Oak Park may be the only Illinois community providing a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Although advisory, voting “yes” to declare Oak Park a TPP Free Zone will voice opposition to political influence by transnational corporations. For information on the TPP, visit www.citizenstrade.org.
Declared an international trade deal, negotiations among a dozen governments have taken place without public participation. President Obama designated the TPP top secret to prohibit knowledge of the bill’s contents. Fortunately, portions have been leaked. Over several months, letters printed in the Wednesday Journal have presented criticisms.
David Holmquist (WJ 5/28) wrote about medical issues like drug patent extensions that restrict access to lower-cost generics. Such extensions, while profitable to big pharma, pose a threat to global public health, particularly the controlling of communicable diseases.
Bill Barclay (WJ 6/25) discussed banking deregulations like those that led to the economic crisis that still impacts us. Global financial institutions have crafted rules to free them from oversight.
Julie Samuels (WJ 7/9) wrote about climate damage that will ensue from abuse of air, water and soil resources — fracking being one example.
Jack Metzgar (WJ 8/6) provided a succinct history of the loss of good-paying American jobs and our $500 billion trade deficit, caused by previous deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The goal of this and other backroom deals like NAFTA, is the creation and enforcement of legal systems that enhance the wealth and power of transnational corporations. The U.S. Trade Representative appointed approximately 600 “advisors” to assist shaping the TPP. Nearly all are employed by corporations.
In an editorial published this year, the Chicago Tribune promoted Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to ease passage of the TPP. Better known as Fast Track, TPA transfers trade negotiation from the U.S. House of Representatives to the Executive branch. Congress, which has been granted limited access to the TPP, would have to vote to cede its Constitutional authority.
According the the Trib, the public would be ill-served by involving our 435 elected congressional representatives in the negotiations. The Trib made no mention of the policy-shaping by the 600 corporate advisors/lobbyists.
Another threat to democracy is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a binding arbitration process. Normally adjudicated at the World Bank, these tribunals circumvent the courts of sovereign nations (such as the U.S. Supreme Court) and deny appeal beyond ISDS.
Under ISDS, when a corporation decides that national laws interfere with its ability to maximize profit, the corporation can sue treaty-bound nations. Three judges form an arbitration panel. One is selected by the corporate plaintiff. One is chosen by the member country defending its sovereignty. The third is to be agreed upon by those two parties. If that’s not possible, the president of the World Bank picks the third judge. A stacked deck?
Fast Track, the TPP and ISDS benefit an elite social segment. Transnational corporations operate to increase their wealth and political power. Democracy is an impediment.
Oak Park voters can make a symbolic, yet meaningful statement by voting “Yes” to declare Oak Park a TPP Free Zone on the referendum near the end of your ballot.
Tom Broderick is an Oak Park resident.