Imagine. While some of us are working to curtail fracking, assure GMO labeling, promote various green and buy-local initiatives, protect Internet freedom, bolster labor rights, enforce banking regulations, behind our backs our president, Barack Obama, is working to make all those efforts moot.
I am not making this up, even if you haven’t heard of it yet.
It is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact, only the TPP isn’t just a trade agreement. It slays safety regulations and labor protections, curtails communication freedoms, and re-writes domestic laws of the participating countries. It’s been called a mass assault on democracy and the biggest, most sinister corporate power grab yet.
The reason you haven’t heard of it is two-fold. All the negotiations, since 2008, have been going on behind thick closed doors and the major media outlets have apparently found it too hard to get a whiff and a sniff. Or, they’re in on it.
Why the secrecy? At least one Congressman, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who did manage to get a peek at a draft, as long as he promised not to reveal its contents, said it must be kept secret or the people would never stand for it.
But representatives of 600 major corporations, who are in on the negotiations, love it. That’s because, according to Kevin Reese, co-director of popularresistance.org, it gives major corporations unprecedented power.
Now, according to our U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to regulate trade, so why worry? Because, there’s a way to get around that and Obama is trying to use it.
Just this month (Sept.), the President pressured Congress to grant him extra-constitutional authority, known as “Fast Track,” to complete the TPP without congressional scrutiny.
“Fast Track” would have Congress voting up or down on the massive document without any power to discuss or amend any of it. This is an arcane procedure devised by Richard Nixon, according to Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach, “but that was when trade negotiations covered only real trade stuff.”
Wallach describes Fast Track as a “legislative luge run.” There have been trade agreements that underwent and survived congressional scrutiny, she said. “You only need Fast Track to shove something through Congress, something that is bad for the country.” She suggests all of us contact our Congressmen and Senators and urge them not to abrogate their authority over trade. So does the Green Shadow Cabinet.
People must do their own research on this because the major media outlets aren’t taking it on. There are sporadic articles, but where’s that New York Times or Washington Post thoroughness gone? TPP is a profoundly important matter, but those who want it — think any old sweat shop proprietor up to an including Monsanto — have succeeded in keeping it quiet. A Google alert on the topic for the past three or four months has shown most reports are coming from the foreign press and obscure websites, with some exceptions.
Last week TPP protestors dropped a banner from the Trade Building in Washington to protest the pact and its secret negotiations. The Post covered that – but didn’t really get into the issues.
So here’s a bit of what they’re neglecting to say:
ANYTHING THAT INTERFERES WITH PROFITS WILL BE FORBIDDEN
TPP will vaporize any law that interferes with making money. You might want to label the country of origin of a food item, for instance. Some Canadian beef got mad cow? No matter. They won’t label it Canadian. That would cut into the exporter’s profits. GMO? That would be discrimination. You prefer not to have your medicine from a Chinese factory. You won’t be able to know. Food and medicine that would formerly be blocked for not meeting our standards will have a red carpet.
Obama originally wanted to exempt tobacco regulations. Keep the warning labels. That has mostly gone by the wayside. Nations can now argue about tobacco regulations that hamper sales.
Doctors Without Borders has heard of TPP. Its members are doing the best they can to protest the plan. It promises to keep patents on medicines longer, which would make it harder to provide affordable drugs for impoverished countries and peoples.
One Michigan Congressman is working for a “Buy Local” law. It won’t be enforceable. That would be discrimination against the far off producer under the TPP. Who knows? Farmers Markets themselves might become illegal.
Zeese says the TPP is not about free trade, “it’s rigged trade.” As he explains in this video, TPP is designed to allow major corporations to dominate business, which will hurt smaller countries most. And, he said, countries with laudable health care plans, like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, will be hard pressed to protect those plans. The TPP will ensure health care as a commodity.
Some labor leaders have heard of it. They say TPP will devastate an already devastated job market in the U.S. Wallach pointed out that, in the latest round of negotiations, pressure is mounting for easy visas for workers to come to the U.S. This will further deflate wages for American workers. Jobs won’t have to be sent abroad for cheap labor – the cheap labor will come to the jobs.
Zeese cites studies that show the TPP will deliver merely a 0.13 increase in GDP, while furthering the race to the bottom in wages.
I am sitting in Michigan where many of the flagship businesses and single proprietor stores I used to know are all boarded up. Shopping centers are ghost towns. Most of the middle class is gone. People struggle on ever lower wages and part time status, sans benefits. A foreign employer could come in and make it even worse and under the TPP we would be helpless to protest.
“I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it:
1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].
I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way. For now, I’ve set up an e-mail address where you can ask me questions on this topic or other topics: email@example.com”
It is hard to believe any thinking citizen without major corporate stock could see merit to the TPP. We must have effective environmental laws, health and food safety laws, fight tobacco pushers, and the rest. And, oh, I didn’t yet explain what TPP would do to Internet freedom, which is, after all, part and parcel of our essential Freedom of Speech.
In the US and Canada, elsewhere, too, probably, laws would have to change about copyright infringement. Currently we have laws that differentiate between private and for-profit use. These would have to go.
Here’s the analysis of Global Trade Watch:
“Under this proposal, Internet Service Providers could be required to “police” user activity (i.e.police YOU), take down Internet content, and cut people off from Internet access for common user-generated content. Violations could be as simple as the creation of a YouTube video with clips from other videos, even if for personal or educational purposes. Mandatory fines could be imposed for individuals’ noncommercial copies of copyrighted material. So downloading some music could be treated the same as large scale for profit copyright violations. Innovation would be stifled as the creation and sharing of user generated content would face new barriers and as monopoly copyrights would be extended. The TPP proposes to impose copyright protections for a minimum of 20 years for corporate-created content. Breaking digital locks for legit purposes, such as using Linux, could subject users to mandatory fines. Blind and deaf people also would be harmed by the overreach, as digital locks can block access to audio supported content and closed captioning.”
Remember SOPA? How the public outcry stopped this legislation that would have done similar? Lets hope the same people are listening.
DISPUTES WILL EVADE LEGITIMATE COURTS
Disputes under this pact won’t go to court. TPP people have got that rigged, too. The TPP creates an international tribunal. Its judges will be the lawyers and CEOS who wrote the TPP. Everyone gets screwed– except the corporations and those people working for them. (And there will be disputes. Remember when, under NAFTA, the American firm Lone Pine Resources was set to sue Quebec for $250 million over the province’s fracking moratorium?) There’s more folks. If you want to look. But one thing sums it up: The TPP is an assault on democracy. If unelected trade reps and corporate bullies can re-write our laws and make new ones impossible, what’s next? World government by multi-national corporations? You might say we’re already there and we just don’t know it. I don’t think we should give up without a fight. “Never Surrender” as Winston Churchill once said. If we do, no longer will we have the right to insist what’s right trump what’s profitable.