On July 2, 2012 Carol Heasley and I participated with the Occupellas as delegates to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) conference. After singing our songs protesting the TPP, the IP and Labor negotiators remained after the meeting and spoke with our group. We expressed our concerns about this very broad international agreement that can take precedence over our national sovereignty. The TPP has been drafted and negotiated in secret by 300 corporations. Even members of Congress have been denied access to the documents. I’m providing this summary at this time as, in spite of protests in San Diego and other cities, the TPP is continuing to move ahead. Every citizen should be aware of the potential impact of the TPP and should join in a movement to stop the approval and implementation of the TPP.
Very little was known about this wide-ranging agreement until someone leaked two of the chapters. That disclosed information should cause alarm to every citizen. What has become clear is that this proposed agreement is NAFTA on steroids. It goes well beyond a trade agreement. It gives legal jurisdiction over the laws of participating countries to an unelected tribunal that represents the interests of multinational corporations.
The purpose of the TPP espoused by government representatives is to open markets for American goods and create more manufacturing jobs – a statement that would make Orwell roll in his grave. Ironically, the result of United States trade agreements has had the opposite impact, namely, the outsourcing of jobs to countries with low labor costs that have virtually no environmental protection regulations. It has been a race to the bottom that has decimated our manufacturing sector and hollowed out our middle class. When we called this to the negotiator’s attention, he indicated that the intent of the TPP negotiations was to bring the standards of the trading partners up to U.S. levels rather than reduce our standards to those of the trading partners. We responded that since most of the parties to the TPP are third world countries it is highly unlikely that they can be brought up to U.S. standards within any reasonable timeframe. More significantly a negotiation, by definition, involves reaching an agreement that lies somewhere in between the starting positions of the negotiating parties. I referenced my personal experience in the corporate world involving decades of negotiating multimillion dollar contracts with domestic agencies and international governments. Faced with real world experience, he was unable to deny the practical results of negotiation but stately only that it was their “intention” to raise the labor and environmental standards of the TPP partner countries.
The contrast that we provided him was the example of European countries like France, Germany, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries which have higher labor and environmental standards than the United States. If we were negotiating with those countries meeting in the middle would enhance our labor and environmental standards as we arrive at a negotiated middle ground. However, we are instead choosing to negotiate with under developed countries. There is a good reason for that. It benefits multinational corporations in two major respects:
Allows corporations to cut costs and increase profits by outsourcing their manufacturing to countries with low labor costs and weak or no environmental regulations.
Establishes an international corporate sovereignty over American industry that weakens labor rights, erodes our environmental standards for water, air and food quality and extends IP provisions that will discourage innovation and result in higher drug prices.
We mentioned that as we continue to lose our manufacturing base and reduce wages for the middle and working classes our tax base will be further diminished. That will mean reducing government services and further degrading our educational system. Ultimately, the corporations will have a poorly educated permanent American underclass that can be further exploited – essentially a workforce that lacks the education and skills needed to compete technologically in a global economy. All other developed countries have an Industrial policy that incorporates education, research and development and some level of protection of their industries. The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have an Industrial Policy.
The TPP negotiator acknowledged that the United States does not have an Industrial Policy but said he was not in a position to address that – it was above his level. However, the reality is that a country that just wants to extract profits by exploiting its citizens doesn’t need an industrial policy. Only countries that are focused on the quality of life of its citizens need to have an industrial policy. TPP is just another example of a society that values corporate profits over the well-being of its citizens. Followed to its logical conclusion TPP can transition the United States and its partners into a neo feudal society composed of an isolated ruling class buttressed by masses of modern-day serfs that toil to survive in a marginal existence. Essentially it will be a global corporatocracy that takes precedence over sovereign states and controls the society and lives of its citizens.
One item that was not discussed with the negotiators was the larger global strategy. The TPP implementation time frame will parallel a realignment of our military resources from other regions of the world to Asia. The overall goal of the strategy appears to be to isolate China economically and militarily. Like past empires the projection of power around the globe will come at a high price to the average citizen in the homeland. In our own history, the American Revolution did not start as a general dissatisfaction with the crown. It started as a revolt against the East India Company – the Exxon Mobile of the day. Our founding fathers mobilized the citizenry, took on and defeated the major corporate power of that time to establish a democracy. Unfortunately, our current political leaders are not heeding the wisdom of our founding fathers who cautioned against allowing corporate power to undermine our democracy. In the American Revolution, change came from the bottom, not the top. The critical challenge of our day is to follow the historical example of our country’s founding fathers by mobilizing public opinion against the global corporate takeover by TPP. This may be our last chance to save our democracy and quality of life. We should not remain silent.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Point Loma Democratic Club of which she is a member.