Trans-Pacific Partnership – the corporate sovereignty treaty – is coming and they’re going to try to push it through Congress with “Fast Track.” It’s really, really important to pay attention to this one.
You have seen what the “free trade” agreements have done to cities like Detroit and Flint, along with entire regions of the country, several key industries, the middle class and ultimately our democracy. Now a super-treaty is coming down the pike and corporate forces are asking Congress to give up their Constitutional authority to act as a check-and-balance with something called “Fast Track.” We have to stop this before it is too late.
Next Up: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
The super-treaty coming down the pike is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is a mega-agreement involving several Pacific-rim countries at the same time, with a special “docking” provision that lets new countries join without new negotiations.
Only a small part of this “trade” treaty is about trade at all. Most of it is about elevating corporate rights above the rights of citizens and sovereign countries to reign them in. Much of TPP is about “investor rights.” “Investor” in this case means people with tons of money, and this is about giving them rights so their interests come above what citizens and their meddlesome laws might try to do to mess things up for them. Minimum wages, environmental protections, workplace safety and other “regulations” are all things citizens do to make their lives better but that make trouble for investors.
An example of how these “trade” treaties turn out to really be corporate-friendly laws that override the sovereignty of a country is last year’s World Trade Organization ruling that U.S. laws requiring food companies to disclose whether tuna is “dolphin-safe” violated a Mexican company’s NAFTA trade rights to sell us crap. The Mexican company claimed that U.S. laws protecting dolphins “restrict trade” and won. A leaked section of the TPP appears to ban the U.S., states, counties and municipalities from “Buy American” rules in government procurement. How is that “trade?”
In another example, a Canadian gold mining company is suing the El Salvador government for requiring environmental permits before mining can begin.
Corporate-Interest Treaty Negotiated By Corporate Representatives
TPP is being negotiated in secret. Not even our Congress is able to find out what is in the treaty! Human rights, consumer, labor, environmental groups are not at the table. But over 600 corporate representatives are participating.
With this rigged process, the outcome is set up from the start to hand over American sovereignty to the giant corporations and their interests.
“But the treaty is being negotiated by the Obama administration,” some say. While our negotiating team has the appearance of being government employees and public servants who work for us, for many the point of getting on the team is to “play ball” and then move from government into the corporate sector for serious money. For example, the last trade negotiator just left government to become a well-paid trade lawyer “advising” giant corporations.
There is one thing in the way of the corporations sweeping in this new corporate-sovereignty treaty: the Constitution of the United States. Under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution only the Congress can regulate trade between the states and foreign countries. And the Senate has to approve treaties. And under Article 2, Section 2 the Senate has to approve a treaty with a 2/3 margin.
Yet the administration is keeping the TPP secret from the Congress, and is asking the Congress to set aside these sections of the Constitution, let the President sign the agreement before Congress sees it, and then quickly vote on it under something called “Fast Track.”
The idea justifying Fast Track authority comes down to this: democracy with its transparency and checks and balances and its processes of careful consideration is cumbersome, and prevents things from happening quickly. So in order to “get things done” the Congress should yield the authority of We, the People to review trade agreements, trust the President’s negotiators and let’s just get this thing done and out the door right now.
But Congress still gets to vote on it, right? If Congress grants Fast Track authority for this treaty we will see a huge, corporate-funded PR campaign, telling us how great the treaty will be, how it will provide jobs, how it will lower prices, how it will make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams. We will hear from every TV screen, radio speaker and newspaper page that anyone opposing TPP is a dirty hippie Neanderthal who wants to destroy our jobs and make buggy whips. And behind the scenes there will be millions upon millions of dollars poured into the campaign coffers of those who “play ball” and against those who won’t.
What we have to do is stop Fast Track in its tracks to slow down the big-money push-it-through campaign.
How Has So-Called “Free Trade” Worked Out?
The idea behind “free” trade is that we “open up new markets” for American-made goods. This is supposed to boost exports that “create” jobs.
So how has the real-world application of this theory worked out? For those without eyes, here is a summary: massive job loss, massive trade deficits, loss of industries, devastation of entire regions of the country. All-in-all a massive drain on our economy.
But you have to admit that “free trade” has been just amazing for a very few. We now have the highest level of inequality in world history. Six Walmart heirs have more wealth than 1/3 of all Americans combined and just 400 people have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.
Here is the thing: In democracies people have a say, and say they want good wages and benefits, good working conditions, good schools, a clean environment, good transportation, good infrastructure and other things. All of these things also happen to be strong investment in a good economy down the road, and democracies become more and more prosperous. So democracies become the market that others want to sell into.
In weak- or non-democracies people don’t have a say so they are told they can’t have those things — especially the good-wages-good-benefits-clean-environment part. These things are seen as “costs” and the result is that things made in weak or non-democracies can be sold at a lower price.
Since goods made with lower costs can be sold at a lower price this can undermine democracy. Countries with strong democracies — and therefore the desirable, prosperous markets — used to “protect” their democracies by charging tariffs on these low-cost goods so they would cost as much as goods made at home and not undermine wages. The tariffs collected would also help fund education, infrastructure and even export efforts.
Opening up “free trade” made democracy a competitive disadvantage, defunded democratic governments, pitted workers in democracies against exploited workers and knocked the bottom out of wages. And the result has been that the democracies are not investing in the education, infrastructure, research and other things that kept them competitive economically.
But hey, it has made a very few people vastly wealthy. So what’s the problem?
Korea, For Example
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI)’s new report, No Jobs from Trade Pacts, shows how “free” trade agreements have undermined our economy.
The 2012 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) promised to “create” 70,000 new U.S. jobs, Instead it has already cost 40,000 U.S. jobs. U.S. exports to South Korea fell $3.5 billion while imports increased, thereby increasing our trade deficit by $5.8 billion!
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was supposed to create 200,000 new jobs through increased exports to Mexico. But by 2010 the resulting trade deficits with Mexico had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs.
Also see EPI’s Trade and Globalization infographic.
Stop Fast Track
Dean Baker: Political Corruption and the “Free Trade” Racket