You will be hearing a lot about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. TPP's negotiations are being held in secret with details kept secret even from our Congress. But giant corporations are in the loop.
TPP is a "trade" agreement between several Pacific-rim countries that is actually about much more than just trade. It will be sold as a trade agreement (because everyone knows that "trade" is good) but much of it appears to be (from what we know) a corporate end-run around things We the People want to do to reign in the giant corporations -- like Wall Street regulation, environmental regulation and corporate taxation.
The TPP process appears to be set up to push corporate interests over other interests. The TPP is being negotiated in secret, so what we know about it comes from leaked documents. Even our Congress is being kept out of the loop. But 600 corporate representatives are in the loop while representatives of groups that protect working people, human, political and civil rights and our environment are largely not in the loop.
This one-sided participation unfortunately indicates that the interests of giant corporations are likely to override the interests of working people and those who want to protect non-corporate interests. Otherwise there would be more representation by representatives of organizations representing these concerns, and greater transparency into the process.
TPP Is A Very, Very Big Deal
The coming TPP is a very, very big deal. If it is agreed to by the Senate and signed by the President it will override American laws in many areas. We won't be allowed to enforce laws and regulations that impede the "rights" granted to big corporations under this agreement, and it will be very hard to rescind the agreement once signed, no matter how much damage might result. Just look at how NAFTA, China's entry into the WTO and other agreements are causing huge trade deficits and sending jobs, factories and industries out of the country while dramatically increasing income and wealth inequality.
Making the TPP work for We, the People should be up there on our "litmus test" of things we require of our elected officials -- right along with pledging no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
TPP Not Just Trade
It looks like TPP will go way beyond what most of us would consider to be in a normal "trade" agreement. TPP -- negotiated by giant corporate interests -- appears set to give giant corporations a veto over a country's ability to set many laws and regulations that are designed to reign in those corporations. Quelle surprise!
Leaked documents appear to show that negotiators are writing provisions that will set rules that are binding on Congress and our state legislatures tell us what laws and regulations our own country can pass or enforce in areas like:
- intellectual property rights like patents and copyrights,
- government procurement like Buy American which would be banned,
- investment and land use,
- service-sector regulation,
- food and product safety,
- corporate competition,
- even environmental standards.
- Leaks show that TPP even limits government regulation of financial services!
Dean Baker explains that non-trade items like patents in an agreement like TPP can have a huge effect on us by dramatically increasing prices of items like pharmaceuticals, in Political Corruption and the "Free Trade" Racket,
Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.
Again: There are over 600 corporate representatives participating in the TPP process, but few if any representatives of human rights, environmental, civil rights or worker rights organizations. And the resulting agreement will be binding on governments! The corporate powers apparently granted in the TPP can override domestic laws on environmental health and safety, and labor and citizens' rights. If this agreement becomes law multinationals can claim that those domestic laws and regulations hamper free trade and can sue for millions of dollars in "damages."
Bad History Of Trade Agreements Harming Economy, Democracy
Our one-sided, corporate-negotiated trade agreements have dramatically enriched Wall Street and a few CEOs. But the devastation that is apparent in many regions of our country along with the hollowing out of our middle class tells the real story of what these agreements can do to an economy. For example, we all know what has happened since China was allowed to enter the WTO. In the 2000s we lost 50,000+ factories and at least 6 million jobs just to China. Because of the massive cost of building a manufacturing infrastructure it will be very difficult to restore even key industries. But the 1% who pushed this made out extremely well.
Even the just-signed Korea Free Trade agreement is already hurting our economy. It has increased the trade deficit, increased imports and decreased exports! A recently-released fact sheet from Public Citizen looks at the damage our economy is already experiencing from the Korea, Panama and Columbia agreements. The section on Korea tells the story: exports to Korea down 10%, trade deficit up 37%: