After six years of campaigning by international civil society, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) appears to be dead. Yet the TPP is not an isolated one-off agreement; it is part of a dangerous new trade trio that forms a corporate blueprint for the global economy and that threatens workers’ rights and the planet.
The three T’s are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). These three agreements are at different stages, but they cover much of the Asia Pacific region and Europe, involve over 65 percent of global GDP, and are likely to affect the lives of over 1.5 billion people. A new report by Friends of the Earth International looks at the social and environmental impacts of these deals and finds that they are so similar that it would be hypocritical for a politician to oppose one and not the other.
TPP, one part of a dangerous trade trio
In general, this dangerous trade trio is designed to create legal frameworks that optimize conditions for transnational companies. The agreements seek to shift the balance of decision-making further away from people and into the hands of corporations by reducing governments’ ability to maintain or introduce new public policies to safeguard our health, wages and environment.
For example, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) included in the TPP trade deal enables corporations to sue governments in private and often secret tribunals if they deem their profits have been harmed. In the past, the Canadian government has been sued for $250m after the province of Québec introduced a moratorium on fracking; and Argentina was ordered to pay US$405m to French company Suez for cancelling its contract and taking back water provision into public hands.
In addition, these trade deals are often negotiated in intense secrecy, as far away from public scrutiny as possible with limited democratic oversight. For example, the TiSA trade agreement’s negotiating texts were not only meant to be kept secret during negotiations, but also for five years after the deal is finalized. We only know details of what’s in this corporate power grab thanks to Wikileaks.
From “No TPP” to a Peoples’ Trade Agenda
It is not wonder then that around the world, peoples’ lived experience of corporate globalization and “free trade” has been job insecurity, rising inequality and a race to the bottom -- and that they are starting to resist. In Germany, over 300,000 people took to the streets to protest Obama’s TTIP deal. In France, public pressure prompted the finance minister to call for a halt to the negotiations. Indonesia is withdrawing from Investment Treaties. And last year, Uruguay formally withdrew from the TiSA trade negotiations with the US and others because of massive public opposition.
In the U.S., voters channeled their anger against bad trade policy into corporate nationalism and elected Donald Trump. However, it is clear that Mr. Trump does not stand for the interests of those left out of, and affected by, the corporate-led system of free-trade – from which he has hugely benefited.
Rather, Trump’s opposition to the TPP is rooted in xenophobia and racism. His policies of deregulation, tax cuts and division share many similarities with the failed free-trade, neo-liberal agenda of the last 20 years and will only increase inequality, not reduce it. And despite his pledges to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics, his recent picks to lead key agencies indicate that he is all too willing to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest.
We cannot let the harmful impacts of free trade sweep even more divisive and dangerous figures into public office. It was an international coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and farmers – not just Trump – who worked in unison over six years to defeat TPP (for the time being). In the face of such a broken economic system, progressives need to finish off the rest of Obama’s dangerous trade trio. And we need to forge a new trade agenda, one which supports local economies and human rights, a clean environment, better social protection, and a sustainable society that works for all.