The Trans-Pacific Partnership was negotiated in secrecy during a six-year period. Corporations were well represented, but elected representatives in Washington, D.C., were not privy to the contents until it was a done deal.
It was pushed forward with Fast Track, a process that only allows an up or down vote with minimal debate. The TPP follows the path of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with similar results expected, but on a far greater scale.
The United States lost many jobs with NAFTA and will lose many more with this 12-member-nation agreement.
The TPP will allow countries to flood the U.S. with more tariff-free goods made with forced and child labor. Pro-TPP backers speak of jobs created by exports, but they do not seem to count the far greater jobs lost once tariffs are removed from foreign goods that are subsidized or cheaper due to currency manipulation.
China cuts the value of its currency thus making its goods cheaper for us to import. They give their industries — like paper mills — free wood supply or subsidized energy and chemicals as well as cut-rate shipping rates just to employ their people. That drives industries out of business in the U.S. China will then be free to raise prices.
China, South Korea and Indonesia have been found guilty of illegal subsidies in their paper industry. The first time they were taken to the International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce, the panel said it may be occurring, but asked if that caused job loss or harm.
The paper industry had to wait until mills were shuttered, jobs lost and people and communities devastated before anything would be done. Two years later, the case was proven and certain tariffs applied to these imports. A case of too little, too late.
Investor-state dispute settlement wording in the TPP gives foreign investors the right to sue governments — local and federal — over lost profits caused by regulations. The case could be heard and decided by offshore private investment tribunals.
Even now, a Canadian firm is suing the U.S. over the Keystone pipeline because it is not being built and it feels it is losing money — $15 billion.
Just imagine how huge this can be when many countries are able to sue, and win, because our environmental regulations may be too stiff for them.
Or a state rebuilding infrastructure with our taxes might award a bid based on American-made steel and other products. A foreign corporation may be able to sue because it did not have a chance to bid and lost profit because of it.
U.S. national sovereignty is challenged.
TPP compromises food labeling and consumer product safety with restrictions on country of origin, proprietary formulas, GMOs and ingredient lists.
Cosmetics follow suit with the encouragement of voluntary oversight. It sets goals of harmonizing countries’ standards, which will surely lead to the reduction of consumer protections.
The big pharmaceuticals are certainly protected in the agreement. They will enjoy additional monopoly rights and delay generic equivalents. Prices could soar even more than today. Negotiating drug prices could be more difficult under TPP. And the agreement is open-ended, which allows more countries to join as time goes on.
Climate protection and green energy are at risk because of the investor-state dispute settlement. Wind energy and solar efforts exist in the U.S. because of subsidies the industry receives. Such a start-up industry needs that to get off the ground.
If protected, green energy may become the norm in a few years and improvements in technology yields hope that soon these subsidies will not be needed. Pollution could be reduced and cheap, clean energy could be available for everyone.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens that goal.
The TPP is bad policy, built on a bad foundation, conceived from past failed agreements and threatens all that America is about. It risks the right, as a nation, to create our own policy, to protect consumers and U.S. industry and jobs.
The view to the future is through the past. The past does not bode well for NAFTA-styled trade agreements, so why would citizens want this? Many corporations stand to gain, since they sat at the bargaining table.
Ron Hemingway of Canton has been a local union officer for more than 30 years, a member of the Maine Fair Trade Campaign, an AFL-CIO Executive Board member and Maine Labor Council vice president. He is president of USW Local 900 of the Rumford Paper Mill.