Progressive press coverage of the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a “trade agreement” being discussed between the U.S. and nine other countries (Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore) — has focused thus far on the secrecy of the talks between nations. But since a letter leaked revealing more details about what’s in store, free trade detractors have been able to form a more educated argument against the multi-national canoodling.
In The Nation this week, Lori Wallach calls the TPP “Nafta on steroids” and explains exactly why the deal is so scary:
Think of the TPP as a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent—grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more.
The stakes are extremely high, because the TPP may well be the last “trade” agreement Washington negotiates. This is because if it’s completed, the TPP would remain open for any other country to join. In May US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he “would love nothing more” than to have China join. In June Mexico and Canada entered the process, creating a NAFTA on steroids, with most of Asia to boot.
At this point, trade profiteers’ fantasy paradox of pursuing globalization while preaching patriotism is developing a trite ring. Beyond the job-losing potential of the TPP is the undermining of rules put in place to sway the consumer environment in America’s direction and protect workers:
Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged. If the TPP comes to fruition, its retrograde rules could be altered only if all countries agreed, regardless of domestic election outcomes or changes in public opinion. And unlike much domestic legislation, the TPP would have no expiration date.
How could something this extreme have gotten so far? The process has been shockingly secretive. In 2010 TPP countries agreed not to release negotiating texts until four years after a deal was done or abandoned. Even the World Trade Organization, hardly a paragon of transparency, releases draft negotiating texts. This means that although the TPP could rewrite vast swaths of domestic policy affecting every aspect of our lives, the public, press and Congress are locked out. Astoundingly, Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP, has been denied access even to US proposals to the negotiations. But 600 corporate representatives serving as official US trade advisers have full access to TPP texts and a special role in negotiations.