What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and why is the White House trying to rush it through Congress with a “fast track” process that circumvents normal democratic procedures? You’d be hard-pressed to answer these questions if you depend on the US media to keep you informed—particularly corporate TV news, which, with few exceptions, has been silent on the issue. TPP is a sprawling treaty that critics say will enshrine corporate control of decisions on the environment, intellectual property and finance that were previously subject to democratic processes. Rep. Keith Ellison (D.-Minn.) has called it “the largest corporate power grab you never heard of” (Huffington Post, 10/8/13).
Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton used fast track authority to push another “free trade” pact through Congress. NAFTA was sold on the promise of new jobs and increased exports (Washington Post, 11/18/93), but by its 20th anniversary, around 700,000 American jobs were lost due to the agreement (EPI, 5/3/11); Public Citizen puts the number closer to a million (Huffington Post, 1/6/14). Both groups say that NAFTA has increased US trade deficits and lowered wages in the US and Mexico. Critics say TPP’s most profound impacts won’t be on jobs, wages or the trade deficit, but on the very sovereignty of people in the subject nations to make decisions regarding corporate conduct.
The broad movement for fair trade has stalled the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When fast track trade promotion authority was introduced by former Senator Baucus, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, it was announced dead by Harry Reid and many of the members of the Finance Committee. A similar bill in the House also died quickly, not even proceeding to mark-up in the Ways and Means Committee, despite being introduced by its Chairman, David Camp (R-MI).
Congressional leadership including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) all announced that they opposed the Baucus-Camp version of fast track. Vice President Biden acknowledged that trade promotion authority was unlikely this year. This happened because a movement of movements engaged in protests across the country, the issue was raised at town hall meetings and hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails went to Capitol Hill saying “no” to fast track for the TPP.
But, we knew that efforts to rig global trade in the favor of trans-national corporations would not stop there. The movement of movements that stopped the first version of fast track has been preparing for the next stage.
The new chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), made a speech this week announcing that he was working to introduce a new version of trade promotion authority that he is propagandistically calling “smart-track,” but which sounds more like fast track in sheep’s clothing. Wyden was vague on the details, but this far into the process any fast track bill being pushed will still rig trade in favor of transnational corporations.
For people who care about worker’s rights, the environment, Internet freedom, health care for all, regulation of banks and big finance, healthy food, access to water and other issues, the fundamental question is: will trade put the necessities of the people and environment before the profits of transnational corporations and the already wealthy? From what we’ve seen, the TPP does not and that is why we must continue to organize not only to stop it but also to redefine how trade is negotiated from the first step and to correct the failures of past trade agreements.