RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Stop the TPP

There were many things to like in the President’s State of the Union Speech (SOTUS), but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wasn’t one of them. TPP would benefit major corporations and shipping companies, but hurt normal working people by putting us into even more competition with low-wage Pacific rim countries like Mexico, Vietnam and China. It would hurt small farmers while benefiting industrial agriculture and hurt fledgling entrepreneurs building businesses in the buy-local movement.

Indeed, the morning after SOTUS, I expected the in-box on my email account to be full of petitions and links to organizations seeking comments. But there’s been almost nothing. Only the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has called for a day of action.

The TPP “agreement” was written by major corporations, and turns out to be a sort of what-would-you-like-to-create wish list for Wall Street. It would, for example, give corporations more ability to sue nations where regulations make them unhappy. That means that a nation that decides to ban nuclear energy, GMOs or some other polluting technology, could be sued by the corporate owners of that technology.

Most disturbing is the TPP’s willing dismissal of human rights abuses. In all its draft, the words “human rights” do not appear. One of the signatories would be Malaysia, a major human trafficking offender. The administration agreed to Malaysia’s negotiations in October 2015, soon after discovery of mass graves of human trafficking victims in that country. The TPP also includes Vietnam and Brunei, nations that systematically work against human rights. Vietnam is noted for widespread use of child labor while Brunei criminalizes homosexuality.

In our nation, we try to overcome such abuses with the rule of law. The legislative process and the courts are places where we have voices. But we the people have no voice when it comes to industry’s decisions, and industry chooses to buy from the cheapest producers. So, we have little choice over who we patronize as consumers. Governments will be increasingly powerless to govern. At the same time, nations could be sued for promoting their own products. Good bye, Buy American. Good bye, Buy Local.

Obama buried his support of TPP in the middle of SOTUS, spending just 28 seconds on it. He asked Congress to approve it, calling approval “the right thing to do.” The right thing according to whom? Maybe TPP is being pushed heavily by the oil-producing nations, considering how much oil it takes to push the ships and planes from Pacific rim countries to our shores. With an estimated million-barrel-a-day oil glut, the oil-producing nations have the most to gain.

Did I say the most to gain? Let’s not forget the gains that would be made by the too-big-to-fail big banks. On the list of things that TPP would allow, add deregulation and the end to bans on risky financial products like the derivatives that made speculative real estate so hot in the 2000s and led to the $183 billion bailout of AIG. If TPP passes, the dream of taxing gains from Wall Street speculation on Wall Street will remain just that—a dream. According to Public Citizen, under TPP, financial firms could demand “taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.”

Having won fast-track authority from Congress back in June, all that Congress can do is make up or down vote, being unable to amend the TPP or change any parts of it. The rules say that it will take a simple majority to pass, 51 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House.

Approving the TPP would mean new rules and the end of tariffs in an estimated 40% of the world’s economy, twelve nations, including the output of the United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Vietnam and Japan. With new regulations on those “Pacific Rim” countries, there will no doubt be a catch-up agreement for Europe close on its heels.

And even though it appears that high-wage nations like the US and Australia are among the biggest losers in this scheme, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Obama days after the SOTUS speech, and they issued statements touting the benefits of the TPP.

It’s hard—make that impossible—to understand how the TPP would add to Obama’s legacy. At a time when jobs are coming back, we should be hopeful that tax revenues will rise, shrinking the deficit. The normally right-leaning Atlantic Monthly opined that the TPP “threatens America’s recent manufacturing resurgence.” Even the CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, that endorsed the TPP, has tempered his statements to suggest that the TPP needs some “fixes” before it’s passed.

At this writing, Obama and the leaders of the other eleven TPP nations plan to meet on February 4 to sign their agreements. After that signing, at the very second that Obama thinks he has his 51 Senate votes and 218 House votes, he’ll submit the TPP to Congress. They’ll have 90 days to debate and vote on it. Some trade agreements have passed within seven days.

Citizen! We can stop this passage! Call your US Representatives and Senators and tell them to reject the TPP.

Margot Ford McMillen farms near Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2016

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2016 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652