We’ve seen global trade agreements go sour before— NAFTA, anyone? So, why is our government “fast tracking” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade deal that will have wide reaching impact on the environment, people, jobs and even patents?
Global Trade Shouldn’t Be a Backdoor Deal
The first warning sign here is that the TPP has been kept almost entirely secret, even from our own lawmakers. It has been cooked up largely by trade negotiators from the countries involved, with ‘input’ from 600 corporate ‘advisors.’ Shouldn’t we be having an open discussion about international rules that will impact billions of people around the world? And, if the TPP really is so great, why can’t we see what it's proposing? Recently, Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, stood up to threats of prosecution from the US Trade Representative by simply reading the latest draft of the TPP, and then writing a letter telling members of Congress specifically why they should oppose it. The letter was leaked, and now there’s a growing chorus of voices who oppose TPP.
Fast Tracking Climate Disaster
A second major reason for concern is that the TPP will undercut efforts to combat climate change. Scientists agree we need to keep around 80 percent of the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground, and global leaders are working towards a binding accord at this year’s Paris UN Climate Summit. But the TPP could give corporations the right to sue governments that hinder their business, even if it’s simply through regulations designed to reduce carbon pollution.
Unfortunately, examples of trade agreements leading to this type of litigation are not uncommon. In fact, an American mining company sued Canada in 2013 for a loss in revenue when the country passed a ban on fracking.
Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we shouldn’t be passing any trade deal that undermines a government’s ability to regulate carbon emissions for the sake of corporate profits. Apparently the corporate advisors thought that was a good idea, but the rest of us know it’s the wrong path.
Recently, the U.S. Senate approved “Fast Track” legislation, a process that does not allow amendments, and only permits limited debate on a bill before voting. It is headed to the House later in June. President Obama has been beating the drum for Fast Track. If it becomes law, Congress will give up the opportunity to consider amendments to the TPP. They’ll just get to say yes or no when the deal comes up for final approval, with lots of pressure to say yes. In other words, now is the time to stop the TPP – by stopping Fast Track.