Now that we can see the TPP text, we know why it’s been secret

The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership can now be viewed by the public, thanks to the New Zealand government, and it is every bit as bad as activists have been warning.

The TPP, if enacted, promises a race to the bottom: An acceleration of jobs to the countries with the lowest wages, the right of multi-national corporations to veto any law or regulation their executives do not like, the end of your right to know what is in your food, higher prices for medicines, and the subordination of Internet privacy to corporate interests. There is a reason it has been negotiated in secret, with only corporate executives and industry lobbyists consulted and allowed to see the text as it took shape.

The threat from the TPP extends beyond the 12 negotiating countries, however — the TPP is intended to be a “docking” agreement whereby other countries can join at any time, provided they accept the text as it has been previously negotiated. Moreover, the TPP is a model for two other deals: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, and the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), an even more secret “free trade” deal being negotiated among 50 countries that would eliminate any controls on the financial industry.

Activists celebrate after the New York City Council declares the city a "TPP-free zone."

Activists celebrate after the New York City Council declares the city a “TPP-free zone.”

The elimination of protections is precisely what U.S. multi-national corporations intend for Europe by replicating the terms of the TPP in the TTIP, a process made easier by the anti-democratic nature of the European Commission, which is negotiating for European governments. Already, higher Canadian standards in health, the environment and consumer protections are under sustained assault under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The TPP is an unprecedented corporate giveaway, going well beyond even NAFTA, which has hurt working people and farmers in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

More than 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. alone may be eliminated by the passage of the TPP. The Wall Street Journal, in an article celebrating victory for multi-national capital, nonetheless estimates that losses in manufacturing and automobiles would add an estimated US$56 billion to the national trade deficit. The international president of United Steelworkers, Leo Gerard, using a U.S. Department of Commerce estimate that 6,000 jobs are lost for every $1 billion of added trade deficit, calculates that would lead to the loss of 330,000 manufacturing jobs.*

Bad news on both sides of the Pacific

The Canadian union Unifor estimates that 20,000 Canadian jobs in auto manufacturing alone are at risk from TPP. Canada will also be forced to open its dairy and poultry industries. There is fear that Canadian dairy farming may collapse and the outgoing Harper régime promised $4.3 billion to compensate farmers from expected losses.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, while acknowledging that community pressure forced governments to resist some of the most extreme measures, worries that the U.S. concession to Australia that the extension of monopolies on biological medications will be five years rather than eight will prove ephemeral. The group reports that the text “refers to eight years and to ‘other measures’ which would ‘deliver a comparable market outcome,’ and to a future review. It is not clear how this will be applied in Australia.” The U.S. will retain its 12-year exclusivity period, while other countries can choose five or eight years, so there will likely be continued pressure from pharmaceutical companies for all to adopt a longer period.

A product would not have to be produced locally to qualify as a locally made product. As much as two-thirds of an automobile’s components could be manufactured in China, for example, and it would still qualify for preferential treatment if one-third is made in any TPP signatory country. But “buy local” rules would become illegal, including for government procurement.

There are no enforceable provisions for environmental, health, safety or labor protection. Public Citizen, in its analysis of the TPP text, reports:

“The language touted as an ‘exception’ to defend countries’ health, environmental and other public-interest safeguards from TPP challenges is nothing more than a carbon copy of past U.S. free trade language that ‘reads in’ to the TPP several World Trade Organization (WTO) provisions that have already been proven ineffective in more than 97 percent of its attempted uses in the past 20 years to defend policies challenged at the WTO. In two decades of WTO rulings, [the articles purporting to protect laws necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health] have only been successfully employed to actually defend a challenged measure in one of 44 attempts.”

The ratio under TPP is likely to be even lower as the TPP promises the most extreme rules in favor of corporations of any “free trade” deal. Even the extremely weak “exception” does not apply to the entire investment chapter of the TPP. Precedent here is bad — as the secret tribunals that decide cases brought by corporations against governments hand down their one-sided agreements, these decisions become a floor for the next decision, pushing the interpretation further in favor of corporate domination.

Democracy canceled by corporate power

Under the TPP, corporations are elevated to the level of national governments and, in practice, could be said to be elevated above governments. The TPP text mandates that “customary international law” be applied for the benefit of an “investor” — that law is not found in any statutes, but rather has been established by previous decisions of secret tribunals interpreting NAFTA and other “free trade” deals. Worse, the TPP places essentially no limits on who qualifies as an “investor” eligible to be compensated for potential profits that may not materialize due to a regulation or safety rule.

Although the rules codifying benefits for multi-national capital are written in firm language, there is no such language for protections. The Sierra Club reports that the TPP mandates that only one of the seven environmental agreements found in previous “free trade” deals be fulfilled, an alarming development as previous environmental requirements have been routinely ignored. Among the many deficiencies in the TPP, the Sierra Club said:

“Rather than prohibiting trade in illegally taken timber and wildlife — major issues in TPP countries like Peru and Vietnam — the TPP only asks countries ‘to combat’ such trade. To comply, the text only requires weak measures, such as ‘exchanging information and experiences,’ while stronger measures like sanctions are listed as options. … Rather than obligating countries to abide by [rules to] prevent illegally caught fish from entering international trade, the TPP merely calls on countries to ‘endeavor not to undermine’ [fisheries-management protocols] — a non-binding provision.”

The TPP fails to even mention the words “climate change”! More than 9,000 corporations would be newly empowered to sue governments because a law or regulation hurt their profits. Worse, the TPP would mandate that the U.S. Department of Energy automatically approve all exports of liquified natural gas to all TPP countries. This would guarantee more fracking; already under NAFTA the province of Québec has been sued in an effort to overturn its fracking moratorium. That may only be the beginning, according to

“The agreement would give fossil fuel companies the extraordinary ability to sue local governments that try and keep fossil fuels in the ground. If a province puts a moratorium on fracking, corporations can sue; if a community tries to stop a coal mine, corporations can overrule them. In short, these rules undermine countries’ ability to do what scientists say is the single most important thing we can do to combat the climate crisis: keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

You’ll have no right know what you eat

Food safety would fare no better. The TPP’s race to the bottom would require that the lowest inspection standards of any country be applied, forcing a lowering of other countries’ standards, and end protections against untested genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your food. Food & Water Watch reports:

“The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. … The food and agribusiness industry demanded — and received — stronger [rules] that make it harder to defend domestic food safety standards from international trade disputes. … Agribusiness and biotech seed companies can now more easily use trade rules to challenge countries that ban GMO imports, test for GMO contamination, do not promptly approve new GMO crops or even require GMO labeling. The TPP gives the food industry a powerful new weapon to wield against the nationwide movement to label GMO foods. The language in the TPP is more powerful and expansive than other trade deals that have already been used to weaken or eliminate dolphin safe tuna and country of origin labels.”

Health care will also come under direct assault, forcing other countries more toward the U.S. system, under which health care is a privilege for those who can afford it rather than a human right. Government programs to hold down the cost of medications are targeted for elimination in the TPP. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, which has been sounding the alarm for years, said:

“TPP countries have agreed to United States government and multinational drug company demands that will raise the price of medicines for millions by unnecessarily extending monopolies and further delaying price-lowering generic competition. … [T]he TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries, which will be forced to change their laws to incorporate abusive intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical companies. For example, the additional monopoly protection provided for biologic drugs will be a new regime for all TPP developing countries. These countries will pay a heavy price in the decades to come that will be measured in the impact it has on patients.”

The text of the TPP is subject to approval by legislative bodies in various countries, and while time is limited and the approval process is streamlined to facilitate approval in several of them, the Trans-Pacific Partnership can be defeated. This is not a national issue. Working people will be hurt everywhere, with jobs disappearing in developed countries and sweatshop misery for other countries — this is why multi-national capital, where ever it is based, is pushing for the TPP. If it is to be stopped, it will be through the combined activity of activists on both sides of the Pacific. We have no time to lose.

* This paragraph has been revised to better reflect the source of the job-loss estimate.


16 comments on “Now that we can see the TPP text, we know why it’s been secret

  1. Good summary of 2,000 pages. What really gets me is that the US Congress (and the Australian parliament) get to vote up or down on TPP. Here in New Zealand, the decision is made by cabinet and Parliament doesn’t even get a vote. At present most anti-TPP activists are agitating for the government to hold a binding referendum to give NZ citizens a vote on TPP.

    • I hope New Zealanders get that vote, but with Key as your prime minister, it doesn’t seem likely. It would be great if people in all 12 countries got to vote on it. That would be interesting, as I have yet to meet anybody who thinks the TPP is a good idea.

  2. Joel Meyers says:

    It also goes without saying that the TPP meshes completely with the Obomber administration renewal of war fever in the “Cold” War pattern by excluding Russia and China, each of which certainly qualify as on the Pacific Rim. This is economic warfare, that combines with prepositioning for military aggression against Russia by developing confrontation in Syria, and through The Ukraine, and harassment of China over officially recognized Chinese possession of sea lane the South China Sea. While the Soviet surrender and the Chinese opening offered naive hope that peace had finally arrived, with a dividend no less, but a possible direct war, not by proxy, seems closer than it has ever been, and there is no relief in sight. The TPP adds injury to insult.

    • I would be cautious about seeing the TPP as an anti-China initiative. The Obama administration had said little about China in the context of the TPP until the final weeks before the vote in the U.S. Congress, when the White House decided it needed to play the nationalist card and began talking the nonsense of the U.S. “setting the agenda” instead of China. Of course, it is multi-national capital that sets the agenda, not Washington or Beijing.

      I believe the long-term plan is for China to be eventually included in the TPP, something that U.S.-based multi-national corporations would dearly love. Corporations like Wal-Mart have been in the forefront of moving production to China. Thus I find it prudent to take the recent use of China as a threat to be countered through the TPP as rhetoric intended for right-wing nationalists and others who might be susceptible to “patriotic” sloganeering to increase the potential support for it. That is a natural card for the Obama administration to play as the text of the TPP itself results in strong opposition.

  3. Steve says:

    Ok I have to ask, how did you get that job loss number? The WSJ article doesn’t say that and I can’t figure out the math you used to estimate 330k losses when I look at the chart on the page. I’m genuinely curious because every reference to 330k jobs lost trace back to this blog post and I’m not sure that accurate?

    $45.4 billion * 6,000 jobs per billion = 272.4k jobs

    I can’t figure out any combination of the numbers that got you to 330k jobs lost. Can you explain how you got that, please?

    • The original source I saw for that job-loss calculation is an article that ran in The Huffington Post and Daily Kos, written by Leo Gerard, international president of Steelworkers United. Here is what he wrote:

      “The Wall Street Journal calculated that the TPP would increase the U.S. trade deficit in manufacturing, car assembly and car parts by $55.8 billion a year by 2025. Using the U.S. Department of Commerce estimate of 6,000 jobs lost for every $1 billion in trade deficits, the TPP would cost another 330,000 American manufacturing workers their jobs, their income, their hopes. Maybe their lives.

      That 330,000 probably is a low-ball estimate because the TPP negotiators secured no enforceable protections for American workers.”

      So, no, the Journal article did not directly provide the 330,000 figure. And that figure does not include any offset, if any, from the purported increase in services surplus; it represents manufacturing jobs. (My own opinion is that the projected increase in services is highly unlikely.) In retrospect, it would have been better for me to have linked to Leo Gerard’s article, which provides the basis for the calculation, rather than the Journal article and been clearer about how that calculation was made.

      • The paragraph in question has now been revised to more accurately present the job-loss calculation, including links to the Journal article and the source of the calculation.

        • Steve says:

          Ok, I think I figured it out. Mr. Gerard seems to be mistaken with this trade deficit/job loss calculation. He says it will cost another 330,000 jobs because of the $56 billion trade deficit at 6,000 jobs per billion. But that’s not right because the TPP won’t cause an addition $56 billion in trade deficit. The current deficit is likely in the $40 billion range based on the BEA’s analysis – Still not sure where Mr. Gerard gets another $10+ billion from based on the WSJ article, but it definitely isn’t accurate when he says 330,000 jobs to be lost because of the TPP 😦

          Does that make sense? Would you agree with my logic here? I could be wrong!

          • Again, the 330,000 figure is manufacturing jobs, not total jobs. If we were to accept at face value the jobs theoretically gained by increased surpluses in other sectors, then the overall job-loss total would be less, and the overall increase in the deficit would also be less. Thus the overall job losses would be less.

            So, yes, I do accept Mr. Gerard’s figures, or I wouldn’t have included it (and still do) in my article. But the best solution to this problem will be to defeat the TPP so we don’t have job losses, whatever the total might be.

            • Steve says:

              Ah, this is where we seem to be disagreeing. So let’s do the math. 55 * 6000 = 330,000 which is the billions of the trade deficit times the number of jobs per billion. So we need to find $55 billion in relation to the trade deficit.

              The WSJ uses this chart to short projected import/export under the TPP –

              There we see heavy manufacturing as $45.4 billion imports, $35.4 billion exports (deficit of $10 billion). Light manufacturing is $32.8 billion imports, $10 billion exports (deficit of $22.8 billion). Thus far we see a manufacturing deficit of $32.8 billion over 10 years or 196,800 jobs. Now if we take the deficit of cars/transport equipment/etc into account, that raises it to $45.8 billion or 274,800 jobs. But that’s not in accord with what Mr. Gerard is saying.

              Basically, there doesn’t seem to be any math to indicate how the TPP directly will account for the loss of 330,000 manufacturing jobs unless I’m missing something here. We’re both on the same page in that manufacturing jobs will be lost and the TPP is an overall bad deal. I’m just trying to be accurate with arguments and it seems like saying “330,000 manufacturing jobs will be lost” isn’t accurate 😦

      • Steve says:

        No worries! I was wonder what that was about. Mr. Gerard’s article doesn’t help explain much on how he got those numbers, unfortunately. The math seems wonky to me. Then again, when you take into account the author is the president of United Steelworkers, I’m not sure if his math was wonky on purpose…?

        I’m against the TPP as written, but am trying to be accurate in my descriptions of what’s bad about it. Having now read the whole thing for myself, there’s a decent amount of good there… just that the bad is that bad 😦

        thanks for clarifying!

        • Thanks for raising the question. Again, Mr. Gerard’s calculation was based strictly on the projected losses in manufacturing, and were not adjusted to account for the projected gains in services and a tiny projected gain in agriculture. So, in my opinion, the numbers are not at all wonky, just specific to a particular part of the economy that particularly suffers from these sorts of “free trade” agreements.

  4. Alcuin says:

    Now we know precisely what “advanced capitalism” looks like. When does it collapse? When the Earth is a barren desert littered with skeletons? Wallerstein was right, as was Marx but Marx was smoking some potent weed when he speculated that capitalism was a stage on the way to communism.

    • Marx the activist certainly was optimistic that capitalism would eventually be supplanted by communism, which he defined as “associated producers” (producers here being individual people) working together through some form of collective decision-making. Marx’s communism is a theoretical stage in which the coercive powers of the state would wither away, all forms of exploitation would have ended and production would be fully rationalized to align with community need.

      Marx the political scientist, however, never thought this would automatically happen; that transcending capitalism and advancing to a better world could only occur if working people (the overwhelming majority of humanity) organized together to make it happen. It is a common mistake to see Marxism as positing a telelogical sequence, although an understandable mistake as many Marxists, not holding a sufficient education in their own system(s) of belief, believe in some telelogical sequence based on some natural “law.”

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