Progressives dream of affordable healthcare, well-paying jobs for all, healthy food, environmental protection, justice for all, and good laws that protect citizens from excessive corporate greed, so we can all enjoy a good quality of life.
Now, imagine an America where more well-paying jobs are outsourced … where food, including from countries with lower food safety standards, cannot be labeled with country of origin… where critical healthcare becomes increasingly unaffordable… where water safety and environmental safeguards won’t hold up in court…where legislators fear passing laws to protect us because corporations successfully sue governments for threatening profits.
Is this a futuristic movie script? No, these are some projected impacts of the Transpacific Partnership. TPP is a free-trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secrecy among the U.S. and 11 other countries, representing roughly 40% of the global economy.
In this agreement, your family’s quality of life will be collateral damage.
For progressive dreamers, TPP is a nightmare.
As a trade agreement, TPP’s terms would be binding on all 12 countries, meaning TPP would override U.S. federal, state, and local laws.
The only Americans privy to the text are President Obama, the U.S Trade Representative, and 600 corporate advisors.
The terms aren’t available to the public. Even Congressmembers and Senators cannot fully review the text. After getting to read parts of TPP, Congressman Alan Grayson wrote, “The TPP is nicknamed ‘NAFTA on steroids.’ Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it: There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret. This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.”
Most U.S. press avoids exposing TPP. Our knowledge comes from leaks. Wikileaks published the intellectual property chapter in November. It includes longer drug patents, limiting access to potentially life-saving, affordable drugs. Per Electronic Frontier Foundation, its “copyright and digital privacy provisions … threaten millions of users’ rights.”
Only 5 of 29 chapters are about trade. What lurks in the others?
TPP is opposed by Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, and many U.S. labor, consumer, human rights, environmental, and other organizations, per .
Most egregiously, TPP threatens our food labeling, water safety, workplace safety, health, environmental and other laws through “Investor-State Dispute Resolution.” ISDR allows private tribunals to enforce TPP completely separately from U.S. courts. With corporate attorneys rotating as judges, no appeals and no calling witnesses, corporations can legitimately win millions of our tax dollars because a law “threatens a corporation’s profit potential.”
Accountability watchdog, Sum of Us, reports ISDR is currently being used by “tobacco giant Philip Morris to [sue] Australia for billions of dollars in lost profits…because the government took action to reduce teenage smoking. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is suing Canada for $500,000,000 … because Canada has laws to keep essential drugs affordable.” Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch director, warns that under TPP, 17,000 international corporations could sue U.S. government bodies, too.
Regarding banking, TPP “would roll back financial regulations needed to avoid another crisis.”
Whether our children will be financially better off than we are, is another critical concern. Millions of jobs have already been lost through WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA and trade agreements with China and Korea. A study by the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research projects 90% of Americans will experience a wage decrease if TPP passes.
Congress – the House and Senate – vote to approve trade agreements, and it’s Congress’s constitutional right and responsibility to negotiate terms. It has consummated hundreds of them. But for TPP, Obama has asked Congress for Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”). By approving this cunning Nixon-era scheme, Congress would willingly forfeit its rights to question and negotiate the terms for this and future trade agreements.
As early as January 8, proposal of a rush-vote bill is expected regarding Fast Track. As of November, 152 House Democrats and 27 House Republicans committed in writing to veto Fast Track. This is not the required majority to veto it. Those committing might change their minds, submitting to corporate lobbyists’ pressure.
Now is the time for us to fight for our dreams! TPP is too critical for secrecy and a rubber-stamp vote.
To save our rights and our quality of life, please contact the trade staff person at the Washington office of your congressmember and senators now, and urge them to vote No on Fast Track and No on TPP. Locally, Reps. McKeon, Cardenas and Becerra, in particular, need to be contacted. Urge passage of a “TPP-Free Zone” resolution in Los Angeles or your city, as Madison, Wisconsin, and Berkeley, Californian, did. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for action alerts. Spread the word.
Lisa Goldwag Kassner