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 Nick Cooper
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Senate Fails to Pass Fast Track Authority

Senate Fails to Pass Fast Track Authority
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Featured image: Farmers protesting the TPP in Tokyo.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed multi-national secret treaty between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. It was dealt a serious blow on May 12, when a provision called “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority failed to pass in the US Senate. Fast track authority would have meant that whenever the final deal is submitted, Congress would be limited to voting up or down, without the right to amend or filibuster. This defeat to TPP fast track should be considered a victory for human rights and the environment. However, like all such trade agreements, TPP will keep coming back in many forms. This small victory should be used to build momentum against the TPP, and all so-called ‘free-trade’ agreements.

Elizabeth Warren made headlines for calling out Obama’s just-trust-me nonsense about the TPP. Whenever Obama claimed that Warren was dead-wrong about the TPP, she simply responded that publishing the details of the secret deal would help settle the matter. Obama did not respond to that challenge. The fact that the deal is secret should be sufficient to have earned unanimously rejection in Congress, however, the corporate and government interests that push these sorts of treaties are tenacious.

It is up to the people to demand transparency, so that we can check potential effects on workers, the environment, children, human rights, pharmaceutical prices for poorer nations, toxins, fair trials, etc. However, even when these deals are public, they’re so long and complicated that all any analyst can do is guess about potential results. The idea of endorsing a treaty you can’t read also should have struck journalists as absurd, but that didn’t stop Forbes, Politico, The National Review, The Economist, Time, The Washington Post, and countless other publications from doing just that. Their argument went basically like this:

Though China is not one of the initial signatories, it may want to join one day, to participate in the massive trade opportunities. By then, better protections against currency manipulation, and for human rights, workers, children, and the environment will have spread throughout the signatory nations. These standards will serve to balance out China’s negative influence and transform the region.

This is nonsense. Free-trade agreements have consistently lowered protections for humans and the environment, not raised them. Furthermore, if the deal is bad for China, China won’t sign. That’s what happened to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) — Brazil didn’t sign it because it would have given the US more power and Brazil less. So, it’s not the government of China that might get screwed,  it will be individuals, animals, and the environment in all the signatory nations getting screwed. Unlike China, we can’t opt out.

Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we have been seeing these same types of deals, and so we have had decades to learn about them. There is no reason to assume that the familiar anti-democratic provisions aren’t in the TPP:

  • If governments have any environmental laws that reduce profits the “Chapter 11 provisions” of NAFTA and other ‘free-trade’ deals allow corporations to sue governments (i.e. the people) to recoup those profits. These suits do not take place in regular courts subject to constitutional protections, but in special tribunals.
  • ‘Investor protections’ trump labor and environmental laws.
  • Family farmers lose their land and livelihood to industrial agriculture.
  • Workers are displaced.

The corporate media supported Obama, and tried to convince us that the TPP would give the US a leg up on China, helping people and the environment, as if the record of all the other such agreements didn’t exist. It is clear from NAFTA that environmental and worker protections do not carry over borders, especially into poor countries, Instead, richer nations export pollution and jobs to places where there are no protections. ‘Free-trade’ agreements and treaties are intentionally written so as to circumvent the spreading of higher standards. The basis for the TPP is to free capital while limiting the freedom, safety, and democracy of the people.


Learn more about the defeated Free Trade Area of the Americas here.

Learn more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership here.

Read about how the failure to pass the TPP also helped nonviolent solidarity with Palestinians here.

  • Perry

    Fast track authority was passed the day after this article was published. This article should be removed or at the very least amended.