Coalition Report

by Kathleen Logan Smith
Executive Director; Missouri Coalition For The Environment

Greed-topia Grows in the Dark

If a foreign government poisoned our food or water, we would consider it an act of hostility. However, if a foreign corporation did it, how would we respond? Currently we have laws governing food safety and water quality, but what if those laws were deemed ‘impediments’ to global profit-making? What if American standards or laws could be challenged by foreign corporations in private tribunals staffed by corporate lawyers?
What a Greed-topia that would be!

And while I wish I was making this up, brilliant ideas like these are leaking out of secret negotiations of the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) which is a multi-national ‘free trade’ agreement that currently involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Japan, Thailand and South Korea may be next to join.

This agreement promises to affect everything you care about: starting with democracy and sovereignty, reaching to your food and water, digging into your land and property, and even into your medicine cabinet and internet connections. No potential profit center seems untouched. The TPP will affect jobs, wages, agriculture, migration, the environment, access to medicine, consumer safety, banking regulations, indigenous rights, Internet protocols, government procurement and more.

Do you want your school district to “buy American?” Do you want genetically modified foods labeled? Do you want pesticides strictly regulated? Do you want questionable financial products (think: toxic assets) regulated? Do you want your local, state, and federal government’s laws and regulations to stand? If you do, then it’s time to start demanding that the TPP come out into the sunshine so the people of this nation can hold our President accountable for provisions that are fair to trade but not a free pass for undermining our well being.

The parties just wrapped up the 15th round of negotiations in New Zealand December 11. So far the TPP contains 29 chapters – none of which have seen the light of day because they are being drafted in secret. It’s so secret even members of Congress are being kept in the dark. Except for 600 corporate representatives who are being enlisted to draft the document, the American public (and the world) has been denied information on the breadth and depth of the largest trade agreement since NAFTA.

Remember NAFTA? That North American Free Trade Agreement helped gut our manufacturing base and export millions of jobs overseas where corporations could make bigger profits paying lower wages and taking advantage of weaker environmental and safety standards. Corporate boosters and the trade negotiators are trying to tie a big fat “jobs” bow on TPP too. Keep your grain of salt at hand.

Rumors are that the TPP goes even farther than some of our other trade agreements administered through the World Trade Organization (WTO). The TPP gives individual corporations, not their national government, the right to sue local, state and federal jurisdictions — effectively treating corporations like mini-nations, though they answer only to shareholders. Where does that road lead? There is one jobs sector that would prosper under the TPP: lawyers will have plenty of work suing governments and communities.

Global trade is indeed complex. Missouri is a global player too in agricultural products, minerals, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. However, agreements that impact the integrity of our nation’s laws must not be crafted in secret. Agreements must be fair to the people across the globe who live and die on the land, not distant shareholders. Corporations should not usurp the rights of nations- nor should un-elected, unaccountable corporations be allowed to behave as mini-states.

You’ll find it fascinating to read the comments (and they are limited) submitted on the TPP on the government website http://www.regulations.gov. Ok, maybe you won’t unless you are a policy nerd. However, if you do, enter these docket numbers to see what the corn sweeteners, the poultry producers, Friends of the Earth, and others have said: Initiating Agreement Docket No. USTR-2012-0015; Hearing on Mexico Docket No. USTR-2012-0014. Environmental Impact Request: Docket No. USTR–2010–0010. When you find these, look for the hard-to-see “Open Docket Folder” button on the right.

St. Louis activists are coalescing on this issue. Like us on Facebook or sign up for e-alerts to keep updated on actions. For a condensed lesson on the TPP and actions you can take, visit the Citizens Trade Campaign at http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/.