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NAFTA on Steroids: Stripping the secrecy from The Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Robby Stern

On Saturday, December 1, at 1 p.m., trade justice groups, labor activists, family farmers, immigration reformers, public health and net neutrality advocates, environmentalists, students, small business owners, and community activists from Canada, Mexico and the United States will gather at Peace Arch Park in Surrey, B.C. and Blaine, WA . These groups are united in their opposition to a new trade and investor rights agreement being written by U.S and other Pacific Rim country negotiators with the guidance of multi-national corporation representatives. Canada and Mexico recently joined the negotiations.

Negotiations have been going on for more than two years under extreme secrecy. Thankfully, there have been leaks and what we have learned is very very disturbing. This agreement represents a fundamental attack on the 99%.
Public Citizen and our local WA Fair Trade Coalition, led by PSARA member Kristen Beifus, have done terrific work in gathering information on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

NAFTA, WTO, Korus (Korea/US trade agreement) and now the TPP are only partially about “trade”. Rather, they are designed to set up a system of enforceable global governance to benefit large corporations.

The TPP would establish corporate run tribunals invested with the power to require that tax dollars be used to compensate corporations if environmental and health laws in the Pacific Rim countries undermine “expected future profits” of multinational corporations.

TPP will also enhance the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs and production to Vietnam and China. Twenty years of NAFTA, WTO and other corporate managed trade agreements have already helped lead to the loss of 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and 45,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities, In addition, millions of service sector jobs have been offshored. Tax bases have declined with subsequent cuts to education, vital services and infrastructure. Only the top 1 % has benefitted from this economic dislocation.

According to Public Citizen,  this “Mother of all Trade Agreements” could in one blow lead to the offshoring of millions of U.S. jobs, free the banks from the limited oversight they now experience, decrease access to medicine, ban Buy America policies that are now used to create green jobs , and empower corporations with new tools to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

Only two of the 26 TPP chapters address trade. The remainder create new corporate powers, limit domestic policy that would impact corporate profits and grant new monopoly rights. The rules are enforced by binding dispute resolution, overseen by corporate representatives with the ability to impose trade sanctions or cash payments to corporations.
The process by which the TPP is being negotiated is incredible. Over 600 official corporate trade advisors have access to the draft TPP text. But public officials and other representatives from civil society do not have access.

In July, 134 members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rick Larsen, sent a letter to U.S. trade Representative Ron Kirk requesting that the appropriate Congressional committees be consulted and that a draft of the text be released. The letter received no response.

Reps. Adam Smith and Jim McDermott sent their own letters calling for more transparency and authentic stakeholder involvement in the negotiation process.  Journalists, unions and others in civil society are excluded from seeing draft TPP texts or knowing the positions of U.S. negotiators.

Information about the TPP has been leaked. The Public Citizen web site, http://www.citizen.org/ TPP or the WA Fair trade Coalition web site , http://washingtonfairtrade.org/ contain more information. Here are just a few highlights.
The TPP will assure higher drug prices for pharmaceutical companies and actually decrease access to medicines by extending patent monopolies on prescription drugs. It empowers pharmaceutical companies or their trade association, PhRMA to challenge medicine pricing formularies such as those used with Medicaid/Medicare and national healthcare systems. It allows the companies to raise the costs of drugs for programs such as PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency plan for AIDS Relief).

The assistance the agreement provides to pharmaceutical companies would also be mirrored in provisions related to Wall Street (rolls back regulations and actually prohibit bans on risky financial products) and †large scale agricultural corporations (food labels considered “trade barriers” and food corporations can directly† challenge domestic standards).

The fight against the TPP has begun throughout the Pacific Rim. We can join with our sisters and brothers who are already in motion in Malaysia, Japan, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries.

December 1, is an opportunity for PSARA members to get involved in the fight.  There will be buses and carpools heading to Peace Arch Park. Contact Kristen Beifus at kristen@washingtonfairtrade.org , or call 206.227.3079 if you would like to participate.

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