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Trans-Pacific Partnership vs. the People and Planet

February 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a potentially disastrous “trade” deal, fundamentally undermines economic and social equality, environmental protection, and human rights. With Congress poised to vote on the Obama-touted deal, it’s time to expose the false promises of the TPP.

The final TPP text was finally released in November after seven years of secretive negotiations, during which 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests had special access and Congress, the public and press were shut out.

Despite claims to create jobs, the TPP includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore more formerly U.S.-based jobs to low wage countries. A recent economic modeling study concluded that netting out potential gains and losses, the pact could cost the U.S. another 450,000 jobs. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement, we have endured a net loss of more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities and already have lost an astounding one out of every four American manufacturing jobs.

A recent study finds that the TPP would spell a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of U.S. workers, further exacerbating U.S. income inequality, just as past trade deals have done.  But this is not surprising, as basic macroeconomic theory predicts that if Americans are subject to more competition from workers in Vietnam making less than 65 cents an hour, American wages will be pushed downwards.

Similar to free trade agreements passed over the past 22 years, the impacts of the TPP on agriculture would be devastating for small-scale farmers in the U.S. and abroad.

An earlier trade deal between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico (NAFTA) instituted a set of regulations that made it easier for transnational corporations to make profits across borders, no matter what the costs or consequences to people and the environment.  As a result, thousands of workers in the U.S. lost their jobs as companies moved their operations to Mexico where the costs of production were cheaper.

At the same time, millions of Mexican peasant farmers and Indigenous Peoples lost their livelihoods, as they could not compete with the prices of subsidized agricultural commodities from U.S. corporations that flooded Mexican markets. Prices that Mexican farmers receive today for maize (corn), their main crop, are 75 percent less than they were 25 years ago, before NAFTA was passed. As a result, many of these small farmers and Indigenous Peoples found themselves forced to either work in factories (maquilas), or to migrate north to try to find work, in both cases often under extremely exploitative conditions.

And Mexican consumers are no better off – because US corporations like Cargill have set up special relations with large Mexican companies, they have established a monopoly that drives up prices to consumers, even as prices paid to farmers have drastically fallen.

Mexican communities continue to struggle under the weight of the devastating impacts of NAFTA, and now are faced with an even greater threat from the TPP.  Alberto Gómez-Flores of the Via Campesina Mexico, part of an international movement of over 250 million small-scale farmers and food producers, explains, “This new form of trade agreement, the TPP, is a clear and serious attack against the sovereignty of our peoples.”

The impacts are not limited to Mexico.  Shushi Okazaki of Nouminren, the Japan Family Farmers Movement, shared a similar position, “The TPP is the worst-ever treaty to completely destroy Japan’s agriculture, which has already suffered a lot under the WTO.”

Small-scale farmers in the U.S. would be equally devastated.  John Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders, explains, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is basically like NAFTA for the Pacific… If TPP passes, thousands of American dairy farmers will go bankrupt… It will also downgrade a lot of consumer safety standards, [such as] the right to know.”

Jim Goodman, a farmer and member of the National Family Farm Coalition, points out the contradictions of President Obama’s rhetoric: “As a farmer who, as President Obama says, will be one of the prime beneficiaries of these new free trade deals, I say no, I will not benefit, nor will anyone else, save those corporate entities who have already benefited too much from the income disparity, the environmental destruction, and the idea that economic growth is all that matters.”

The pact would roll back the environmental standards that President George W. Bush was pressured into including in his trade deals.  Furthermore, it would give corporations the right to sue if governments have environmental regulations that interfere with corporate profit interests.  In this period of staggering ecological devastation and such a stark need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, we simply cannot afford to allow such reckless corporate actions that would put humanity and the planet in much more danger.

The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules – widening the highway for the superrich while paving over the rights and livelihoods of over small farmers, workers and the planet itself.

This article included information from Public Citizen, which has been organizing against the TPP. Graphic courtesy of DonkeyHotey.

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