U.S. income distribution, the gains amount to just $62 per person, in 15 years.

THE FULL BRIEFING NOTE FROM THE TUFTS TEAM CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://triplecrisis.com/assuming-away-unemployment-and-trade-deficits-from-the-tpp/

 

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Barack Obama en la Argentina

Blog de Javier Echaide - 24 March, 2016 - 01:46
La presencia del presidente de los EE.UU. Barack Obama en Argentina no es inocua. Como toda visita oficial tiene un propósito, pero el suyo se ata a un conjunto de motivos y relaciones que superan al "cambio" reflejado en la elección de Mauricio Macri como presidente de los argentinos, aunque no prescinde tampoco de ese dato.

El hecho de que además se dé simultáneamente (o mejor dicho, a propósito) de los 40 años del Golpe de Estado que inauguró la Dictadura Militar más sangrienta de la historia nacional, también es un dato que debe considerarse.

La visita de Obama en calidad oficial merece todo el protocolo que significa una visita de Estado. Ello implica la seguridad, el trato, el uso de símbolos (banderas en los lugares públicos habituales donde visitará, como la Plaza de Mayo, donde debe compartir el uso de las insignias oficiales argentinas). Ese trato que se demuestra muchas veces con una cena de gala -que el presidente de Francia Francoise Hollande no mereció- con baile de tango incluido -que el primer ministro italiano Mateo Renzi no tuvo- o las notas de color (e incluso notas dedicadas a la familia presidencial foránea!) que la visita de Federica Mogherini, comisaria de relaciones exteriores de la Unión Europea tampoco gozó.


Lo que la prensa más acomodada y la organización oficial, acompañado de una importante y lamentable mirada acrítica por parte de la ciudadanía, ha demostrado en esta visita oficial es algo que solamente puede decirse con una expresión cabal y ajustada que sólo un "dialecto" como el lunfardo podría definir: tilinguería. Con ello no criticamos la visita de Obama, sino que nos referimos a nosotros mismos. Somos tilingos. Esta visita oficial nos desvive, mucho más que la del primer mandatario italiano, la del francés, la del un urugayo o un brasileño. Argentina tiene, como Jano, una doble cara que mira con recelo a los Estados Unidos y otra que lo hace con devoción...

La explicación para ello suele basarse en que EE.UU. es el país más importante de la tierra, como si no estuviera perdiendo terreno a pasos agigantados frente a China o como si no hubiera una competencia retomada con vigor por Rusia en la política internacional. Como si no existieran los BRICS (de los cuales nos desvivíamos también hasta hace sólo año y medio...). Es que somos tilingos. No somos capaces de imaginar a una Argentina con política exterior de Estado capáz de entender a lo largo de más de 4 años (que es lo que dura un mandato presidencial) y que puedan fijar una lectura del mundo en el que vivimos y un trazo de hacia dónde dirigirnos en consecuencia. Y que esa dirección, ese camino, fuera una decisión autónoma.

Importa la visita del presidente de EE.UU., claro. Pero parece importar en tanto "nos va a ir mejor" con ella, como si fuéramos incapaces de pensar un futuro mejor para nosotros sin la visita de Obama. Por ende, nuestro futuro venturoso se hallaría aparentemente atado al futuro venturoso de los EE.UU. Es llamativo cómo no se piensa eso cuando nos visita el presidente francés, el premier ruso, o el chino (¡que lo han hecho además!).

Y esto no es algo exclusivo del presidente Macri -auque es evidente que su política exterior está diseñada a un alineamiento directo con los EE.UU.- El primer encuentro entre la entonces presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner y el presidente Obama también tuvo esa mirada devota... mirada que no volvió a darse en posteriores oportunidades.

El punto hasta aquí no es aquí hablar bien o mal de un determinado gobierno, sino analizarnos críticamente como sociedad, que deposita en otros, ajenos (sea Obama, el papa Francisco o quien fuere), los destinos de nuestras familias, nuestro trabajo, nuestro futuro en vez de reconocer que ese futuro está en nuestras propias manos.

La visita y la agenda

La oferta de Obama de desclasificar los archivos secretos de los años ´70 -algo que Macri pretende mostrar como logro propio (véase en su alocución durante la conferencia de prensa en el Salón Blanco de Casa Rosada- es parte de una necesaria autocrítica que realiza a 40 años del Golpe de Estado en Argentina y que su país apoyó activamente en aquel entonces. El papa Francisco ha ofrecido lo mismo respecto de los archivos vaticanos. Lo interesante es saber qué habrá de hacerse con esa información disponible de ahora en más. De poco sirven archivos secretos develados si los mismos no son utilizados como elementos probatorios en los juicios pendientes contra represores y civiles involucrados en los crímenes de lesa humanidad en curso.

Como decíamos, la visión carente de una interdependencia en las relaciones internacionales, pero interdependencia no pasiva sino fijada desde una autonomía que marque un espacio de decisión sobre los temas internacionales, es lo que marca el sentir de gran parte de la población que entiende a la visita de Obama como algo trascendente para nuestro porvenir en el corto (muy corto) plazo, dado que Obama terminará su gestión en tan solo nueve meses.

Así es: Obama es un presidente saliente. Macri uno entrante. No es pequeño detalle. Esta diferencia (que sin embargo no parece tan obvia) es elemental para sopesar las pretensiones de cada uno. Macri quiere garantizar su relación con un presidente norteamericano que será efímero y que necesariamente deberá dar paso a uno de los candidatos que hoy disputan las internas electorales estadounidenses.

Empero, el gobierno macrista traza la agenda bilateral con el actual presidente norteamericano sin siquiera tener un análisis sobre esa misma agenda en posibles presidencias como la de un Donald Trump, una Hillary Clinton o un Bernie Sanders. Eso parece fuera de la imaginación del gobierno de Cambiemos...

Es por ello que resalta en el discurso del presidente Macri que rescate -hasta en una insistencia notable- el "liderazgo" de Obama. Más allá de los discursos formales, hay en Macri una cuota de honestidad intelectual, sincera, y otra de oportunismo. Lograr una visita oficial por parte de la máxima comitiva norteamericana es, sin dudas, tomada por la gestión macrista como un "éxito" en sus 105 días de gestión. Pero además resulta evidente que la política exterior trazada por el actual gobierno argentino es inimaginable sin su acomplamiento a la agenda de los EE.UU.

Se abre entonces una época de "relaciones maduras" con EE.UU. en la que el seguidismo no es precisamente ni un buen síntoma ni un signo de maduréz. Los planes de Argentina en materia de política exterior (y esto tomando lo sostenido por el propio Macri en la conferencia de prensa frente a Obama) es adherirse a la Alianza del Pacífico y desde allí al Tratado Transpacífico (TPP por sus siglas en inglés), algo que es una de las principales cartas en materia comercial global... de los EE.UU., no de Argentina.

Objetivos: realineamiento político, agenda comercial (y ¿"pobreza cero"?)

EE.UU. ha relanzado su agenda de libre comercio a nivel global y para ello ha desplegado dos fuertes iniciativas: una para excluir a China del intercambio global y así recuperar terreno ante el gigante ya no tan dormido... Esto es el TPP. La otra iniciativa es la negociación bilateral que mantiene con la UE para firmar el Tratado Transatlántico (TTIP por sus siglas en inglés) que fijará el piso de las relaciones comerciales a nivel global, dado el peso específico de ambos jugadores en el comercio mundial y por la cantidad de relaciones bilaterales que tanto EE.UU. como los países de la UE poseen con el resto de los Estados del mundo. También por la aplicación de las cláusulas jurídicas específicas que se negocian en este acuerdo (como en otros de libre comercio) y cuyo efecto es irradiar los compromisos que establecen el mejor trato comercial. Hablamos de la denominada cláusula de la nación más favorecida (o cláusula NMF).

En dos meses Macri se entrevistó con los mencionados mandatarios de Italia (dos veces), Francia, la "canciller" de la UE y ahora el mandatariio norteamericano. Viajó además al Foro Económico Mundial en Davos, Suiza (y con una costilla rota), pero sin embargo, días después, se excusó por esa misma costilla para no estar presente en la Cumbre de la CELAC y las manifestaciones que apoyó que ha tenido con gobiernos de la región (como Brasil) han sido tangenciales y no oficiales (para las cámaras, en conferencias de presna). En otros casos (Venezuela) ha habido una total falta de diplomacia (que se pretende rescatar con la formalidad de la visita de Obama) y se ha juzgado sobre sus conmociones internas. El realineamiento hacia una agenda librecambista y, en términos regionales, pro-estanounidense ha sido evidente.

Los EE.UU. apuntan a Macri como punta de lanza dentro de la región para que traccione a los sectores de una "nueva derecha" regional hacia ese centro. Pero el alineamiento no es una cuestión de rótulos nacionalistas: la negociación de un tratado de libre comercio (TLC) entre el Mercosur y la UE se encuentran avanzadas y con un Brasil muy interesado en concretarlas. El cambio en la política exterior argentina hace casi inmediato la posibilidad de concretar esta negociación que ha estado trabada desde 2004.

Tanto el TLC con la UE como las negociaciones de un TLC entre Argentina y los EE.UU. van a tener como parámetro el piso establecido por el TTIP. Y el alineamiento argentino a la Alianza para el Pacífico hará lo propio sumando a la Argentina al TPP.

Las negociaciones por los TLC, fueren regionales o bilaterales, son la receta de los países centrales por superar sus propias necesidades de acumulación. La teoría del libre comercio fue pensada por el economista inglés David Ricardo e inspirada no en los pueblos agricultores africanos, los cuentapropistas chinos, las culturas indígenas o las PyMEs argentinas, sino en la pujante industria británica en ascenso deseosa por colocar sus productos manufacturados en todo el globo. Las ideas del liberalismo económico han cambiado poco desde entonces (siglo XVIII).

Sin embargo, en el discurso oficial, Macri sostiene que estos acuerdos ayudarán a general "pobreza cero" creando trabajos a partir del cuentapropismo (el llamado "emprendedorismo") y las pequeñas y medianas empresas (PyMEs). Sin embargo, las experiencias existentes desde hace 20 años en países como México adentro del Tratado de Libre Coemrcio de América del Norte (TLCAN o NAFTA, por sus siglas en inglés) demuestran todo lo contrario: una impresionante concentración económica, crecimiento con aumento de pobreza y sectores marginados que se vuelcan a industrias ilegales (y altamente peligrosas como el narcotráfico) para subsistir, pequeños productores quebrados, conocimientos ancestrales olvidados y extranjerización de la economía. Si EE.UU. se ha comportado así en 20 años en su TLC con México, ¿por qué esperar un resultado distinto con recetas similares hacia nosotros?

Dicho todo esto, es inevitable hacer una comparación con el ALCA. El Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas fue el proyecto librecambista que los EE.UU. presentó para todo el hemisferio, salvo Cuba y que quedó abandonado tras la VI Cumbre de las América celebrada en Mar del Plata, Argentina, en el año 2005. Sin un ALCA y sin una Ronda de Doha de 15 años de negociación sin resultados en la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC), EE.UU. ha lanzado otras iniciativas de tratados internaconales en materia comercial dividiendo a los países más proclives a los proyectos neoliberales de libre comercio (tal es la Alianza del Pacífico en el TPP) y excluyendo al mismo tiempo a China -competidor natural de EE.UU. en el mercado del Pacífico-. Se suma a este entramado el Tratado sobre Coemrcio de Servicios (TISA por las siglas en inglés de Trade In Services Agreement), negociándose por fuera del ámbito de la OMC. En suma, se trata de una estrategia político-jurídica para romper el multilateralismo y al mismo tiempo aislar a las principales "potencias emergentes" del comercio global: Brasil, Rusia, India y China. Y Argentina parece deseosa de participar pero pero menospreciando estos datos y concentrándonos en el cuantapropismo como trampolín del crecimiento...

TPP + TTIP + TISA: ese es el "Gran Recinto" que EE.UU. está diseñando para las próximas dos décadas. Llamativamente, dentro de ese "recinto" están incluidos Sudáfrica (miembro del TPP), Paraguay (miembro del TISA y también del Mercosur) y hasta septiembre de 2015 también lo estaba Uruguay, que se retiró del TISA por la inconveniencia de ese tratado para sus intereses político-económicos.

La visita de Obama no ha sido entonces un homenaje a los derechos humanos o una conmemoración a los desaparecidos durante la última Dictadura solamente. Involucra claros temas que son actuales y a futuro, como la protección de inversiones extranjeras dentro de los tratados de libre comercio como el TPP. El capítulo 9 del TPP es sobre inversiones y marca demasiadas similitudes con el capítulo homónimo del ALCA o los tratados bilaterales de inversión (TBI) que remiten al CIADI como modo de resolución de conflictos entre empresas transnacionales y Estados. La experiencia argentina en materia de demandas ante el CIADI debería alertarnos sobre lo riesgoso que son estos mecanismos frente a la posibilidad de diseñar políticas públicas. Las demandas de Aguas Argentinas contra la Argentina, Aguas del Tunari contra Bolivia, Philip Morris contra Uruguay y contra Australia, las dos demandas de Vattenfall contra Alemania o las 25 demandas que recibió España solamente en el 2015 son pruebas más que suficientes para aportar en este sentido.

Hay algunas pocas inversiones inmediatas demoradas por cuestiones administrativas. Pero las inversiones que tanto preocupan por su ausencia a la administración macrista no vendrán por estos acuerdos sino por un clima de negocios basado en el crecimiento del mercado argentino. Una inflación anual del 40%, una desocupación en ascenso y una recesión que parece que se profundizará en el 2016 en vez de revertirse, no son datos precisamente alentadores para favorecer ese clima... El Citicorp lo sabe y por eso vendió su capital accionario del Citibank en Argentina y hace menos de un mes.

¿Qué significa entonces en la boca de Obama estas inversiones aludidas? Empresas como Chevron, con contrato celebrado con YPF en la gestión anterior a la de Cambiemos, con un contrato con jurisdicción extranjera, negociado en secreto y con sentencia judicial de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación que exige su publicidad, sentencia que el actual gobierno ha desconocido y desafiado abiertamente al negar dicha publicidad. El cuidado de los intereses de contratos como estos pueden ser una parte de las preocupaciones privadas que se hallán detrás del declamado gobierno "del pueblo y para el pueblo"...

En resúmen: la visita de Obama se encuentra muy lejos de una visita turística para conocer Bariloche, bailar tango o regodearse en el glamour local. Es una visita con una clara agenda marcada para la siguiente administración norteamericana; para un reposisionamiento en la región y para concretar su proyección comercial a nivel global pensando más en sus propias necesidades que en las del pueblo argentino. Y desconocer estas realidades es montar una expresión de deseos negadora de una política internacional bien palpable.
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