After 5 years of secret negotiations the TPP concluded early Monday morning, Oct. 5, 2015 and yet the deal is not done.
Each signatory country will now need to take this corporate rigged investors’ pact back to his/her country’s legislative body for passage.
Sticking points included stronger intellectual property protections for large pharmaceutical companies, New Zealand was pushing for increased access for their dairy products in Canada, the US and Japan, and country of origin percentages for automobiles and automobile parts was an issue among the US, Mexico, Canada and Japan.
Activists have called for a mass mobilization this November 14-18 in Washington DC against the TPP. We caught up with one of the main organizers Mackenzie McDonald Wilkins – a trade organizer with Popular Resistance and Flush The TPP – to get the low down on this event. Also, make sure to check out the most recent information from Mackenzie regarding this agreement, and the ongoing fight against it.
When did you first learn about the TPP, and why did you decide to get involved?
For a few years starting in 2009 I spent time on and off in Southern Mexico working with rural and indigenous communities that had been devastated by NAFTA. US and Canadian corporations involved with mining, dams, plantations, wind farms, highway construction, and big agriculture had free reign to do whatever they wanted in Mexico under NAFTA. More and more communities were being impacted by these mega-development projects directly or downstream. On top of this, no one could compete with US subsidized agricultural products, especially corn, much of it GMO. Since NAFTA, around half of the remaining species of corn in Southern Mexico have gone extinct. All of this tore apart community after community as people were forced to leave in search of work in cities with sprawling slums or the United States. The Zapatistas are a big inspiration for me after spending time in Southern Mexico, and I learned a lot from some of my Zapatista friends that I worked with. So I knew quite a bit about the international resistance to globalization, but I didn’t hear about the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) until after Occupy when I was back in school at University of Michigan. I was organizing around immigrant rights on campus when I learned about the TPP and immediately knew it would be bad, but I didn’t start to organize around it right away. I started to do housing and public school defense and then some climate justice work. I did a march across the country for climate justice last year and then met Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at Popular Resistance (PopularResistance.org) who taught me a lot more about corporate globalization. I learned that it wasn’t even just the TPP, but two other massive corporate “trade” deals, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). That’s when I really got involved.
What is the problem with free trade? Doesn’t free trade benefit everyone?
“Free trade” is very misleading language. It’s doublespeak. So called “free trade agreements” like NAFTA and like the TPP, are only freeing for multinational capital, in the sense that corporations and investors gain more rights to exploit newly opened markets. And its not about “trade” either. It’s about the rich stealing from the poor. The TPP has 29 chapters. Only 5 have anything to do with “trade.” The rest of the deal is about privatizing government programs and services, taking away government regulations, and removing barriers for investors. In terms of language, we still use the word “trade” just because the word is so commonly used in the movement. To be more clear we say corporate “trade” or rigged “trade.”
TPP, TTIP, and TiSA are nothing less than 21st century colonialism. They are binding and enforceable through corporate courts that give corporations the power to sue governments for any law or regulation that hurts their expected future profits. So, if your local, state or federal government wanted to put a ban on fracking or GMO foods, increase the minimum wage, or promote public banking or renewable energy, they could be sued and forced to remove the law. This new corporate law would supersede US courts including the Supreme Court. This is called the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism or ISDS. The judges are corporate lawyers on temporary leave from their corporate jobs so it is clearly biased in favor of the corporations and investors, not the governments. And the cases only go in one direction. Investors can sue governments, but not the other way around. There is no opportunity for workers, unions, communities, local governments, or others who are adversely impacted to sue for damages caused by corporations.
These deals would be further backed up by the US military. As we have seen time and again, governments that don’t comply with the neoliberal project are overthrown by the US and its allies. This is particularly interesting in regards to the TPP since it is happening at the same time as the US military “Asian Pivot.” New US bases are being built and old bases expanded throughout South and East Asia in the TPP countries surrounding China—and China is excluded from the TPP. The TPP is the economic arm of this project to contain and isolate China in the region. All of the TPP countries are US allies (countries controlled by US empire) with the exception of Vietnam which is quickly being pulled into US military influence. The pivot to Asia plus the TPP is designed to ensure US domination of Asia for the generation to come.
Likewise, TTIP and TiSA are essential to Western domination and US empire. TTIP is part of the US-EU strategy to break ties with and then isolate Russia. TTIP would allow Europe to break its reliance on Russian oil and gas (by moving onto US oil and gas). This is closely tied to the buildup of US militarism in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. TiSA is everywhere else. It is the largest of the three deals, involving over 50 countries and their service economies. Services are a huge part of most capitalist economies today—they make up 80% of the US economy and include health care, education, banking, postal service, accounting, legal services, food and water services, and more. The main aim of TiSA is to deregulate and privatize services in all of these countries.
Who will be affected should the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA be enacted? Who stands to gain? Who stands to lose?
These three deals are corporate power grabs that impact every aspect of people’s lives. If passed, they would take away environmental and food safety protections, increase US development of fracked gas and tar sands for export, offshore US jobs & decrease wages, degrade working conditions around the world, end what we have left of internet freedom, inhibit access to lifesaving medicine by extending patent rights to big pharmaceutical companies, spur further financial deregulation and more. All three deals share common objectives: privatize basic public services for corporate profits, commodify everything to create new profit centers, protect corporations and investors rather than the health of the planet or necessities of people.
TPP, TTIP, and TiSA are a formula for disaster for most people, but especially for poor people and people of color. They would increase human and sex trafficking, forced migration, and the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples whose lands would be stolen or destroyed by mega-development projects. Urban communities in the US would be hit hard by further privatization of schools and prisons and the offshoring of millions of jobs. What we saw in the United States with NAFTA—shuttered manufacturing plants, stranded urban communities, and over 1 million US jobs sent to slave-wage factories overseas—is just a fraction of what would happen if any of these three deals were passed, not to mention all of them.
Big banks, big agriculture, the meat and dairy industry, chemical corporations, pharmaceutical companies, the fossil fuel industry, mining companies…basically the global .01% will gain from these deals. They are the ones writing the text and the only ones who can see it. The public can’t see it. Not even US Congress has full access to the text it is so secretive. Luckily whistle blowers, especially through Wikileaks, have revealed quite a bit of text from these three backroom deals.
Why haven’t I seen this reported in mainstream media?
There was a media blackout on the TPP for years. Now, even as the TPP nears completion, there is scant coverage and almost no serious analysis. That’s why we create our own media. We have a media mobilizer team that is doing great work to spread the word and millions of people have learned about the TPP because of independent media. You can join the media mobilizer team here.
Where do our legislators stand on this issue?
Both parties are divided but if the deal went to Congress today, it would easily pass the Senate (especially since Fast Track prevents a filibuster) and probably pass the House. The best indicator of how your Senators and reps would vote is the Fast Track vote from June 2015 where corporate lobbyists spent hundreds of millions in bribes to pass this legislation which makes it difficult to stop deals like the TPP, TTIP, and TiSA in Congress. Fast Track is the process that forces “trade” deals thru Congress with no amendments, no filibuster, limited debate, and only an up or down vote. It takes away Congress’ constitutional authority to negotiate trade agreements. There are many Democrats and Republicans who simply don’t like being shut out of negotiations. Democrats tend to oppose these deals because it will send jobs overseas and weaken environmental protections. Republicans tend to oppose these deals because they take away US sovereignty and because of xenophobia—they don’t want more immigrants flooding into the country.
If we keep building the movement and the TPP, the first of these three deals, comes to Congress, the key battleground will be the House, especially with Boehner gone—he was actually forced to resign from leadership and Congress because he was so heavy handed in pressuring Republicans to support Fast Track, and punished those who didn’t. This caused a revolt against him and a call to challenge his leadership. Fast Track would have failed without Boehner’s arm twisting. Without Boehner, House Republican opposition to TPP should be stronger, and it would be surprising to see the next Speaker risk his career to support Obama’s “trade” agenda.
But really we can’t wait until these deals come to Congress and hope our legislators will stop them. We have to hit them from every angle possible until countries start to drop out and the deals fall apart. That’s how the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas was defeated and its how we must stop these three gargantuan treaties. This is already beginning to happen with massive protests around the world. The balance of power may be tilting our way. For instance, two weeks ago, Uruguay dropped out of the TiSA, paving the way for others to do so and in Europe, multiple governments are considering termination of TTIP negotiations.
Of these three deals the one closest to completion is the TPP. Here too, there is some real fragility and the US refuses to budge on its negotiating positions. We need to take advantage of these weaknesses and that’s why we are planning for mass actions this November 14-18 in Washington DC. Our actions coincide with the APEC meetings in the Philippines, where US trade reps will push the TPP, and our Philippine allies will have mass protests.
November is a real chance to turn the tables and bury the deal once and for all! I encourage everyone to join us for these actions. Come by yourself or with an affinity group. You can learn more about the actions at bit.ly/TPPBadDeal. We have weekly organizing phone calls, working groups, and so on. There are lots of ways to get plugged in and I’m happy to help anyone so email me at Mackenzie@PopularResistance.org. For more general information visit FlushtheTPP.org and PopularResistance.org.