This partnership is not good for America

Opinion: Columns

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By Tom Broderick

'What's good for General Motors is good for America!" This misquote has relevance today as transnational corporations work clandestinely to free themselves from governmental regulation through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Touted as a trade agreement among countries bordering the Pacific rim, passage will free transnational corporations from public accountability. For specifics on TPP, go to www.citizenstrade.org/tpp.

Current negotiating partners are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, USA and Vietnam. Additional countries may join later through "docking" provisions.

Underway since 2008, members of the U.S. Congress have had little to no access to the text, and it has been declared "classified information" by the Obama administration. Congress members may not discuss the text with trade experts or the public. Some congressional staff members are granted access to portions of the text but cannot reveal what they've read.

In May, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Trade, submitted legislation requiring that access be granted to members of Congress and their staff after he and his staff were denied access. His subcommittee has jurisdiction over trade agreements.

Approximately 500 corporate "cleared advisors" have access to portions of the text, which they may help refine. Why do these unelected corporados have this ability to shape the agreement? Because of their roles on U.S. Trade Representative advisory panels. There are also about 100 advisors from organized labor, environmental and other groups who have limited access to portions of the text. They cannot divulge what they've read.

After viewing an edited version, Rep. Alan Grayson, (D-Fla.) said, "I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty."

In 2012, a leaked copy of the investment chapter of the TPP was posted to the Web (http://tinyurl.com/tppinvestment). The agreement allows transnationals to bypass domestic courts and laws and sue governments that are TPP signatories in extra-judicial tribunals, which would be staffed by private-sector lawyers rotating between acting as judges and as advocates for the investors suing the governments.

Lawsuits can be brought before these tribunals in search of expected profits that are denied because of national/local laws governing labor rights, the environment, health and safety and whatever other laws the transnationals feel undermine their rights (sic).

If the above doesn't boil your blood, President Obama wants to bring back Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) to speed passage. Fast Track allows the U.S. Congress to transfer its authority to regulate commerce between nations to the Executive Branch, as Congress did with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Passage of Fast Track would prohibit public hearings, witness testimony, congressional debate or amendments to the TPP. A limited time for review would lead to only an up or down vote.

Transnational corporations have no allegiance to people, place or thing except as they may yield profit. TPP would codify this. Contact Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th) and senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk and tell them to oppose Fast Track and demand public participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation process.

Tom Broderick is co-chair of Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America.

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