Appearing at a convention of Democrats in California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave a thrill to those who are seeking her announcement that she will run for her party’s nomination in the coming presidential race in 2016.  On his program “The Last Word”, host Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC said on May 17 "Sen. Elizabeth Warren got the reception that only presidential candidates get at the California state party convention. And if she was running for president, she wouldn't have had to change a single word of her speech."
 
Warren has gone toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama about his trade policy: specifically, his demand for so-called “fast-track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal he says the U.S. needs. The details of that deal are secret but have met with considerable opposition from Democrats, organized labor, and human rights organizations. Even so, Obama has said that TPP is the “most progressive trade bill in history.” Stepping up his criticism for the firebrand Democrat, Obama has said she is “a politician like everybody else” and “absolutely wrong” on trade. Objections, said Obama, are “bunk” and “misinformation.”
 
"Now we can whine about it. We can whimper about it or we can fight back," Warren said after making criticisms of Republican presidential hopefuls as she spoke to Democrats. "Me, I'm fighting back. I'm fighting back. Are you ready?" Pumping her fist into the air, Warren cried "It's not just us. America is ready to fight back!" Commenting on the senator’s appearance, O'Donnell asked a panelist if Hillary Clinton could give such a speech that included a clenched fist. “So what is Elizabeth Warren really up to?" asked O’Donnell. "Is she really laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign in case … Hillary Clinton stumbles?"
 
In a report released on May 17, Warren’s office accused Republicans and Democrats of seeking to renege on the labor provisions in previous free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement that was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Warren hinted that she will defeat the “fast-track” legislation in the Senate by filing amendments that would prevent Congress from making any changes to any trade deal submitted to Capitol Hill for approval. Said Warren on May 17, “The facts show that, despite all the promises, these trade deals were just another tool to tilt the playing field in further of multinational corporations and against working families.”
 
Warren’s report, “Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements,” contends that the U.S. has not enforced labor protections in previous free trade deals. Her report also says that countries who have signed trade agreements with the U.S., such as Guatemala and Colombia, have not curbed abuses against their workers. “The history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. [free-trade agreements] lags far behind the promises,” says the Warren report.  “The rhetoric does not match the reality.”
 
The U.S. currently has trade agreements with 20 countries. Of these, eleven have documented abuses of human rights, as well as unchecked child labor and forced labor. Also, since the labor plan negotiated by the White House and the Colombian government went into effect in 2011, 105 union activists have been murdered. Nonetheless, Obama called the Colombian deal "a win-win for workers."
 
Sens. Warren and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have been joined by 12 other Democrats to push for an amendment that bars “fast-track” powers to be used on trade deals that include the so-called investor-state dispute settlement provision. That provision is believed to allow companies to sue governments over decisions that harm their foreign investments, perhaps forcing U.S. taxpayers to pay for those settlements.
 
The Senate formally advanced legislation last week that would give Obama so-called “fast track” authority, which would give him the power to submit trade deals to Congress for approval with just up-or-down votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told ABC on May 17 that the Senate will finish the trade legislation this week.
 
Perennial presidential-hopeful Donald Trump is also opposed to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and fast-track authority to fast-track. He says it is a "bad, bad deal" and denounced Obama and the Republicans who support it. A radio ad featuring Trump aired nationally last week, in which the real estate and casino mogul opined "While I'm a Republican, right now, some in the Republican Party are working overtime to hand more power to President Obama,….These same people are turning their backs on the American workers and businesses. It's unbelievable." He said “a bad deal is far worse than no deal at all,…And the Obama Trans-Pacific Partnership and fast-track are a bad, bad deal for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers. It's a huge set of handouts for a few insiders that don't even care about our great, great America.”
 
Calling it a “raw power grab” by Obama, Trump called on Congress to vote no on fast-track authority. He said  "yet again, the politicians are allowing our president to reinforce the lack of respect countries like China and Japan now have for the United States."


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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