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June 2014

At this writing, the TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP has been under negotiation for approximately five years. The TPP is poised to become the largest free trade agreement in history, including twelve initial participatory Pacific rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. Others can be “docked” or added in future.

Lack of transparency relating to the negotiating process and emerging language of the pact has been unprecedented. While corporate “trade advisors” are being consulted by our government, public and press have been denied knowledge of the TPP’s contents, although if passed, the deal would impact jobs, wages and working conditions, the environment, agriculture, access to medicines, consumer safety, Internet freedom, banking regulations, indigenous rights, government procurement and more. Even members of Congress –-elected representatives of the people--- have been granted limited access to the twenty-nine chapter document only recently. Former USTR Ron Kirk defended the secrecy surrounding the emerging TPP text, reminding the press that release of the draft of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) resulted in massive protest, the eventual collapse of discussions and demise of the FTAA.

Through leaked information and reports from members of Congress who have seen portions of the document, details have emerged. Like NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements, the TPP has much less to do with trade than with economics, more specifically ensuring corporate advantage, control and profit.

Some examples:

- The TPP perpetuates the outrageous “investor-state” system, much criticized after implementation of NAFTA and CAFTA. The provision elevates corporations investing across borders to status equal to or greater than that of individual states or citizens. Foreign investors whose ability to profit is impeded by local environmental or labor laws may sue the offending government under World Bank rules, not only for lost profits but also for loss of expected future profits. Cases are heard by tribunals closed to public, press and elected officials, and where rulings are based only on language of trade agreements, not laws of the lands in question. Beneficial protections, often passed after hard-fought local campaigns, suddenly become “barriers to trade” and require “taxpayer compensation”. Billions in damages have been paid by the US since “investor-state” chapters became included in trade agreements. Through the same process, US investors have collected huge sums from foreign governments.

- The TPP opens the door to further infringements on states’ rights; for example, overriding procurement policies adopted by states, counties and cities, such as “buy American”, “green” products preferences, or hiring of service providers from businesses owned by members of minorities or by women.

- The TPP gives priority to strict protection of intellectual property rights, while violations against environment and natural resources or against food safety regulations of nations are not subject to enforceable dispute settlements. The environmental chapter of the TPP does not even require signatory nations to follow global environmental treaties.

- The TPP includes incentives for corporations to off-shore jobs, exploiting low wage workers in developing nations and taking advantage of tax loopholes, thus depriving US workers of jobs and the country of enormous tax revenues.

- The TPP goes farther than previous agreements in defining “investments” included in protections under the pact. In addition, rather than heeding the international call for regulation of the financial service sector (like banking and insurance), the TPP seeks to deregulate such services.

Americans for Democratic Action acknowledges the inevitability of globalization and increased international trade. We also know that global trade presents the US with a golden opportunity to level the playing field, improving living and working conditions for the populations of trading nations.

We expect the US government to use its formidable powers to insist on trade agreements that stipulate to ILO (International Labor Organization) standards, that cannot override environmental regulations or food and product safety measures established by local or national law, that will not impede access to affordable medicines by granting advantages to pharmaceutical companies, that will not empower corporations to violate human and civil rights. Protections of the environment and human rights and health must be legally binding in trade pacts, not merely suggested
as advisable.

We continue to advocate for use of international trade as a positive force, rather than as a vehicle crafted flagrantly to increase multinational corporate profit.

- We call on Congress to insist on their constitutional right as our representatives to play a significant role in negotiations of global trade.

- We call on Congress to condemn the lack of transparency of the TPP negotiating process.

- We ask that they refuse to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership and all future trade agreements based on the NAFTA model.