Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
Slide show presentation give at Somerville MA Library.
o The Sierra Club is deeply concerned about not only the environmental implications of the TPP, but all the far-reaching – overreaching aspects.
o We’ve been told that U.S. negotiators are pushing for strong and enforceable standards in the environment chapter of the agreement. Since these provisions are at the core of our work, we should be satisfied, right?
o Well, since the text is being kept secret, we don't actually know. What we’ve seen is scary.
o In the next 15 minutes or so, I’ll be sharing what the Sierra Club has learned.
o I’ll be covering, not just the environmental impacts, but also
o Food Safety
o Corporations are in a race to the bottom – the cheapest labor producing goods that wear out the fastest. They’re seeking ways to reduce labor costs and undercut worker power in the United States and elsewhere. They seek to cut domestic wages, and outsource as much as possible. The TPP’s intent is to streamline this process.
o By eliminating tariffs, import restrictions, waste/toxics emissions, manufacturing pollution standards, and consumer safety laws, they can decrease costs and increase profits.
o Our strong protections, wage levels, and workplace conditions would be subject to this agreement, and as it’s structured, this would effectively trump US laws.
o For example, Public Citizen’s Trade Watch estimates that NAFTA alone led to a net loss of around one million jobs here in the US – many of them good manufacturing jobs. The TPP would be even worse,
o When they say “we need to open the doors to developing markets,” this doesn’t mean that they’re opening stores in these developing nation to sell high quality American goods, it means that they’re shipping our jobs overseas.
o At the heart of the next area is the new concept of the investor state.
o This allows corporations to bypass a nation’s legal and judicial system, setting up “tribunals” that trump local laws.
o This isn’t tin-foil helmet, black helicopter paranoia; this is the MO of, for example how multinationals have already launched over 500 legal cases against 95 governments.
o For example, over an 18-year period, Chevron in Ecuador released billions of gallons of toxins into Amazon streams, poisoning the local residents drinking water.
o An Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron to pay $18 billion for cleanup.
o Chevron turned to an "investor-state" tribunal under the “U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty” in order to evade paying.
o In 2012, that tribunal ordered Ecuador's government overrule the court decision, and wipe out the $18B cleanup order, which is where it currently stands.
o There are too many cases around the world that are jut like this. They attack common-sense environmental laws and regulations, such as regulations to protect communities and the environment from harmful chemicals or mining practices.
o There are many ways that the TPP changes the playing field: the extension of drug patents, and costs, and trumping restrictions.
o The TPP would extend monopoly drug patents beyond the current 20 years. This would make it harder for countries to produce or procure low-cost generics for people with HIV, superbugs like MRSA, and other life-threatening diseases.
o The agreement even allows for monopoly rights over surgical procedures.
o The TPP would allow large pharmaceutical firms to increase medicine prices and even limit consumers' access to cheaper generic drugs.
o The TPP would empower foreign corporations to directly challenge cigarette, alcohol, and other public health and environmental policies to demand monetary compensation for any such policies that undermine their expected future profits.
o For example:
o In 2008, Uruguay began implementing its obligations under the World Health Organization by adding tobacco warning labels and requiring plain packaging for cigarettes. In 2010, Australia followed suit. Philip Morris responded by launching "investor-state" challenges against both countries, asking tribunals to order the governments to suspend these laws and compensate the corporate tobacco giant for "losses."
o The TPP could dictate formularies, lists of officially approved medications that are eligible for Medicare/Medicaid/Veterans programs. Right now, these lists can contain generics of long-established pharmaceuticals. Drug firms would be empowered to challenge these decisions, requiring more expensive patented medications.
o Do you remember SOPA - the Stop Online Piracy Act "copyright" legislation that – thanks to orgs like the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the ACLU, congress stopped cold?
o Well, they’re back! The same corporations that were behind SOPA are trying to put the most pernicious provisions into TPP.
o Under the proposal that’ been leaked, Internet Service Providers (Comcast, Verizon) could be required to "police" your activity, take down internet content, and even put people on the “do not browse” list.
o Could criminalize even small-scale copyright violations. Downloading an MP3. Sampling a video. Making a backup of a DVD or software. It would change the definition of fair use.
o The TPP would prevent users from breaking digital locks (known as DRM), even if users intend to make non-infringing uses of the protected work like backups.
o Police could seize a computer; send the end-user to jail, just for downloading a copyrighted file.
o The US FDA may not be doing a perfect job at protecting us from pathogens, but compared to other countries, they have a reasonable track record.
o The TPP would require us to import meat, poultry, and seafood that may not meet U.S. food safety standards. If an exporting country claims that their safety regime is "equivalent" to our own, even if it violates the key principles of our food safety laws, we have to accept it.
o For example, under the TPP, imports from Vietnam and Malaysia would increase – countries that have had a history of serious shrimp and fish safety, especially the presence of high levels of contaminants.
o Under TPP, U.S. food safety rules on pesticides, GMO labeling or additives that is higher than international standards would be subject to challenge as "illegal trade barriers." The U.S. would be required to eliminate these rules and allow in the unsafe food, or we would face trade sanctions.
o The TPP could limit or eliminate labeling that provides information on where a food product comes from.
o Already under the WTO, the U.S. Label “dolphin-safe tuna” and our country-of-origin meat and poultry labels have been successfully attacked by other countries.
o When NAFTA went into effect, factories in the US and Canada relocated to Mexico, where environmental laws are lax. These maquiladoras are pumping millions of pounds of pollutants in the air, water, and land. Asthma is rampant; Hep-A is double the Mexican average. But not surprisingly, enforcement is decreasing annually. You may wish to read the report on the impact of NAFTA on Mexico on the link I’ll be posting. The TPP will vastly increase the offshoring of jobs; moving whatever is possible to countries that have no ability to control the pollution.
o You may have heard that the USA has staggeringly huge gas reserves, making us, in essence, the Saudi Arabia of NG. Luckily, we have some – although inadequate - controls over the drilling, transport, and export of the NG. However, under the TPP, we lose the authority to control much of this. The TPP would allow for significantly increased exports of NG without the careful study or adequate protections necessary to safeguard the American public. This would mean an increase of fracking.
o Through the "investor-state" system, transnational corporations are pushing for provisions in the TPP that would enable them to challenge virtually any new law, regulation or even court decision that adversely affects their expected profits, calling it an “indirect expropriation”. For example, if we ban or restrict fracking, the TPP can challenge this in a tribunal.
o This will cause a huge increase in NG drilling and exports and thus an increase in domestic electricity prices, impacting consumers, manufacturers, workers, and even increasing the use of coal power – and allow it to get even dirtier.
o As a result of existing trade agreements, governments have already paid over $3 billion to multinational corporations in investor-state disputes. Over 85% of this amount has been handed over to corporations attacking oil, mining, gas, and other environmental and natural resource regulations.
o For example, Canada lifted a ban on the suspected carcinogen gasoline additive MMT, already banned in the U.S. as a suspected carcinogen after an investor attack by Ethyl Corporation under NAFTA. It also paid the firm $13 million and published a formal statement that the chemical was not hazardous.
o Renco Group Inc., a company owned by Ira Rennart, one of the “1%” operates a smelter in La Oroya, Peru. The site was designated as one of the top 10 most polluted places in the world. In fact, SO2 concentrations in La Oroya, which already exceeded international standards, doubled in the years after Renco's acquisition of the complex. In Dec 2010, Renco notified Peru that it would use the U.S.-Peru FTA investor-state system to demand $800 million from the Peruvian government for not granting the corporation a third extension on its unfulfilled environmental commitments. The pollution continues to this day unabated.
- Become informed
- Spread the word
- Tell your representative to vote no