By Kristen Beifus, Executive Director, WA Fair Trade Coalition & a PSARA member
The TPP…no not tp…TPP-the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement will impact access to affordable medicine in the US and globally, WA state supported education & healthcare, the right to regulate big banks, public control over natural resources such as water & air, the sustainability of local farmers, rights of indigenous communities, our very democracy.
What do we know?
US negotiators have kept the public and even our elected leaders in the dark about what is being negotiated. The secrecy is so extreme that WA Reps. Larsen, Smith and McDermott wrote letters to USTR calling for more transparency and authentic stakeholder involvement in the TPP. Congress will have the final vote, however US negotiators are calling for ‘fast-track’ authority which means that Congress would only be able to vote yes or no and not change the agreement at all. Now is the time for the people we just voted into office to advocate on our behalf.
Countries involved: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
Potential joiners: Japan, Thailand, any country in the Pacific that wants to because the TPP has a ‘docking clause’ which means others countries can join, making this possibly the last trade deal that the US will negotiate.
Who is negotiating on our behalf?
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office is responsible for negotiating the TPP. The outgoing US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk is a ‘former’ lobbyist for Philip Morris and the head of Agricultural negotiations Islam Siddiqui, is a ‘former’ Monsanto Lobbyists…and there are over 600 corporate ‘advisors’ who have unlimited access to the current text, such as Cargill, Dow Chemical, Walmart, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
How have these big corporations been treating workers and communities in WA State this past year?
Kimberly Clark: closed its profitable mill in Everett, WA laying off 750 workers directly and causing the loss of 1000s of other ‘indirect’ jobs. They also shipped WA state subsidized state of the art equipment to their new plant in Brazil.
EGT: Disregarded the contract of the ILWU with the Port of Longview when operating their new grain terminal, seeking to increase their profits by driving down wages of workers.
Walmart: Continues to pay poverty wages forcing its associates to rely on WA state programs to subsidize basic needs including food and health care.
So what are corporations writing into the TPP?
Expansion of Corporate Rights: Companies will have the right to challenge labor, environmental, public health and safety, and procurement laws if they believe they limit their ability to make a profit. They can compel us (as a country, as a state, as a city) to change our laws or use tax dollars to compensate them for projected loss of profits. This applies to ‘Buy America’ procurement preferences, green jobs initiatives, clean air & water laws, and food labels.
Privatization of public services: TPP risks opening up publicly provided services (education, water, sewer and social services) to competition from private foreign enterprises. Factories off-shoring also shrinks our tax base, reducing revenues available for public services making them more vulnerable to
Reduction in Access to Affordable Medicines: PhRMA is at the table to extend patents which will deny people access to life saving medicines.
Disrespect of Indigenous Sovereignty: Mining corporations seek to further access and exploit the lands of indigenous people and communities.
The Community Responds!
Earlier this month, we capitalized on the historic moment of Canada and Mexico joining the Trans- Pacific Partnership, the 13th Anniversary of the People’s Shut-down of the WTO in Seattle and the 15th Round of TPP negotiations in New Zealand. On December 1st, labor leaders, trade justice & food sovereignty groups, family farmers, immigration reformers, public health & internet freedom advocates, environmentalists, students, small businesses and communities from Canada, Mexico & the United States took action against the TransPacific Partnership. This People’s Round on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, at the Peace Arch to rejuvenated our collective movement towards just & sustainable trade, human rights & corporate responsibility!
The power of our collective movement inspired us with music & dance from Seattle’s Labor Chorus, Seattle Fandango Project as well as Movitas a radical marching band; testimonies from former workers at Kimberly Clark, associates organizing with Our Walmart, the Philippine-US Solidarity Organization, Community to Community, the Council of Canadians, the national AFL-CIO, and the Washington State Labor Council.
Then we collectively smashed the TPP piñata to access ‘generic medicines’ and ‘GMO-free corn.’ Backbone Campaign’s Free Trade My Ass balloon…Flush the TPP flew proudly along the border. The action was supported by SPEEA, IBEW Local 46, MLKCLC, UFCW Local 21, WFSE 443, CTC, Global Exchange, CAGJ, Equal Exchange and endorsed by the AFGE 3937, PSARA, Sierra Club and WA CAN.