Don’t Be Misled; The TPP Is Still Coming Full Steam

Dave Johnson

Recently there have been news reports that Republicans are going to delay TPP until after the 2016 elections. Do not be misled; this is a bargaining ploy. They want the Obama administration to make “side agreements” that give corporations even more. We have to keep up the fight, and keep getting the word out.

People opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement have recently had their hopes lifted by reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that perhaps President Obama should avoid bringing TPP up for a vote before the elections. But note the reasons for Republican objections.

The Washington Post, “McConnell warns that trade deal can’t pass Congress before 2016 elections“:

But McConnell, who said Thursday that he has relayed his concerns to Obama, is joined in his questioning of the deal by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), the Senate Finance Committee chairman, who was also a key supporter of the fast-track legislation. They have raised particular concerns about provisions related to tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

[. . .] McConnell has balked over a provision that would bar tobacco companies from accessing an international tribunal established to settle disputes between TPP nations and multinational corporations seeking damages for profits lost because of changes in laws — stricter public health regulations on cigarettes, for example. Hatch has been concerned about provisions that would offer pharmaceutical companies that develop next-generation biologic drugs about eight years of protections for intellectual property, four years fewer than is currently available under U.S. laws.

Those two provisions were among the final compromises between the negotiators before the agreement was announced by trade ministers in Atlanta in October.

The Hill reported in “McConnell deals blow to Obama TPP hopes“:

The deal includes a provision that gives countries more power to regulate manufactured tobacco products, such as cigarettes, as part of any efforts to protect public health. Under the exemption, companies can’t challenge tobacco control measures under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process.

Republicans Are Complaining That TPP Doesn’t Give Corporations Enough Power

A careful reading of the reporting, plus some information from behind the scenes, shows what this is really about. This is not a reaction to the overwhelming public opposition to TPP. Instead, Republicans are using a threat to delay TPP as a ploy to get leverage as they push to weaken the limits on tobacco regulation, and for longer monopolies for the giant pharmaceutical corporations.

This was explained in last week’s post, “GOP: TPP Doesn’t Rig Rules, Destroy Sovereignty Enough“:

Do you think the reason TPP might not get enough establishment Republican votes is because of overwhelming public opposition to the deal (as voiced on the right by Donald Trump)? Do you think it is faltering because of the opposition of labor unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, human rights activists and democracy/ good government proponents?

What planet are you living on?

The reason TPP might not get enough establishment Republican votes is that it does not destroy American sovereignty enough and does not rig the rules against working people enough.

[. . .] Don’t let these “conservative” politicians pretend they are for anything except rigging the rules for the giant corporations and billionaires that fund their campaigns, and hire them at lucrative, obscene reward-salaries after they leave office.

It’s a ploy. Republicans are using the threat of delay to get the Obama administration to ask for “side letters” from the other TPP countries. They want these countries to agree not to enforce the provision that keeps tobacco companies from suing governments for things like trying to help people quit smoking and/or keep kids from starting. The wording of TPP’s “tobacco carve out” provisions actually say tobacco regulations are not automatically excluded from corporate lawsuits; each country can choose to allow or block suits. Side letters will basically nullify the carve-out.

Similarly countries can agree in side letters to lengthen the pharmaceutical monopoly terms.

Keep Fighting

Here’s the thing. Even with fast-track authority being forced through Congress by the big corporations a few months ago, it is still a tough road for the corporations to get TPP passed. This is thanks to the hard work that activists and organizations have put into the effort. We have driven enough public awareness that legislators are being careful, asking for lots of corporate PR “cover” and other indications that they are paying attention to mounting public opposition.

But most people still do not know about TPP, and certainly not how it will just make inequality worse, drive wages down and hurt the country’s ability to make a living, among other negative effects. So we have done a lot, but there is a lot still to do. Do not be fooled into thinking that TPP has been delayed. All this means is that it will come back soon and be even worse than it already is.

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