The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed new trade and investment pact that was negotiated behind-closed doors between the United States and eleven other Pacific Rim countries, including notorious human rights violators like Vietnam and Malaysia.
As you would expect from a deal negotiated with hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and the press were shut out, the TPP threatens to offshore good-paying American jobs, lower wages and increase inequality by forcing Americans into competition with workers abroad paid less than 65 cents an hour.
When the text of the secretive TPP was finally revealed to the public in October 2015, we learned that it is actually worse than we thought:
- The TPP includes rules of origin that are worse than standards set in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This enables products assembled from parts made in “third party” countries that are not subject to any TPP obligations whatsoever, such as China, to enter the U.S. duty-free, undercutting U.S. manufacturing.
- The TPP includes investor-state dispute resolution (ISDS) provisions that make it safer — and, in fact, create incentives — for U.S. firms to offshore jobs to foreign countries where they can exploit low-wage labor under privileged foreign investor status rather than be forced to deal with those countries’ regulatory policy and courts.
- The TPP includes procurement provisions requiring that certain government purchasing programs afford foreign bidders “national treatment” and “non-discrimination,” effectively barring Buy American and Buy Local preferences critical for local development.
- Much-touted new minimum wage and hours of work requirements simply require TPP countries to haves such laws — they don’t specify what they must include. A country could decide, for instance, to establish a minimum wages of a penny an hour and maximum hours of work at 24 hours a day and still be in full legal compliance.
- The TPP’s new language on forced labor is equally meaningless, only requiring countries to “discourage” through “measures it deems appropriate” the importation of slave-made goods.
- We also know that the TPP does not include the currency safeguards demanded by a bipartisan majority in Congress that would prevent known currency manipulators like Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia from devaluing their currencies to gain an unfair trade advantage over U.S. employers.
According to CWA president Chris Shelton: “Even a cursory review demonstrates how this trade deal fails working families. It forces U.S. workers to compete with the 65-cent an hour wages of Vietnamese workers and the slave labor employed in Malaysia. It allows multinational corporations to challenge environmental, financial, consumer and other regulations through international tribunals – and outside the court systems of member countries. It pays lip service to addressing real concerns about currency manipulation that costs American jobs and leads to more jobs being sent offshore. And it allies the U.S. with countries that abuse their own citizens, including Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia.”
According to Machinists president Thomas Buffenbarger: “On nearly all matters of immediate relevance to American working families and their communities, this agreement fails to deliver. Not only are the labor provisions warmed over language from failed past agreements, but the agreement actually takes a giant step backward, with the inclusion of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Mexico. Additionally, investors and corporations can still challenge basic worker and environmental protections while rules of origin are weaker than even the ones found in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and there are no provisions to bring currency manipulation under control.”
According to Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard: “The USW is unalterably opposed to the TPP because it’s a dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing. Even the Wall Street Journal predicted the deal would cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses. This sector has yet to share broadly in the economic recovery and is shedding good, family supportive jobs at an ever-increasing pace.”
According to Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa: “Americans’ fears over how the TPP will tamp down on wages, allow foreign companies to sue governments and create even larger trade deficits due to a lack of currency manipulation controls are very real and justified. And because Congress approved fast track trade promotion authority earlier this year, there’s not a damn thing elected officials can do about it except oppose ratification of this bad deal when it comes to a vote.”
In addition to offshoring jobs and driving down wages, the TPP also rolls back the environmental enforcement provisions of past trade agreements, and would also provide corporations with new tools for attacking environmental and consumer protections, while simultaneously increasing the export of climate-disrupting fossil fuels.
- The TPP rolls back environmental enforcement provisions found in all U.S. trade agreements since the George W. Bush administration, requiring enforcement of only one out of the seven environmental treaties covered by Bush-era trade agreements.
- The TPP’s investor-state dispute resolution (ISDS) provisions enable transnational corporations to challenge environmental laws, regulations and court decisions in international tribunals that circumvent the U.S. judicial system and any other country’s domestic judicial system. Under the World Trade Organization (WTO), portions of the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act have already been rolled back under similar “trade” provisions that grant this type of power to foreign governments. The TPP would go beyond the WTO by giving individual corporations the power to initiate challenges.Right now, a number of smaller Free Trade Agreements and Bilateral Investment Treaties already grant these powers to transnational corporations — and they are being used to attack clean air rules in Peru, mining laws in El Salvador, a provincial fracking moratorium in Canada and a court decision against the oil giant Chevron in Ecuador, among many other examples. Expanding this system throughout the Pacific Rim would only increase the commonplace of these challenges.
- Under the TPP exports of fracked natural gas would automatically be deemed in the public interest, bypassing certain environmental and economic reviews, if going to any of eleven TPP countries throughout the Pacific Rim — including Japan, the world’s largest importer of natural gas. The TPP is likely to increase energy costs for U.S. consumers and manufacturers, while simultaneously exposing Americans to the localized environmental consequences of fracking and the world to increased global warming pollution.
- The TPP’s much-touted new conservation rules are extremely weak, obligating countries to “exchange information and experiences” and to “endeavor not to undermine” conservation programs, rather than requiring them to ban destructive practices.
- The TPP also fails to mention the term “climate change” in its thousands upon thousands of pages.
In addition to just limiting environmental protections, the TPP contains numerous provisions that expand the unsustainable, fossil fuel economy.
- The TPP contains a variety of provisions — including investor-state, quota prohibitions and more — that encourage increased “rip and ship” export of raw materials throughout the Pacific Rim, meaning more logging, drilling and mining in some of the most biodiverse ecosystems left on earth.
- The offshoring of production enabled by the TPP would also have direct environmental consequences. The carbon footprint and other emissions of overseas factories and mills is often much higher than it is in the United States. While typically not as high as the production-related emissions, the pollution associated with shipping products across the Pacific Ocean to reach U.S. markets is also not inconsequential.
- More so, access to sweatshop labor and lax environmental enforcement overseas also effectively subsidizes the production of certain consumer products — including, particularly, consumer electronics — thus enabling the sale of short lifecycle products that contribute massively to e-waste and throw-away consumer culture.
According to Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune: “It’s no surprise that the deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal… Many provisions in the deal’s environment chapter are toothless and fail to offer any of the protections proponents of this deal have touted. Some provisions even fail to meet the minimum standards of environmental protection established in the ‘fast-track’ law and included in past trade deals negotiated under the George W. Bush administration.”
According to Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica: “The Trans Pacific Partnership fails President Obama’s pledge to make the TPP an environmentally sound trade agreement. Frankly this is not surprising; the text of this Trans Pacific trade deal was negotiated in secret by Mike Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, a former Citibank executive and Obama fundraiser. Froman took care of his friends on Wall Street and in corporate board rooms at the expense of sound environmental and climate policy. Congress must reject the TPP deal.”
According to Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rapport Clark: “Now that the text of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership is available to the public, it is disappointingly clear that this is not the tougher language we had hoped for. The environment chapter is weak and fails to provide the necessary requirements and stronger penalties desperately needed to better fight poaching, protect wildlife habitat and shut down the illegal wildlife trade. The agreement also leaves our own domestic environmental laws vulnerable to legal challenge internationally, outside of our own judiciary system.”