Why Business And Government Are Quiet About TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated secretly for many years and there is good reason for the secrecy, especially in terms of how it affects billions of people in the world. As you might guess those who benefit most are governments and the rich and powerful.

Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute, who served in the Reagan and Clinton administrations, says that TPP won’t deliver jobs or curb China’s power, the former a fallacy that seems to be pushed, or at least suggested, by both Congress and the Obama administration.

Supporters like Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick recently wrote an op-ed suggesting that TPP would boost exports and that “workers who produce exports earn, on average, about 18% more.”  What they don’t actually state is that international agreements have not produced more exports, but rather the trade deficit has soared. In fact, since 1997, due in large part to the growth of US goods trade deficits with China, U.S. manufacturing has lost 5.5 million jobs.

In addition, the TPP is not going to bring together nations such as Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Viet Nam, and Brunei to gang up against China, thus decreasing China’s sway over U.S. consumers.

But there are many other negative effects on American consumers, that would, in effect, erase our self-determination, in other words our sovereignty in determining our own standards.

It would greatly undermine the safety of our food, requiring us to import meat and poultry that, for example, do not meet U.S. food safety standards.  The TPP would require us to allow food imports if the exporting country claims that its safety regime is “equivalent” to our own, even if it violates the key principles of our food safety laws. These rules would actually outsource food inspection to other countries.

Under TPP, any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as “illegal trade barriers,” which could very well force us to eliminate rules that don’t allow unsafe foods. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration that already inspects less than 1% of all seafood imports for health hazards, will accept more imports with the burden on inspection hitting the U.S., this in a country whose Congress is controlled by the GOP, a party which demonizes any form of inspection or regulation. Add to this, countries like Vietnam which have been found to have shrimp and fish contaminants with repeated illnesses.

Food labels could also be challenged as “trade barriers.” The TPP would impose limits on labels providing information on where a food product comes from or if a genetically modified food. Additionally, domestic producers could challenge existing policies, saying they undermine their expected profits for exports.

WikiLeaks revealed a leaked draft of the environmental chapter of the TPP, regarding a secret meeting in  Salt Lake City, Utah in 2013. Twelve countries met to deal with issues like overfishing, trade of wood products, wildlife crime, and illegal logging. Most of the measures are voluntary, rather than binding, and do not include any penalties or criminal sanctions for violations.

The voice of unions basically left out of the secret talks, union representatives expressed many of the same concerns mentioned above in several meetings.

Public Knowledge online provides an educated guess on how internet access and cost would be affected. Copywright owners power would be increased, with the music you stream, perhaps criminalizing small-scale copyright infringement. People could be kicked off the internet by your provider, giving IPs the authority to inspect the data you move. The deaf and the unsighted could lose their rights to read DRM protect ebooks and the deaf from inserting closed captioning onto DRM protected DVDs.

In his State of the Union address President Obama acknowledged, “Those at the top have never done better, but average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened.”  Just moments later, he heartily endorsed the TPP, which directly reflects the demands of “those at the top.”

The nations secretly negotiating the TPP together comprise some 40% of the world economy. Past agreements, have led to the demise of jobs, a great reduction in manufacturing, and an overall reduction in wage rates in the U.S. There is no reason to believe that the TPP won’t have the same effect.

For something negotiated by the elite rich from many countries in the dark – one would be stupid to believe otherwise. In fact, most objective sources predict that the TPP would provide transnational corporations with greater access to cheap labor and new power to trump public-interest protections for labor, food safety, drug prices, financial regulation, domestic procurement laws, just to name a few —  laws established over decades by democratic countries.

At the very least, the people should have a voice in TPP negotiations. Certainly our elected representatives do not seem to represent our interests and haven’t in past agreements. If you think that monolithic corporations that own the U.S. don’t oppress you now, wait for multi-national corporations to dictate terms of your welfare.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.