"Wasting My Time"
Charlie Rangel is shocked that there's so much misunderstanding about the secret trade deal, the contents of which have still not been released publicly or even to members of the Democratic caucus:
"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding with the agreement," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, told PBS' Nightly Business Report. "I cannot see how anybody would be upset in the Democratic Party, except for one thing: they were not included when we had the press conference."
That's actually why YOU would be upset, Charlie, because you've never met a microphone you didn't like. Why the party rank-and-file is upset is because you've kept the deal under lock and key, and what is leaking out suggests that the White House is rewriting the deal as we speak and any labor provisions will not be binding.
This is NAFTA II, the re-NAFTA-ing, (how many times can I go back to the well of that joke?), and despite qualified support from labort organizations, the process of this deal should give anyone who expects fairness in trade policy pause.
Rangel is a creature of the past when it comes to trade policy. The majority of the House Democratic caucus wants to see American worker competitiveness protected and not sold out so multinationals can roam the world looking for the cheapest wage. Ignoring that majority opinion is not advisable, but it's precisely what Rangel wants to do.
Rangel has stressed his desire to restore bipartisan support for trade through an "American" trade policy, rather than a Republican or Democratic one.
In the interview, Rangel offered no apology for the deal that was struck and said the only thing he would do differently was to reach it "much faster. I'd ignore a lot of people that really was just wasting my time, and didn't intend to support it all."
Carl Pope of the Sierra Club offers the best explanation I've seen of why these trade deals still benefit lobbyist-driven interests instead of the public interest:
What do I mean by saying these agreements are unbalanced? Well, if a signatory to a typical trade agreement violates the patent protection rights of a US drug manufacturer to provide cheaper life saving medicines for its population, the drug company can bring a legal action against it. But if the same country brings down drug prices for import into the US by using forced labor, a union can't do anything about it. If Peru revokes a logging concession granted to US timber companies, regardless of the fairness of the original agreement, the timber company can sue for damages. But if the same US timber company illegally logs Peruvian mahogany and imports it into the US, a sustainable US hardwood competitor can't file for damages -- even under the proposed, "environmentally more friendly" terms being talked about.
Certain laws -- those which protect businesses -- are given a special priority, and companies can use trade agreements to sue governments for cash compensation if a pesky environmental or public health measure stand in the way of their profits. Neither unions nor environmental groups have the rights given to businesses to make sure that worker’s rights and the environment are protected; for this they would have to depend on the US government which, under its present leadership, is hardly a reliable cop on the beat.
It's actually worse than that, if the labor and environmental deals in the bill are stripped out by the President or put into unenforceable "side deals." What little media exposure there has been on this issue has taken the side of the "bipartisan compromise" that is neither bipartisan or a compromise. And every day that they remain secret, and especially every day that Charlie Rangel insults the majority of the Democratic caucus, I will be incredibly skeptical.