Today’s TPP roundup

October 8th, 2015

Julia Hahn defines Obamatrade:

Obamatrade collectively refers to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which is the controversial fast-track mechanism for ramming trade treaties through Congress with minimum scrutiny, and the three major trade deals that would be guaranteed these “fast-track” protections before a page of them had been made public: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

And the reason we can’t find the text of the agreement? (emphasis added)

Because TPP is a “living agreement,” it can be changed subsequent to its adoption. This means that a group of twelve nations– and any new nation member that gets added to the partnership– would be empowered with, what Sen. Sessions has described as, “a sweeping new form of global governance. TPP calls this new global authority the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership Commission.’”

Hillary backtracks: Hillary Clinton: I Totally Oppose That Trade Agreement I Negotiated In 2012.Despite referring to it as the “gold standard” for trade agreements in 2012, Hillary Clinton says she now opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

Moe Lane points out that

She’s just coming out against it this publicly because Barack Obama is publicly in favor of it.
. . .
Also, let’s be honest: Barack Obama only supports the TPP because it’s his trade deal.

Hillary Comes Out Against TPP, Pleasing Her Left Flank

Hillary’s not alone: China and Europe may team up to snub TPP, and the director of the Sierra Club says Congress Should Oppose TPP on Environmental Grounds

How TPP cements Obama’s corporatist legacy

The disagreements over the TPP’s provisions are nuanced and complex. But the theme is not. Indeed, the TPP could well be President Obama’s most enduring legacy, because it gives his corporatism its biggest stage yet. It captures the central idea of his presidency — that when big government and big business make policy, the result is good for average Americans, even if it reduces their political freedom, or even their political participation. ObamaCare laid that marker down domestically, triggering a lightning round of health industry consolidation that turned the “big five” insurers — and their $346 billion yearly revenues — into a “big three.” The math is simple: When everyone has to buy the products dominant corporations sell, dominant corporations win. From a liberals’ standpoint, TPP takes the idea global — allowing powerful international corporations to further disadvantage American workers through a complex set of legal, financial, and economic privileges. As Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) put it: “The administration has put big business first, [and] workers, communities, and small businesses last.”

Back to Hahn,

Fast track authority lowers the 67 votes required to pass a treaty to a mere simply majority, it surrenders the 60 vote filibuster, and it forfeits individual senators’ ability to add amendments or changes to the trade deals negotiated by the president. It also allows the President to sign the agreement before Congress even votes.

With that, and the Republicans never finding “a hill to die on,” $5 says TPP is a sure thing.

We talked about the TPP in last night’s podcast,

#Nisman, the Argentine Murder Mystery

October 7th, 2015

Clifford May writes on the Argentine Murder Mystery.There’s a fine line between making compromises and becoming comprised. He concludes,

The Islamic fundamentalists who rule Iran are as determined and ruthless as any in the world. Their agents, including Hezbollah, are increasingly influential throughout much of Latin America. And they are about to be enriched, legitimized and further empowered by an American president and other world leaders who gathered last week at the United Nations to stand on the podium and prattle on about almost anything else.

Read the whole thing.

The TPP and the two unknowns

October 7th, 2015

Donald Rumsfeld famously defined the two unknowns (emphasis added):

There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Read about The TPP and the two unknowns.

Brazil: Murder at the favela

October 6th, 2015

A couple of months ago the Beeb ran a story,
Rio’s favelas to accommodate visitors to 2016 Olympics, as part of a program of pacification,

While you might think that some people are seemingly prepared to risk life and limb in order to grab a bargain, since a government policy called “pacification” was introduced in 2008 there are now two very different types of favela in the city.

Under pacification, soldiers and marines supported by tanks and helicopter gunships are continuing to go into favelas to drive out the gangs, seize control, and bring law and order.

And it is in these pacified favelas where guesthouses and bed and breakfast (B&B) properties are springing up, particularly in the shanty towns near to Copacabana and Rio’s other most famous beach – Ipanema.

Unfortunately there’s the problem of the “unpacified” favelas in Rio, as a hapless couple found out when their GPS made a mistake:
Pensioner shot dead after following phone app through Brazil favela. Regina Murmura and her husband had been trying to get to the beach when they accidentally turned into the gang-controlled Caramujo favela

Police told local media the couple had been using navigation app Waze to reach the seafront street of Avenida Quintino Bocaiúva in the south of Niteroi.

But the directions took them to Rua Quintino Bocaiúva inside the favela in the north of the bay city, where they came under fire from drug traffickers.

Tragic as the story is, I am more concerned with what the authorities plan for after the Olympics: Will they vacate the pacified areas, thereby bringing a new dimension to the term Potemkin village?

Colombia: The FARC borrow a page from Iran and Cuba

October 6th, 2015

The Obama administration agreed to the Cuba deal, and to the Iran deal. Neither Cuba nor Iran ceded an inch.

The FARC are paying attention: Mary O’Grady writes about the agreement that has yet to be made public,
Colombia’s Peace Deal Comes Apart. Soon after President Santos hailed the agreement at the U.N., the FARC weighed in.

In a dramatic speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that his government is on track to soon sign an agreement with the Colombian organized-crime syndicate FARC, bringing hostilities to an end. “The time of peace” is near, he solemnly predicted.

Not so fast, the FARC shot back that very same day. Its leaders issued a six-point document objecting to claims made by the Santos negotiating team in Havana about the status of the talks, and what has been agreed upon.

Santos refuses to allow a referendum anyway, but

The FARC, on the other hand, understands that it has all the leverage over Mr. Santos it needs. He has staked his legacy on a deal and hungers for the international recognition a signed agreement would bring. The stakes are even higher after the show in New York, in which Mr. Santos practically promised that he would deliver a complete final agreement in six months’ time. Colombia’s president must have studied the art of negotiation with the team President Obama sent to deal with Iran.

The FARC refuse to pay reparations to its victims, to disarm,

to confine its troops in any way or restrict the liberty of those who admit guilt

The FARC also demand to have a role in choosing the Special Jurisdiction for Peace judges.

Again, the accord has not been released to the public.

Alvaro Uribe tweets,
According to FARC, the justice accord is now Constitutional Reform as per Geneva Protocol.”

A candidate in Colombia’s October 25 elections representing former President Alvaro Uribe’s opposition party was shot in southwest Colombia on Saturday.

Santo’s peace is the deterioration of safety.
[retweet] So far 7 murdered candidates, 15 attempts on other candidates, and 187 threatened. Government, what guarantees?

NOTE: Yes, I refer to the FARC in the plural, while O’Grady does in the singular. Colombians refer to the FARC in the plural.

En español: Argentina vs Uruguay in NYC

October 5th, 2015

Compare and contrast:

Full show here.

This just in: TPP signed

October 5th, 2015

The LatAm countries are Mexico, Peru and Chile (which in turn are members of the Pacific Alliance):
U.S. Reaches Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal With 11 Pacific Nations. Trans-Pacific Partnership created after bitter fights over automobile industry, intellectual property rights and dairy products. China is not included since it did not meet criteria. The TPP is yet to be approved by Congress,

But Mr. Obama faces a steep challenge in the months ahead to win approval for the deal in a deeply divided Congress. Only a handful of Democrats support Mr. Obama’s trade policy, and Republican support is unpredictable in the 2016 election year, depending on the stance of presidential candidates and new leadership in the House. As it is, the deal can’t go to a vote before Congress until early next year.

Ian Bremer commented on the TPP on Facebook – now on YouTube,

The storm clouds Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

October 5th, 2015

Storm clouds are coming to a hemisphere near you.

Argentina’s Scioli Urged by Ally to Pursue Accord With Creditors

Argentina warns US to cooperate in heightened search for fugitive spy chief. President Cristina Fernández says US must be ‘protecting’ Antonio Stiuso, who reportedly fled to Miami soon after star prosecutor’s mysterious killing

The narrative changes: Nisman documentary tied to US conservatives. Expect a lot more of that.

Hunt for ship missing after hurricane. The US Coast Guard searches for a cargo ship with 33 crew – 28 Americans and five Poles – that vanished in Bahamian waters during Hurricane Joaquin.

Ex-Brazil President Lula to be questioned in Petrobras case. Brazilian officials investigating a corruption scandal at the state-run oil company Petrobras will be allowed to question ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the supreme court has ruled.

Funny how so many bring up the Swedish model but few understand it: 7 fatos que contradizem tudo que você acreditava sobre a Suécia

Chilean Industrial Production Falls 5.2%

Colombia Drug Kingpin “Megateo” Slain in Military Operation

Worth watching:
Narcos on Netflix, loosely based on Killing Pablo, a miniseries made more interesting when keeping in mind the upcoming FARC deal.

Apparently this is how Cubans get Netflix (h/t Spotniks) without Internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Danny Paquete is a front:

[In Puerto Rico, un paquete can mean either package or a bundle of lies]

The one-sided relationship with Cuba

The Montaigne Dogma: Alive and Well in Ecuador. Correa Resurrects Debunked Zero-Sum Theories on Poverty

“The Profit of One Man Is the Damage of Another” is the 21st essay in this edition.

Guatemala mudslide leaves hundreds missing

We Jamaicans can’t blame our entire malaise on the evil white bogeyman. Whatever David Cameron’s motives for the repatriation scheme, our prisons are a disgrace – and the whining of the reparations lobby masks the screw-ups of our own governments

13 narcos extradited from Mexico include a former Texas high school football star, “La Barbie”.

Mexico Awards Three Areas in Oil Auction. Italy’s ENI International, Argentina’s Pan American Energy and Fieldwood Energy of the U.S. among the winners

Chinese giant Huawei opens its sixth distribution center in Panama. Good luck collecting,

According to official figures, Venezuelan buyers owe the free zone vendors a total of 1.2 billion dollars.

Behind Drugs’ Glare, Paraguay’s Illegal Cigarette Trade Flourishes

Peru Declares State of Emergency Where Protest Left 3 Dead

Puerto Rico Development Bank Goes to Court for $400 Million in Taxes

High times: Uruguay Awards Two Marijuana Permits to Investors

The World Is Watching Caracas. Why Venezuela’s approaching parliamentary elections matter — and not only for Venezuelans. Dude, the election is scheduled for December 6.

Salarios en Venezuela: cómo el régimen chavista empobreció a la población. Un profesor universitario cobra 16 dólares, un maestro 12, un médico no llega a los 10 y un policía araña los 14 (si suma bonos y horas extras)… Advertencia: cuando usted termine de leer esta nota, puede que los valores ya estén desactualizados.

U.S. Charges Venezuelan Ex-Officials with Drug Trafficking. U.S. judges have unsealed indictments charging two former top Venezuelan police officials with drug trafficking, an action likely to fuel further tensions between Washington and embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Judges in the southern district of Florida unsealed indictments against Pedro Luís Martín, a former head of financial intelligence for Venezuela’s secret police, and Jesús Alfredo Itriago, a former antinarcotics official with Venezuela’s investigative police.

Crime Wave Downs 100 Venezuelan Police Officers. Failure to Contain Lawlessness Comes at a Price

Sunday palate cleanser: Der Rosenkavalier

October 4th, 2015

Der Rosenkavalier, full opera, Covent Garden,

This production of Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” by Oscar-winning film director John Schlesinger, marked the 25th anniversary of Sir Georg Solti’s spectacular debut at Covent Garden. Featuring Kiri Te Kanawa’s first performance in London in the role of Marschallin.

Nicaragua: Wang Jing does poorly

October 3rd, 2015

In case you don’t remember the name, Wang Jing is the chairman of Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group, who made a $300million telecommunications deal last year with Daniel Ortega. He also heads HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., the company behind the proposed Nicaraguan Canal, that project of Dubious Plans and Abundant Unknowns.

Wang is the year’s worst-performing billionaire:

This Chinese Billionaire Has Lost More Than Glasenberg in 2015 (h/t JC)

Telecommunications entrepreneur Wang Jing, 42, was one of the world’s 200 richest people with $10.2 billion at the peak of the Chinese markets in June, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His net worth has since fallen to $1.1 billion.


HKND Group, Wang’s closely held development company, was awarded a 50-year concession for the 170-mile (274 kilometer) canal by the government of President Daniel Ortega in 2013. The billionaire said in a December 2014 televised press conference in Nicaragua that he was committing personal funds to the project, and he’s poured about $500 million of his own money into it so far, Peng Guowei, an executive vice president at HKND, told Chinese state media Xinhua on Sept. 7.

Turn of Fortune
“The turn of fortune in Mr. Wang’s financial resources will impact how and whether the canal can and will be built,” said Daniel Wagner, CEO of Country Risk Solutions and a former country risk manager at General Electric Co. “I would expect, given this year’s financial gyrations in China, that the government is also asking itself whether the canal is a viable proposition.”

The company said that despite the economic setbacks and local protests against the canal’s construction, the project is moving forward. “I have no doubt that appropriate financial arrangements will be in place before construction commences,” Bill Wild, HKND’s chief adviser for the canal, said in an e-mailed response to questions. Company representatives for Xinwei declined to comment on Wang’s personal investments and declined a request for an interview with Wang.

A September e-mail from closely held HKND said the funds raised from the pledged Xinwei shares were used for Wang’s “personal investments” and not for the canal project, without elaborating. Wang is also funding unrelated projects — in some cases with partners — including a deep water port in Ukraine.

As I have been saying from the start, the canal project (if you can find it) cannot come about without major support from the Chinese government.