But as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Roosevelt Institute senior economist Adam S. Hersh warned on Monday as negotiators were finalizing the agreement that "sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems."
"You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for 'free trade,'" wrote the economists, who monitored the final negotiations on the agreement. "The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members' trade and investment relations -- and to do so on behalf of each country's most powerful business lobbies."
The details of any trade agreement are complex. They demand strict scrutiny. That's the only way to get beyond the spin that officials always peddle when the deals are being rushed from the negotiating stage to the approval stage -- in the United States, both the House and Senate must vote for the deal before it goes into effect. That's why AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Monday for the administration to release the text of the agreement immediately and urged legislators "to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP."
"As we've said, rushing through a bad deal will not bring economic stability to working families, nor will it bring confidence that our priorities count as much as those of global corporations," explained Trumka.
Echoing the call for immediate release of the text was US Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who bluntly declared, "This deal was hatched in secret behind closed doors so I look forward reviewing it and seeing if it's another unfair trade deal that stacks the deck against Wisconsin workers."
Transparency is step one.
Step two is to focus on the mechanisms that will undermine transparency -- and accountability -- if the TPP includes corporate-friendly provisions for investor-state dispute settlement.
Congress will have a chance to vote on the TPP. There will be immense pressure from corporate lobbies and the White House to simply say "yes." There will be immense spin. But the core issue of whether corporations can be effectively regulated and held to account comes down to the ISDS question.
"Under these investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems, foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments," explain economists Stiglitz and Hersh. "International corporate interests tout ISDS as necessary to protect property rights where the rule of law and credible courts are lacking. But that argument is nonsense. The U.S. is seeking the same mechanism in a similar mega-deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, even though there is little question about the quality of Europe's legal and judicial systems. To be sure, investors -- wherever they call home -- deserve protection from expropriation or discriminatory regulations. But ISDS goes much further: The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are nondiscriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm."
The bottom line is as it has always been: A trade agreement that rests power with multinational corporations, rather than with the people and their elected representatives, is a bad deal.