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By Mimi Whitefield, The Miami Herald

A new Atlantic Council study says that failure to win approval for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a “serious geopolitical and commercial setback” for the United States and Latin America.

The United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, which represent 40 percent of the world’s economy, are currently negotiating the trade and investment liberalization pact. But its prospects are unclear.

Chief negotiators for the member nations — the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — are currently trying to iron out market access and rules.

Trade negotiators from the United States and Japan also recently met to discuss their differences over autos and agricultural trade — an effort the study calls an “urgent priority for TPP.”
Japan’s agriculture team will be in Washington the first week of August for further talks.

“We’re down to a limited number of remaining issues. The most difficult issues are generally dealt with in the final stages,” acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said Wednesday in Washington during an event to launch the study.

Even though there are only three Latin American members of TPP, the study said the region will play a “central role” in a Trans-Pacific agreement. It recommended that Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and other interested Latin countries be welcomed to the talks.

In recent years, many Latin American countries have been at the forefront of trade liberalization and 11 have free-trade agreements with the United States and 10 with Europe.

But if TPP fails, the impact on Latin America would be “particularly acute,” because the region has “no Plan B of this magnitude,” according to the study “Bridging the Pacific: The Americas’ New Economic Frontier.”

Already, Asia is Latin America’s second largest trading partner after the United States, and Latin American countries’ exports to Asia grew by 590 percent between 2000 and 2011. During that same time, Latin America’s exports to the U.S. grew by 77 percent.

Most of the region’s exports to Asia are commodities. If the TPP were to include liberal investment and services provisions, “it could also help the region to diversify its exports to include more manufactured goods as well as finance and telecommunications,” the study said.

As Asian nations’ wages rise, becoming closer to Latin American levels, Latin American exports should become more competitive in world markets and the region could become a more profitable place for Asian companies to invest, the study said.

Beyond trade and investment, the study said, TPP has important security implications and serves to reassure the United States’ Asian-Pacific partners in the face of a rising China.

“The talks are as much about China as the countries that are taking part,” said Peter Rashish, author of the study and a senior trade adviser of Transnational Strategy Group.

The study said economic partnerships such as TPP “are one element of soft power and send a strong message of shared interests.”

Ultimately, Rashish said, China should be invited to join the TPP but with its recent actions in the East and South China Seas, now isn’t the time and could send the wrong message.

Before any new members or observers are added, Cutler said, the top priority is “concluding negotiations among existing members.”

The pact is being negotiated at a time when Americans are more skeptical of international engagement. The TPP and Trade Promotion Authority, which allows the president to negotiate a trade pact and submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments, is expected to face a hard slog through Congress.

The secretive nature of TPP negotiations also have come under fire not only in the U.S. Congress but in parliaments of other member nations. Negotiators have been reluctant to disclose details of the draft document — although portions have been leaked.

TPP critics have complained about perceived lack of protection for U.S. textile firms and inadequate environmental safeguards. Some have contended that instead of creating jobs, TPP would cost jobs.

But Rashish said approval of TPP is essential: “With TPP’s failure, the U.S. and like-minded countries in Latin America would be ceding leadership on global economic governance to other economies which have a more state-based approach to domestic economies and a different approach to international economic competition.”

AFP Photo / Jewel Samad

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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