The problems with the “Trans-Pacific Partnership”

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 1/14/14

I just wrote a letter to the Daily Local News, which I haven’t had time to do for a while. I was galvanized by a call from Corporate Accountability International, which is campaigning against this blatant example of corporations intriguing against the public interest.

See most recently the CAI article “In affront to lessons of NAFTA, Baucus moves TPA forward,” Jan. 9, 2014. Excerpt:

…”If Congress approves Fast Track, it’s not just delegating its trade authority to the White House, it’s effectively signaling its tacit approval to the largest corporate-driven trade agreement in U.S. history before even seeing it,” said Jesse Bragg, press secretary at Corporate Accountability International. “The TPP is a corporate wish list disguised as a trade agreement. The question we need to ask is: ‘Do we really want to blindly approve an agreement devised by the likes of Walmart, Big Tobacco, and Chevron without even being able to amend it?’”…

The answer sounds like a No to me.

“Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority or TPA would mean that Congress basically abdicates its job and reduces its role to saying Yes or No after the wording comes to it from the negotiators, who have taken input from corporations but not from legislators or the public. It’s all very hush-hush. Very undemocratic.

If you agree, please write or call your congressional representative and/or senators. Find contact info for your representative in Congress here and your senators here.

Or, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask the operator to connect you to your representative’s office.

For very detailed contextual information, see “Camp-Baucus Bill Would Revive Controversial 2002 Fast Track Mechanism,” Public Citizen, Jan. 10, 2013.

Finally, here’s the letter I sent:

“Trans-Pacific Partnership” sounds sort of benign; aren’t partnerships good?

If it’s benign, why is Congress being pressured to assign it to a “fast track” that would shut down discussion and any improvements by Congress itself?

Corporations and a dozen governments (US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and five in Asia) have been working on this “partnership” plan for years, with lots of business input; but even Congress hasn’t seen much of the text, and the public even less.

A Freedom of Information request was rebuffed with the answer that contents of the treaty are national security information. If a trade treaty falls under national security, what doesn’t?

This is an issue on which Americans of all political persuasions can agree: the public should know what’s going on, and Congress should vet trade deals, listen to public opinion, and act in our interest.

Some possible downsides of this “partnership” are:

1) It would hand corporations (including energy, pharmaceutical, and tobacco multinationals) the power to evade national public health and environmental protections.

2) Some of the leaked provisions, like extending corporate music and movie copyrights to almost a century and permitting drug companies to prolong patents by switching the medium (e.g., from capsule to tablet) serve corporations but not people. (No, corporations are not people!)

3) How is allowing companies to patent surgical procedures, life forms and seeds beneficial to humanity? It would probably just raise prices and profits.

4) Would the deal really improve the US balance of payments with selected Asian countries or would it go the way of the 2011 free trade agreement with South Korea, in whose first year US exports to there dropped and imports from there increased, increasing our trade deficit by an estimated $5.8 billion and costing 40,000 US jobs?

5) Would TPP allow other countries to serve as conduits for additional Chinese goods to flow into our markets and cost us further employment?

Congress is not popular right now, and with good reason. Our representatives in DC should start spending less time raising money and more time doing their homework and serving the people’s interests.

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Nathaniel Smith

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