Despite growing polarization between the left and the right, there are a few things that both sides agree on. The United States Constitution and the will of the people as expressed through their vote are pretty core to both sides of our divided nation and central to democratic principles. With Obamas approval rating below 45 percent and Congress's approval rating below 30 percent, it's fair to say that Americans from all sides of the political spectrum can also agree that D.C. is doing a poor job of acting in the interests of the American People. With confidence in our leaders at an all-time low it is a bit suspicious to see Obama and Mitch McConnell having a love-fest over the Trans Pacific Partnership. This supposed trade deal has far-reaching legal implications for our nation and beyond but it has been negotiated in secret without oversight from Congress or the American People.
No matter where you stand on environmental issues or GMOs, you should be alarmed at the idea of large corporate interests overturning the vote of citizens in a democratic society. That is exactly what is happening in Vermont where the Grocery Manufacturers Association is suing to overturn a ballot initiative approved by voters, and also in Maui where Monsanto is suing to overturn another. The issues in these separate cases are secondary to fact that these lawsuits are financial retribution to both liberal and conservative voters that will cost a whole lot of money for taxpayers. These lawsuits are also political retribution to leaders, whether they be Republican or Democratic, who support popular measures initiated by their constituents. This strikes at the heart of democratic principles.
The Trans Pacific Partnership paves the way for international law to overturn the voters' will in America and in the other countries who have signed on to the agreement. Luckily we still have time to make sure that this agreement is not signed into law by our leaders.
Obama has been pushing to pass this secret agreement without Congressional oversight, which is added shame to a president who campaigned on the notion of transparency. Wikileaks has spoiled this agenda with numerous leaks detailing just how bad this agreement is for Americans as well as the rest of the countries involved with it. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, notes that Republicans have themselves in a bit of a bind over this issue as well stating, "it is kind of hard for the Republicans to voluntarily delegate more authority (to Fast Track TPP) to the guy (Obama) they've been attacking as the imperial president who grabs power that's not his."
Wallach describes fast track as, "a procedure that basically gives Congress's authority over trade to the president. Congress ends up handcuffed, and an agreement gets negotiated, signed before the Congress ever approves it, and then the president gets to write legislation. It's not subject to committee amendment, and it gets a guaranteed 90-day vote with no amendments."
The lawsuits we are seeing in Maui and Vermont would pale compared to the power that TPP would have to overturn the will of local, state, and national voters. Wallch goes on to state, "it would increase the duration of patents for Big Pharma and, as a result, give them windfall profits but increase our medicine prices. It could roll back financial regulation on big banks. It could limit Internet freedom, sort of sneak through the back door the Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA. And -- they love this -- it would give special privileges and rights for foreign corporations to skirt around our courts and sue the U.S. government to raid our treasury over any environmental, consumer health law that they think undermine their expected future profits, the so-called "investor-state" enforcement system. Plus, it would have the NAFTA-style rules that make it easier to offshore jobs, making it easier to relocate to low-wage countries."
Others have noted that TPP could make GMO labeling illegal, and also make "buy American" initiatives illegal because they interfere with multi-national corporations desire to remain unchallenged regarding anything that stands in their way to make money. TPP would also suppress environmental and public health initiatives that voters might pass in order to protect themselves or their local resources.
As if that wasn't scary enough, Wallach continues, "unlike most of our international agreements, the TPP has two strong enforcement mechanisms. First, if the U.S., for instance, were to continue to buy American and give that preference to our domestic economy, or, for that matter, states with Buy Local or communities with Buy Local school food, all of those things would be a violation of that agreement. Then, what happens is, any other country can drag the U.S. into a TPP tribunal, and if we don't get rid of the law, the U.S. would face perpetual trade sanctions, fines. This is actually enforceable international corporate law. The TPP provisions on investment would make some of the TPP constraints on policy actually enforceable by private individual companies, when an individual company could privately enforce a public treaty by insisting the U.S. government compensate the private investor or company out of our taxpayer dollars for any violation of the agreement that undermines their expected future profits." If you thought that bailing out bankers with taxpayers money was bad, TPP is a whole lot worse.
But there is hope!
Between now and January is our window to act. Call your local representatives, share this article and others which expose the TPP for what it really is. By contacting your incoming representatives now before they arrive in Washington in January, you will be able to have your voice heard before they are inundated with lobbyists who are bent on pushing the TPP into law. As we know, endless favors and money often have the ability to sway the opinions of politicians. Now is your time to act before it is too late. You can find contact information for your local representative here. It only takes a few minutes to call and tell them that you do not support fast track and you do not support TPP.
You can listen to the whole interview with Lori Wallach here. For once, Americans on both sides of the aisle have something to agree on... TPP is bad for citizens, bad for the environment, bad for local initiatives, bad for public health, and bad for our future. Why else would they be trying to negotiate this deal in secret? Now is our moment to act. This will only get worse if you decide to look the other way. Take responsibility for your freedom as an American voter, and call your representatives now!
Article originally appeared on Culture Collective.