Qualms exist over Trans-Pacific Partnership
By Julia Rentsch, GECO Columnist
The United States on Oct. 5 reached an agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries including Mexico and Japan on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now approval from Congress is all they need to pass what the New York Times called “the largest regional trade accord in history.” So what is the deal with the TPP? Some people have been claiming online that it is going to kill everything from President Obama’s legacy to the internet itself—yet others have been singing its praises.
Many have condemned the secrecy of the deal, which has been in the works since 2005, and its potential effects. Critics cite the agreement’s ability to raise the prices of medicines, harm the environment, and hurt our economy as main concerns. The official Facebook account for the White House posted a video recently that challenges people to “get the facts” on the TPP. It illustrates the benefits for American companies using cherries grown in the U.S. as an example, declaring that under the TPP we can export far more goods without restrictive taxes or other regulations.
“This trade agreement will rewrite the rules so that American workers can sell their goods to the fastest-growing markets without being blocked or put at an unfair disadvantage,” the video’s narrator says. “The TPP—more made-in America exports abroad, more good jobs here at home.” Of course, others will argue that those regulations the TPP will do away with were instituted for exactly the same reason: to insulate our economy from damaging foreign competition. Current Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., vehemently opposes the TPP and has made the issue integral to his platform. The TPP, he claims, will forward “failed ‘free trade’ policies…that have already cost millions of jobs and shuttered tens of thousands of factories across the United States… [and] will further hurt consumers and cost American jobs.”
Friends of the Earth, an environmental activist group, say that provisions in the TPP “can be the basis of state suits challenging climate policies.” In other words, if companies needed to pollute more than regulations currently allow in order to capitalize on Pacific Rim trade, they may be able to bypass emissions caps and other sustainability initiatives. In addition, Friends of the Earth argues, “Big fossil fuel companies strongly support the TPP because it would encourage a massive expansion of trade in oil, coal and liquefied natural gas across the Pacific.” The Sierra Club says: “While the TPP environment chapter should set strong and binding rules to address conservation challenges like illegal timber and wildlife trade, its rules will likely be too weak to have an impact on the ground and are unlikely to be enforced, rendering the chapter essentially meaningless.” So what should we think about this? Perhaps only time will tell.
The last time I wrote about the TPP, I said that “it is easy to feel secure when the damage we are doing is subterraneous: pollution is, by its own nature, a perfect problem as it is difficult to see until it is too late, and those who are most affected by it usually have the least power to help solve it.” I stand by this statement; the deal is complex and secret. It may not be the greatest situation to have to wait and see what happens here, but if and when it gets approved by Congress, that approach will be all we have.