The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a new international trade pact crafted by multinational corporations and currently being negotiated in secret by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) along with eleven other foreign governments. Over 600 corporate advisors also have access to the text, but the public and civil society are excluded. Little was known about the TPP until a series of leaked documents was published in 2011 by the Citizens Trade Campaign, revealing what many had suspected—that the TPP is not about trade at all, but is rather a corporate power grab that circumvents domestic judicial systems and undermines national sovereignty.
If ratified, the TPP would establish a system of international tribunals allowing corporations to challenge the laws, regulations and even court decisions of any member nation (including local, county and state laws) if they are deemed to adversely impact the corporation’s expected future profits. Under the TPP’s “investor-state” provision, corporations would even be allowed to file preemptive lawsuits against proposed government actions before they are undertaken, preventing, for example, New York or other states and municipalities from passing anti-fracking legislation or enacting consumer protection laws. Judges on these tribunals would consist of corporate lawyers on temporary leave from their regular jobs with multinational corporations, and because of international treaty obligations, their decisions it is alleged, would supersede those of domestic courts, possibly including the U.S. Supreme Court.
As I continue to advocate and will again here, the Constitution is NOT the problem. In my view if our elected officials would follow the Rule of Law and honor our Constitutional Protections as their practice instead of disregarding the Constitution the way they do so many of the ills of our society would be solved. Here is another example. The Constitution does not authorize the execution of Secret Trade Agreements. Further the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution makes it clear “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” Now there is plenty of rhetoric that Treaties become the Supreme Law of the Land. Rhetoric one can trace back to John Foster Dulles. His “interpretation” was literally ridiculous but like much rhetoric and action it slithered its way into the mindset of the halls of our legal institutions. I went to t a seminar last year and a Lw Professor tried to argue that International Law and Treaties trumped Constitutional Authority. This seminar was put on by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, acslaw.org, of which I am a member, and in a room full of lawyers, activists, judges and students my response to this lunacy was given a standing ovation. If the Constitution Protections and Limits and Rule of Law is followed the TPP will have not teeth in our society. Since we regularly disregard the Constitution the TPP then becomes very dangerous. Something akin to the NDAA for example.
Provisions in the TPP specifically threaten to:
- Undermine food safety protections by making it harder for countries to adopt regulations such as labeling laws or banning GMOs.
- Dismantle the “Buy Local” movement by overturning government laws designed to keep taxpayer dollars in the local economy.
- Inhibit access to lifesaving medicine by extending monopoly drug patents for big pharmaceuticals.
- Curtail Internet freedom, spur further financial deregulation, roll back environmental laws and more.
The TPP is being negotiated under unprecedented secrecy because previous attempts to pass similar “free trade” pacts have been met with widespread public opposition. Grassroots movements in the past have successfully stopped the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the expansion of the World Trade Organization, and others. The Obama Administration therefore plans to bring the TPP to a “fast track” vote as early as the Fall of 2013, bypassing congressional review and public debate entirely. Therefore, we must act now, utilizing education, protest and civil disobedience to stop the TPP and build a broad-based movement for future battles.
The fight against the TPP is a fight that creates coalitions. Many political groups from various ideologies advocate against the TPP. This is an opportunity to highlight these coalition fights.