Agitate, America!: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

January 8, 2014

Editor’s note: Nancy Churchill’s column this week is a letter she sent to U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

Dear Representative Kinzinger,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. It is laudable that you are committed to representing your constituents in the House of Representatives. To fulfill that mission, it is important that you receive as much information as possible about key issues prior to deciding how to vote.

My concern over the TPP is the secrecy involved. Mark Anderson reveals, citing Wikileaks, that “Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the U.S. Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents … under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ‘trade advisers’ — lobbyists guarding the interests of large U.S. corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart — are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text” (The Progressive Populist, Jan. 1-15, 2014, http://www.populist.com/17.1.anderson.html).

Not only that, but the TPP is being peddled to falsely imply that, as you stated, it will “minimize economic barriers to trade, which helps expand trade and increase exports.” Public Citizen refutes that claim by revealing how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) funded misleading research to foster approval of FTAs, using “methodological tricks that fail basic standards of accuracy.” The critique, titled “Job Killing Trade Deficits Soar under FTAs: U.S. Trade Deficits Grow More Than 440 percent with FTA Countries, but Decline 7 percent with non-FTA Countries,” can be found here: http://www.citizen.org/documents/FTA-v-No-FTA-Factsheet.pdf.

Another claim about the clandestine agreement is that it will “eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods, services and agriculture as well as to establish rules on a wide range of issues including foreign direct investment and other economic activities.” Wayne O’Leary argues that, “Sporadic news leaks indicate the final product will go far beyond mere tariff reduction to address what The Economist characterizes as ‘non-tariff barriers,’ easing such purported roadblocks as local-content requirements in government contracts and conflicting interpretations of intellectual property rights” (The Progressive Populist, Jan. 1-15, 2014, http://www.populist.com/17.1.oleary.html).

Numerous sources denounce the pact for handing U.S. sovereignty over to secret global trade tribunals, and for assaulting Internet privacy rights and free speech.

Finally, O’Leary asks, “Who has really benefited” from FTAs generally since the 1990s? “[U.S. labor’s] share of national income as a proportion of GDP fell 5 percent during … the era of free trade. … By contrast, U.S. corporate profits as a share of GDP have more than doubled in the years since NAFTA” due especially to “cheaper imports produced by low-cost foreign labor.”

“Up to now,” he says, “beneficiaries of the free-trade regime have included precious few average Americans.” That’s your constituency.

Please vote “NO” on this terrible pact.

Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the Jan. 8-14, 2014, issue

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