With 12 nations expected to sign the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in New Zealand on Thursday, opponents in the U.S. and beyond are renewing their criticisms of the deal's worst provisions, which they warn pose serious dangers to the climate, working families, and democracy.
The signatures mark the end of the negotiating process, with a broad agreement on the deal having been reached in October. Now, all 12 Pacific Rim countries will be able to begin their respective domestic ratification processes, which in the U.S. means passage by Congress.
"The TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few. It is no wonder the presidential front-runners from both political parties oppose it."
—Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
Recent reporting suggests Congress won't take up the issue until after the November elections—which gives opponents time to hone their arguments against the toxic deal.
"I urge my colleagues to reject the TPP and stop an agreement that would tilt the playing field even more in favor of big multinational corporations and against working families," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday. Noting that "most of the TPP's 30 chapters don't even deal with traditional trade issues," she argued, "most of TPP is about letting multinational corporations rig the rules on everything from patent protection to food safety standards—all to benefit themselves."
Warren was one of 38 senators who voted against a bill last year allowing the president to "Fast Track" trade agreements like the TPP through Congress on a simple majority vote, with senators unable to amend the deals or challenge specific provisions.
"A rigged process produces a rigged outcome," she continued, blasting the composition of advisory committees that were made up of industry executives and the cloak of secrecy that surrounded the negotiations.
Warren specifically called out the TPP's Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, provisions, which she said give "big companies...the right to challenge laws they don't like—not in court, but in front of industry-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system. Workers, environmentalists, human rights advocates, they don't get that special right—only corporations do."
Watch Warren's speech in full:
Warren isn't the only one sounding the alarm as the TPP snakes toward passage.
In a statement on Tuesday, Alfred de Zayas, a U.N. independent expert on democratic international order, decried the TPP as "fundamentally flawed" and "based on an old model of trade agreements that is out of step with today’s international human rights regime."
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Highlighting widespread opposition to the agreement, de Zayas added: "If a public referendum were held in all twelve countries concerned, it will be solidly rejected."
Slamming the deal as "a new low" and "a giveaway to Big Pharma" that would "take a sledgehammer to American manufacturing," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka declared in an op-ed published Tuesday:
The final text of the agreement, released in November, is even worse than we imagined, with loopholes in labor enforcement and rewards for outsourcing. Like its predecessor agreements NAFTA and CAFTA, the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few. It is no wonder the presidential front-runners from both political parties oppose it.
[...] We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field — but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.
"If countries are serious about addressing the climate crisis, they need to stand up to coal, oil and gas companies, not reward them with new rights and privileges."
—Payal Parekh, 350.org
Meanwhile, climate group 350.org reiterated on Wednesday how the TPP "would give dangerous new powers to the fossil fuel industry."
"The TPP is a fossil fuel industry handout," said Payal Parekh, 350.org global managing director. "This partnership in pollution gives corporations the right to challenge any local government or community that tries to keep fossil fuels in the ground."
What's more, Parekh added, the deal "makes a mockery of the climate agreement decided in Paris last December. If countries are serious about addressing the climate crisis, they need to stand up to coal, oil and gas companies, not reward them with new rights and privileges."
While U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters on Tuesday that "momentum for passage is growing," The Hill reports Wednesday that with support waning among Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike, TPP backers face an uphill climb on Capitol Hill.
According to The Hill, AFL-CIO's Trumka and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), both vocal opponents of the agreement, are joining MoveOn in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to deliver 1 million petitions calling on Congress to reject the agreement.
And on Thursday—World Cancer Day—healthcare professionals and cancer patients will risk arrest outside the headquarters of PhRMA, a trade association representing brand-name pharmaceutical companies that pushed for expanded monopolies in the TPP, to dramatize what they are calling the "TPP Death Sentence."