Posts Tagged ‘stop Fast Track for the Trans Pacific Partnership’

Korea Trade Agreement a Preview of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Jobs Gone!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

By Michael Righi, a retried economics professor and a member of PSARA’s Education Committee

Why should it be a surprise? The Obama administration, negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea three years ago, made the usual promises – trade agreements bring jobs and prosperity! Really? The results are in. Recent data show that the U.S. trade deficit with Korea since the start of the FTA has ballooned by $12 billion. That translates to a loss of 85,000 jobs, mostly pretty good jobs in manufacturing.

We have seen this pattern with the World Trade Organization, now including China. We have seen it with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This is a large part of what trade agreements are about. They allow multinational corporations to locate operations where wages are lowest and import goods back into the U.S. to the shelves of WalMart and Best Buy and the warehouses of Amazon.

It’s all history, right? No, unfortunately. Trade Representative Froman is making the same claims for the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) that the Clinton administration made for NAFTA and Obama made for the Korea FTA. These agreements were supposedly going to be good for working and poor people, bringing both jobs and lower prices.

The TPP is now being negotiated by the U.S. with 12 partners such as Japan, Chile, Vietnam and Malaysia (40% of the world economy.) It is being negotiated behind closed doors, with even members of Congress having to read the text in “secure” rooms with a securitycleared staff member. What are they hiding? Surely this is not just another job-destroying trade agreement?

Of course it is. How do we know? Because that has been the pattern, and because those few allowed to participate in framing the TPP come from the largest multinational corporations on the planet. Yes, they cannot only read it; they get to write it.

Which means that the TPP is about even more than shifting production to where wages are lowest, helping to dampen wages and increase inequality in the U.S. These corporations are also trying to write a whole separate corporate-controlled judicial system into the TPP that can override local and national laws. It is called Investor-State Dispute Settlement – ISDS. (Apologies for the alphabet soup). For just one example, a program by the Province of Ontario to support local jobs in the solar-panel industry has been challenged under ISDS provisions.

There are possible provisions in the TPP that will extend patent protection for the big pharmaceutical companies’ most profitable drugs and make it harder in other ways to produce cheaper generics. The more we know, the less we like what our so-called trade representatives are up to. So, to get this monster passed once negotiations are complete, the administration is asking for “fast-track” provisions in Congress that would speed up consideration of TPP and prohibit any amendments. Is this what democracy looks like?

Labor, environmental, and social justice organizations are mobilizing against fast track and the TPP. The Seattle City Council is considering an advisory statement against fast track because the TPP poses a threat to local sovereignty (the vote may occur as this newsletter is being mailed). Call or write or go see your Congressperson. Find out more (AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Washington Fair Trade Coalition websites), and explain to them what you think trade policy should be that protects our jobs, our environment and our standard of living.

Stop TPP Fast Track!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

By Ronnie Shure, member of PSARA’s Executive Board

Editor’s note: Ronnie Shure delivered this statement at the Tacoma rally against Fat Track and also to the Seattle City Council.

I am a semi-retired pharmacist, and I am speaking on behalf of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action. We are asking you to help stop Fast Track for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

I have worked with public health in Seattle, where I had the opportunity to participate in the dramatic improvements in health care that we provided in King County Jail. I moved over to Harborview Medical Center where I was part of changes in health care that were supported by the University of Washington. I am currently advocating for health care reform as a retiree, and it is even more exciting to be involved in health care reform.

We have made significant steps forward in improving the health care system, and I hope to see us improve our level of health care to reach the same level that citizens in other developed countries are receiving. The Trans Pacific Partnership seems to be trying to accomplish the opposite — by adding some of the barriers we experience here to become barriers to health care in these other countries.

The high price of brand-name drugs can be explained by the profit-making, free market system for health care. We allow drug manufacturers to charge whatever the market can bear, even though it is not a direct correlation to the actual cost of the drugs. Certainly there are expenses in development and manufacturing of drugs, but it is astounding to see the amount spent on marketing and on protecting the patients that result in the massive profits that are made. These massive profits cause major problems in health care systems across our country. There are huge corporations that own drug companies that make a profit and insurance companies that can limit their payments to only the drugs that they make themselves. This is not “fair” trade — it is controlled by these large corporations — it is unfair trade.

The higher cost of these brand names drugs also impact patients directly and regressively. There are higher copayments for brand-name drugs that lead patients to avoid refilling their prescriptions. I have seen patients get refills for their generic prescriptions, but avoid refills for the brand name drugs. I have seen patients having low blood sugars from overuse of their generic immediate-acting insulin because they can’t afford to refill their brand name long-acting insulin that is necessary to control their baseline blood sugar. These higher costs have a greater impact on people with low incomes, so it is another regressive cost that perpetuates inequality in our health care system. It is unfair to force people to choose between buying food or paying rent or paying copayments for their prescriptions.

The secret negotiations that are taking place for the TPP include major US corporations that hope to spread their patented high prices for drugs to other countries. These high prices are a barrier to health care reform in the US. The TPP trade agreement may impose these same barriers on other countries. Please help us prevent our country from lowering the level of health care in our country and other countries in the Pacific Rim.