by Tom Broderick
It’s important to remember that President Barack Obama declared the negotiating process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “top secret.” This forbade our elected federal representatives from discussing any part of the TPP with their staff or with those of us who elected them to office. They couldn’t even consult with anyone for clarity on the ramifications of the TPP.
At the same time, under the direction of President Obama, the U.S. Trade Representative appointed several hundred members from trans-national corporations to shape the TPP. They served on Trade Advisory Committees (TACs). These appointees were also sworn to secrecy, signing non-disclosure agreements. But these corporatists didn’t want anyone to know what was going on behind closed doors: codifying corporate power.
The way the TACs were set up is revealing. There are sixteen Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) and one committee to represent the public interest (Public Interest TAC). The Public Interest Committee includes members from labor, public policy health groups, environmental organizations and human rights advocacy groups. All combined in one committee. Evidence of the power of the ITACs to subvert democracy.
The ITACs crafted enforceable laws favoring corporations. The Public Interest TAC was essentially limited to providing guidelines with few enforcement mechanisms. The Obama administration gave the ITACs what they wanted and the deal was negotiated by and for the neoliberal order. The negotiations received “top secret” classification so that the public could be screwed. We don’t want guidelines for negotiations. We want the public to become the centerpiece of a different kind of trade deal ~ one where people and planet come first.
President Obama informed Congress that he plans to push for passage of the TPP before the end of this year. He hasn’t done so yet because he lacks confidence that he has the votes necessary to succeed. Expect Obama to ramp up pressure on the Democrats. The House and Senate are currently in Republican hands and their leadership favors passage. The trans-national corporations that have so much to gain are also pressuring and/or buying off our elected officials. We must push back and push back hard between now and the end of the year.
For various reasons, presidential candidates from the Green, Democratic and Republican parties have taken public stands against the TPP. The Libertarian candidate supports the TPP. The CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank created by the Charles Koch Foundation opposes the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) portion of the TPP. ISDS allows foreign corporations to directly sue the United States Government (tax payers) over what the corporations consider interference with their rights to profit. These suits would bypass the U.S. judicial system and be tried before a panel of three pro-free traders. In a report issued by the CATO Institute, Daniel J. Ikerson wrote “ISDS is ripe for exploitation by creative lawyers.”
While I’m happy that some presidential candidates publicly oppose the TPP, some of their reasoning is wrongheaded. Socialists are internationalists and support workers’ rights around the globe. We oppose pitting one group of workers against another. When grounded in nationalism, racism or sexism, international trade agreements must be defeated. In this country we have to derail any “America First” xenophobia. “America First” is code for corporate supremacy.
Also let’s be clear, when it comes to planet Earth, there is no Plan(et) B. International trade deals must confront climate change. We have to stop spitting in the soup we all need for nourishment. Neoliberalism and secretive corporate deals like the TPP are plagues. Popular resistance is key to changing the focus of international trade. We’re seeing this turn the tide against the TPP. Public pressure in Europe also threatens the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP is being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States.
The French Trade Minister called for an end to the negotiations, saying “France no longer politically supports these negotiations.” Germany’s Economy Minister called the talks “de facto dead.” Upcoming elections in France and Germany have made the TTIP a politically charged issue. Britain’s plans to exit the EU also roils the water as Britain is a strong supporter of the TTIP. Whether or not the TTP and the TTIP fail, there is an even larger threat being secretly negotiated: the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) which involves 50 countries and 70% of the world economy. It will allow trans-national corporations to do their worst to privatize services from health to water to finance to education. If something can be privatized it will be.
Chicago DSA has been fighting the TPP for quite a while. Victory is within reach. President Obama and the corporations that shaped the TPP will likely get their only opportunity to pass the TPP after the November election. That’s a small window and we can keep it shut.
In August, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan declared that he has no interest in bringing up a vote on the TPP unless he feels the votes for passage are there. In July, Illinois Republican Mike Bost said he now opposes the TPP, the first Illinois Republican Congressman to take that position. Of course we also have one Illinois Democratic sycophant in Congress who supports passage of the TPP: Mike Quigley.
Earlier this year, Chicago DSA began collecting constituent post cards telling our elected officials to vote against the TPP should it come to the floor. We plan to have Chicago DSA comrades deliver the cards to the offices of our two Senators and the offices of our various Representatives soon after Labor Day.
What can you do to stop the TPP? Call your Senators and your Representative in Congress and tell them you want them to take a public stand opposing the TPP. You can call them in their DC office and in their district office. Alternate weekly between the offices should you be so inclined. If you want to limit your calls, then contact your Representative as you’ll probably have more influence with her or him. Honest trade deals must embrace human rights and preserve our planet. Honest trade deals must be negotiated in public.
Industry Trade Advisory Committees
- Aerospace Equipment;
- Automotive Equipment and Capital Goods;
- Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Health Science Products and Services;
- Consumer Goods;
- Distribution Services;
- Energy and Energy Services;
- Forest Products;
- Information and Communications Technologies, Services, and Electronic Commerce;
- Building Materials, Construction and Nonferrous Metals;
- Services and Finance Industries;
- Small and Minority Business;
- Textiles and Clothing;
- Customs Matters and Trade Facilitation;
- Intellectual Property Rights;
- Standards and Technical Trade Barriers.