After six years of secret negotiations, today the public has its first look at official text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country deal that would set the terms for globalization for the next generation.
The release of the text has been met with great fanfare and promises of high standards, but environmental groups, labor, human rights organizations, public health groups, and small farmers see their interests being sidelined.
“We just don’t see these benefits being touted as possible. TPP was designed from the top down to favor multinational corporations and investors,” says Lynne Dodson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council. “If TPP is endorsed by Congress, our hands will be tied regarding policies to address climate change, income inequality, labor and human rights, and development in other countries.”
For years, elected officials in Washington State, and local advocates for civil society expressed hopes for final language that would correct mistakes of past trade deals and manage globalization in recognition of legitimate interests of workers, communities and the environment.
What we have seen confirms that the official language is heavily tilted in favor of global businesses, financial institutions, investors, and the top one percent around the world.
Tariffs, which were already low, will be lowered somewhat. However, the net effect will add less than one percent to GDP over 20 years – less than the measurement error in economic data. Within the give and take, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, and international banks will do very well. Small farmers in Washington State and local producers will see increased foreign competition and pressure to move work offshore.
Meanwhile, under TPP, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia will have preferred access to markets in Washington State, even though they fail to meet international standards regarding forced labor and human trafficking, according to annual rankings by the US State department.
Even the low levels of protections in past trade deals have been without teeth. To date, no meaningful enforcement actions have ever been taken against Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, or Mexico for repeated and systemic violations of labor and environmental standards. TPP continues that lip service approach to civil society. On the other hand, global businesses have a separate complaints system which has resulted in more than 500 cases and numerous favorable decisions for their interests.
Since NAFTA, U.S. trade policy has made it easier to move jobs from Washington State to low wage countries with weak protections for workers and the environment. TPP gives global companies the advantage over governments regarding public health, food security, financial regulation, control of the internet, access to medicines and patent monopolies.
“TPP has delivered on its promises to help CEOs and global companies,” says Stan Sorscher, President of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. “On the other hand, their promises to workers, communities and the environment never come to pass. TPP moves us in the wrong direction.”
“This is not the 21st century trade agreement we were promised,” he continues, “If anything, it looks like the 19th century, where the rules of globalization were written by corporations. We urge Congress to reject this trade agreement. ”
The Washington FairTrade Coalition (WFTC) is a coalition of 70 Washington labor, faith, environmental, farmer, and social justice groups that are committed to creating a fair, balanced, and sustainable global trading system.