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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive new international trade pact being pushed by the U.S. government at the behest of transnational corporations. The TPP is already being negotiated between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam — but it is also specifically intended as a “docking agreement” that other Pacific Rim countries would join over time, with Korea, China and others already expressing some interest.  It is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in the world. The TPP encompasses nearly 40% of global economic output. If all eligible countries joined, it would rise to over 60%. If the TPP is enacted it will drastically change the way global trade is conducted!

The Obama administration’s embrace of the Bush-negotiated Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements leaves many worried that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become nothing but a massive new NAFTA-style agreement.  Indeed, while none of the negotiating text for the FTA has ever been officially released, it is already clear that trade negotiators are using past free trade agreements as their basic starting point for this one.  The leaked text of several chapters, in fact, show rollbacks from the Bush years on topics like access to medicine and zero progress on investment.
The ongoing, multi-year negotiations over the TPP are supposed to conclude this year, and as such, the window of opportunity for preventing the FTA from becoming a new “NAFTA for the Pacific Rim” is rapidly closing.  Here are some of the questions yet to be answered:

  • Labor rights: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA include labor standards based on International Labor Organization conventions, and if included, how will they be enforced?
  • Investment Provisions: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA include so-called “investor-state” provisions that allow individual corporations to challenge environmental, consumer and other public interest policies as barriers to trade?
  • Public Procurement: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA respect nations’ and communities’ right to set purchasing preferences that keep taxpayer dollars re-circulating in local economies?
  • Access to Medicines: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA allow governments to produce and/or obtain affordable, generic medications for sick people?
  • Agriculture: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA allow countries to ensure that farmers and farm workers are fairly compensated, while also preventing the agricultural dumping that has forced so many family farmers off their land?

If labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, immigrant rights, human rights and other social justice advocates don’t force Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations into the public light, the answers to these questions aren’t likely to be ones we’ll be happy with.
International trade policies can be designed to lift labor, environmental and human rights standards and living conditions at home and abroad — but only if we demand it.
Trans-Pacific Trade Negotiations: We Need a Fair Deal or No Deal