January 2, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 1

Community & Editorial

Thousands have demonstrated against NAFTA. Now’s the time to protest TPP

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If you care about access to affordable medicine, public control over natural resources, the sustainability of local farmers, regulating big banks and the rights of workers and indigenous communities, then you should care about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Set to be finalized in on October 2013, TPP is a trade agreement that could negatively impact these issues in the United States and 10 other countries, all of which are negotiating this corporate rights deal.

If you’ve never heard of TPP, you’re not alone. Even our elected leaders have been kept in the dark because U.S. negotiators have worked hard to keep TPP secret. Washington Congressional Reps. Adam Smith, D-9th Dist., Rick Larsen, D-2nd Dist. and Jim McDermott, D-7th Dist., have written letters to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) calling for more transparency and authentic stakeholder involvement. While it’s up to Congress to approve U.S. participation, our country’s negotiators hope for “fast-track” authority, which prohibits senators and House representatives from changing agreement language.

The U.S. already has trade agreements with 90 percent of the countries involved with TPP, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan, Thailand and other Pacific Rim countries have expressed interest in joining under the “docking clause,” which lets them sign on in the future. Like our fast-tracked congressional representatives, docking clause countries would be unable to change TPP.

We already know the detrimental impacts of past trade agreements. Just look at the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in 1994. In less than 10 years, NAFTA caused 1.3 million Mexicans to lose their livelihoods and, over the past 20 years, has cost the U.S. more than

5 million manufacturing jobs. Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have all signed on to TPP. With the addition of eight more countries, TPP is the NAFTA expansion many fair trade activists have feared.

USTR handles our country’s negotiations, which is troubling, because it has past and present staff members who have ties to tobacco producer Philip Morris and petrochemical giant Monsanto. Then there are more than 600 corporate advisors with unlimited access to the current text, such as Cargill, Dow Chemical, Walmart and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, the country’s leading pharmaceutical industry research collective.

Many companies who support TPP have horrible track records in Washington when it comes to mistreating workers and communities. This year, Kimberly Clark closed its profitable mill in Everett, which cost 750 workers their jobs and caused the loss of thousands of jobs in connected industries. The Longview-based Export Grain Terminal disregarded a contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Port of Longview and sought to increase profits by driving down workers’ wages and standards. And Walmart continues to pay poverty wages, which forces its workers, known as “associates,” to rely on state programs to cover basic needs such as food and health care. These corporations seek an expansion of corporate rights in an effort to challenge labor, environmental and public health laws, and they want to privatize education, water and sewer, and social services. Then there are the mining corporations that hope to exploit the lands of indigenous people.

But here’s the exciting news. Organizations and everyday people from across North America continue to fight TPP. In early December, more than 300 family farmers, immigration reformers, labor leaders, union members and others protested at the Peace Arch on the U.S.-Canada border. The next round of TPP negotiations takes place in early March in Singapore. By then, we hope to have more than 1,000 organizations be signatories to the North American Unity Statement, which calls for a sustainable global economy based on living wage jobs and shared stewardship of natural resources. Organizations can sign on by visiting tppxborder.org

We cannot allow corporations and lobbyists to continue to write their own rules in the form of trade deals. We need the people we voted into office to advocate on our behalf.

We need to tell them it’s time to flush the TPP.

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