The biggest Trade Agreement you've never heard of is happening behind closed doors here in America. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a "free trade" agreement that goes beyond trade giveaways to impact American jobs, food safety, the cost of medicine, internet freedoms, and our environment. The binding system would require the US and 11 other countries - Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam - any country signing must conform their domestic policy to the rules of the TPP. The economic power of this group Is 40% larger than that of the European Union. It's being written in secret by hundreds of corporate trade advisors and lobbyists. Have you seen the text? Neither has Congress, the media or anyone in the public - save a few legislators on the Commerce Committee sworn to secrecy.
Folks like the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Enterprise Institute, all corporate lobbyists, will tout the benefits of greater access to the Asian market, the ripeness of this market, improving the declining US share of this market, lowering trade barriers, increasing exports and profits, and increased standards. Does this sound familiar? The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) closed 60,000 American manufacturing facilities. NAFTA shifted almost 5 million jobs or 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs to other countries. TPP will expand on that movement to low-wage, unsafe, poor quality countries. Vietnam, a country where we lost much treasure and blood, will join China as another giant sucking mechanism for US jobs. Losing manufacturing jobs here in the US drives down wages, destroys the tax base and widens inequality.
Under TPP, we waive "Buy American" and "Buy Local" policies for foreign companies. TPP makes it harder to create American jobs. The US procurement market is more than 5 times the size of the other TPP countries, so we're not on equal bargaining status - we'd be lowering our standards.
The TPP will provide us food imports that won't be subject to US food safety standards. The US would have to eliminate usage restrictions and labeling for pesticides and additives. Currently, the FDA only inspects about 1% of seafood imports. The TPP would open the flood gates to foreign fish and more contaminated stocks. Food labels become trade barriers.
Under TPP, large pharmaceutical companies get new rights to increase the cost of medicine and limit consumer choice to less costly generic drugs. In the US, these new powers threaten protections in Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran's healthcare that make medicine more affordable for the military, the poor, veterans and seniors. Foreign companies could challenge what we consider toxic, cigarette and alcohol policies and public health priorities.
TPP would roll back financial regulations and forbid countries from banning risky financial products, like the derivatives debacle that made taxpayers bail out AIG for $183B. The TPP would ban a return capital controls that would keep consumer and business deposits separate from investment banking. The US (taxpayer) can be sued for policies that undermine a company's expected future profits.
The TPP includes rules limiting how governments can regulate their public sector - transportation, utilities, and education, as example. Investor privileges would allow foreign companies to take our government to tribunal and demand taxpayer compensation for policies relating to essential services.
With a free trade agreement for natural gas, the TPP would increase the increase fracking, exporting and consumer cost of electricity and gas. Japan as the world's largest importer of natural gas would line up a straw right into American gas fields. Corporations will further avoid taxes, environmental laws, and liability and payment for any environmental damage.
The TPP also curtails Internet freedom and has embedded previously rejected SOPA copyright legislation. TPP grants Internet Service Providers rights to police user activity, remove content and cut users off from access. There will be no difference between an individual's improper music download and large-scale, for-profit copyright violations. Innovation would be stifled and content sharing would find new barriers. The TPP seeks 120 years of copyright protection for corporate-created content. Linux developers would be kept from breaking digital locks for legitimate development purposes. Blind and/or deaf users would be blocked by digital locks on audio-supported content and closed captioning.
Overall, the TPP puts corporations in charge of our democracy. Foreign and multi-national corporations can skirt our domestic courts and challenge our health, financial, environmental and other public interest policies before extrajudicial foreign tribunals decided by World Bank and UN corporate lawyers who are unaccountable to any electorate. The agreement elevates foreign corporations to equal status with governments like ours. Multi-national companies can override laws in our country and others.
This effort has been fast-tracked and supported by this Presidential administration, the American Chamber of Commerce, and a multitude of corporate lobbyists. Only a few members of Congress have read portions of the text but are sworn to secrecy. American citizens won't know what's hit them until this policy is in action. This is what it means when politicians say they support "free trade" - we should demand "fair trade". Binding global government, offshoring American jobs, lower pay for Americans, less safety, wrecking our environment, attacking our internet freedoms - not a good deal, otherwise, they'd be negotiating this agreement in the open and with public oversight and input from our country and others.
While free trade may help corporations in the short-term, it hurts American citizens in every segment of our population. Absent a Julian Assange, all we citizens can do, after a dozen or more secret negotiations and now accelerated stakeholder forums, is to ask Congress and this President to bring transparency and public input to the negotiations.