In November of 2013, National Health Federation President and General Counsel Scott Tips spoke for the Label GMO group in the San Fernando Valley. Lisa Kassner was one of the hosts at that meeting where fellow activists could learn about the NHF’s work against GMO on a Global level. We welcome Lisa as a guest blogger this month as she writes on the TransPacific Partnership. As you recall, Scott Tips wrote an article called the TransPacific Slam Job in 2012.http://www.thenhf.com/article.php?id=3485   Here is the update from Lisa Kassner.

 

Lisa Kassner, Scott Tips, Cathy Catsoulas at the San Fernando LabelGMO Speech

Lisa Kassner, Scott Tips, Cathy Catsoulas at the San Fernando LabelGMO Speech

Right now you have an opportunity you will probably never have again: the chance to stop the Congress and the President from selling our country out to corporate domination. We dream of affordable healthcare, well-paying jobs, healthy food, environmental protection, justice for all, and good laws that protect citizens so we can all enjoy a good quality of life.

Now, imagine an America where more well-paying jobs are outsourced; where food, including from countries with lower food safety standards, cannot be labeled with country of origin, where critical healthcare becomes increasingly unaffordable, where water safety and environmental safeguards won’t hold up in court, nor will “Buy American” and “Buy Local” programs…where legislators fear passing laws to protect us because corporations successfully sue governments for threatening profits.

Is this a futuristic movie script? No, these are some projected impacts of the Transpacific Partnership. TPP is a free-trade agreement that is currently being negotiated in secrecy among the U.S. and 11 other countries representing roughly 40% of the global economy.

In this agreement, your family’s quality of life will be collateral damage.

For American dreamers, TPP is a nightmare. As a trade agreement, TPP’s terms would be binding on all 12 countries, meaning TPP would override U.S. Federal, State, and local laws. The only Americans privy to the text are President Obama, the U.S Trade Representative, and 600 corporate advisers. The terms aren’t available to the public. Even congress members and senators cannot fully review the text. After getting to read parts of TPP, Congressman Alan Grayson wrote, “The TPP is nicknamed ‘NAFTA on steroids.’ Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it: There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret. This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.”

Most U.S. press avoids exposing TPP. Our knowledge comes from leaks. Wikileaks published the intellectual property chapter in November. It includes longer drug patents, limiting access to potentially life-saving, affordable drugs. Per Electronic Frontier Foundation, its “copyright and digital privacy provisions … threaten millions of users’ rights.”

Only 5 of 29 chapters are about trade. What lurks in the others? TPP is opposed by Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, and many U.S. labor, consumer, human rights, environmental, and other organizations, per www.citizenstrade.org. Most egregiously, TPP threatens our food labeling, water safety, workplace safety, health, environmental, and other laws through “Investor-State Dispute Resolution.” ISDR allows private tribunals to enforce TPP completely separately from U.S. courts. With corporate attorneys rotating as judges, no appeals, and no calling witnesses, corporations can legitimately win millions of our tax dollars because a law “threatens a corporation’s profit potential.”

Accountability watchdog, Sum of Us, reports ISDR is currently being used by “tobacco giant Philip Morris to [sue] Australia for billions of dollars in lost profits…because the government took action to reduce teenage smoking. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is suing Canada for $500,000,000 … because Canada has laws to keep essential drugs affordable.” Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch director, warns that under TPP, 17,000 international corporations could sue U.S. government bodies, too.

Regarding banking, TPP “would roll back financial regulations needed to avoid another crisis,” per www.exposethetpp.org. Whether our children will be financially better off than we are is another critical concern. Millions of jobs have already been lost through WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and trade agreements with China and Korea. A study by the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research projects 90% of Americans will experience a wage decrease if TPP passes.

Congress – the House and Senate – vote to approve trade agreements, and it’s Congress’s constitutional right and responsibility to negotiate terms. It has consummated hundreds of them. But for TPP, Obama has asked Congress for Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”). By approving this cunning Nixon-era scheme, Congress would willingly forfeit its rights to question and negotiate the terms for this and future trade agreements.

A Fast Track bill was just proposed on January 9. We expect that supporters will try to rush it through. As of November, 152 House Democrats and 27 House Republicans committed in writing to veto Fast Track. This is not the required majority to veto it. And those committing might change their minds, submitting to corporate lobbyists’ pressure.

TPP is too critical for secrecy and a rubber-stamp vote. Now is the time to contact the trade staff person at the Washington office of your Congress member and Senators now  to voice your opinion about Fast Track and the Transpacific Partnership. www.contactingthecongress.org. **************************************

Lisa Goldwag Kassner is a coordinator of Label GMOs in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles). She earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Pomona College. She may be reached at labelgmos80@gmail.com.