TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1%

Have you heard? The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement is a stealthy policy being pressed by corporate America, a dream of the 1 percent, that in one blow could: offshore millions of American and Canadian jobs, free the banksters from oversight, undo all labor laws in at least 11 nations, ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy, decrease access to medicine, flood countries like the U.S., Canada, and Peru with unsafe food and products, and empower corporations to abolish our environmental, safety, and health protection laws.

Most people do not know anything about the TPP, but this is very important. It’s a trade agreement, now in negotiation. Normally the U.S. Senate adjudicates trade agreements, but Obama has said he wants to get Fast Track Authority. If Congress votes to grant him that, he could sign it before Congress gets to even see it, forcing them to vote yes/no without being able to change a word of it. This is what he did with the health insurance laws and Bush did with the Patriot Act. Congress passed these overwhelmingly before they were given copies to read. Unfortunately, all recent agreements under Fast Track have been passed by the U.S. Congress. The key to stopping TPP is to lobby our reps to make sure they agree to vote AGAINST Fast Track. Activists think we can do it, but much work is necessary, as soon as possible. 12 governments, the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam are in secret closed-door talks negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership, with countries like Japan and China potentially joining later. Six hundred corporate advisors have access to the text, while the public, Members of Congress, and Parliaments, journalists, and civil society are excluded. And so far what we know about what’s in there is very scary! Obama hopes to finalize it by October, though recent news is that it’s running into problems and it could be finalized by “end of the year.”

George W. Bush began this negotiation process then Obama began promoting it (in strictest secrecy) till a few chapters were leaked about a year ago. Basically, it’s the 1%–the trade reps of 600 transnational corporations have direct access to the text, and what has been leaked indicates that their most hoped-for agendas are being written into this ‘trade” agreement to make as much money as possible. A leaked TPP negotiating text showed that the Obama administration is pushing not only dangerous investment terms found in the bilateral Free Trade Agreements, but an extension of these corporate rights. The TPP would empower any corporation operating in these countries, including subsidiaries from additional countries, to skirt any laws and courts to demand taxpayer compensation in foreign tribunals if a court or law had caused them to spend money on anything. Government actions deemed subject to these rules now include the denial of regulatory permits, environmental and health protections from toxics bans to cigarette packaging, natural resource management from water rights to mining policy, emergency regulatory measures taken during financial crises, and minimum wage laws. Many legal experts and policymakers in the U.S. and officials in other countries, however, are beginning to learn lessons from the mounting evidence of the excesses of the system and are trying to oppose this.

The leaked investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership shows that the TPP would expand the privileges afforded to foreign corporations by guaranteeing them special rights and privileges not provided to domestic firms under domestic law. As well as requiring government to provide special, preferential treatment to foreign investors, this regime would also empower foreign firms to privately enforce their new rights through what is called Investor-State Dispute A nation’s domestic policies would be required to comply with the TPP rules. This will affect at first only the citizens of the member countries, but in time, ALL citizens of all countries.

Stephanie Low is a volunteer with the Sierra Club, working since 2007 on the Gas Drilling Task Force to oppose fracking in NYS, currently as Chair of two TPP Task Forces, one in the Sierra Club's Atlantic (NYS) Chapter, the other in the NYC Work Group. Tom Keough is an activists and artist . His cartoons have appeared in many sites and periodicals including DV. Read other articles by Stephanie Low and Tom Keough.