“It’s been branded as a trade agreement, but really it is enforceable corporate global governance.” Lori Wallach, Global Trade Watch
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretive trade deal with Asian nations that could reshape the American economy and our foreign relations. Chances are, you’ve never even heard of it. That is because nobody wants you to. It has been in negotiations for two years and is being kept secret from everyone, even Congress, because the participants do not want public opinion to derail it. Senator Ron Wyden is the chairman of the trade committee in the Senate. His office is supposed to have oversight of trade agreements like this. Yet, he has been denied access to TPP documents, and has even had to file legislation demanding he be able to read it!
TPP is not simply about how countries “trade” with one another. In fact, the current document is comprised of almost 30 chapters, and only two of them address trade. The others set binding rules on service-sector regulation, investment, patents and copyrights, government procurement, financial regulation and labor and environmental standards. TPP will:
- Send millions of American jobs offshore
- Give longer monopoly control of drugs to big pharma firms
- Limit food labeling, which could flood the U.S. with unsafe food
- Bring back policies of SOPA by stifling internet freedom and killing innovation
- Ban “Buy America” policies
- Allow foreign corporations to attack our health laws and environmental regulations before an international tribunal, and give them taxpayer compensation
Participating countries include the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Japan, China, Mexico and Canada are also interested in joining.
But it doesn’t much matter who is on board now; eventually, every country in the world could take part. Those sounding the alarm about the TPP are warning it could be the last trade agreement ever negotiated because once it’s in place, other countries can simply join in, without any talks, without any restrictions, without debate. That in and of itself would be a reason to make sure it’s a rock solid, well-debated document; unfortunately, it’s not. Wallach says, “It’s only gotten this far because it’s been secret. What’s really important to understand about these agreements, it’s not about trade, and it’s like cement. Once the cement dries in these agreements, you can’t change the rules, unless…all the other countries agree.”
Obama promised to be transparent, remember? And, while running for president in 2008, Obama said, “We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; [or] give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors.” While campaigning this year, he repeatedly hammered Governor Romney over offshore jobs and investments.
That was “campaign trail” Obama. President Obama, on the other hand, has managed to keep the TPP under wraps while allowing its language to send millions of jobs away from America and give greater rights to foreign investors; two things he claimed he would not do while begging for votes.
The only thing we know about the agreement is what was accidentally leaked in February of last year; but of course there have been meetings and updates since that document was discovered so the language has certainly changed. And one of the larger concerns that have emerged is that TPP will be a backdoor way to get the Stop Online Piracy Act passed. A former White House staffer admits the copyright industry is working to get SOPA legislation into the trade agreement since it failed in Congress after very public opposition.
Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch says, “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike, have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”
So just as Obama has opened up our waters to foreign countries for drilling but banned U.S. participation, now his administration is in the middle of drafting a trade agreement that will give foreign corporations access to our economic system, but will not require them to play by the same rules U.S. corporations have to. And to add insult to injury, your tax dollars will be spent appeasing any country that feels they have been treated unfairly. Stifling regulations will give international corporations control and harm American businesses and especially, the American consumer.
Members of Congress are becoming increasingly upset over the secrecy. Over 125 representatives wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, asking him to reveal the contents of the TPP:
“We write to urge you and your staff to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress…and to ensure there is ample opportunity for Congress to have input on critical policies that will have broad ramifications for years to come. If Congress and the public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then any opportunity for meaningful input is lost. Given the laudable priority given to improved government transparency since the first day of the Obama Administration, we are troubled that there may be needless secrecy and over-classification of documents…”
No more secrets. The TPP needs to become public and Congress needs to look at what language is being drafted before our country is sold down the river. As Lori Wallach says, “We need more democracy. We need more accountability.”