You know how big-company lobbyists get some states to pass laws that block cities and counties from doing something about problems like tobacco or guns? Well there is a "trade" treaty called the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the works that sets down international rules that would keep our Congress and our states from regulating the giant multinational corporations. If we can keep Congress from being stampeded into passing "Fast Track" maybe we can stop this corporate takover -- or at least get the terms changed in our favor.
I hosted an FDL Book Salon yesterday, over at firedoglake (FDL), named FDL Book Salon Welcomes Lori Wallach, The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority. In the setup for the conversation I wrote,
You think trade is complicated, technical, boring, so you tune out and don’t pay attention to the issue… And then BANG, you’re told they are moving the facility where you work out of the country and you are going to be laid off, but if you want your severance and the chance to collect unemployment you have to train your replacement. Not long after that, in other factories and offices everyone is told to accept wage and benefit cuts or they’ll move that facility out of the country, too.
... After a year you finally land a job! The job is you have to dress up like a duck and stand on a corner waving a sign. These are the things that all of this arguing about trade is about. Welcome to the new America.
Lori Wallach's book talks about a process called "Fast Track" which means Congress agrees to drop that pesky "checks and balances" thing in our burdensome Constitution. They agree not to make any amendments to trade agreements, not to allow any filibusters, and agree to vote in a serious hurry once the agreement is ready. It also is the only time the executive branch writes laws instead of Congress, so we don't have those pesky transparent hearings or those pesky citizens weighing in.
The short time before a vote enables giant corporations to do one of those multi-million-dollar "crisis" run-up campaigns they do to stampede Congress into something. While this is going on the lobbyists will argue that turning down the agreement will damage US credibility and foreign relations. They will argue that the agreement will "create jobs." They will say and promise whatever they need to say and promise to get COngress to pass it.
Fast Track is part of how we ended up with our enormous trade deficit that is draining around $600 billion a year out of our economy. But here is the good news: Fast Track is not currently in place. It expired several years ago and Congress has not renewed it. But the new nominee for US Trade Representative said last week that he is going to push for Fast Track. (Please click through to see the charts.) So we have to keep this from happening.
If we can keep Congress from passing Fast Track then there is more time to build opposition to TPP as it look like now, and we can pressure Congress to either pass amendments that put protections for working people, consumers, the environment, smaller-than-giant businesses, human rights and other non-multinational-corporate interests into the agreement -- or just block it if all else fails.
The TPP is the big enchilada of trade agreements. It is an attempt by the billionaires and their giant multinationals to bypass the stirrings of democracy that have been taking place around the world. It is being negotiated of, by and for the giant multinationals with pver 600 corporate advisors involved -- but not even our own Congress. In my CAF post, TPP: A Deregulation Treaty Not A Trade Treaty, I wrote about how the negotiating process itself is a setup,
“The upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is using a process that is rigged from the start. It is not being negotiated by governments for the benefit of their people, it is being negotiated by executives (or future executives/lobbyists currently in government) largely for the benefit of the giant corporations they serve. The process has these giant corporations “in the loop” but groups citizens, working people, consumers, the environment, human rights groups and especially democracy are not part of the process. That can only go one way: if you don’t have a seat at the table you are on the table — the meal.”
Got that? ONLY corporate representatives are party to the negotiations. Not even our Congress is a party to the negotiations, and the terms negotiated so far are being kept secret even from them!
Only a small part of this agreement is about trade. The rest is about things that are absolutely supposed to be done by our Congress - and only our Congress. "investor "rights -- the rights of people with tons of money to get what they want -- limits on regulations, things like that. Senator Elizabeth Warren has warned that it looks like Wall Street is trying to use TPP to make an "end-run" around American efforts to reign in the big banks.
This will limit by law what our democracy is allowed to decide! One example of the things these trade agreements do for the giant corporations that Lori pointed out in the FDL discussion was how a European firm is suing Egypt for increasing their minimum wage after Egypt’s revolution, because that costs that company money.
And the worst part is that it is being set up so that new trade agreements don't even have to be negotiated,
What You Can Do
Forst and foremost, be aware of this upcoming TPP, and start learning more. Learn about Fast Track. Write and call and visit the office of your member of Congress and let them know of your concerns. (One of the problems is that many members of Congress are not well-informed about TPP and about the dangers of Fast Track.)
Ending the conversation, Lori wrote:
If you want to help stop Fast Track, please sign up for action alters on Fast Track and TPP at tradewatch.org At the bottom of the page you can sign up with your email.
You can also get regular news updates at our eyesontrade blog – follow the RSS feed! http://citizen.typepad.com/eyesontrade/
Also, check out http://www.ExposetheTPP.org it is a great action oriented site
So if you don't want to end up having to dress up like a duck and stand on a corner waving a "car wash" sign just to get enough food to survive (but still sleeping in an old car) you need to pay attention to this. We have to stop TPP or get it changed to serve the people of the country, instead of the billionaires.
Follow me and CAF on Twitter: