Photo by Monkeywing
Trade ministers from across the Pacific Rim announced on Monday that they have struck a behind-closed-doors deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive new trade and investment pact that seeks to set rules for approximately 40 percent of the global economy. The massive trade deal threatens jobs, public health, and the environment.
The good news is that, despite its supposed completion, the TPP may have already reached its end. Put simply, the political clock has run out for this pact.
U.S. law requires President Obama to make this week’s deal available to Congress for at least 90 days (and to the public for at least 60) before he can formally sign it and then submit it to Congress for a vote. That would likely put the TPP before Congress smack dab in the middle of the primary election season.
Already presidential candidates including Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Bernie Sanders have spoken out against the TPP. Even Hillary Clinton, who promoted the pact as Secretary of State, has latley tried to distance herself from it. Pressure on presidential candidates to speak out on the TPP will only increase over the coming months.
More to the point, members of Congress know that American voters are not going to accept a massive trade agreement that drives down wages by taking American jobs offshore to more repressive countries.
So-called “Fast Track” legislation for the TPP passed earlier this year by just a single vote in the Senate and a handful of votes in the House. If just a small number of legislators shift their position due to election-year accountability politics, the TPP could be toast.
For the better part of a decade, Americans have been telling the administration what sorts of provisions the TPP would need to ensure it benefits working families, instead of just corporate profits.
Over all that time, negotiators have granted hundreds of well-connected corporate lobbyists access to TPP texts, but have refused to tell the American people what they’ve been proposing in our names. We’ve had corporations guiding secret negotiations with human-rights violators like Malaysia, where millions of people are victims of human trafficking, and Vietnam, where you can go to jail for requesting better working conditions. Meanwhile, the American people have been shut out of the process.
Par for the course, negotiators have yet to make the deal available for public scrutiny. Now that a text has reportedly been agreed upon, Congress should insist that the TPP be made immediately available to the public.
The benchmarks Congress will now have to consider include:
- Does the TPP include labor and environmental standards, rules of origin and currency safeguards strong enough to protect human rights abroad and good-quality jobs here at home — or will the pact ship jobs overseas and reduce wages for American workers?
- Does the TPP establish a floor, rather than a ceiling, when it comes to food and product safety — or will it expand imports from countries where food is often found to contain banned toxic chemicals?
- Does the TPP make medicine more affordable — or will it increase the price of prescription drugs for seniors, veterans and others by enabling big pharmaceutical companies to prevent the sale of life-saving generic medications?
- Does the TPP increase oversight of banks, insurance companies and hedge funds — or will it prevent governments from enacting commonsense finanical reforms to prevent future finanical crises?
- Does the TPP contribute towards a sustainable global economy — or will it accelerate global climate change?
Leaked texts published by Citizens Trade Campaign, Wikileaks and others — not to mention the TPP negotiating process itself — suggest the public is going to be unhappy with the answers to those questions.
Americans have consistently demanded a “fair deal or no deal” on trans-Pacific trade. Given that the completed TPP agreement is unlikely to be fair to anyone but CEOs and Wall Street executives, expect a tidal wave of voters to demand “no deal.” If enough speak out loudly enough, the TPP could be over.
Arthur Stamoulis is executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, a national coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer and faith organizations working together to improve U.S. trade policy.