If I Was A Member Of Congress: Letter To President On Fast Track/TPP

Dave Johnson

What happened in the Senate Tuesday shows why the corporations are fighting so hard to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A legislative body jumped in and interfered with corporate plans. The nerve of those people!

Try to see it from the point of view of the giant, multinational corporations and billionaires. What do we need these “countries” and their governments for? The corporate world looks at Tuesday’s successful blockage of fast track authority and says, “See, this is exactly what we are trying to get away from with TPP. These democracies act on public whims, their politicians are always keeping their ear to the ground for whatever the public fancies, and at any time they are liable to turn against the best corporate plans… We have to put a stop to this meddling.”

If the Congress can just go ahead and thwart the corporate agenda, clearly something has to be done about it. And that something is TPP – and, of course, use fast track authority to preapprove it before people catch on.

If I Was In Congress

If I was in the Congress, this is what I would say:

Mr. President,

If you want me to vote for Fast Track – essentially pre-approving TPP – here is what I need first:

Please send over a copy of the TPP agreement as it stands today. This way I can sit down with my staff and go over it and start understanding what effect this agreement will have on my constituents. (And next time, don’t go starting negotiations without being instructed to by Congress, along with instructions as to what Congress wants negotiated. See Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.)

Please also send copies to the attached list of experts I trust, so they can look it over and give me their opinions.

Please also send a copy to the following leaders of labor, environmental and other organizations representing stakeholders because I want to talk with them and find out if their concerns are addressed.

Please also release to the public the parts of TPP that have been concluded along with summary of what is happening with the parts that have not been finalized, so they can start working out what this huge deal means for them. You’re selling this as rewriting the rules for doing business in the 21st century and that’s a big deal. The public needs to weigh in on what those rules will be. (Don’t give me any nonsense about how this has to be secret so other countries don’t hold back on their best offers; we shouldn’t be helping other countries hide things from their own citizens.)

After coming to an understanding of what has been done so far, I will prepare a list (starting with Rep. Sander Levin’s list) of what I think should be in the agreement. You will then instruct your negotiators to focus on getting those things into the agreement.

At the top of the list will be the need for balanced trade that lifts wages on all sides of trade borders. We do not want any more agreements that send jobs, factories and entire industries out of our country to places where people can’t afford to buy what we make here. We do not need more trade “partners” who sell to us but do not buy from us.

To this end the agreement must, must, must have an enforceable mechanism to stop currency manipulation and get us back on a level playing field. (Addressing that problem brings back as many as 5.8 million jobs.)

I and others in Congress will likely have instructions for more objectives to be negotiated after we go over the existing agreement with staff, experts, leaders of stakeholder organizations and the public.

I saw in the New York Times that there is a special “corporate courts” provision written into TPP. These give corporations their own enforcement court and lets them bring their own cases to that court, to be adjudicated by their own representatives, completely outside of our own sovereign system of law and courts. Nice try – just about what I would expect from an agreement written by corporate representatives. Now here is what I want added to the agreement: Labor, environmental and other stakeholders must be able to bring cases that are adjudicated and enforced on an equal basis with those brought by corporations. This ISDS enforcement system must not apply to any cases involving the United States. (We are an advanced representative democracy that already has a legal system, thank you. Some countries need ISDS before they are safe places to invest, but we do not.)

The priority of trade agreements must be to expand prosperity to all people and make our lives better, not to increase corporate profits. Working people must be protected in this agreement. Outsourcing people’s jobs will not be a reason to enter into trade agreements. To this end, the agreement must prohibit companies from threatening their employees with the loss of a job from outsourcing. There must also be other protections that protect the priority of lifting wages and benefits on all sides of trade borders.

Also to this end of protecting wages and prosperity, this agreement must require that a company opening up production elsewhere must pay a significant portion of the current wage here to workers there. (If a company wants local production for faster delivery to a region, great. This remove the incentive to use that as an excuse to move production and ship the same goods back here.

Finally, it must be part of this agreement that no company may use international trade in any way to hide, shift or otherwise shield profits from taxation.

Then maybe I will vote for fast track, as long as Congress can revoke fast track if the agreement does not do what we wanted.

Sincerely,

Dave Johnson

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