The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was released by the Obama administration Thursday, and as Lori Wallach, head of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and a leading expert on trade, its provisions are “even worse than we thought.”
Wallach was among several leading experts that included representatives from labor, environmental, consumer and health care interests who denounced the treaty in a news media call as one that would harm working families and throw the balance of power between ordinary people and corporations even further out of whack.
It would encourage American corporations to send more jobs overseas, for example, while threatening the ability of the U.S. government to use taxpayer dollars to boost American businesses and workers. Health groups such as Doctors Without Borders say the treaty will put life-saving medications out of the reach of billions of people in the developing world – and financially struggling people in the United States – because drug companies will have more monopoly control to block generic competition and can thus keep their prices high.
The investor-state dispute settlement provisions are so extreme, experts say, that overseas banks would have the ability to challenge and even overturn U.S. financial regulations. While special provisions in the treaty provide some protections for government laws designed to discourage tobacco consumption, no such protections exist for other laws designed to protect public health: Corporations would be able to challenge those laws if their profit expectations were threatened.
As for the environment, “the words ‘climate change don’t even appear in the text,” said Ilana Solomon of the Sierra Club during the call.
“From what we have reviewed so far, we are deeply disappointed that our policy recommendations and those of our trade reform allies in the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and business sectors were largely ignored,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement announcing the organization’s intent to defeat the treaty in Congress. “The investment rules still provide expansive new legal rights and powers to foreign businesses to challenge legitimate government actions, the labor enforcement provisions are still inadequate to address the enormous challenges posed by this deal and the lack of enforceable currency rules subject to trade sanctions mean the promised new export markets may never materialize.”
Dave Johnson on OurFuture.org earlier this week listed the key questions that people should seek answers for in evaluating whether the TPP is right for people and for the planet. We will be publishing a follow-up, but it is already clear that the answer is a resounding “no.”
Thus the effort is now on to defeat this treaty in Congress.
Among the leaders of the opposition in Congress is presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who issued a statement Thursday echoing the “worse than we thought” assessment of Wallach, adding, “It is clear to me that the proposed agreement is not, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements.”
That sentence refers to a statement by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State in which she said, “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” Clinton has since come out in opposition to the TPP.
It is true that majorities in the House and the Senate agreed earlier this year to a fast-track process that keeps the treaty from being amended by Congress, and that raises the political stakes of a “no” vote. But we would argue that the consequences to U.S. citizens – as workers, as consumers, as people concerned about protecting the environment and as people who care not only about our own rights and dignity but those of workers around the world – raise the stakes even higher and make a “no” vote imperative.