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RAT PACT: CWA’s Peres, CEPR’s Baker Weigh In Anew on the Horrors of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Ken Peres, Chief Economist for the Communication Workers of America (CWA), is sounding the alarm that the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is worse for workers than even its foes realize.

The “free trade agreement” that has become a top priority of the Obama Administration sets dangerous precedents for America’s economic approach. Peres recently discussed TPP and the interest multi-national corporations have in its signage:

“The point of their agenda is to attack what they view as obstacles: Government and labor,” Peres said. “This gives you an idea of why corporations want to push this agreement.”

Our position on this rat pact is well-known among our devoted readers. It is a 1%er’s dream which, if passed, will have long-lasting, negative effects. A proposed “docking agreement” would allow countries wishing to sign into free trade agreements with the United States to simply attach onto TPP, unchecked. Further, TPP will take the legal concept of corporate personhood to a new level of corporate super humanism. The deal will, in fact, directly affect the soverignty of the United States and give corporations a legal “out” of the American legal system concerning labor laws and standards.

Peres has plenty to say about it in this must-listen audio interview:

Like other prior trade pacts, TPP would supposedly rip down tariff and other barriers in the U.S. and the other nations involved. Those 11 nations range from developed and advanced Australia and New Zealand to low-wage low-cost Vietnam.

It’s unfinished, but TPP already draws flak from unions and workers. The AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers, the Steel Workers and the Auto Workers oppose Japan’s bid to join the talks, citing its high trade barriers and refusal to allow imports, its currency manipulation, and the labor law-breaking by Japanese firms in the U.S.

And some 600 companies, including many multi-nationals, are “advisers” to U.S. bargainers, and get to see proposed U.S. text of the TPP. But only one consumer group is an adviser, as is the AFL-CIO. TPP’s text is kept secret from Congress.

There’s a big reason for that, the panelists warn: The proposed text could literally upend and invalidate virtually every protection U.S. law gives workers, citizens and consumers, from acts of Congress on down to local ordinances.

TPP would let the multi-nationals challenge and overturn “any law, regulation, requirement, procedure or practice” that a company – bypassing a national government – believes restrains trade, Peres added, quoting from leaked pact text.

“What they want is to set the rules of the game so that they can get the government – any government – out of their way,” Peres said of interests pushing TPP.  

TPP aims to give corporations free reign over the global economy for the foreseeable future. It will also allow said corporations to challenge American laws by appealing them to a corporate-friendly tribunal whose power can trump the American legal system.

Economist Dean Baker echoes Peres’ fears in a new article for CEPR:

The deals in questions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.–European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both being pushed as major openings to trade that will increase growth and create jobs. In fact, eliminating trade restrictions is a relatively small part of both agreements, since most tariffs and quotas have already been sharply reduced or eliminated.

Rather, these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.

As for wages, Peres has the low-down on the low-road:

TPP would also let firms get away with undercutting U.S. workers by paying rock-bottom wages and exporting exploited workers’ goods to the U.S. without restrictions, Peres said. The current U.S. minimum wage, he noted, works out to $56 for an 8-hour day. The daily minimum in Malaysia, a TPP nation, is $8.70, compared to $4.59 in China – which is not in TPP – and $2.23 in Vietnam.

Workers have sufficient rights battles on their hands domestically. Adding a murky international component to that fight is a move rooted in utter disregard for the American workforce and the nation’s economic sovereignty. Making good with rich donors is something so heinous that it borders on unbelievable coming from an allegedly center-left administration. The TPP is a corporate coup and one that the government doesn’t even have the decency to execute in public view.


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