Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Even Worse Than We Thought


The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was released by the Obama administration Thursday, and as Lori Wallach, head of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and a leading expert on trade, its provisions are “even worse than we thought.”

Wallach was among several leading experts that included representatives from labor, environmental, consumer and health care interests who denounced the treaty in a news media call as one that would harm working families and throw the balance of power between ordinary people and corporations even further out of whack.

Global Trade Watch has published an initial 17-page analysis of the voluminous trade text. According to that analysis, a broad range of interests are threatened by the treaty.

It would encourage American corporations to send more jobs overseas, for example, while threatening the ability of the US government to use taxpayer dollars to boost American businesses and workers. Health groups such as Doctors Without Borders say the treaty will put life-saving medications out of the reach of billions of people in the developing world – and financially struggling people in the United States – because drug companies will have more monopoly control to block generic competition and can thus keep their prices high.

The investor-state dispute settlement provisions are so extreme, experts say, that overseas banks would have the ability to challenge and even overturn US financial regulations. While special provisions in the treaty provide some protections for government laws designed to discourage tobacco consumption, no such protections exist for other laws designed to protect public health: Corporations would be able to challenge those laws if their profit expectations were threatened.

As for the environment, “the words ‘climate change’ don’t even appear in the text,” said Ilana Solomon of the Sierra Club during the call.

“From what we have reviewed so far, we are deeply disappointed that our policy recommendations and those of our trade reform allies in the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and business sectors were largely ignored,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement announcing the organization’s intent to defeat the treaty in Congress. “The investment rules still provide expansive new legal rights and powers to foreign businesses to challenge legitimate government actions, the labor enforcement provisions are still inadequate to address the enormous challenges posed by this deal and the lack of enforceable currency rules subject to trade sanctions mean the promised new export markets may never materialize.”

The full text of TPP can be seen <>. The text consists of more than a thousand pages of incomprehensible legalese. This is going to take time and experts to figure out. Worse, it was negotiated in a corporate-dominated process, so if TPP is approved we have to assume that anything that is hard to understand or ambiguous will later be used to justify taking from We the People and giving to A Few People.

President Obama set down the bottom line of TPP by releasing a statement calling TPP, “a new type of trade deal that puts American workers first.” In the statement he wrote, “If you’re an autoworker in Michigan, the cars you build face taxes as high as 70% in Vietnam.”

It is interesting that he would use the example of auto workers here. Dave Johnson’s September post “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For US Than NAFTA?” looked at how TPP will affect the American auto industry and found:

“Under NAFTA 62.5% of the value of cars and 60% of auto parts must be made in NAFTA countries, or a tariff will apply. But for TPP the US Trade Rep. Michael Froman appears to have made a deal saying only 45% for cars and 30% for parts need to be made in TPP countries – the rest of that business goes to China and other non-TPP, low-wage, low-labor-standards and low-environmental-protection countries. The result will be a huge shift of jobs and business away from American, Mexican and Canadian auto and parts makers.”

Now we know the actual terms. Canada’s Globe and Mail reports, in “Canadian auto sector alarmed by concessions revealed in full TPP text,” that “Canada’s auto parts makers, who employ 81,000, say the text of the agreement shows the local-content protections for vehicle components are significantly skimpier than the former Conservative government had advertised. Former prime minister Stephen Harper had said local-content requirements for important vehicle components would be between 40% and 45%.

“… Engine parts and such body stampings as truck frames and metal roof panels will only be required to have TPP content of 35%.”

Basically when we are talking about “non-TPP countries” getting some percent of the business, we are really just talking about China. So says tariffs do not apply if 35% to 45% of the car and parts are made in TPP countries. This means that 55% to 65% of the car and parts can be made in China and still be tariff-free. This is much worse than even NAFTA, which, as we know, destroyed American auto and parts manufacturing jobs and entire regions of our country.

Kevin L. Kearns, President of the US Business and Industry Council, in the post “Domestic Manufacturers Call Full Text of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement a ‘Very Bad Deal for America.’” says of this,

“Apparently, one of America’s biggest economic problems is that Toyota does not sell enough cars and trucks here, and thus does not displace enough American jobs. The TPP deal allows Toyota and other Japanese automakers a special concession to keep their global supply chains intact.”

So the president’s singling out of auto workers as benefiting from TPP was unfortunate. They do not, and American auto workers will be hit hard as production moves to China.

The TPP also would allow currency manipulation to continue, do nothing to prevent state-owned enterprises from receiving state support and protection, and allow foreign workers to continue to suffer violations of their rights, the United Steel Workers said.

So it looks like TPP does anything but “putting American workers first.” It puts them first in line to be laid off.

Thus the effort is now on to defeat this treaty in Congress.

It is true that majorities in the House and the Senate agreed earlier this year to a fast-track process that keeps the treaty from being amended by Congress, and that raises the political stakes of a “no” vote. But we would argue that the consequences to US citizens – as workers, as consumers, as people concerned about protecting the environment and as people who care not only about our own rights and dignity but those of workers around the world – raise the stakes even higher and make a “no” vote imperative.

Isaiah J. Poole is online communications director of, the website of Campaign for America’s Future. Dave Johnson is a Fellow with Campaign for America’s Future and a Senior Fellow with Renew California.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2015

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