Politics

Obama Wrong To Push Trans Pacific Partnership

Cargo ships off San Francisco.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon realized something was off about the Trans-Pacific Partnership when he had his staff look into the particulars.

Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. He employs staffers who are experts on international trade and help him shape U.S. policy on the subject.

Yet for months, his staffers weren't allowed to read drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Wyden himself couldn't read the document unless he personally walked to a guarded basement chamber of the Capitol. He couldn't copy sections of the agreement and couldn't take notes.

Yet President Barack Obama was patting himself on the back for conducting a "transparent" trade negotiation process.

In 2012, Wyden brought his concerns to the Senate floor, noting that "the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations, like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcas and the Motion Picture Association of America, are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement."

It was another three years before the text of the agreement was made available online to anyone who wanted to read it, and not because the Obama administration finally responded to the concerns of senators and congressmen. After all, Wikileaks was offering $100,000 to anyone who could provide the full text of the TPP.

The document would have remained secret, if not for New Zealand, which posted it in its entirety online in late 2015.

Any neutral observer would conclude the signatories had something to hide if they kept the document, which was the result of years of negotiations, hidden not only from the public, but the lawmakers who represent the public.

They would be right.

While proponents argue the agreement will boost the world economy, the Economist claims the TPP would "make the world $220 billion a year richer," the TPP caters almost exclusively to the interests of massive corporations at the direct expense of regular people.

On the digital front, it gives trade industries like the MPAA and RIAA the power to block websites that allegedly facilitate copyright infringement, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes. ISPs can simply kick users off the internet if those users are suspected, not proven, content pirates. The TPP demolishes Internet privacy, forcing ISPs to identify the real names of users suspected, again, not proven of copyright infringement.

On the environment, the TPP includes troublingly vague and open-ended language that does nothing to ensure signatory nations are following environmental guidelines. Worse, individual corporations can sue American cities and towns if the companies believe local laws are bad for business. Does your local and state government oppose fracking? Too bad. An oil company says that stance is bad for business, so now it's bringing the case to court, wasting unimaginable amounts of taxpayer money. Such lawsuits could help megacorporations recoup billions in lost profits, a powerful incentive to sue the government.

Consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen says the TPP will make it easier for large American corporations to send more jobs overseas, increase the costs of medicine by making it easier for pharmaceutical companies to monopolize and roll back hard-fought elements of Wall Street reform.

As Grist's Heather Smith writes, "the TPP has more enemies than the corpse in an Agatha Christie novel," with an entire coalition of disparate groups finding common ground against the agreement.

Every major presidential candidate is against the agreement, and the TPP has the dubious distinction of finally getting Republicans and Democrats to unite on a common cause.

Despite that, a March 9 Reuters report said {President Obama is doubling down on his commitment to TPP, viewing it as another notch in his legacy belt. In the story, National Security adviser Susan Rice says opposition is so firm because the administration hasn't been able to "articulate the benefits of TPP."

What has been articulated is how disastrous TPP would be for the little guy, while giving massive victories to megacorporations at every turn. Let's hope American lawmakers remember who they work for, because they're the only ones standing in the way of TPP becoming a reality.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Reuters, Public Citizen (2), Electronic Frontier Foundation (2), The Economist, Grist, Congressional Record - Senate / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Do you support the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 100%