In recent years, the Obama administration has put its full weight behind “fast tracking”
the Trans-Pacific Partnership, eliminating Congress’s ability to edit or stall the
agreement. In response, Wikileaks recently released classified documents from the secret
arrangement, and condemned the partnership in a press release. So what’s the big deal?
The US has fast tracked a number of trade agreements between countries in the last decade,
what’s so scary about the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Well, first of all, this agreement covers a huge section of the world. It governs international
investments and trade regulations between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada,
Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Together, these
countries represent more than 40% of the world’s GDP, and make for the single largest economic
The most recent Wikileaks release revealed that the partnership establishes extrajudicial
courts in which corporations can potentially sue countries over laws and policies that
affect a company’s future profits. This is a huge deal. Imagine a tobacco company
suing a country because their anti-smoking regulations could potentially hurt the company’s
profits. Sound unlikely? Well, in 2011, tobacco giant Philip Morris used some clever legal
maneuvering to sue Australia for that exact reason on the basis of an outdated trade agreement
with Hong Kong.
The Obama administration has promised that the deal will increase jobs, boost US exports,
and lower tariffs on US products in Asia, which will let the US compete more aggressively
against China. However, economists like Robert Reich have called this a global “race to
the bottom”. That’s an economic term for when governments reduce regulations and taxes
in order to attract investing companies. This practice has the added effect of lessening
labor laws, lowering wages, and raising the rate of outsourcing. Additionally, Democratic
Senator Ben Cardin [KAR-din] has voiced concerns that three of the countries, Brunei, Malaysia,
and Vietnam, have histories of human rights abuses.
Since 2012 there have been a number of protests and petitions to stop the TPP, or at the very
least to release the information within the agreement. In a surprising twist, several
House Democrats have vehemently opposed the idea of fast tracking the deal, while Republicans
have shown strong support for the President.
So what’s so bad about the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement? In short, it’s a classified
deal that creates an international court not bound by the laws of any country, that allows
companies to sue countries over potential lost profits. Although supporters of the deal
say that it is a means of future economic growth, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange warns
that “Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental
protection, public health and public transport policies." With nearly 800 million people
likely to be affected by this agreement, shouldn’t we know what’s in the agreement before it
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