So, what is the TPP? The Trans-Pacific-Partnership is a trade deal with 12 countries throughout the Asian-Pacific: Australia, Brunei,Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru,Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. The deal opens up more markets within each of these countries in order to allow freer trade. But the reality is, aside from the little information wikileaks was able to retrieve and expose, nobody fully knows what the trade deal is about because it's all been debated behind closed doors with the leaders of each government.
Those who have researched the leaked material refer to the deal as a “Trojan horse,” a coup d'etat, and NAFTA on steroids (the last big trade agreement passed in 1994). NAFTA (North-Atlantic-Trade-Agreement) was passed by the Clinton administration under the guise of providing more US jobs between the US, Canada and Mexico. Instead the trade deal gutted jobs by shipping US manufacturing jobs overseas to Mexico and Mexican and US agricultural and farming collapsing under the takeover of large agribusinesses.
The deal was protested by many in the US, Mexico and Canada at the time and was even argued over in a debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot, with Perot speaking out against it and Gore in support of it. To no surprise we're still seeing the repercussions of NAFTA today.
Five years later protests erupted in Seattle in 1999 against the expansion of trade deals being discussed with the WTO (World Trade Organization). Both the US and the world were stunned as they saw a glimpse of how misguided and secret the trade deals were for the general public and how handsomely it serviced corporations. The protests sparked something in the public’s mind for a second, although it was glossed over by the news with the minor property damage brought about from a small faction called the black bloc (who were separate from the general protests, something that would never be clarified in the media).
To the protesters success they were able to postpone talks that year. Unfortunately since then, trade negotiations have only become more secretive and at events like the WTO and other trade meetings, there is a limit at which the public can protest, making it impossible to disrupt the passing of deals, let alone, become more democratic.
The more recent KORUS (Korean Free Trade Agreement with the US) passed in 2012 with the promise of jobs is already seeing repercussions. In the last two years exports to Korea have dropped and imports from Korea to the US increased, while 60,000 US jobs have been lost in the decrease of exported goods. KORUS, which was a template for the bigger TPP deal, is only a glimpse of what we can expect on a bigger scale if the TPP is passed.
At the same time as TPP is being discussed, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership) trade deal between the EU and the US is also being talked over. While the EU is beginning to release some information about the content of the deal, it’s just another opportunity for corporations and governments to make the world more free for business at workers and democracy's expense.
But how does this affect the general individual living in the US? The WTO has been able to legally strip parts of the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, overriding governmental regulation in the name of free trade. In several cases under NAFTA, US and Canadian corporations sued each other’s governments for regulating and banning dangerous chemicals. Each government’s response to the other was to back down for fear of a lawsuit, and pay the corporation a fee compensation, and then promote the product as “safe” even with little scientific evidence. In NAFTA's first few years over 600,000 jobs were lost in the US alone and many of the new jobs that were “promised” under the trade deal were at a lower wage and less secure.
The thing about the WTO, GATT, and NAFTA is that they are all run with no democratic authority. So when a case comes out that governments are being sued by a corporation for disrupting their market, it’s NAFTA that get's to decide whether it wants to side with the government and its own constitution, or rule in favor of the corporation. It's the beauty of freeing up the markets; you don't have to worry about constitutional limits from governments anymore. While most countries are restricted by trade agreements, or lack of agreements in those who don't have a choice, some countries can still ignore the penalties of trade infringement as was the case with the US not wanting to cut cotton subsidies, even though cutting their subsidies would lift the price and help markets in South Africa.
Although these trade deals have already been in effect, how does the TPP differ? The TPP is like NAFTA, but it can even restrict harsher penalties on its countries in favor of trade. The TPP can undermine not only federal policies but state and city protections of workers. Any environmental regulations or environmental promoted projects can be overturned if it infringes upon an oil and gas companies market share. A rule in the TPP would make it illegal to favor small business over big businesses.The recent news of pushing for stronger protection of net neutrality rights can be overturned by internet companies who suggest that it cuts into their profits. The TPP basically overrides any form of democracy we have left in this country and abroad.
And for those who may think the trade deal isn't going to happen any time soon need to understand it's already being discussed whether to Fast-track it through congress. Fast-tracking the deal would allow Obama to approve the deal, which he is hoping for, and override a vote needed by congress. And with most Republicans, and some Democrats, in favor of the deal, the Fast-track can quicken the passing by the end of this year, if not earlier. And once it's passed, that's it. The battle will become that much harder to fight. NAFTA is the best example of this as we just passed the twenty-year anniversary of the deal and it's still standing as things have only gotten worse for all the countries involved (with the exception of the rich and businesses).
While it might seem easy to feel like there is nothing you can do, you need to realize that we still have a chance to convince congress to deny the president fast-track approval and postpone the deal. During this time we can push congress to create a more fair trade deal that could better represent countries and its democratic values instead of some abstract market that is consistently favorable to a small few and easily manipulated.
To understand what's at stake is the first step in acknowledging the problem. By assessing the public's reaction to the potential passing of a trade deal will influence our leaders to act. And if it doesn't, we let our voices be heard in the next election. The choice is ours whether we want to save this idea of democracy we're struggling to hold together. And to be honest, the people have been in streets, politicians are speaking out harshly against the deal. We just have to acknowledge, regardless of party or political beliefs, that if we truly want to live in a democracy, we have to stop this deal.
Some petitions to stop fast-track: