Economy: What we know about TPP

by Judy Ferro

The one thing I’m sure of about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty: the details are secret.

I’ve heard complaints about a “blackout” in major media, but just how many stories can one write when rumors and hearsay are your main sources?

The idea that members of Congress have little more information than leaks that surfaced last year is disturbing. Worse, the treaty is being written by 500 or 600 lobbyists from major corporations without input from any government.

At least that’s what I heard. Another source, however, assures that nearly 2% of the lobbyists represent consumers, workers, and environmentalists.

Steve Dunham writes, “Only five chapters of the 29 deal with trade. The rest are political, dealing with climate change, sustainable development, and military and international courts.”

Who’s Steve Dunham? All I know is that he wrote a letter to the Spokesman Review. Still, no one would just make up a detail like five out of 29, would they?

That’s the kind of thing I’d like to check on-line, but, apparently, none of those hundreds of lobbyists understands how to post on the Internet.

Multiple reputable sources do verify some things about the treaty.

  • TPP includes 11 Pacific-rim countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, but not China.
  • President Obama has asked for “fast-track” authority which would allow Congress only to accept or reject the treaty without amending. Most Republicans are expected to support “fast-track,” but not all, so Obama must work to get 15-30 Democratic votes for it to pass.
  • One “fast track” bill being considered requires that TPP’s contents be revealed at least 60 days before the President signs it.
  • TPP would allow foreign corporations to sue the U.S. government for reimbursement if any U.S. law threatens their expected future profits.

Yes, TPP turns politics of the past six years on its head with Congressional Republicans supporting the President. And, in a move repugnant to most Idaho legislators, the treaty would subject U.S. laws to review by an international tribunal.

Recently Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out that countries are being sued under existing trade agreements for compensation for laws and regulations that impact their ability to profit from investments. He notes that a French firm is suing Egypt for raising its minimum wage. Uruguay and Australia are both being sued for imposing requirements on packaging of tobacco products. And Eli Lilly is suing Canada for “allowing its courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs.”

Liberal commentator Amy Goodman points out the implications. “A law prohibiting the sale of goods made in sweatshops in Vietnam could be ruled illegal, for example, as a barrier to trade. Or certification requirements that lumber not be harvested from old-growth forests in Malaysia could be overturned.”

As important as sovereignty is, however, most Americans are more apt to feel the effects on our economy.

According to columnist Jonathan Tasini, government data claims that NAFTA is responsible for the loss of 845,000 out of the five million jobs manufacturing jobs lost since it passed. In NAFTA’s first 20 years, “the U.S. manufactured goods trade balance with Canada and Mexico changed…from a $5 billion surplus in 1993 to a $64.9 billion deficit in 2013.” After just two years of the Korea trade agreement (considered the template for TPP) U.S. exports have dropped, resulting in a loss of 50,000 jobs. Small companies saw their exports fall by 14%; large ones, by 3%.

The irony is that, if this treaty does pass, millions will forget the many Democrats who fought it and remember only that a Democratic president signed it.

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