TPP Daily Debunk #1: The ‘Most Progressive Trade Agreement Ever’

Celeste Drake

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

We’ve all heard over and over that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the “most progressive trade agreement ever.” Even if we don’t know what the TPP is, we know it’s progressive. Or do we?

Here’s the deal: I can be the tallest person in the room and still not be tall. You can be the richest person at the meeting and still not be rich. Likewise, the “most progressive trade deal ever” isn’t progressive.

Let’s just start with a simple question: How “progressive” is it to negotiate permanent economic rules that will affect 40% of the world’s GDP in secret—with more than 85% of your advisers representing business interests? To me, that’s 0% progressive.

The TPP gives Australian, Japanese, Malaysian and other TPP corporations their own private justice system (ISDS) that they can use to attack our democracy. If these companies think that a California law banning a certain toxic chemical, or a Fort Lauderdale City Commission decision denying backyard fracking, or Rock Island County, Ill., increase in the minimum wage is “unfair” and violates their rights as a foreign investor, they can sue the United States before a panel of private arbitrators (usually international commercial lawyers) for damages. If they win, the foreign companies take home our taxpayer dollars to compensate for lost “expected profits.” Giving foreign businesses power and influence over local and state decisions isn’t progressive.

The TPP also creates extreme monopoly rights for global pharmaceutical companies and gives them more power to drive up costs for Medicare and public health programs in all TPP countries. These rules are far worse for working families than comparable rules in the Peru, Colombia and Panama deals negotiated by then-President George W. Bush. The TPP will raise drug prices for families across the region. That’s regressive—not progressive. 

Instead of learning from the mistakes of the past, like the failed labor rules in the Colombia trade deal, the TPP incorporates these failed rules, with no meaningful improvements to ensure enforcement. Leaving workers behind isn’t progressive. And neither is failing to learn from the past.

The TPP doesn’t even include the words “climate change.” In the 21st century, can an international deal really call itself progressive if it ignores climate change?

To sum up: The TPP will certainly implement values. But not progressive values. America’s working families and those in the other 11 TPP countries will certainly not benefit by a trade deal that permanently locks in increased corporate power and rights. And that’s what the TPP will do. 

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This has been reposted from the AFL-CIO.