The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement


The Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) has been running under the radar. For three years, a group of 600 multinational corporations and trade associations have been quietly negotiating this trade pact in secret that could void American laws that protect workers, jobs, health and ecosystems. Last summer, news leaked of some provisions U.S. trade officials were prepared to approve it, but public outcry derailed the talks. Trade Representative Ron Kirk resigned.

Now that Michael Froman has been confirmed as the new U.S. Representative he is pushing to renew “fast track” authority so President Obama can sign the agreement first, and then force a quick vote in Congress without any public scrutiny, floor debate or revisions. Representative Keith Ellison has called TPP “the largest corporate power grab you’ve ever heard of.” Elizabeth Warren, is just one of four U.S. senators who vote against Froman’s confirmation this summer. She said of TPP, “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant.” Warren explained, “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it.

This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” The only TPP language made public was leaked in 2012. Since then trade officials have kept a tight lid on the negotiations, only recently allowing members of Congress to view (not copy) the text, which remains “classified.” Among the most disturbing revelations in last year’s leaked TPP language: Foreign companies would have “preferred status”, granting them greater rights within our borders than out own companies enjoy. U.S. companies would have more incentives to offshore jobs, and foreign companies would not be bound by the minimum wage and could sue the U.S. if our health, safety, or environmental regulations interfered with their profits. Jurisdiction over such lawsuits would rest not in the hands of elected officials or judges, but with an international tribunal. Their decisions, which would be binding upon all member nations, would supersede our own laws, including our Constitution. These tribunals are not bound by precedent and there is no appeal mechanism. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), over 60,000 American manufacturing facilities have closed. The TPP would replicate and expand on the NAFTA model. We all agree the U.S. needs jobs, but this agreement will outsource even more American jobs. Recently, Madison Wisconsin’s Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, “resolving that Dane County is a TPP-Free Zone.” All state, municipal and county governments need to do the same. Call the Michigan Congressional delegation at http// and click on Michigan for phone numbers. Call them now and tell them not to support TPP and to end the secrecy. Call President Obama as well.

Gerry Niedermaier