Battle Against Trans-Pacific Partnership Can Be Won in Congress

By Susan DuBois

After years of secretive negotiations, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators reached an agreement in early October 2015. Despite a near-blackout of news about the trade agreement in the corporate media, many organizations across a broad spectrum of politics are opposing it and could still stop it.

The TPP trade agreement has been called “NAFTA on steroids” (referring to the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement) and a “corporate coup against people and the planet.” It is one of three neoliberal trade agreements currently in the works. The TPP involves the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, although other countries could join later.

The other agreements are the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the United States and the European Union, and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) involving many nations. TTIP has faced major public opposition in Europe. TiSA is not as well known as the other two but is opposed by postal unions in the United States because it threatens to privatize the U.S. Postal Service. Of these three, the TPP is closest to being approved. At this writing in mid-2016, opponents of the TPP are working to get members of Congress to commit to voting against it.

The TPP and similar deals go far beyond traditional trade issues such as tariffs, getting into many subject areas that normally would be governed by national laws. Among the TPP’s most damaging provisions is an investor-state dispute settlement process (ISDS) under which companies could sue governments for lost profits if the governments strengthen regulations or violate a vague minimum standard of treatment. Similar, but more limited, dispute processes in earlier trade deals have led to repeal of U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat and a pending challenge to the disapproval of the Keystone pipeline.

Opponents have been working to alert their congressional representatives to the dangers of the TPP trade deal. Labor groups see the TPP as further facilitating export of jobs to low-wage countries; environmental groups anticipate attacks on environmental laws and energy policies under ISDS; Internet-freedom groups are alarmed by the TPP’s intellectual property chapter; and healthcare organizations see the TPP as imperiling both access to medications and progressive health care policies. Some right-wing groups oppose the TPP because they believe it threatens U.S. sovereignty, through ISDS and international bureaucracies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other legislators from tobacco-growing states have criticized the TPP because it would still allow other countries to adopt anti-smoking policies.

Although the TPP was signed by trade ministers in Feb. 2016, allowing President Obama to start the fast-track process by sending implementation legislation to Congress, as of this writing he has declined to act. Many observers believe that he does not have the votes to pass it now and may wait until a “lame duck” session after the 2016 election.

The TPP has been in the news during the presidential campaign. Once the election is over, Congress will be freer to ignore the public, and the president-elect could change his/her position on the TPP. Now is the time to get your representative and senators publicly on record against the TPP.

Dubois2.jpg Susan DuBois is a retired public employee who lives in Albany, NY. She is active in the labor and peace movements.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 (early June) issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

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