Common Dreams | 27 May 2016
Emails show TPP ’collusion’ between big banks & Obama administration
by Nadia Prupis
A series of emails released Friday show what activists describe as "collusion" between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Wall Street executives to push for the passage the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The emails (pdf), obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the group Rootstrikers, which organizes against money in politics, include a message to Froman from a managing director at Goldman Sachs urging him to push for "robust commitments" on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions—which allow private corporations to sue governments for perceived loss of profits—to be included in the divisive trade deal.
"I wanted to underscore how important it is for the financial services industry to get robust commitments on ISDS in the agreement... denying our industry the same rights as enjoyed by every other sector would be terribly unfortunate," the email states.
Another mentions it would be "good for the U.S." if lawmakers in U.S. Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as "fast track," which would allow the president to send trade deals to the House and Senate for a yes-or-no vote, rather than allowing them to make amendments to the agreements.
"Will do what I can to assist," reads the email from the Goldman Sachs lobbyist, sent in February 2015—just a few months before the Senate passed TPA in what opponents called a "great day for corporate America."
Froman responded that he would assign a staff member to be in contact with Goldman Sachs’ lobbyist team, and that he would "welcome the chance to pick your brain" on the equally controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Rootstrikers—which is part of a newly launched financial reform coalition called Take On Wall Street—also noted that Froman, then chief of staff to the Treasury Secretary, was "instrumental" in the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which created a firewall between the investment and commercial banking sectors, and has maintained a friendly relationship with the financial industry during his time as trade rep.
As the American Prospect reported in June 2015, under Froman’s leadership, "more ex-lobbyists have funneled through USTR, practically no enforcement of prior trade violations has taken place, and new agreements like TPP are dubiously sold as progressive achievements, laced with condescension for anyone who disagrees."
Kurt Walters, campaign director at Rootstrikers, said Friday, "Wall Street knows it can get favors in closed door negotiations that could never survive the light of day in Congress. One thing has been consistent during Michael Froman’s frequent trips through the Wall Street-to-Washington revolving door: He’s repeatedly used his official positions to deliver for his friends at the biggest banks on Wall Street."
“It’s fair to ask whether Froman is negotiating on behalf of the American public or to benefit the financial sector that gave him a massive golden parachute bonus upon his shift from Citigroup executive to U.S. Trade Representative," Walters added, noting that Froman received more than $4 million upon leaving Citigroup in 2013.
Froman repeatedly ignored calls by Rootstrikers to release the emails as public opposition to TPP began to grow in recent years. A USTR representative said in 2015 that Froman has "been very clear, on repeated occasions, in public and in private, that this administration will do nothing that puts at risk the Wall Street reforms."