TPP Workgroup: Trade Policy People (fighting the TPP, the TTIP, and other lousy trade deals)

The Trans Pacific Partnership: The TPP is a massive proposed international trade deal, sometimes referred to as NAFTA on steroids. If approved, the deal would threaten our health and safety as well as the environment. Pushed forward by corporate interests and the Obama administration, the deal involves the US, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Other Pacific Rim countries may join the agreement over time. If approved, the TPP would be the largest free trade agreement in US history. Opposition to this trade deal is growing, but the fight against TPP is not yet over.

 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, or TAFTA): The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade agreement currently under negotiation between the EU and the United States. Many of the negative aspects of the TPP are also present in the TTIP.

 

The “Fast Track” process for approving trade deals: “Fast Track” (aka “trade promotion authority”) is a trade negotiating and approval process that prevents Congress from having influence over the terms of a particular trade agreement. Under Fast Track, Congress’s role in passing any particular trade agreement is only through an up-or-down vote.  The most recent iteration of fast track is  the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 which was introduced in January, 2014. As noted by Sierra Club’s, Michael Brune,  “this legislation strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic — its check-and-balance structure. If Congress is not able to fully debate and, if necessary, amend the language of these all-encompassing trade pacts, the environment, our climate, and our families could suffer as a result.” Although Fast Track does not have the full backing of Democrats at this time, many believe the President will make a strong push for Fast Track authority this fall after the elections….and because many of the WA State Democratic representatives have held back from opposing Fast Track, we need to keep pressuring them on this issue.

 

Major issues under the TPP:

 

The TPP is very bad news for anyone who cares about labor and the environment. It weakens environmental and food safety regulations, and limits the sovereignty of every nation that joins the agreement, which means that environmental laws, including regulation of carbon emissions, could be threatened by this trade deal. It could also lead to an explosion of fracking. Here are the major concerns under the TPP:

 

  1. The agreement has been negotiated in secret: While 600 corporate trade representatives have been included, the public has not been represented and has not been able to see the full text.  Even Congress has been unable to see the full text! This violates the democratic values of this country.
  2. TPP has little to do with trade:   Only 5 of the 29 chapters are about trade. The vast majority of chapters have to do with limits on food safety, health, and environmental policies. Other chapters expand patents, and eviscerate financial regulations.
  3. The TPP includes an undemocratic system of corporate privileges called the investor-state provisions: a leaked text of the TPP reveals that it would include and even expand the controversial system of extreme corporate privileges called the “investor-state” regime. Under this system, individual foreign corporations are given equal status with the sovereign governments signing the deal – allowing them to privately enforce this public treaty. In addition, foreign corporations are able to skirt domestic laws and courts and directly challenge governments’ health, environmental and other public interest policies before extra-judicial tribunals authorized to order unlimited amounts of compensation with taxpayer dollars. NAFTA and other trade agreements have similar provisions. During just the first seven years of NAFTA, $13 billion was claimed by corporations in their initial filings: $1.8 billion from US taxpayers. A list of NAFTA cases through 2005 and their results, can be found here.  An example of an “investor-state” case is Ethyl Corporation’s case challenging Canada’s ban on MMT, a toxic gasoline additive. Rather than fight Ethyl in the tribunal, Canada settled and payed Ethyl $13 million. It’s not hard to imagine a foreign oil corporation suing the US in order to challenge an American law limiting carbon emissions. In fact, Canada is considering suing the US under NAFTA, due to the President’s “failure” to make a timely decision on the Keystone Pipeline.
  4. The TPP could increase fracking: Under normal circumstances, in order for the US to export natural gas, the Department of Energy (DOE) must first conduct a study to determine whether the export is consistent with the public interest. However, under the TPP, the DOE loses its authority to regulate such exports in the case of countries with which we have a trade agreement. As a result, the TPP could result in a drastic increase in natural gas exports, and in fracking.
  5. The TPP threatens public health: The TPP harms public health by limiting consumers’ access to cheaper generic drugs.  This is because the agreement would include extensions of monopoly drug patents, and even allow monopoly rights over surgical procedures. In addition, the TPP would empower foreign corporations to directly challenge our public health laws, including laws that regulate toxics, cigarettes and alcohol.
  6. The TPP threatens food safety: The TPP raises food safety concerns as well, limiting our ability to ensure  the safety of imported food. Note that half the seafood consumed in the US is imported, and yet the FDA has already issued 25 import alerts for Vietnam this year with Vietnamese seafood detained for misbranding, E. coli, and more. Seafood imports from Vietnam are plagued by unusually high levels of antibiotic residues, microbial contamination, and other serious food safety concerns confirmed by FDA laboratory testing. In spite of these safety concerns, however, under other trade agreements similar to the TPP, safety standards are often treated as trade barriers and are weakened. Congresswoman DeLauro of Connecticut views this aspect of the TPP as a serious food safety issue.
  7. The TPP interferes with the democratic process regarding GMO labeling.  Many in the northwest are concerned about GMOs. A majority of voters in King County supported Initiative 522, which would have required GMO labeling. Although this particular initiative did not pass, nearly half of US states are considering labeling legislation, and Washington may address the issue again. Yet under the TPP, such labeling laws would not be allowed. A trade agreement that thwarts the ability of American voters to make their own choices about food labeling laws is unacceptable.

 

What can you do?

  1. Call or visit your WA Congressional representative today!   Your calls and visits are especially critical if you live in the districts of Representatives Del Bene (WA01), Larsen (WA02), or Kilmer (WA06).  They need to hear from you to help them do the right thing. McDermott has claimed to oppose Fast Track, but he also needs your calls to stand firm. Tell your representatives and senators: “I’m for fair trade that creates living wage jobs and protects the climate. Passing Fast Track Authority on a deal that has been kept secret from the American public and from Congress is just plain wrong, and it’s no way to run a democracy.  Please act in the interest of your constituents and don’t agree to a deal that you haven’t even seen.  Say No to Fast Track authority. ”
  2. Spread the word!  Many representatives who co-sponsored the  (anti-fracking) FRAC Act have yet to come out against Fast Track (even though the TPP would eviscerate anti-fracking and other environmental laws). If you have friends living in these districts, please contact them and ask them to get everyone they know to contact their representative: in OR03 (Portland), CO02 (top middle), CT01 (Hartford), Il05 (northernmost part of Chicago), MA07 (Boston), MD08 (Frederick), NC04 (Raleigh/Chapel Hill/ Fayetteville), NY13 (just west of the Bronx) and VA11 (West Springfield - Fairfax county).

 

To learn more, explore the following links:

 

For general information:

For environment-specific information:

Links to actual suits filed in tribunals under current NAFTA Chapter 11 directly challenging Canadian government over Quebec’s fracking moratorium and the Green Energy Act’s local procurement regulations. They are exactly the kinds of suits we can expect more of  under TPP rules:

 

Information on TAFTA (the proposed European trade agreement):

 

Concerns regarding the constitutionality of the investor-state provisions:

 

Economist Joseph Stiglitz critiques the TPP: