The public finally has a chance to see what is really in the biggest and most ominous trade deal in history — and contrary to the chipper public relations push by the White House, the TPP contains provisions that are even worse than critics expected.
The TPP, a trade pact involving twelve nations on the Pacific Rim, is about more than just cargo ships. Most of the agreement is really about giving international corporations the ability to trump commonsense environmental, food safety, public health and other regulations as illegal trade barriers. Some of the most dangerous provisions are concealed behind arcane trade jargon that can be used to challenge U.S. standards as illegal trade barriers. The very premise of the TPP puts trade ahead of protecting people and the environment.
The TPP could be used to weaken systems that are supposed to keep us safe. The parts of the TPP that cover food safety are especially troubling. It would let shippers challenge individual border inspection decisions, second-guessing U.S. inspectors and discouraging rigorous oversight of imported foods. It also encourages the use of private food safety certifications for imported food instead of government inspection, potentially relying on corporate assurances that our imports were safe. We have already experienced some significant foodborne illness outbreaks from domestic companies who had received the same kind of food safety certifications.
And it would let corporations sue the United States over local, state or federal rules that frustrate their business plans and threaten to undermine expected profits. That means, for instance, that a foreign oil and gas company could demand monetary penalties from the United States if a town in Ohio passed an ordinance against fracking.
We knew the TPP would rubber-stamp the export of fracked natural gas, especially to Japan, the world’s biggest natural gas importer. But the TPP’s environmental chapter falls far short of the trade agreements negotiated at the end of the Bush administration. TPP countries would not have to enforce all the core international environmental agreements they had signed. Just one of seven is actually included in the TPP text. Only the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is included, which deals with trading illegal rhinoceros horns. The rest of the TPP conservation provisions are toothless and unenforceable and cannot effectively stop the illegal wildlife and timber trade, illegal fishing, shark finning or commercial whaling.
Corporate-driven globalization has been a disaster for working families since NAFTA. The TPP will shutter more U.S. factories, cost good jobs and exacerbate the growing wealth and income inequality in America. The TPP includes several countries with weak labor laws, dreary human rights records and low wages, and the agreement does almost nothing to improve this situation.
The TPP will do practically nothing to prevent forced labor, provide fair pay and safe workplaces or allow independent labor unions. As Communication Workers of America president Chris Shelton observed, “It forces U.S. workers to compete with the 65-cent an hour wages of Vietnamese workers and the slave labor employed in Malaysia.”
Over the coming days and weeks we will provide more insight into the real dirt on the TPP. The big business-Republican leadership-White House TPP alliance will now unleash a powerful charm offensive to pass the deeply flawed trade deal. We can’t let that happen. Contact your member of Congress and tell them to reject the TPP.