Today, trade ministers from the twelve countries involved in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations announced that they have finally reached an agreement. The TPP has been negotiated in secret for the past five years and very little real information was released today in the ministers' press conference. Negotiations have been prolonged and contentious because the TPP requires that countries cede their sovereignty to transnational corporations. There has been widespread opposition to the TPP in the United States and the other TPP countries.
The TPP is one of three major international treaties being negotiated by the Obama administration. The other two are the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA). Though the three treaties are being called 'trade agreements,' they are actually much broader than trade agreements and will impact every aspect of people's lives from the food they eat to healthcare, energy, Internet freedom, wages and the ability to pass laws for protection of people and the environment. Avoiding the designation of treaty means that Congress can avoid stricter requirements for oversight and passage and instead rush the agreements through Congress using a process called "Fast Track".
Completion of the TPP negotiations does not mean that the process is completed. Language for implementation of the TPP must still be written, the heads of each country involved must sign the agreement and their respective legislatures must agree to it. In the United States, both the House and Senate will have to vote on the TPP after a 60-day period of review during which the public is supposed to have access to the text of the agreement.
It is essential that members of Congress and the public fully understand the contents of the TransPacific Partnership and its impacts before it is voted upon. Leaked documents have revealed major areas of concern such as environmental regulations that are unenforceable, an end to 'Buy America' policies, extended patents for pharmaceutical and medical device companies along with increased barriers to generics which will prevent access to lifesaving medicines and treatments, and an international trade tribunal which will supersede US courts through which foreign corporations can sue the government if laws to protect the public and the planet interfere with profits. A study of the TPP by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that the impact on the US GDP will be minimal while the majority of workers will have lower income.
I am opposed to the TPP and the sister treaties, TTIP and TiSA on the basis that they extend far beyond traditional issues of trade and have been negotiated in secret without supervision from Congress. Written with significant input by corporate lawyers who have had access to the text, these agreements function to force policies through Congress that favor the wealthy and would not pass muster if they were considered in an open and transparent process.
These treaties continue the legacy of other 'free trade' agreements that have increased the US trade deficit, off-shored manufacturing jobs and have driven a global race to the bottom in worker protections, wages and regulation of finance and industry. There is worldwide opposition to this neo-liberal model. It is time to restrict trade negotiations to matters of trade and require meaningful input from Congress and the public throughout the process. Trade policy must consider the full impacts of its provisions on public health and safety, the economy and the planet. We must put the needs of people and the planet before corporate profits.