Monday, February 8, 2016

Is the Trans Pacific Partnership a Done Deal?

by Shelley Pineo-Jensen, Ph.D.  2/8/16

The TPP has been signed

The United States Congress voted to Fast Track the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) last summer, indicating their strong support of the trade deal. US president Barack Obama was eager to sign the trade deal – which he did on February 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Representatives of twelve nations around the Pacific Rim (U.S., Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Japan) gathered, where they were greeted by protesters at the site of the signing, the Skycity Hotel.
February 4, 2016 TPP Protest in Auckland, New Zealand “from inside Skycity Hotel”

Bringing it on home

The TPP will now undergo a two-year ratification period in which at least six countries must approve the final text for the deal to be implemented.  In the US, the Congress must vote to approve. It is unclear when this will happen, given the tremendous unpopularity of the trade deal with the public.

According to Public Citizen “A June 2015 New York Times / CBS News poll revealed that 63 percent of the U.S. public believes that “trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industries” while only 30 percent think “free trade must be allowed, even if domestic industries are hurt by foreign competition.” Democrats, Republicans and independents all overwhelmingly supported protection of domestic businesses over "free trade" at any cost.  
US income inequality as a function of economic globalization

What’s not to like?

Social justice and environmental groups, unions, and others find the TPP to be anti-democratic and a threat to food safety and environmental standards. Handing over international control of the internet is considered to be a threat to freedom of communication, price, and privacy. Critics including the New England Journal of Medicine claim that provisions regarding drug data and drug patents will be harmful to health care policy worldwide, preventing countries from developing cheaper generic drugs.

The ISDS – an international court where corporations can sue countries for billions of dollars

​When the US Congress writes a law that overrules the laws of a state it is called “preemption.” Preemption is the power of a higher level of governmental body to override the ability of a lower level of government to make laws. The TPP includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws at an international arbitration board with the power to level millions and even billions of dollars in damages against cities, counties, states, or the federal government. The judges on this court of no appeals would be stocked with highly paid corporate lawyers; corporations can sue countries, states, counties, and cities for loss of “expected future profits” that a law might impede. ISDS arbitration has already been used by corporations to halt raising the minimum wage in Egypt, the reduction of nuclear power in Germany, and the implementation of tobacco regulations in Uruguay.
At the state level, transnational corporations including Monsanto are using preemption to circumvent local control of GMO agriculture. Nestle has set its sights on control of water supplies so they can bottle it in single-use plastic containers and ship it around the world; preemption is a tool Nestle can use to bypass the needs and desires of local communities to have access to local water supplies. State level preemption is facilitated by the so-called DARK Act, which makes it illegal for a state to legislate GMO labeling of food or restrict GMO crop production.
At the national level, preemption is currently imposed by The World Trade Organization (WTO). The TPP would further empower international preemption of national laws.
To learn more about the ISDS and how it has been used to defeat citizen’s rights, read my article here:Learn more about the TPP's ISDS


Protests in Maui

Members and supporters of the group Popular Resistance met on Maui as leaders and negotiators arrived to discuss the TPP. The group’s website said, “The protests will educate and unite people on Hawaii against corporate imperial ‘trade’ deals that will threaten indigenous sovereignty on the island, increase the use of GMO crops, diminish worker rights, and reward multinationals that pollute the environment on the islands and around the world.”
Protests on Maui

Protests in Peru

Since the signing in Auckland, thousands of people took to the streets of Lima to communicate to their congress to block ratification of the TPP. One of the protesters explained, “The thing is that our agricultural and crop knowledge doesn’t have a patent because it never needed one . . . [now] not only will our farmers be forced to harvest genetically modified crops but also we will have no other choice but to eat it.” The police brought out tear gas to quell what organizers claim was a peaceful protest.

TPP protesters tear-gassed in Lima

Long term resistance to the TPP

In places like Japan, resistance to the TPP is long-standing. It is known as “a hotbed of protest” against the TPP. One protester explained, “Foreign laborers could come into the country; not only the workers, but the companies too. The fact that they are foreigners is no problem. We are worried about the effect on wages. For skilled Japanese craftsmen, we worry this will be used to bid down the money we make.”
Protest in Japan

US groups oppose the TPP

Some of the groups that have been advocating against the TPP include

Mainstream media has not covered it, but there have been protests in the US as well.
Protest in Atlanta

Please sir, may I have another?

And there is more bad news – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is coming down the pike. The TTIP would create the world’s largest free-trade zone, encompassing some 800 million consumers, and overrule local regulations in areas ranging from food safety law to environmental rules and banking regulations.
Berlin anti-TTIP trade deal protest in October attracted hundreds of thousands

Some good news

Bernie Sanders helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He has called the TPP “a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy,”
To read more about Bernie Sanders’ position on the TPP, check out these links:


Democracy Now Lori Wallach: Signing of TPP Marks Only Beginning of the Fight, Trade Deal Could Still Be Stopped (February 4, 2016)

Democracy Now Japan Remains Hotbed of TPP Protest as U.S. Tries to Fast-Track Trade Deal, Crush Environmental Laws (January 16, 2014)

Dr. P-J Learn More About the TPP

Dr. P-J What Tool Is Being Used by Transnational Corporations to Control Governmental Decisions? Preemption! [And How Bernie Sanders Is on the Side of the People]

Flush the TPP TPP Agreement Reached, Mass Protest in DC Nov. 14th-18th (October 10, 2015)

Fusion The TPP trade deal hated by the internet got signed last week. A guide for those that haven’t been paying attention. (February 8, 2016)

Living in Peru TPP: What's behind the cry of protesters in Peru? (February 8, 2016)

Public Citizen U.S. Polling Shows Strong Opposition to More of the Same U.S. Trade Deals from Independents, Republicans and Democrats Alike (July 2015)

Radio New Zealand The TPP protest - how it unfolded (February 9, 2016)

Summitzine World leaders, protesters on Maui for TPP Summit (July 27, 2015)

The Guardian Berlin anti-TTIP trade deal protest attracts hundreds of thousands (October 10, 2015)

The New England Journal of Medicine The Trans-Pacific Partnership — Is It Bad for Your Health? (July 16, 2015)

The New York Times Americans’ Views on Income Inequality and Workers’ Rights (June 3, 2015)

The Real News Japanese Movement Against TPP Growing (May 7, 2013)

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