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From Arthur Stamoulis of Fair Trade Campaign.

President Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his recent State of the Union address, saying that it will “boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field.” With that as the major public justification for the TPP, we need to arm ourselves with facts about the legacy of recent U.S. trade policy. Important talking points include that:

If you take oil out of the equation, the U.S. trade deficit in goods increased by six percent in 2012 to $628 billion. That’s the largest non-oil U.S. trade deficit since the financial crisis, and a clear sign that U.S. trade policy is not working as it should.

Nine months into the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement — the largest trade pact passed to date during the Obama presidency — exports to South Korea have dropped by 10 percent. This was a deal that had been promoted as job-creating, when in actuality it has led to further increase in the deficit and a net loss of U.S. jobs.

The overall track record for U.S. trade policy in recent decades further points to the need for change. The aggregate trade deficit with all U.S. FTA partners has increased by more that $144 billion since the FTAs were implemented.

To prevent more-of-the-same under the TPP, only a more-grandiose and more-damaging scale, we need Members of Congress to assert their constitutional trade policymaking authority and intervene in the negotiations. They absolutely must not approve “Fast Track” for the TPP. Here are some critical immediate steps for sending that message.

TOP PRIORITY: Organizational Sign-on Letter to Congress

Citizens Trade Campaign is currently soliciting organizations to join a letter to Congress on the TPP, US-EU Free Trade Agreement and Fast Track. This is an extremely important response to a push on the Hill by the Chamber of Commerce and others for Congress to pass Fast Track legislation for the TPP and other trade pacts. Please sign on any organization you have the authority to add, and please urge organizations you are affiliated with to join. The deadline is Sunday, March 3 — just prior to the Singapore Round of TPP negotiations. Instructions for how to join are included in the link above, or by writing to info@citizenstrade.org.

Current signers include Americans for Democratic Action, American Medical Student Association, Communications Workers of America, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Association of Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, It’s Our Economy, National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, Public Citizen, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, Witness for Peace and many others. We need your local, state and national groups on as well!

Organizational Meetings with Member of Congress
Those who represent organizations should please contact Citizens Trade Campaign now at info@citizenstrade.org if you are willing to arrange a meeting with your Member of Congress for the upcoming spring Congressional recess in late March and early April (or any other time). We can provide talking points and timely asks, and potentially connect you with others in your area who may want to join you.

Online Action for Individuals (which Groups Can Also Promote!)
Individuals are encouraged to write to their Members of Congress about the TPP and Fast Track through this online action alert. Please also post the alert on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Over 2,000 messages have been sent to Congress since the State of the Union, and want to make sure that every Member of Congress is hearing from multiple constituents about it.

Individuals can further voice their opinions about the TPP by writing a Letter to the Editor of their local newspaper using this online tool. A sample letter is provided, but the more you can personalize and localize your letter, the more likely it is to be published. Here’s one example of a letter that was published, provoking lots of positive responses in the paper’s comments section.

TPP Bird-Dogging Action Team

We need volunteers in every Congressional district throughout the country who are willing to keep an eye out for Town Halls and other public events held by U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators. Please take a moment now to visit your Member of Congress’ websites and sign up for their email lists, so that you’re receiving invitations to their constituent events. Once you’ve done so, please let us know at by filling out the TPP Bird-Dogging Action Team sign-up form.

When you hear about an upcoming Town Hall or public event with your Members of Congress, please let us know at info@citizenstrade.org. Whenever possible, please attend the event yourself and ask a pointed question like:

“I am angry that U.S. trade negotiators have refused to tell the American public what they’ve been proposing in our names for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while simultaneously giving hundreds of corporate lobbyists, including those from Walmart, Chevron and Cargill, access to the negotiating texts. We can’t afford for the TPP to become another back-room deal the enriches big corporations at the expense of working people. Will you commit to opposing Fast Track authority for the TPP?”

Please report back what the Representative or Senator says at info@citizenstrade.org — and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want background on the Member’s past trade positions or if you need help crafting a Member-specific question or comment.

A new TPP negotiating round has been added for the month of July in Canada. Details are still forthcoming. (more…)

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The one thing not mentioned in the article below from the New York Times is that things are still deteriorating, economically speaking. The rich are still getting richer because the government at all levels, but at the federal level in particular, continues to redistribute income from working citizens to the affluent. Congressman Earl Blumenauer voted to redistribute income in this direction when he voted for the South Korea and Panama Free Trade Treaties a few weeks ago. Likewise, Senator Ron Wyden is another Wall Street legislative prostitute who bends over and serves the one percent. When Wall Street bends Wyden over and reams him full of cash, Wyden then reams us. He voted for the same treaties, plus the Colombia Free Trade Treaty. The story below tells us the economy is growing, but most people aren’t experiencing it. That’s because the rich are getting richer. Thank you Blumenauer and Wyden, my legislative prostitutes of the month, year and decade — John Hively

By SHAILA DEWAN
Published: October 27, 2011

Economic growth in the United States picked up in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday, in an encouraging sign that the recovery, while still painfully slow, has not stalled.

Total output grew at an estimated annual rate of 2.5 percent from July to September, still modest but almost double the 1.3 percent rate in the second quarter, the department reported.

The pace, however, was not brisk enough to recover the ground lost in the economic bust, lower unemployment or even substantially dispel fears of a second recession. Still, the report offered a small helping of reassurance.

“It ain’t brilliant, but at least it’s heading in the right direction,” said Ian Shepherdson, the chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics, a data analysis firm. “I want to see 4 percent, but given that people were talking about a new recession, I’ll take 2.5 or 3, thanks very much.”

The consensus forecast of economists shows continued growth at about a 2 percent rate for the rest of this year and all of 2012. That would be an improvement over the first half of this year, but a strong recovery would require a rate closer to 4 percent. In the 25 years prior to the recession, the United States economy grew at about 3.25 percent a year, though demographic changes have led to lower expectations for future growth even in a healthy economy.

This economy is still a flurry of mixed signals. Real income has declined, but so has the number of people filing for unemployment, a trend that continued in the number of new claims announced Thursday morning.

The stock market has rallied but consumer confidence has plummeted to levels last seen in 2008. That sentiment helped push pending sales of existing U.S. homes down for a third successive month during September, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.

The economy may be growing, but Americans cannot feel it.

“For most people, they’re unable to really make a distinction between a recession and just 2 percent growth, which means the economy is growing so weakly it can’t hire enough people to make a dent in unemployment,” said Bernard Baumohl, the chief economist for the Economic Outlook Group.

Thursday’s numbers showed a larger than expected increase in consumer spending, fueled by purchases of durable recreational goods like televisions. Personal spending increased by 2.4 percent, accounting for the lion’s share of the growth.

But business investment, which has been strong throughout the recovery, continued to grow as well, with a 13.3 percent increase in non-residential building and a 17.4 percent increase in equipment and software purchases.

Growth in residential construction slowed, but spending on furniture and appliances picked up. Government spending stayed flat, with a reduction in state, local and federal non-military spending canceled out by an increase in defense spending.

The growth rate was weighed down by a meager increase in inventories, which Mr. Shepherdson said he expected would turn out to have been higher than believed. The initial G.D.P. report is based on estimates and is subject to multiple revisions.The growth that economists expected in the first part of the year was dampened by shocks like blizzards, a spike in gasoline prices and the earthquake in Japan, which disrupted the global supply chain. Those effects were fading away by the third quarter, economists said.

But other risks still loom, from Europe’s debt crisis to the possibility that President Obama’s proposal for renewed stimulus measures, including a payroll tax cut, could fail to get through Congress.

“The better growth performance in the third quarter doesn’t mean that the economy can’t ‘double-dip’ back into recession,” wrote Nigel Gault, an economist with IHS Global Insight, ahead of the report. “But it suggests that it has more momentum than there seemed to be just a month or two ago, and underscores that the primary recession risks are from external shocks, with Europe the biggest wild card.”

On the domestic front, analysts seemed to be betting that the payroll tax cut would continue, but were divided on the odds that extended unemployment benefits would be renewed. The two programs together represent spending power equal to about 1 percent of G.D.P., though some of that money may go into savings or be spent on imported goods.

More pessimistic economists fear that the third-quarter growth will be unsustainable because housing values remain low and consumers, whose spending accounts for more than 70 percent of G.D.P., have little reason to expect that their financial situation will improve. The increase in consumer spending was accompanied by a drop in the savings rate and an inching upward of credit card debt, possibly to accommodate purchases that could no longer be delayed.

“That is unlikely to continue if the economy grows weakly because Americans are much more conscious about adding on a lot of debt to their balance sheet,” said Kathy Bostjancic, director for macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board, which tracks consumer and executive sentiment. The negative outlook was beginning to spread to businesses, Ms. Bostjancic said.

“C.E.O. confidence is starting to melt away, along with consumer confidence levels, which have always been low,” she said.

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