A majority of Americans have probably never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. That’s because it is being negotiated by the Obama administration with such a high level of secrecy, even members of Congress have been barred from discussing the details.
However, leaked documents reveal that there is a genuine cause for concern over President Obama’s secret trade deal. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, told Common Dreams, “The top US trade official effectively has said that the administration must keep TPP secret because otherwise it won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress.” The leaked documents obtained last month by Public Citizen show that the TPP is not really a trade agreement between the US, Canada, Mexico and a dozen Pacific Rim countries. It’s more like NAFTA on steroids.
There are 29 sections in the TPP deal and only four of them have to do with trade. The bulk of the agreement, which is being written by “600 US corporate advisers,” deals with signing over national sovereignty and property rights to multinational corporations, for what is best described as the complete deregulation of capitalism on a global scale. There is almost no aspect of American life that would not be profoundly affected by the TPP. The Independent Political Report points out:
The TPP includes an “investor-state” provision that specifically grants global banks the power to challenge any law or regulation of any country that reduces their profits as a “regulatory taking.” It could then take that country to a private international tribunal that entirely circumvents all public judicial authorities. The tribunal would be authorized to force countries to either rescind their laws or pay “damages” from their treasuries directly to global corporations.
Corporate “stakeholder” provisions in the TPP would give profits priority over all else, including property rights, worker wages, environmental regulations, food safety, and access to drugs and medical devices, among others. Irreversible damage to the environment, as well as public health, safety and economic hardship for working-class people is both limitless and unthinkable. “As an example of harmful policies through leaked text, it is known that the TPP gives pharmaceutical and medical device corporations the ability to ‘evergreen’ their patents and prevents governments from negotiating fair prices. This keeps the price of medications and other necessary health goods high and prevents generics,” according to Truthout.
Essentially, any nation’s laws or regulations that interfere with a foreign or domestic corporation’s claims to “expected profits” can be dismantled by a foreign tribunal. The country that loses its case can also be forced to pay the corporation for loss of potential profits out of taxpayer funds. The numbers could be staggering, especially in areas of oil and gas production. In comments to Common Dreams, Wallach added, “The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why US trade officials have been so extremely secretive…. Via closed-door negotiations, US officials are rewriting swaths of US law that have nothing to do with trade and…have agreed to submit the US government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”
The Obama administration has been working on the TPP deal since 2009, but has recently stepped up negotiations and hopes to have the details completed by October. Obama also wants Congress to grant him fast-track authority on the TPP trade deal. That would allow him to keep the details secret until after it was signed, and render Congress powerless to amend the deal.