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Oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

by Ginger Harris

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): call your Congressperson and US Senator to vote against “Fast-Track” and against the TPP, and ask your friends, family and colleagues to do so too!  Both conservatives and progressives agree on this!

TPP negotiations started under George W Bush’s administration and were continued under Obama’s.  The TPP is only partially a trade agreement. Mostly it provides a structure for trans-national corporations to ensure they receive the profit they expected from an investment in any of the Pacific-rim countries that ratify the treaty.  The TPP would allow an investor (e.g. a corporation) to sue a national or local government if any law, regulation, ordinance or court ruling interferes with the investor’s “expected future profits!

Such suits can impact natural resource and environmental protections, energy policies, health and safety (e.g. food labeling), labor rights and jobs, plus public service pricing and “buy-local” policies, for example. The TPP would extend drug patents and internet copyrights, the latter to 120 years. It explicitly forbids transaction taxes, e.g. a “Robin Hood tax” on currency speculators. 

The TPP would erect a private, international court system, with private attorneys acting as “judges” and no possibility of appeal. These private attorneys could switch back & forth between judge and corporate attorney. When judges decide in favor of the corporation, they award compensation from the defendant government’s taxpayers. This dissuades other jurisdictions from enacting similar laws or regulations.

No matter the location of a corporation’s headquarters, it can cherry-pick the country it sues by opening an office in a TPP-member country to sue another TPP-member country. A Canadian mining company did this under similar provisions in CAFTA  to sue El Salvador for trying to protect its environment.  El Salvador lost and had to pay hundreds of millions to the mining company.

The only folk who’ve accompanied and advised the US Trade Representative in TPP negotiations are officials of 600 or so US corporations. For everyone else, the draft text has been classified. The few Congresspersons who’ve been allowed to read parts of the text had to do so without pen, paper or recording device, and are sworn to secrecy about it. What the public (and Congress) know about the TPP is what has leaked out.  And they don’t like what they’ve heard, which is why, explained a previous US trade ambassador, the text had to be classified, and why President Obama is trying to fast-track it.

Fast-Track authority gives the president the power to negotiate and sign a treaty, then limits the time Congress can debate it and allows no amendments before an up-or-down ratification vote. Many believe Fast Track violates Congress’ constitutional power to regulate trade.  2007 is the last year in which a US president had fast-track authority. 

Expecting President Obama to get a new Fast Track bill introduced into both chambers of Congress for a vote before Thanksgiving, 149 Democratic Congresspeople have signed the DeLauro-Miller letter asking President Obama not to fast-track the TPP, but instead to give Congress oversight of this significant treaty, which would cover 40% of the world’s economy.  As of now, Congressman Lacy Clay has not signed it.  Republicans Michele Bachmann and Walter Jones are circulating a similar letter among House Republicans. As of now, Ann Wagner has not yet signed on. Please call and write your Congressperson to publicly oppose both Fast Track and the TPP itself. 

For more details about the TPP, go to http://www.sierraclub.org/trade/trans-pacific-partnership-agreement.aspx.

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