TPP Presentation - 2/10/2014

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TPP Presentation at Somerville Library - 2/10/2014

Presenting: Denise Provost (MA Legislator) and Phil Sego (Sierra Club).

TPP is the Trans-pacific Partnership Agreement.

The FTC has been very secretive about the TPP negotiation process. Most of what we know comes from leaked documents.

TPP is a federal treaty, and there's a precedent for "federal pre-emption", which is where federal laws take precedence over state laws. This would cause TPP to trump state regulations. Only the federal government can regulate interstate commerce. States cannot.

TPP contains a "super commerce" clause. The super commerce clause states that adopting countries will make their own laws subordinate to the TPP.

Even TPP advocates say this trade agreement isn't about tarrifs. Rather, it's about removing "non-tarrif barriers" (i.e., weakening or removing laws).

Approximately half of the TPP agreement has been posted on wikileaks. It's very long: the intellectual property chapter alone contains over 32,000 words. It's also difficult reading.

TPP would allow more outsourcing of jobs, more anti-union activity, and wage suppression. Workplace safety laws would become subject to (and subordinate to) the TPP.

TPP exemplifies the idea of the "investor state". Transnational corporations would be able to challenge any law or regulation that could adversely affect corporate profits. This provision is already part of some smaller treaties. Chevron has used trade agreements to avoid responsibility for environmental damage in Equador. Phillip Morris is using this to fight health cigarette labelling laws in Australia.

Medicine. TPP would extend patent monopolies for drugs. Foreign corporations would be able to directly challenge any law that regulates the use of toxins, and any public health law.

Copyright. TPP would criminalize small-scale copyright violations. For example, downloading an MP3 would be considered a federal crime. ISPs would be required to monitor what their customers are downloading, and they'd be required to report potential incidents of copyright infringement. TPP would end existing fair-use laws.

Food Safety. TPP would outlaw GMO labelling, as well as country of origin labelling. GMO labelling would be termed an "illegal trade barrier". TPP would evicerate food safety laws. For example, Vietnam has been in particularly bad in the area of food safety. If Vietnam's equivalent of the FDA said "this food is safe", then the US FDA would not be able to challenge that claim.

Environment. TPP would trump national, state, and local environment laws. It will likely lead to more fracking, and higher carbon emissions. It will likely threaten drinking water supplies.

TPP started during the Bush administration, as a small agreement between a few countries in Southeast Asia. Dick Cheney wanted to get in on the negotiations, and the treaty grew from there.

TPP fast track would abdicate congressional authority to vote on the treaty. Stopping fast track is our first objective, but it's only a first step. Even if TPP is debated, we still need to worry about what's included in the agreement.

Other countries (e.g., China) could join the TPP at a later time.

Under TPP, trade disputes (and claims involving adverse effects on corporate profits) would be handled by tribunals. Some trade agreements already have such provisions. Tribunals are typically conducted by a small group (three or so members) of corporate lawers. Tribunal decisions are not appealable in any country. You can't challenge the tribunal in court.

When contacting your legislators, a phone call or letter usually carries more weight than an email (especially a mass-produced email). Even at the state level, lobbyists contact legislators far more often than constituents do.