Have you heard? There is a massive "free trade" agreement being negotiated in secret without your knowledge or participation by your elected representatives. It will increase income inequality, jack up the cost of drugs and empower corporations to sue your government when environmental laws stand in the way of profit. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being negotiated behind closed doors by Wall Street's biggest banks and top corporate lobbyists. Congressional representatives are only permitted to review the documents in person in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative without the presence of their staff. They have no right to keep a copy for their office or to share its contents with you. It is Gandhi's dream to replace the TPP with Participatory People Power (PPP).
President Obama, the candidate who once campaigned on the promise of increased governmental transparency, opposes such a clandestine corporate give-away, right? Wrong. On April 16, Obama received "fast track" authority from congress to get around public debate and congressional oversight to railroad this sweeping bill into law. "Fast-tracking" gives Congress the power to vote on the agreement once it is complete but denies lawmakers the chance to amend what could be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994. Feedback from us, the people, is out of the question, as our elected representatives don't really know what is in this agreement.
The TPP is of monumental importance. It will represent approximately 792 million people, account for 40% of the world economy and will involve 12 nations stretching from Chile to Japan. So why is the Obama Administration pursuing such a non-democratic approach to rush this bill into law? Could it be that the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in "Citizens United" set the stage for this type of corporate takeover of our government by considering corporations to be individuals and allowing them to make unlimited contributions to campaigns? Has Participatory People Power (PPP) been replaced by Paid for Corporate Power (PCP)? This secret trade agreement, the TPP, clearly states that money talks and people walk. The TPP contains so many outrageously bad things that it requires a separate article to be written about each item within it. For now, I simply wish to give you a quick overview about how it could affect each one of us.
For more than two years, corporations like Halliburton, Caterpillar, Ford Motor Company and G.E have been shaping this legislation behind closed doors. The level of secrecy is astounding. Not only are the people being kept in the dark, it is even hidden from most members of Congress. The U.S. Trade Representative, the federal agency for negotiating trade treaties, has said the details are classified due to "national security." Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, has her own answer. "Here's the real reason people have given me: 'we can't make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.'". The main thing you need to know is that this agreement will hand over sovereignty of our country to corporations that will put profit over a free Internet, affordable healthcare, the environment and ultimately human well-being.
Since you are probably reading this article online you too should have an interest in the implications of the TPP on your Internet liberty. Remember The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? Camouflaged as an anti-piracy bill, it was pushed by movie studios and record labels to pull the plug on sites that made it possible to share music and other creative files with your friends and family. But fortunately, there was such a backlash from the web community that influential sites, such as Reddit and Wikipedia went dark to stop it. Now your Internet access and freedom is again under attack disguised in the cloak of TPP. Be aware, Henry Farrell of the Washington Post states, "The US appears to be using the non-transparent Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations as a deliberate end run around Congress on intellectual property, to achieve a presumably unpopular set of policy goals."
Simply put, under the TPP, corporations will seize control of the Internet. Internet Service Providers would be required to police user activity to take down sites that "allegedly" infringe upon corporate intellectual property rights. These so-called intellectual property rights originally had been taken from unsophisticated starving musicians and artists under financial duress. Mandatory fines would be imposed and creative innovation stifled as people get cut off from Internet access by corporations who under the TPP will become the access gate keepers. In addition, journalists and whistleblowers could face stiff penalties including imprisonment, just for exercising free speech online. No! Corporations may think iron gates are coming but we the people shout, "Pitchforks are coming!"
Besides destroying our Internet freedom, the TPP paves the way for jaw-dropping healthcare exploitation. In a recent New York Times editorial, Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, explains how TPP will harm patients. "If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the TPP will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices." The pharmaceutical companies hope that "no bulk price" negotiation by our government becomes the standard in all countries. The humanitarian group, Doctors without Borders, has urged lawmakers not to accept the TPP because it will force all countries to amend their laws to keep drugs from becoming generic even after 20 years, producing astronomically high drug prices worldwide. At that point we won't be able to complain that drug prices are so high only in the US because they will be high everywhere. "Make no mistake, in terms of health, the TPP remains the most damaging trade agreement we've ever seen, particularly for patients living in middle-income countries, where the vast majority of the world's poor people live," said Judit Rius Sanjuan, the US Access Campaign Manager for the organization. The TPP is a trade deal that puts our lives on the line.
There is still the environment that this agreement will jeopardize through the power of international corporations. The TPP actually allows corporations to sue governments to obtain taxpayer compensation against environmental laws that could affect their "expected future profits." Under special rules established by the TPP, if a corporation feels its ability to make money is hampered by an inconvenient law, such as a moratorium on deep water drilling, it can actually bypass a nation's judicial system to seek remedy with a tribunal of private lawyers. In such corporate cases, neither legal precedent nor the opinions of governments can bind the adjudicating lawyers and there is no way to appeal their rulings.
Now are you beginning to understand why the banks and multinationals want this deal negotiated in secret and rushed into law? Though the corporate interests that own President Obama would have you believe his folksy remarks that this legislation would protect workers, the environment and the web, you must look beyond his words to his actions to discover the truth for yourself. If the TPP was good for people why is it being negotiated in the shadows, far from the antiseptic sunlight of transparency? Why is the Obama administration "fast-tracking" it into legislation? Clearly, those that would benefit from the TPP don't want public scrutiny as it may stop it in its tracks. They want to turn the TPP into law before we can make an informed decision. We can't let that happen. Let's get a discussion going. I barely scratched the surface describing a few areas of the agreement; there is even more vital information involved. I encourage you to write in about which topic I should cover in greater detail next. Would you like to know more about how the TPP will affect 1) The Internet 2) Healthcare 3) The Environment 4) Income Inequality 5) Food Safety or 6) Wall Street Reforms?
I urge you to leave your questions and comments about the areas of your interest. What we need is an open and informed debate on the merits and perils of this secret trade proposal. We thank God for a little sunshine by courageous people and whistleblowers who help Gandhi's dream #1: that Participatory People Power shall replace TPP.