Most Americans know very little about trade. They probably assume that trade has little impact upon their lives. Unfortunately they are wrong. Between 2000 and 2015, the United States suffered a 29 percent loss of manufacturing jobs due largely to trade deficits in manufactured goods. The loss of manufacturing jobs has been a major factor in (a) the rapid growth of economic inequality, (b) the high unemployment rate especially among minority youth, and (c) the sluggish economic recovery from the "Great Recession" of 2007-2009.
Americans now face with the possibility of a gigantic new trade agreement that would exacerbate employment problems, threaten our environment, weaken political democracy, and mainly benefit huge multinational corporations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be the most comprehensive multinational trade, investment, and regulation agreement ever implemented. The TPP involves 12 Pacific Rim countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States that collectively cover 40 percent of global markets. The agreement concerns not only the flow of goods but also the flow of capital and the conditions under which goods and capital are used.
The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) gives Congress the authority to regulate foreign trade. If Congress endorses the TPP, its provisions will override any conflicting local, state, and national laws. The TPP enables foreign investors to force modification of any laws or regulations that constrain their expected profits. This means that environmental rules, human rights protections, and public health policies can be struck down if they reduce the expected profits of foreign corporations. Restrictions on hydraulic fracking, agricultural chemicals, genetically modified organisms, gender discrimination, and child labor could be invalidated.
Moreover, the TPP adjudication process, called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), is exceedingly undemocratic. It completely bypasses the normal judicial system. It creates three-person tribunals of corporate lawyers who would decide upon claims by foreign investors. The decisions of ISDS tribunals are not subject to appeal. In addition to invalidating laws and regulations, the tribunals can order governments to pay huge sums to supposedly injured foreign investors. ISDS tribunals, rather ironically, are not available to domestic investors.
The TPP will encourage U.S. investment in low-wage countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam (e.g. 70 cents per hour) resulting in additional loss of American manufacturing jobs. It will also expedite natural gas exports, thereby fostering production of dirty fossil fuels and disrupting efforts to combat climate change.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center is working hard to prevent passage of the TPP. If you oppose the TPP, please tell the Boulder County Commissioners, the Boulder City Council, and Rep. Jared Polis. Popular pressure can still defeat this appalling and unnecessary proposal.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's Peace Train runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.