Causes: Join the Global Fight Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Biggest Secret Trade Deal You’ve Never Heard of

Even though  the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”) is a free trade agreement currently being secretly negotiated by nine countries, only a handful of our congressional representatives have been allowed to see it, but are forbidden to divulge particulars. Approximately 700 members of a “trade advisory council,” mostly dominated by corporations and industry trade groups have seen it, though.

Why all the secrecy? Why is president Obama fast-tracking (ramming) the agreement without adequate time for discussion? Why can’t the American people know what it says and how it will impact almost every aspect of our lives, including our laws?

According to Mother Jones, here are some of the worries that lawmakers and advocacy groups have about the deal:

  • Financial regulations: As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in May, “There are growing murmurs about Wall Street’s efforts to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership…as [a] vehicle…to water down the Dodd-Frank Act. In other words, trying to do quietly through trade agreements what they can’t get done in public view with the lights on and people watching.” The financial industry has indeed been pressing the USTR to use the deal to roll back financial reform. The Coalition of Service Industries, a trade association whose members include Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and American International Group, recently wrote a letter to the USTR urging TPP negotiators to soften rules on US financial firms operating abroad. A spokeswoman for the USTR says that as of yet, the TPP does not address these regulations.
  • Intellectual property provisions: According to a version of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP leaked over a year ago, participating nations would be held to much stricter copyright laws than now exist under current law. The draft says that member nations would have to make criminal penalties available for copyright infringement “on a commercial scale,” which could include something as small as downloading a single copyrighted song. After the leak, the USTR announced the deal would include “exceptions and limitations” to these copyright provisions “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”
  • Food, workplace, and environmental rules: The TPP has the potential to alter a variety of US regulations governing everything from food quality to labor standards to environmental rules. DeLauro is concerned with food safety in particular, “because of the likely influx of possibly contaminated food into the United States,” she says. The USTR insists it is aiming for the deal to raise standards, not lower them. But Aaronsen says the trade deal could easily push regulations in the United States in the opposite direction. “TPP could be a good thing,” she says, but because of the lack of transparency, “We don’t know.”
  • Jobs provisions: The TPP revives the decades-old debate over whether trade deals create or kill jobs. In November, 23 mostly Democratic senators, including Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, and Kirsten Gillibrand, wrote a letter to the Obama administration expressing their concerns that the TPP could weaken the already fragile employment situation in this country: “Trade when done right should create and preserve good American jobs instead of outsourcing them,” they wrote, and urged that the TPP not restrict “Buy American” and “Buy Local” government procurement policies. “These trade agreements are often good for large corporations and not so good for American workers,” Brown told Congressional Quarterly in March. The USTR responded, “For every $1 billion in American goods and services that we export to other countries, we know that about 5,500 jobs are supported right here at home.”

PublicCitizen: Sign Our Petition to Release the TPP Draft Text to the Public

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” Stand with Senator Warren and demand that the public be able to see what’s in the TPP.

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