The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest free-trade agreement negotiated since the World Trade Organization. The trade zone would stretch across 12 countries (The United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam) and other countries may join later. Lori Wallach calls the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” because it not only seeks to replicate the conditions of NAFTA in a much larger trade zone, but further expands protections for multi-national corporations across 40% of the global economy. But the scorecard from NAFTA is in: it has encouraged the manufacturing sector to leave the U.S. while forcing Mexican farmers off their land and into poverty conditions in the United States.
The dismal consequences of NAFTA, however, have not been the substance of democratic debate because negotiations of the TPP are kept secret from the public and Congress. Only “trade advisory groups” have access to the text of the TPP and the negotiations. These groups are drawn from 600 of the largest agri-business corporations to help ensure that the trade agreements would increase their profits, regardless of the social costs.
Expanding the Corporate Food System
Islam Siddiqui, a former lobbyist for Monsanto, serves as the chief agricultural negotiator for the TPP. With the guidance of major food distributors, bio-tech companies, and agri-food corporations including Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, and Walmart, the TPP will expand the export markets for US agriculture. This does not just hurt small producers abroad, it hurts American farmers by increasing the power of the corporate-dominated food system across the globe.
The TPP also forces countries to lower regulatory standards to ensure that corporate food is deemed “safe.” Thus, low food safety standards, voluntary rather than mandatory GMO labeling, and patent-protections for bio-tech companies are all mandated in the TPP. In particular, by ensuring that seeds are protected by patents, farmers will be forced to purchase seeds, increasing farms costs, removing farmer’s longstanding knowledge and investments, and reducing overall global biodiversity.
Constraining Public Interest Regulation
Overall, the TPP is designed to make it easier to shift jobs throughout the world to wherever labor is the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest. The trade terms will limit the possibility of passing public-interest regulation, by allowing “investors” to sue countries for any changes that could undermine their “expected future profits.” This includes a range of basic public-interest regulation, ranging from health and safety regulation to ensuring protections for organized labor. When corporations sue the countries, they enter an extra-judicial process determined by corporate arbitrators who can demand huge sums of money in damages.
The TPP started in 2002 as a proposed trade-partnership between just three countries. Quickly, however, it has morphed into a global trade agreement. After 19 rounds of negotiation, President Obama sought to conclude negotiations and sign the TPP by the end of 2013. To do so he asked Congress to “Fast Track” the TPP—to delegate their authority to the executive branch. Yet by delegating their authority, Congress would limit the primary way that we as citizens have a say on this major trade agreement. The first step we took is by telling our representatives in Congress not to allow this restriction of democracy. We must continue to do this work to strengthen food justice globally.