Saturday, October 10, 2015


I've been pretty clear - and consistent - about my opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. Apart from weakening labor and lowering middle class wages, the agreement has been negotiated largely in secret. Adding to the larger storyline we have this NY Times op-ed piece"Trans-Pacific Pact Would Kill Jobs and Consumer Protection." In the article Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, helps explain what's wrong with the TPP. 

Wallach begins  by explaining how the TPP undermines American sovereignty because it takes the U.S. Congress out of the domestic rule making process by making it clear that any U.S. law that violate the rules of the TPP can be ignored by corporations. Specifically,

... only six of the TPP’s 30 chapters even cover actual trade issues. The rest are a trade pact Trojan horse of regulatory relaxation and new corporate rights to which signatories agree they will conform their own laws. 
These include new monopoly protections for pharmaceutical firms that would extend patent terms, shut out generic competition and raise medicine prices. Another chapter would require us to import seafood, meat and poultry that does not comply with U.S. safety standards. Vietnam and Malaysia have major shrimp farms whose products are often rejected in the United States because of the antibiotics and other substances, like feces, that are poured into the shrimp ponds. But enforcing our standards could be considered an illegal trade barrier under the TPP. Another TPP chapter would ban “Buy American” and “Buy Local” policies, giving all firms operating in any signatory country equal access to U.S. procurement contracts. 

But wait, it gets better (or is that worse?). Much like the snap-back provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement, designed to protect industry profits, there's a "you need to protect my profits" clause in the TPP agreement too. Wallach writes, 

And the TPP would expand the "investor-state" dispute settlement system that allows foreign firms operating here to drag the U.S. government before extrajudicial tribunals staffed by private corporate lawyers to demand unlimited taxpayer compensation if they think our environmental, health or other laws violate their TPP rights and limit their “expected future profits.” 

What kind of "free trade" agreement are we negotiating if only six of the trade pacts 30 chapters deal with trade and if we can't create laws to protect Americans because doing so might get in the way of profits for foreign firms?

At the end of the day the TPP really isn't about opening markets as much as it's about guaranteeing market survival and protecting profit share. This is ironic since there were virtually no protections for the families of auto workers (and others) who lost their jobs because of NAFTA. Making matters worse is how the TPP is virtually silent about the financial sector (and the bailouts), unless you count calling for more deregulation as a market step forward.

So, yeah, the TPP deal has little to do with cultivating competition or free markets. It's about creating a global market playground, with plenty of escorted profits and regulatory safety nets for the world's largest market players.

- Mark 

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