In the children’s book/movie “Matilda”, the principal was able to get away with ridiculous punishments because she knew that her actions were so extreme that no parents would ever believe her. Now, the United States is trying a similar tactic to get away with extreme pandering to corporate interests in a manner that is so undemocratic it seems unreal.
How alarming would it be to hear that right now, the Obama administration is holding secret negotiations with a number of other countries to form a new free-trade agreement that dramatically affects all of us, and yet, only 600 corporate advisors have access to the full text, and that this agreement would allow corporate regulations to trump U.S. law?
It’s absolutely incredible, but it’s true. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is being negotiated with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, with other countries like Japan and China potentially joining later. Its power is a threat to our sovereignty.
So why haven’t you heard of the TPP? Because no one is covering it. No one involved wants anyone to know about it. Luckily, some parts of it have been leaked, and we can get a hint of just how scary it is.
What effect would the TPP have on America? Well, it certainly already represents the breaking of campaign promises. This partnership is, unfortunately, one of the few things that President Obama and Governor Romney agree on – both say they’ll finish the negotiations. But they both have also sworn to expand “Buy American” procurement preferences, which the TPP outright bans. “That’s not a prediction, it’s in the text,” said Lori Wallach, director of the Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
- Not only does the TPP’s avoidance of this law make it easier for corporations to outsource jobs, the TPP actually encourages such behavior. One chapter “literally creates incentives and new safeguards and privileges for companies that offshore their jobs to low wage countries,” Wallach said. “You do the wrong thing for American workers, you get a benefit.”
- The TPP would dramatically undermine U.S. environmental standards. The agreement includes a chapter that allows for foreign corporations who build on U.S. land to ignore our environmental laws and override our courts. Foreign companies could actually sue the U.S. if they thought any domestic law undermined their ability to make profits!
- The TPP would severely affect lower-income Americans when it comes to medicine and could be potentially fatal to people in poorer nations who sign the agreement. A chapter of the text allows lifelong extensions for big pharmacy medication patents. This would mean generic medications could no longer be created, which dramatically drives up the price of medications. For people in poorer countries, this is a matter of life and death – whether or not they can afford their medicine for AIDS or malaria.
- The TPP would affect the health of almost all Americans, due to its policies regarding food imports from the other countries. The TPP weakens the U.S. food standards, and its “equivalence rule” will allow companies to import food that has not met our national safety standards. In addition, companies that import would not have to meet our labeling requirements, such as country-of-origin for meat or dolphin-free tuna.
- One chapter of the TPP actually brings back the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was proposed about a year ago. The SOPA was considered by many to represent an unacceptable amount of interference by the government, including much stricter monitoring of the Internet. It would include an unprecedented level of censorship and violation of the first amendment. There was so much public outcry that the bill was eventually shelved. So now, it is being snuck into the TPP, where everything is kept secret.
“The real way to think about this is a Trojan horse: it is binding corporate governance, it is strongly enforced. If you don’t conform your country’s laws to these rules, you face trade sanctions or fines, and these chapters of agreement don’t have anything to do with trade. It’s rewriting our domestic laws, so there is corporate governance,” Wallach said.
All of these reasons are just the tip of the iceberg of the damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership would do to America and other countries. The negotiations are ongoing and still secret, so it’s hard to tell how much worse it could get, and we may not realize it until it is too late. Right now, Congress is left out of the negotiations and doesn’t entirely know what is going on. They have the final word, but they will be forced to give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” to the complete agreement, which is being written entirely by corporate interests. Obama and Romney both support this bill, so one or the other candidate won’t save us – we, the people, have to fight against this legislation, no matter what.