There are trade deals, and there are disasters. From any perspective where the welfare of the American people is the priority, the Trans Pacific Partnership is an absolute and utter disaster.
For context, the Trans Pacific Partnership is an ambitious closed door agreement sewing up 40% of the world’s trade. The countries include Australia,Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It’s called a trade deal, but only 6 of the 30 chapters deal with traditional trade. The remaining chapters set domestic policy that will supersede the current domestic laws of the aforementioned nations.
Now, “trade deals” aren’t bad in principle, but like any deal, it depends on what you’re getting, versus what you’re giving. You propose to come to my house every night and make me a sandwich. That’s awesome! I love sandwiches. Then you tell me that under the guidelines of the agreement, you get to sleep with my fiancee. Well, that’s a deal breaker. In similar fashion, put bluntly, America is getting screwed.
The worst provision of the TPP is a concept called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). In a nutshell, it allows corporations to challenge the domestic laws of the signatories. So aside from the TPP expanding the power of financial institutions in startling and unprecedented ways (TISA), offshoring of jobs to countries with lower wages, undercutting wages in this country, undermining environmental standards, food safety standards, and increasing medicinal cost; it also destroys any common notion of American sovereignty on the basis of corporate profitability. For example, a corporation leaks a chemical into the air that causes respiratory issues for people in the area. If local governments pass a law to reign in that pollution, we, America, can be taken to a secret foreign tribunal composed of corporate lawyers acting as “judges” that particular day to determine whether that law unduly affects that company’s profits. On another day those same lawyer/judges are arguing on behalf of those same corporations. If we lose, we’d be obligated to pay the cost of that tribunal in addition to damages for “future profitability” that could run into the billions. This is patently insane.
It is so horrid, it sounds conspiratorial, but the undermining of state sovereignty for corporate interest (profit) is already happening under current trade deals. Eli Lilly has filed a 500 million dollar lawsuit against the Canadian government under NAFTA, complaining it has been shortening the lifespan of their patents for their best selling drugs. The United States was taken to court by Mexico under the auspices of the Word Trade Organization on account it believed labeling tuna ‘dolphin safe’ was unfair and “discriminatory” to Mexican fisherman who had a difficult time ensuring dolphins weren’t murdered in their attempt to catch tuna. Before the rules were set in place, dolphin safety wasn’t taken into account while procuring tuna. Reuters reports that
Millions of dolphins were killed before international conservation efforts set standards to protect dolphins and put professional observers on ships to record each tuna catch.
The United States lost the 20 year case, setting the priority of corporate profits over our environment.
Lung cancer advocate and cigarette giant Philip Morris sued Australia for binding arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong over a packaging law that would force cigarettes to be sold in a plain olive-brown packet with a graphic health warning, complaining it would cut its profits. More recently, Philip Morris tried the same tactic with Uruguay; suing them under a 1991 trade agreement with Switzerland for legislation that requires cigarette companies to cover the majority of the package with explicit health warnings. 90% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking. For all intents and purposes, it’s a cancer driven by their industry. Doesn’t matter! Our profits matter more than your citizens developing cancer.
The point is corporations are amoral. They’re legally constructed machines designed for the acquisition of profit. Government however, is constitutionally set to work in the public’s “welfare”. Its explicitly written in the Constitution. Who’s clamoring for this treaty!!? It was done in secret, so it couldn’t have been the American public. Particularly after the flowery promises made by the Clinton administration versus the reality of the abysmal failures of NAFTA; the last big trade agreement. By low estimates, damages include one million jobs lost, higher income inequality, $181 billion trade deficit with NAFTA countries, 360 million taxpayer dollars paid to ‘investor-state’ attacks; corporate legal attacks on U.S. domestic law and policy for damages to profit generation. Even though most Americans can’t give specifics, it has left a bad taste in our mouths. In a June 2015 poll by the NY Times/CBS News, 63% of respondents say trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industry. There’s a reason Hillary Clinton temporarily “evolved’ on the TPP after supporting it 45 times. It was so toxic, she didn’t want to be associated with it.
Democrats bristle at the question, but it needs to be asked. Obama raised over a billion dollars to win the last presidential election. Secretary Clinton raised 3 billion dollars over her 40 year career, in addition to an expected to 2 billion in this election cycle from companies and people that will benefit financially from the trade agreement. What promises are these neoliberals making for this money? Politics runs on systemic corruption. Princeton has concluded that the United States is no longer a democracy as the wants of the people are not reflected in the legislation. Legislation does however reflect the wants of donors. Legislation like the TPP. I ask again. Who was clamoring for this trade ‘agreement’? There were 600 corporate “advisers” in the room looking out for corporate interest. Who was looking out for the interest of the American people?