Beshear off to DC to wine & dine with new NAFTA lobbyists

February 24, 2012
By

Love free trade? Then you’ll love this move. Hate it? Then you’ll probably hate it.

Welcome to WITA!

  • Host Governor Steve BESHEAR (Kentucky);
  • Host Governor Terry BRANSTAD (Iowa);
  • Host Governor Christine GREGOIRE (Washington);
  • Host Governor Gary HERBERT (Utah);

&

  • Host Ambassador Michael MOORE of New Zealand

On behalf of the eight TPP Host Ambassadors

invite you to attend the 2012 Governors and Ambassadors World Trade Reception Featuring remarks from United States Trade Representative Ron KIRK; With Master of Ceremonies Business Roundtable CEO John Engler Former Governor of Michigan

It’s a big night in DC! Hosted by Michael Moore! Let’s meet our sponsors!

Global Sponsors:

  • Amgen
  • Business Roundtable
  • Dow Chemical Company
  • GE
  • Intuit
  • Microsoft
  • Pfizer
  • TIA
  • Walmart
  • US Chamber of Commerce

Reception Sponsors
  • Chevron
  • PhRMA
  • Philip Morris International
  • Target

Wow… Amgen, Pfizer aaaand PhRMA. This is an impressive group.

But wait! Who all’s invited?

Who should attend:
State: Governors and spouses; Lt. Governors and spouses; Secretaries of State, Commerce, and/or Economic Development (or your state’s equivalent); Secretary of Agriculture; key staffers;  Director & staff of DC state office.
Federal: Members of Congress and spouses; Cabinet members and spouses; Undersecretaries and Deputy Undersecretaries; Directors of Federal-State Relations in agencies involved with trade.
Embassy: Ambassadors and spouses; Deputy Chiefs of Mission; Ministers of Trade and/or Commerce; Economic Counselors; Agricultural Attaches; key embassy officials.
NGO: Executives from the World Bank; Ex-Im Bank; OPIC; trade associations; etc.
Business: Executive Level; Directors of trade policy and/or global government relations; Directors of Federal and State Government relations.

Cool. Sounds heavy. Dress is “business formal” which is like “business casual” but fancier. Or as I like to call it, “formal casual.”

The comments from the podium are the only comments “on the record.” The reception is closed to press and there’s no Q&A. So you can wheel and deal in private and share a bourbon and a laugh.

But, like, what is this all about, man? Lee Fang at Republic Report writes:

Later today, governors from both parties will gather at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington D.C. for an evening with powerful corporate lobbyists and businessmen to discuss a new free trade deal. Trade officials from the Obama administration are expected to brief attendees with information of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a new trade agreement that has been discussed since last year.

The Trans-Pacific trade agreement is rumored to open up Vietnam and seven Pacific Rim countries as a low-cost alternative to Chinese labor. However, as Public Citizen points out, even members of Congress have not seen the details of the proposal.

Here’s a story from the Dan Rather News Network from last year about the possible affects of cheap Vietnamese shoes:

While Steve’s Hosting Duties have gone mostly unnoticed, Iowa’s Terry Branstadt hasn’t been so lucky:

Gov. Terry Branstad is being criticized for his efforts to expand trade opportunities through a NAFTA-like agreement a Washington-based interest group said will reduce investment in Iowa business, stifle job creation and gut “buy America” programs.

Corporate lobbyists will wine and dine Branstad at a $1,500-a-plate dinner at the Willard Hotel — the place where the term lobbying originated — in hopes of winning his support for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to Public Interest.

“These D.C. corporate lobbyists want Gov. Branstad to trade ‘Buy America’ provisions and state sovereignty for a fancy $1,500-a-plate dinner at the Willard Hotel,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

What is Steve cooking up for the great state of Kentucky? What’s his Hosting angle? Well… three weeks ago, some state legislators drafted a resolution urging the Obama Administration to add burley tobacco into the TPP trade agreement:

On Tuesday, Rep. Wilson Stone, a Democrat from Scottsville, and Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville, introduced their resolution about the agreement being negotiated by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Stone said farmers are worried the administration in Washington will “bow to the pressure of anti-tobacco advocates in Congress” by excluding tobacco.

Almost all of the burley tobacco grown in the United States is grown for export, Wilson said, and “Kentucky grows the highest quality of burley in the world.”

Beshear wrote a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation who in turn reached out to US Trade Rep Kirk (who, you’ll recall, is going to the big party tonight).

So now Beshear’s co-hosing the party.

One of the event sponsors, listed above, is Philip Morris International. The anti-smoking/anti-tobacco Coalition for Tobacco Free Kids put out this press release yesterday:

Philip Morris International Seeks to Buy Influence Over Trade Policy By Sponsoring Exclusive Washington, DC, Event

WASHINGTON, FEB. 23, 2012 — Government Officials Should Decline to Attend and Protect Health, not Tobacco

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

As the United States and other countries negotiate a trade agreement that could impact efforts to reduce tobacco use worldwide, Philip Morris International is trying to buy access and influence by sponsoring an exclusive corporate reception Friday in Washington, DC, that will be attended by top trade and other officials from the countries involved.  We urge government officials not to attend this tobacco industry-sponsored reception and to negotiate a trade agreement that protects public health, not the tobacco industry.  They should protect children and health around the world, not Philip Morris International, a company with a long history of targeting children, deceiving the public and opposing proven measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Philip Morris’ parent company — the prettily named Altria — is the #1 lobbyist in Kentucky, spending $304,257 last year to influence elected officials.

Kentucky’s tobacco farmers have certainly been hit as more and more people avoid their product, but world markets continue to be profitable for Big Tobacco. So this is good for the state’s agriculuralists (it is one of our signature industries after all), but is it good policy in all?

The Office of the United States Trade Represenative explains:

American Competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific

The TPP is a key element of the Obama Administration strategy to make U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region a top priority. The huge and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers. As a group, TPP countries are the fourth largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to the broader Asia-Pacific totaled $775 billion in 2010, a 25.5 percent increase over 2009 and equal to 61 percent of total U.S. goods exports to the world. U.S. exports of agricultural products to the region totaled $83 billion in 2010 and accounted for 72 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports to the world. U.S. private services exports totaled $177 billion in 2009 (latest data available), 37 percent of total U.S. private services exports to the world. America’s small- and medium-sized enterprises alone exported $171 billion to the Asia-Pacific in 2009 (latest data available).

And more background from the Center for American Progress:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will define 21st century global trade

The failure of the so-called Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations is evidence that international institutions such as the World Trade Organization are not currently equipped to deal with a global economy that is more integrated than ever before, yet consists of countries with diverse law, political, and economic systems. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a shift toward a regional trade agreement at a time when the multilateral system isn’t working well.

The negotiations themselves are an opportunity to strike a careful balance between national sovereignty and the need for coherence in policies, standards, and regulations across the countries taking part. This is essential to ensuring that American workers and businesses compete on a level playing field.

And:

A number of Trans-Pacific Partnership participants—among them Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore—manage their economies through a state-capitalist model in which the government directly or indirectly controls many of the economy’s productive assets, formal financial systems, and activities. These enterprises participate in commercial markets but enjoy state backing. They benefit from preferred access to bank capital, below-market-rate financing, favorable tax treatment, capital injections, and other advantages that distort the playing field and put American firms and workers at a competitive disadvantage.

U.S. domestic and international trade laws are ill-equipped to deal with this version of state capitalism in which transactions are frequently based on a government’s political objectives rather than commercial considerations. It’s time for the United States to stop treating such countries as if they operate under free market rules. They do not. The Obama administration must articulate a firmer approach to state-owned enterprises in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure a level playing field.

Or, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-nation trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe.

The nine nations currently negotiating the TPP are the U.S., Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. Expected to be finalized in November 2011, the TPP will contain a chapter on Intellectual Property (copyright, trademarks, patents and perhaps geographical indications) that will have a broad impact on citizens’ rights,  the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and innovation across the world. A leaked version of the February 2011 draft U.S. TPP Intellectual Property Rights Chapter indicates that U.S. negotiators are pushing for the adoption of copyright measures far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

And Public Citizen:

Candidate Obama promised to fix NAFTA and craft a new job-creating trade strategy going forward. He promised his trade agreements would put working people, the environment, family farms and consumers first. Now the moment of truth is upon us: the Obama administration has begun negotiations with seven Asian/Pacific countries on what could be its first trade agreement – known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

If the TPP becomes the first Obama trade deal, it must live up to his pledges to end the NAFTA nightmare and craft a new trade policy that creates – not destroys – the dreams of America’s working families. With attention in Congress focused on other matters and the TPP being conducted behind closed doors by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), it is critical that we alert our Representatives and Senators today about the TPP!

Write to your Representative and Senators today and tell them that you oppose any trade deal that fails to deliver on Obama’s fair trade campaign promises.

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