Trans-Pacific Partnership Update

“Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system.”  Senator Bernie Sanders

The Trans Pacific Partnership was released on Nov 5, 2015 in full to the public.  Before then only leaked versions of sections of the deal were posted online for people to see.  It can be read here:  https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/tpp-full-text  A slightly easier to read and navigate version can be found here:  https://medium.com/the-trans-pacific-partnership

The agreement is being signed on February 3, 2016.  Congress then has ninety legislative days in which to ratify the treaty.  Part of that process includes a bill (Implementing Act) sent to Congress that lists out all of the US laws that will have to be changed in order to make the trade deal work.  Congress cannot amend the deal and is only allowed to do a yes or no vote on the entire package.

I wrote a blog post the last time that the agreement had spurred emails that filled up my inbox.  This time my email is full of calls to sign petitions against the trade agreement.  In doing a search for “groups in favor of the TPP” the results on the first page have a majority of groups against the trade agreement, and only a few in favor.

A few details about the agreement:

  • Negotiated in secret for over 7 years
  • Covers 12 countries
  • Had approximately 500 corporate advisors
  • Sets up a TPP Commission that oversees the implementation and makes changes in the future; any change is then sent to Congress for ratification
  • 2,700 pages of text, 3,500 pages of tables, 30 chapters’ a dozen annexes and 60 side letters.
  • 6 out of 30 chapters deal with trade. The rest deal with things like:
    • Regulations and laws,
      • Pharmaceutical pricing, including drugs and devices
      • Food safety, allows for private certifications as a substitute for independent government inspections of food
      • Intellectual Property
      • Copyright
      • Country of Origin labelling

One of the issues with the agreement that is making the news recently is the inclusion of the Investor-state dispute settlement clause.  Here is Elizabeth Warren discussing this clause:

This clause has allowed for companies to sue governments.  Not the other way around.  They can challenge laws passed by a country, state, and/or city and get it either reversed and/or compensation.  The rulings cannot be appealed.

Currently this is an issue with the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that was rejected by the U.S.  TransCanada alleges that, “the politically-driven denial of Keystone’s application was contrary to all precedent; inconsistent with any reasonable and expected application of the relevant rules and regulations; and arbitrary, discriminatory, and expropriatory.”  They want $15 billion from US taxpayers in compensation.

Another example is when we had Country of Origin labelling on our meat in the 2008 Farm bill for pork and beef.  Food manufacturers in Canada and Mexico deemed that discriminatory and a technical barrier to trade and sued.  The trade triburnal found in their favor allowing them to recover more than $1 billion in compensation.

Randy Gordon president of the NGFA stated:

“It is important that the United States adhere to its WTO obligations and set an example for the rest of the world, particularly as it pursues significant new trade accords under the Trans Pacific Partnership and other initiatives.  A full repeal of COOL is the only policy option available that unquestionably would prevent imposition of sanctions and the economic damage that would result.”

Congress turned around and repealed the bill last year.

Another clause that has concern are those in the area of food safety.  The TPP includes a provision that will allow a company to challenge border inspection procedures that the company claims will cause an unnecessary delay.  For example if a shipment of shrimp from a country that grows shrimp in human and animal waste is coming into the country right now it is tested.  While being tested it sits at the dock waiting for it to pass inspection.  With this clause the company could claim it is an unnecessary delay.  The demand then goes to a TPP panel of experts for review to provide guidance on the inspection.

Below are just a few quotes and videos from those against the TPP:

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said this:

“The TPP will increase the volume of imported and potentially risky foods coming into the United States, but tie the hands of the border inspectors who are the last line of defense between the shipper and the supermarket.  The TPP gives companies new powers to second guess inspectors and push uninspected food onto the market.”

In a statement posted to his campaign website Bernie Sanders says:

“The TPP would expand the same failed “free trade” policies to 12 other nations that have already cost millions of jobs and shuttered tens of thousands of factories across the United States.  Make no mistake: if TPP passes, it will further hurt consumers and cost American jobs. So we must stop it, together.”

Here Bernie Sanders is talking on the floor of the Senate:

Hillary Clinton has stated,

“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” she went on to add, “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, policy analyst at Institute for Policy Studies, says that the stated purpose of the agreement — to eliminate tariffs — has distracted people from its more subtle goal of protecting corporate profits:

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said:

“TPP is a very big mistake.”  He goes on to say, “The irony is that the president came out and said, ‘This is about who makes the trade rules—China or the United States?’  But I think the big issue is, this is about who makes the rules of trade—the American people, our democratic process, or the corporations? And who they’re made for, which is, for the corporations or for all of us?”

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth had this statement:

“President Obama has sold the American people a false bill of goods. The Trans Pacific Partnership fails President Obama’s pledge to make the TPP an environmentally sound trade agreement.  Frankly this is not surprising; the text of this Trans Pacific trade deal was negotiated in secret by Mike Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, a former Citibank executive and Obama fundraiser. Froman took care of his friends on Wall Street and in corporate board rooms at the expense of sound environmental and climate policy. Congress must reject the TPP deal.”

Citizen.org released an analysis of the TPP which can be read here:  https://www.citizen.org/documents/analysis-tpp-text-november-2015.pdf

Evan Greer, Fight For the Future campaign director, said this:

“Now that we can read the final TPP text, it’s obvious why it was kept in total secrecy for so long: this agreement is a wishlist for powerful special interests and multinational corporations. The Intellectual Property chapter confirms our worst first about the TPP’s impact on our basic right to express ourselves and access information on the Internet. If U.S. Congress signs this agreement despite its blatant corruption, they’ll be signing a death warrant for the open Internet and putting the future of free speech in peril.”

Rickard Trumka from the AFL-CIO says,

“The final text of the agreement, released in November, is even worse than we imagined, with loopholes in labor enforcement and rewards for outsourcing. Like its predecessor agreements NAFTA and CAFTA, the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few. It is no wonder the presidential front-runners from both political parties oppose it.”

United Nations human rights expert Alfred de Zayas has called on governments not to sign the agreement:

“The TPP is fundamentally flawed and should not be signed or ratified unless provision is made to guarantee the regulatory space of States.  The TPP is based on an old model of trade agreements that is out of step with today’s international human rights regime.”  He goes on to say, “Should the TPP ever enter into force, its compatibility with international law should be challenged before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”

Margarent Chan, the head of The World Health Organization, has said this:

“I have been hearing some serious concerns that the TransPacific Partnership, the biggest trade agreement ever, may adversely affect the market for generics and biosimilars and increase the cost of medicines.”

The list of quotes and videos against the TPP could go on to include among others:

Below are just a few of the Petitons Against the TPP:

The Credo Petition can be signed here:  http://act.credoaction.com/sign/stop_tpp_2016?t=6&akid=16650.8572203.GYz4ho

Sierra Club Petition can be found here:

http://sierra.force.com/actions/National?actionId=AR0024837&_ga=1.106247749.771576107.1454460934

Open Media Petition can be found here:

https://dontsignthetpp.net/#top-of-the-form

MoveOn.Orgs petition can be found here:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-trans-pacific

EFF Action’s petition can be found here:   https://act.eff.org/action/speak-out-against-the-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement

 

 

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