BY Alissa Boochever, PJC Intern
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues to be secretly negotiated among certain members of the US Congress and 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru,Singapore,and Vietnam. A major agreement affecting a third of all world trade, those partici- pating in the TPP negotiations have kept its contents a close secret.
Although publicized as a free trade agreement, only five of the 29 chapters have to do with trade issues. The real concern comes with the knowledge that over 600 corporate officials have been given access to the document, yet it remains hidden from the public and the majority of Congress. The other 24 articles of the agreement are statutes that would protect corporate interests. These include allowing corporations to avoid domestic laws, accessing land without government oversight, extending copyrights on brand name medicines, banning Buy America and Buy Local preferences that invest in US economy, and restricting internet freedom.
The impending impact on global and local workers’ rights illustrates the true discrepancy between fair trade and free trade. The TPP pushes the free trade agenda of lowering tariffs, quotas, labor principles, and environmental standards in order to loosely trade between nations without constraint. Of the countries currently negotiating the TPP, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei have been notorious violators of labor rights with the abyssmal minimum wages – translating to roughly $1.27/ hour in Malaysia, .59/hour in Mexico, and a meager .28/ hour in Vietnam.
The TPP echoes NAFTA in its two- pronged attack on workers both on US soil and abroad. It will increase the competition between desperate workers accepting low wage jobs out of necessity and unionized US laborers who cost more to companies. In 1994, former President Clinton claimed, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good paying American Jobs.” Yet we now know that NAFTA had the opposite effect. According to Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, US government data show that the average annual growth of our trade deficit has been 45% higher with Canada and Mexico than with countries not included in the NAFTA agreement. If the US enters into a NAFTA-style agreement with not just two but 11 other countries, the effect will likely be just as extreme if not more.
Senator Bernie Sanders has voiced his concern saying, “trade is a good thing, but what we must begin doing is negotiating fair trade agreements that reflect the interests of working families in America, working families in other countries, and not just large multinational corporations and CEOs who help write these trade agreements.” We have already seen the effects that free trade agreements like NAFTA have had on worker rights including sweatshops which not only abuse the rights of foreign workers, but decrease the number of those jobs for American workers, just so companies can maximize profit.
As opposed to free trade, fair trade emphasizes creating economic opportunity for marginalized laborers instead of increasing profits for multinational corporations, more direct trade, livable wages for producers, higher environmental standards, and a focus on empowering people to improve the quality of their lives. We need to support small producers, local jobs, and people-to-people interactions, not secret deals like the TPP which support powerful profit-maximizing international corporations.
If you would like to get involved, or have the Peace & Justice Fair Trade Campaign present on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or fair trade in general at your community group or school, contact Carmen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 863- 2345 x3.
- Thank Senator Sanders for his outspoken opposition to the TPP by contacting him: 1 Church St, 3rd Floor, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-862-0697.
- Thank Senator Leahy for his concerns surrounding fast track and the TPP and ask that he openly oppose the agreement: 199 Main St, 4th Floor, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-863-2525.
- Thank Representative Welch for his concerns surrounding the potential affects to the dairy industry as well as the dangers of fast track, and ask that he openly oppose the agreement: 128 Lakeside Ave, Suite 235, Burlington VT 05401 or 802-652-2450.