Published on
Food & Water Watch

WTF is the TPP?

Congress cannot allow decades of hard work to be torn to pieces in the claws of corporate greed, and our economy and environment cannot afford to be crippled by this disastrous trade agreement. (Photo courtesy of Food & Water Watch)

If we don’t pay attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), this behemoth of a trade deal will destroy much of the progress we’ve made in the United States protecting the environment, workers, food safety and people’s health.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is Worse Than We Expected

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade deal that 12 different countries, including the United States, have been negotiating for years — in secret. Even though it will have a significant impact on our day-to-day lives, for seven years members of Congress, governors, the media and the public were kept entirely in the dark about the details. But hundreds of corporations and business trade associations had a seat at the table as designated “trade advisors” and were able to insert their own special interest giveaways into the TPP text.

Here’s one easy way to identify the distorted priorities of the TPP: the term “climate change” isn’t so much as mentioned once in all 30 chapters.  

There’s a lot of talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership because after years of absurd secrecy, the text of the deal was finally released in November 2015. Now, if Congress approves this deal, the TPP can trump common-sense protections for workers, the environment, public health, food safety and much more. It is a deal that strengthens the power of corporations and weakens our democratic institutions by putting global commerce ahead of the public.

The sheer range of groups opposing the TPP shows what a bad ideal this deal is. Food & Water Watch joins a broad-based, non-partisan coalition of faith, community, farm, labor, environmental, senior citizen, public health, human rights, internet freedom and other groups opposing this deal because it threatens to unravel decades of progress on all our issues. Now that the text of the deal is public, it has become even more clear that the deal is worse than many prior trade deals… and worse we feared.

Make no mistake: there will be winners and losers with the TPP, and most of us are going to lose something. This is about profits over people. Here are some of the basic facts that TPP proponents won’t tell you:

This deal could literally make you sick:

Do you want more and more of your food coming from countries with weaker food safety regulations?

  • The TPP specifically says that food safety rules can only exist “while facilitating and expanding trade” — meaning that global commerce is prioritized over preventing foodborne illness.
  • The deal also lets foreign countries attack our food safety standards as “illegal trade barriers.” This is bad news for straightforward food labels — for example, our country of origin labels for meat and dolphin-safe tuna labels have already been successfully attacked as so-called trade barriers at trade tribunals.
  • The TPP also makes it easier to trump our food safety protections in trade tribunals. There is even a new provision that lets exporters second-guess U.S. inspectors at the border when they stop suspect food shipments, eroding the rigorous oversight needed to ensure we’re only accepting food that’s up to American safety standards.

Food safety and labeling standards should not be sacrificed for increased trade, but that will likely be the case if the TPP passes.

Foreign companies can sue over federal, state and even local laws:

The TPP includes language that lets foreign investors sue the United States over any new law, rule or regulation that the corporation claims “interferes” with “reasonable investment-backed expectations” — which could mean anything that negatively affects its bottom line. In other words, corporate interests can challenge our commonsense environmental, public health and food safety regulations in secret trade tribunals – and demand monetary damages if they win.


Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

These kinds of corporate trade lawsuits (known in trade jargon as the investor-state dispute system) are an active threat to democracy.

It’s incredible that we’re even considering letting foreign companies have this much power over our laws.

This is a win for big oil and gas and big agriculture:

Here’s a great fracking example of how these corporate trade lawsuits will work. A fracking company incorporated in Delaware has already sued Canada for $250 million over the fracking moratorium in the province of Quebec under the investor-state provisions of NAFTA. This case and others show that companies can use these provisions to challenge not just national laws, but local democracy in action. New county-wide fracking bans and moratoriums, state GMO labeling laws and local efforts to fight the takeover of municipal water systems could all be ripe targets for foreign companies. Sometimes the mere threat of these trade lawsuits can deter local governments from trying to implement commonsense protections for their residents.

Silent on climate change, but a big win for fracked gas exports:

The TPP’s weak and unenforceable environmental provisions are worse than some of the trade deals under President Bush, which is why the environmental community is overwhelmingly opposed to the deal. Even worse, under the TPP the U.S. Department of Energy will rubber stamp the approval of all exports of liquefied natural gas to all TPP countries. That means more pressure to expand and accelerate fracking across the country.

We’re currently working to ban fracking to better protect our communities and our climate, because this dangerous practice pollutes our air and water, has been shown to increase health risks in nearby areas, and even cause earthquakes. We’re gaining traction in the transition to a better, cleaner world, but the growing movement to stop fracking, label GMOs and many other democratic efforts now is running headlong into the TPP. Don’t let the TPP rollback all our progress and efforts.

Why would anyone want this awful deal?

The Washington elites are touting the same old free trade platitudes about promoting exports and helping businesses compete on a global stage.  But we’ve seen this illusion shatter for past trade deals, and will not be fooled again. The charm offensive by the big business lobby cannot paper over the millions of offshored jobs, the growing income inequality and the erosion of democracy from these trade deals. The proponents talk a big game — but Americans have had enough with the broken promises of deals that trade their rights and protections for corporate profits.

This is just the start.

At Food & Water Watch, we’re focused on protecting your food and water. But the TPP could undermine a LOT of other areas that people care about — and we highly recommend you get involved.

We’ve been following the TPP for years and will continue to lead the fight to stop the TPP in its tracks. You can find more background materials in our research library and regular updates in our news and insight features.

But the most important thing you can do is take action. Congress cannot allow decades of hard work to be torn to pieces in the claws of corporate greed, and our economy and environment cannot afford to be crippled by this disastrous trade agreement. Take action to stop the TPP today!

Kiley Fisher

Kiley Fisher

Patrick Woodall

Patrick Woodall

Patrick Woodall is Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate for Food & Water Watch. Patrick has been a public policy analyst, researcher and advocate on economic justice issues in Washington for more than two decades.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article