Trans-Pacific Partnership: What's at Stake is Democracy

November 1, 2013
Mary Zepernick


What in the world is exciting such headlines? An apt question, since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a global trade agreement that leaves all previous agreements in the dust -- or the dustbin of history, littered with gifts to corporations, each more sumptuous than the last.

If you haven't heard of the TPP, it's because the negotiations have been under wraps for over three years, except for some 600 corporate lobbyists and a select few sworn-to-secrecy members of Congress. Remember "fast track authority" for previous trade agreements like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994? The TPP special will roar by unless enough people lobby to derail it.

The TPP is a sweeping trade deal that would establish a free trade zone stretching from Vietnam to Chile, Canada to Australia, encompassing 12 countries, 40% of the world’s population and 60% of global GDP.

Like such previous agreements as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, the TPP isn’t really about trade, but about corporate governance, stripping decision-making away from citizen control. According to Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch: "This is not mainly about trade. It is a corporate Trojan Horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments by limiting food safety, environmental and financial regulation, as well as energy and climate policy, or by establishing new powers for corporations."

This relocation of power has been underway for more than a century as corporations and their friendly elected officials shifted the locus of decision-making in several ways:

  • From smaller jurisdictions to larger -- local to state to nation -- and away from the people’s grasp;
  • From the legislative to judicial arena, with appointed judges often easier to influence than fractious legislative bodies and the public;
  • From legislative to regulatory bodies, as a further buffer to public involvement.

Why the secrecy? President Obama wants the agreement given fast-track treatment on Capitol Hill, which would allow him to sign the measure without Congressional revision or amendments.

On the Amy Goodman Show several months ago (Obama-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Expands Corporate Lawsuits Against Nations for Lost Profits), Jim Shultz, executive director of the Democracy Center, said they had just released a report on how corporations use trade rules to seize resources and undermine democracy. "What is the biggest threat to the ability of corporations to go into a country and suck out the natural resources without regard for the environment or labor standards? The threat is democracy."

It appears that the only hope for defeating this sick Trojan Horse is a global dose of democracy!