by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
WASHINGTON -- After nearly six years of negotiations, trade ministers recently announced they had reached agreement on the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This does not mean the TPP is a done deal. The next hurdle for this rigged corporate power grab is to convince the participating governments, including Congress, to ratify it. In the United States, the trade justice movement, which has grown to be broad and diverse, can stop the TPP.
Here are two immediate actions you can take to stop the TPP: Click on the links to sign the petition telling Congress to reject the TPP and register for the mass mobilization in Washington in November.
Both chambers of Congress must ratify the TPP by a majority vote using a process called "fast track." The trade justice movement fought a multi-year campaign to prevent Congress from giving the president fast-track trade authority. We delayed it for much longer than the corporate traders wanted, forcing the TPP into the election year. Since the TPP is "Toxic Political Poison," an election year is not when they wanted to consider it. The corporate traders were required to compromise to pass fast track. One key compromise was making the text of the agreement public for 60 days before Congress considers it. This is a tremendous opportunity to educate and mobilize people.
Just after the TPP negotiators reached an agreement, we asked Ralph Nader if the TPP could be stopped. He said, "It will be stopped on its demerits." He further noted its wide impact, saying, "Its scope is everything," and described it as a "global corporate coup " the most brazen corporate power grab in American history." The TPP, he said, is "a major peril to our national authority" that is "ceding our sovereignty, ceding our self-reliance, ceding everything we can do within the boundaries of the United States."
He described how it takes legislative authority away from Congress and the White House and gives it to trade officials and trade tribunals. Nader described how it undermines the civil justice system, the third branch of government, and the federal court system because of trade tribunals with corporate lawyer-judges whose decisions cannot be reviewed by the federal courts. Nader described the TPP as "democracy suppression."
If you care about corporate power versus democracy, and about jobs, the environment, health care, food, water, energy, climate, regulation of banks and more, then stopping the TPP needs to be a top priority. The agreement comes after six years of secret negotiations -- secret to the public, media and elected representatives but not to hundreds of transnational corporations, their lobbyists and lawyers.
The deal is fragile. Negotiators had been near agreement for more than a year and the final two meetings were a struggle. The controversy around this the agreement will come out when it is made public and goes through national legislatures.
The campaign to stop the TPP and other rigged corporate trade agreements is planning ongoing actions. From Nov.14 to 18, when President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman are in Asia for economic meetings, major actions will be held in Washington. Click here to register. People are sending emails to congressional leaders urging them to stop the TPP. A full-court press is planned for when the TPP is brought to Congress.
Politics of TPP getting complicated in Washington
The TPP will not have an easy time in Congress. Leading presidential candidates and congressional leaders have expressed opposition or serious reservations. And, some major corporate interests are opposed. An election year is not the time for controversial legislation, and the toxic TPP will be controversial.
The key will be the House of Representatives. Mega-transnational corporations and Obama are making passage a top priority. House Speaker John Boehner did too, and he was forced to resign because of his bullying tactics. He aggressively pressured Republicans to give Obama fast-track authority, pushing about 30 Republicans who opposed fast track to vote for it. After the vote, he punished those who opposed him, removed them from subcommittee chairmanships and from the Republican leadership. The Caucus revolted, and some of Boehner's decisions had to be reversed. Members of the Caucus called for his replacement, and rather than fight that battle, Boehner resigned.
If this "Toxic Political Poison" can remove a Speaker of the House, will the next Speaker make passing the TPP a priority? Will he risk his career for Obama's top priority?
During the final negotiations key members of both parties wrote the Obama administration, warning there is no guarantee TPP will be approved by Congress. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), said they better not bring back a bad deal because Congress will not support it. After the deal was announced, Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the most important senators in the trade debate, said, "Unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short."
This week, Big Pharma expressed its anger at the TPP requiring "only" an eight year patent monopoly for biologic drugs, when 12 years are the law in the United States. The U.S. will have to harmonize its laws with the TPP. Obama held a meeting with the pharmaceutical executives at the White House to assuage them, but he failed. The Hill Reports Big Pharma is "searching for a playbook in its effort to keep Congress from ratifying the deal next year." Senator Hatch says that support for the TPP is shrinking in the Senate and "I've heard some very trying things that may very well make it impossible to pass." The largest recipient of pharmaceutical funding is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He is also funded by the tobacco lobby, which is trying to top the TPP.