The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement gone wrong.
Who doesn’t want free trade, right? Over three years ago the US Trade Representative started with the best of intentions to negotiate a comprehensive “21st century” trade agreement with several Pacific countries. There are now 12 countries in the pending trade agreement, including: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
There are at least two major problems with the process used to negotiate the sweeping international agreement, These problems with the process have led to serious issues that may affect us in Hawaii and throughout the United States. First, the US and other nations have allowed over 600 multinational companies to provide “corporate advisers” to actually negotiate the text of the agreement. This ensures the large corporate shareholder’s needs are considered first, over the needs of small business, labor, the environment, and the health and safety of the participating country citizens.
Second, a decision was made to keep the pending treaty secret, so not even our elected officials in Congress have full access to the agreement. Selected members of certain committees do have restricted access, while most members of Congress have no access, and the “corporate advisers” reportedly have full on-line access to manage the negotiations.
Click here to see why Doctors Without Borders opposes the TPP. The following quote from Senator Elizabeth Warren, dated June 21, 2013, summarizes the issue with the current secret negotiation process:
“I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. 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.”
The US Administration recently teamed with enough Republican Congressman to “Fast Track” this dangerous treaty.
It is estimated 40% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product will be regulated by the TPP treaty. With something this large, and this many “corporate advisers” there have been leaks with sections of the treaty. Several of these leaks raise significant concerns among small and medium sized business owners, farmers, labor unions, and environmental advocates. As public awareness grows, so does public concern. There have been recent protests in numerous countries and throughout the US, including in Hawaii.
Only 5 of the 29 TPP chapters reportedly deal with trade. The remaining chapters include a smorgasbord of very attractive perks for large multinational corporations surrounding intellectual property, patents, monetary exchange, environmental, health and safety rules. As examples, the leaked chapter on Intellectual Property reveals large pharmaceutical companies have successfully included extensions to patents on brand name drugs to prohibit the introduction of lower costs generics. Some of the companies providing advice for the new international environmental rules include: Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Dow Chemical.
One of the most troubling issues is the way disputes will be settled. The multinational corporations will be provided “Investor State” status, whereby they can bring a cause of action against a participating nation for restricting potential future profits. There will be international tribunals established to decide the case and award the damages. This international tribunal is patterned after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and subsequent US treaties that have created controversy throughout the US and the other nations. See Senator Elizabeth Warren speak out in March, 2015 on the dangers of the TPP court “tribunals” that will preempt the United States courts if the TPP becomes law.
If this entire issue sounds absurd, it should. If we sit on the sidelines and let this treaty take its course, there could be significant consequences to our democracy. There is truly an opportunity to let your voice be heard. Please contact your elected representatives to ask they oppose the TPP, or thank them for their opposition.
Below are the officials from Hawaii we have elected to serve Hawaii at the Federal level. To date, all have voted against the Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority, and all four have spoken out about the serious problems with the TPP. A simple e-mail or phone call to say thanks for voting against the TPP will go a long way to ensure Hawaii stands firm against the TPP in its present form. Following are quotes from all four of our Hawaii team in Washington, working hard to support our interests:
Sen Brian Shatz – August 2, 2015, Honolulu Star Advertiser – Foreign investors could use TPP to challenge U.S. laws, leaving American interests without access to U.S. courts.
Sen Mazie Horono – August 2, 2015, Honolulu Star Advertiser – The secrecy surrounding the trade agreement does not bode well for Hawaii, especially for our agricultural industry.
Rep Tulsi Gabbard – August 2, 2015, Honolulu Star Advertiser – Like other trade agreements,TPP will likely cause a massive loss of U.S. jobs – and at an unprecedented rate.
Rep Mark Takai.- August 2, 2015, Honolulu Star Advertiser – Strength abroad starts here at home: We shouldn’t strengthen our foreign policy by weakening our domestic economy.