A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

TPP: The 1% gets meat and gravy, everyone else gets garbage

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Nov. 19, 20 or 21

Days before Thanksgiving, it seems like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership will serve corporations the turkey and gravy, and the rest of us bones and garbage.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is like past “free-trade” deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which sparked companies to move operations overseas, closing factories and costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) headquarters said, “This trade deal fails working families. It forces U.S. workers to compete with the 65-cent an hour wages of Vietnamese workers and the slave labor employed in Malaysia.”

A deal between the United States and 11 other nations (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) representing 40 percent of the planet’s economy, the 30-chapter TPP is 1,000-plus pages of legalese. But in various searchable versions online, citizens will notice the holidays’ Grinch. For example:

* Automakers “domestic content” would be relaxed from 62.6 percent now to 45 percent for vehicles and 35 percent for parts. So more than half of a GM car, for instance, could be manufactured in a foreign plant and be treated as Made-in-the-USA.
* TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter would roll back previous protections for access to medicines.
* Its Environment chapter would eliminate most of earlier pacts’ Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
* Under Investment, the scope of policies that can be challenged would expand, including for the first time letting Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) enforcement of challenges to financial regulations.
* The E-Commerce chapter would undermine consumer privacy safeguards
* Its Sanitary and Phytosanitary chapter terms would impose new limits on imported food safety.

The ISDS panels are private tribunals that can punish governments for regulations that might cut profits – leaving taxpayers footing the bill for fines. So corporations could sue governments (of any level) if corporations claim future profits are threatened. However, the ISDS won’t hear complaints from advocates for labor, environmental or human rights.

TPP also is powerless against currency manipulation, which some nations use to lower the prices of their exports.

“If a country takes steps to depress its currency by 20 percent against the currencies of its trading partners,” economist Dean Baker explained, “it has the same impact as if it imposes a 20-percent tariff on all imports and gives a 20-percent subsidy to all exports.”

President Obama says TPP’s corporate negotiators created a document that “puts the American worker first” and claims it represents “the strongest labor standards in history” and “the strongest environmental standards in history.”

And corporations say with TPP, they’ll be able to lower production costs, which could let them invest resources into uses like expanded facilities to better wages. (Of course, that logic’s familiar from decades of claims about “trickle-down economics” and higher profits during the recovery from the Great Recession translating into more and better jobs, which never happened.)

The proposed agreement is so bad it’s having a unifying effect. A broad coalition of opponents include labor, environmental, food-safety, consumer, faith, immigrant-rights, student, civil-rights, senior and other groups, from the open-Internet group Fight for Future to Doctors Without Borders. Strange bedfellows also object to TPP, from billionaire Donald Trump and Pope Francis to presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who said, “This deal appears to fall woefully short.”

U.S. Business and Industry Council president Kevin Kearns said TPP is “a very bad deal for America,” and both Ford and Chrysler have come out against it.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader called TPP “a global corporate coup.”

TPP is a “total disaster,” said Robert Borosage of Campaign for America’s Future. “Drug companies will be able to extend their monopoly pricing over new, life-saving drugs, often built on research paid for by taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health. Foreign banks will have the ability to challenge and even overturn our financial regulations.”

The Sierra Club’s Ilana Solomon noted, “The words ‘climate change’ don’t even appear in the text.”

CWA president Chris Shelton said there’s hope that political reality will help defeat the measure.

“Few members of Congress will want to vote in an election year on the mass giveaway of U.S. jobs that this TPP allows,” he said.

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