No to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership:
The Latest Threat to Jobs and Living Standards

What Is the TPP?
Why Is It Being Negotiated in Secret?
Then How Do We Know It Is Anti-Worker, Anti-Environment, Anti-Democratic, and Pro-Corporate?
What Should We Do?

What Is the TPP?

The Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP] is a major trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations [1] that promises to be even more destructive than the last major trade agreements, NAFTA and the WTO.  These changed the focus of “trade” agreements to a corporate agenda, including shifting production offshore, escaping unions and regulation, and tightening corporate control. Like all previous agreements, TPP is being touted as job-creating. [2] Far from it. NAFTA was projected to create 200,000 new jobs by increasing our exports to Mexico; instead, by 2010, it had eliminated nearly 700,000. [3] Nor was it good for the average Mexican worker: overall, jobs were lost there as well.[4] During the 2000s, U.S. global companies cut 2.9 million American workers, while hiring 2.4 million abroad. [5]

Not only is TPP being negotiated in secret by 600 hundred corporate advisors and the U.S. Trade Representative, but the talks will be secret for four years after the deal is concluded. [6] Trade itself is already substantially free. Global Trade Watch says TPP is more about establishing global corporate governance than it is about trade [only 5 of the 29 chapters of the TPP draft]. This massive corporate power grab will circumvent domestic judicial systems and undermine national sovereignty.  The TPP is fundamentally not about expanding trade, be it “free” or “fair.” It’s about expanding global corporate governance.

Why Is It Being Negotiated in Secret?

Although Congress has exclusive constitutional authority over trade, it has not only been excluded from the negotiations, it has not even been given the text of this still secret document. Why? To give opponents little time to organize and oppose it. Previous attempts to pass similar “free trade” pacts have been met with widespread public opposition.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson from Florida, the first member of Congress given the opportunity to see an edited version of the classified text after years of pressure, said of the draft, “Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty… I think that’s fair to say from what I’ve seen so far. But I’m not allowed to tell you why.”

President Obama is requesting Fast Track Authority and a vote could be held this fall. Fast Track by-passes normal Congressional review, limits debate, bans amendments, with only an up or down vote. This is intended to avoid democratic public opposition and resistance.

Then How Do We Know It Is Anti-Worker, Anti-Environment, Anti-Democratic, and Pro-Corporate?

A few chapters were leaked after more than two years of negotiations. If ratified, the TPP would establish a system of international tribunals allowing corporations to challenge the laws [even local ones], regulations and even court decisions of any member nation if they threaten the corporation’s expected future profits.  We reject the “investor-state” tribunal system that allows panels of three private sector lawyers to order unlimited taxpayer compensation to foreign firms for loss of profits while it forces governments to abandon laws that protect the public, workers and the environment. Under such a provision in NAFTA, an energy company is already suing Canada over a moratorium on fracking. [7]

TPP dismantles “Buy Local” preferences and procurement policies. This would dismantle important tools to create jobs, develop renewables, or build markets for socially desired business practices. These are significant because our trade laws make no special provisions encouraging high levels of employment. Trade pacts should maintain existing prevailing and living wage requirements, green, sweat-free, and human rights preferences and other policies designed to diminish long-standing inequalities.

Rather, enforceable human and labor rights are essential in any trade agreement to help reverse the global race to the bottom in working conditions and environmental practices and protect workers here and in the world’s poorest economies. Other provisions in the TPP specifically threaten many important safeguards. It undermines food safety by making it harder for countries to adopt regulations such as labeling laws or banning genetically-modified foods. Trade agreements should ensure that farmers and other food workers receive fair compensation and that consumers have access to safe and affordable foods.  Nations also must be able to protect themselves from unfair trade practices that force farmers off their land.

TPP extends monopoly drug patents for big pharmaceuticals, inhibiting access to lifesaving and affordable medicine both here and abroad.

TPP spurs further financial deregulation despite our disastrous recent experience.  Trade pacts should set floors, not ceilings, governing the regulation of banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial service providers. They should not call for deregulation or privatization of any private or public service.

TPP seeks to curtail internet freedom, more than the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” derailed by critics. TPP would require internet service providers to “police” user activity, including treating individual violators as though they were major profit-seeking users, and stifling creative use.

What Should We Do?

Grassroots movements in the past have successfully stopped the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the expansion of the World Trade Organization, and others.

We must stop plans to bring the TPP to a Fast Track vote this fall.  We must act now, using education, protest mobilizations, and civil disobedience to stop the TPP. Did you oppose NAFTA? The TPP is even more destructive to our values and livelihood.

Public Citizen says, “The key to stopping the TPP is stopping Fast Track. Fast Track procedures can only be used if a majority in Congress agrees. Your representative needs to know why it’s vital to oppose the Fast Track scam.”

Script and where to call are at

Talk with your neighbors; Call Congress. Here are some resources to help you.

We Reject the TPP
We Reject Fast Track
We Demand Labor Rights; Environmental and other Protections

NAFTA—North American Free Trade Agreement
WTO—World Trade Organization

There is one other key factor to be considered here. Although TPP would be catastrophic for workers and is vehemently opposed by labor, it is being promoted by Democratic Party President Obama and is drawing some bipartisan support. This only underscores again the need for independent labor political action leading to the formation of a workers’ party based on the unions.

[1] Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S., Viet Nam. If Japan joins the talks “it would boost the proposed agreement to one covering nearly 40% of the world economic output” according to the Wall Street Journal. [Back]

[2] Obama claims TPP “will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports and creating more jobs for our people” [Back]

[3] [Back]

[4] “American jobs did move south, particularly into the export sector. The growth in services — new supermarkets, banks, tourism — also created jobs. But overall, Mexico was unable to create enough jobs to make up for all the jobs lost because of competition from imports, particularly purchases of subsidized grains from the United States.” [Back]

[5] [Back]

[6] [Back]

[7] ibid. [Back]


About elnwebmaster

This is the discussion blog of the Labor Fightback Network, an auxiliary to the website. It is designed to facilitate discussion among labor activists concerning the critical issues facing working people in the current economic crisis. Readers’ comments are welcome, but flaming is not. Any comments which are racist, sexist/homophobic, or disrespectful on a personal level will not get past moderation.
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