By Stan Sorscher and Kristen Beifus
We might think of trade agreements as merely setting the terms for the flow of goods and services between countries. However trade agreements also set the global standards for political, social, cultural and moral values. The US Constitution is full of political and social protections for humans and communities. The Constitution never mentions corporations – not once.
In contrast, NAFTA-style trade agreements look like a corporate Bill of Rights, full of protections for investors and corporations, enforced by special courts or tribunals. These NAFTA-style trade tribunals are indifferent to public good or public interest. Instead, they value profit and maximum possible trade at all cost. Trade tribunals can prevent regulation of fracking in Canada, grant Chevron immunity to pollute the Amazon in Ecuador, stop Australia from discouraging cigarette smoking, prohibit country of origin labeling, forbid preferences for local producers, and overturn manufacturing strategies to develop green industries in America. According to current free trade deals, these legitimate public policies all limit global companies’ potential profits. They are called “barriers to trade” and companies can sue countries, seeking compensation for their investment and potential future profits.
Two huge new trade agreements may go to Congress soon – The Trans- Pacific Partnership (TTP) with the US and Pacific Rim countries and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US and Europe. These agreements will determine our quality of life now and for generations to come.
Basically, “the deal” in trade agreements is that countries can have access to US markets, and in exchange they agree to corporate-driven global governance. So in the clearest terms, the TPP and TTIP will change the very nature of democracy and global governance. It will affect everything we do in our communities, at every level.
Washington state’s economy thrives from the products we make and sell to the world. We can sell airplanes, AND protect the environment. We can export software and apples AND maintain high living standards and promote public health.
After 20 years, the NAFTA experiment has failed people, communities, our planet and Main Street businesses. It has however, been great for the shareholders of global companies. Communities all around the world, across the US and in WA state are losing confidence in this failed NAFTA-style trade model reflected in the TPP and TTIP.
We have an opportunity as TTP and TTIP negotiations advance. Supporters of TTP and TTIP will ask for “Fast-Track” voting rules, which would tie Congress’ hands by requiring a simple up-or-down vote. Many elected officials will feel compelled to accept a bad deal, when their preference would be to improve the language so it works for people and communities.
Please call or email your representatives in Congress to OPPOSE FAST TRACK, when it comes before them in the House and Senate.
Stan Sorscher, a PSARA member, is Labor Representative at the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and President of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. Kristen Beifus, a PSARA Executive Board member, is the Executive Director of the WA Fair Trade Coalition.