By Kelly Sparks
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a consortium of Twelve Pacific Rim Nations: The United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. These nations are near the end of four years of Multilateral Trade Talks designed to allow corporations to do business anywhere within this giant geographic space unencumbered by local laws or governmental restrictions.
When it comes to Multilateral Trade Agreements, Democratic presidents do not have the best records.
During the Carter Administration, Chief Trade Negotiator Robert Strauss negotiated away the Buy American Act (the last bill signed into law by President Hoover) in the final days of the Tokyo Round of trade talks. Congress chose to consider the agreement by using Fast Track measures which required an up or down vote without debate. The agreement was approved by both Houses and signed into law by Carter in 1979, doing away with our government's requirement to buy products made in the U.S.A. Almost immediately, companies with large government contracts began to offshore production. Literally hundreds of thousands of workers lost good paying jobs.
Then came President Clinton and the North American Free Trade Agreement that has created a million jobs, all in Latin America, and all low-wage. According to The Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA has resulted in the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs in the United States, almost a half million of them high paying manufacturing jobs. NAFTA went the Fast Track route to approval also and because there was no debate and little awareness of the goings on in Washington, high paid corporate lobbyists took advantage of the situation and pressed Congress for passage. Corporations have benefitted greatly from the previous trade agreements that have perpetuated the great divide in income inequality and will work feverishly to see the TPP through to passage.
During the 1980's I was president of UAW Local 180 in Racine, Wis., and also president of the council of local unions that represented workers at J.I.Case plants in five states. Case manufactured Construction and Agricultural equipment and at the time had lost a bid to build construction equipment for the military. The Italian Company Fiat had under bid Case by only a few dollars per machine and had been awarded a multimillion dollar contract, because of the small difference. The company's Governmental Affairs and Legislative Director Jerry Waite and I argued it was not fair to give the contract to a foreign company at the expense of the American company and its workers. When I met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill I pointed out that Italy had restrictive rules that prevented the United States from selling to their government and that 10 years before the contract could not legally have been awarded to a foreign company. All agreed and most I knew had voted for the very agreement that allowed the injustice. We did not win on our arguments, but the capable Jerry Waite discovered that Muammar Gadhafi's Libya owned 15 percent of Fiat and then Wisconsin Congressman Les Aspin convinced his congressional colleagues not to do business with our enemy. Congress ordered the GAO to reverse the contract and Fiat did not appeal their loss.
As bad as the previous agreements have been for American workers, the TPP may be worse than all the others combined because it places more and more power in the control of a few; in this case the World Trade Organization. The WTO has a track record of ruling against countries and in favor of corporations who are involved in trade disputes. In the last year alone the WTO ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labeling, a ban on candy-flavored cigarettes and country-of-origin meat labeling all violated the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement(TBT).
Leaks from the secret talks raise fear that sovereign nations' rights to policies and laws to protect their environment and citizens will be superseded by the TPP. In one Fast Track fell swoop the TPP deal will:
-- Roll back Wall Street reforms.
-- Do away with Buy American policies established to create green jobs.